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Willow Rosenberg
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There are certain things that are inevitable within the worlds we inhabit. Interests will be born, even as others fade. Ideas will come and go. Friends will be born and sadly sometimes die. But in between? Through it all? There is the magnificent up and down and here and there and sideways of it all.

There is the written word.

What we share together. How we communicate. The ones that made us laugh and the ones that made us cry. The ones that kept us up until 4am. The ones that we thought about on the drive to work. That next sentence, that next thought, that next emotion. The journeys that are utterly unique to the people we took them with.

Some of us have been doing this for a long time now. We are not all friends with the people that we started some journeys with. Some we have grown into something deeper with, past the online world. Some? We have slipped into lovely, but casual acquaintances. Some we might not speak to at all.

But if you are like me?

You still revisit those journeys, those once upon a times.

So this is a request for everyone, out there to reflect back over their journeys and to make sure they are protected through the upcoming LJ purge. The memories attached to them should not matter, as much as they are simply, inherently memorable. Because not just journals are in danger, but communities as well. Communities that might hold entire bodies of work that are larger than any of us.

Please, those of us that were former moderators? Or have posting status? Protect what so much time and effort once went to create.

Because even if not all journeys linger?

The word should remain.

For the protection of this journal and the content within it.

"Your apples are turning brown, the way they do."

It's what they do, you know. When people nod their heads and sagely speak of 'the way things are'? One of things they are talking about is the apples. Green ones. Yellow ones. Orangish-red ones. Redish-orange. No matter what color they start out as, they all eventually travel in one universal direction.

The apples turn brown.

And you can not stop it.

And I speak with the voice of one-who-knows. Or, you know, write with one. Maybe not a sage voice. Or a nodding head. But it a voice that tried. You can put them in the bottom of your brown (never the same brown as the apple) paper back, tucked in the dark and where it won't squish your sandwich. Or you can keep it near the top, first thing your hands touches. Let it know it is important. The small, but important ways that say hey! You are important to me apple. You can refrigerate it. You can wait until the last possible moment to slice into it. To cute, or bite inside. You can add chemicals, the way the grocery store does. It says that on the box, if you read close enough. That chemicals have been added to retain taste and color. But it doesn't retain.

It just covers up the brown that is still there. And, for the record? Tastes funny.

You could ever try magic, if you wanted to.

But the apple always turns brown. It's what they do.

They change. They age. They brown.

There was ice cream on her nose.

Not the sort fresh from the parlor, still misty with dry ice and all bite-like with its sting. They had been walking for a while, after all. He was the one that had placed the restrictions on their game. The quotes could only come from movies they had watched together. It should not be that hard, she thought. Not really. The rule still left them with hundreds of movies to choose from. It was a defined staple of their days together, especially before the last year. Of course, it went on and on, and she could only get more frustrated.

Star Wars, an extremely sensible voice in her head sounded, was such a gimmie. But what was she supposed to do? Admit that the last few fifty movies or so, she spent more time paying attention to him, and not the tv? Because she had perfected the fine art of looking while not looking while you were looking.

It was a very specific place.

And now there was ice cream on her nose. Cold, but not icy, warmed by their walk. The summer air -- which seemed especially determined in its heat, those last just-before-school-returned days. His mouth. Her cheeks flushed brightly at the thought of just one body part. And Buffy wondered why she had never addressed her feelings for the lot of them together?

"Xander," she finally scolded. "My nose is cold."

That was certainly true. And had nothing to do with his mouth.

She watched her best friend carefully.

And wondered how a person that would pick scissors every time in rock,paper, scissors forty-six times over could still manage to surprise her.

Who gets to be answer-girl for this one? Me? Or my mother?

I fell in love with the boy next door. I fell into lust with him after he fell in love with the Homecoming Queen. Well. Maybe that wasn't what was in the yearbook. But trust me. Cordelia Chase was our Homecoming Queen.

I made friends with Buffy, and stayed friends with her for months before taking her home. I stayed out to slay instead of studying for a history exam. I kept a stake in my bedroom, and practiced said slaying. I dated a werewolf. I dated a woman. I loved them all more than I loved my future. I attended UC Sunnydale. I learned more in school than what was expected of me, to became less than what my parents wanted.

And those are just some of the rebelions I don't regret. They get a bit more complicated later on.

Still. Those are all about what others expected of me. Not what me expected of me. I get a few expectations of my own, I think?

Old reliable. Boy did Buffy trade her stake for a nail with that conversation. The truth is I am reliable not just for them, but for myself. I enjoyed by schedule. I liked the way my notebook looked when I opened it up, each homework assignment lined up in the front pocked. In the order which they would be turned in. That was always very important. What I did not enjoy was watching all of it somehow get turned against me.

There are a lot of ways to rebel against that. I went for simple.

I struggled a bit at first, the object of my misbehaving clumsy in my fingers, determined to make things difficult. Maybe it smelled my fear. In a world of vampires, was it so impossible for a fruit to smell fear?

"...And I'm eating this banana.
Lunchtime be damned!"

It was that time. The time where the silence is they heavy and pushed together sort. Compressed. Waiting for the bell to ring. Willow would swear it had its own taste. Something close to the first cotton candy at the fair, but not quite. The last funnel cake of the evening was too heavy, too rich. That was reserved for the last-day-of-school-taste. Normally, anticipation of spun sugar and bells would lead to the packing and repacking of bookbags, the sharpening of pencils, organization of notebooks that will never be that new again. But that was the before Willow.

The now Willow, slightly aged and possibly wiser knew that there would be plenty of time for that, even after the bell. School would start again, bags by the door or not, and Willow would make sure she was prepared. But with the new schoolyear looming, and this one of an extremely fifferent colored horse, she did pack bags. And there were bags by the door.

But they were suitcases.

It wasn't get-ready time. It was get away.

They had arrived in the specifically chosen Brazil late in the evening, new restrictions on air travel having extended travel times, and forced them both to check more bags than usual. Kennedy had done just as she promised. Same hotel. Same falls nearby. Same room.

So much sameness to fall into. So much them.

And? In Willow's opinion?

So much better than sharpered pencils. And almost-bells.

You said Willow should be boss.

...and then you made her this little plaque, that said "Boss of Us," you put little sparkles on it.

It would have to be that summer, the one between Buffy, when somehow I inherited Buffy's mantle of leadership. She was gone, and it felt like most of Giles had left with her. And let me say this, about that mantle? It is not a pretty shawl like the ones Joyce used to wear. Or a scarf. Or any other word people apply to bits of fabric.

A mantle is just that -- just like the one that sits over a fireplace.

It is hard, and it sits not-so-nicely on your shoulders. Your arms are always extended. Pushing at some, pulling at others. You are stiff, and sore, and most days a little overcooked. If you are lucky the wood is sturdy, and is enough between you and the fire to keep from being burned.

I am privileged enough to say that I have seen many people, and many friends, wear that hard, stiff mantle of leadership well over the years. But none of them did it in any kind of comfort. Least of all me.

The stars about the lovely moon
Fade back and vanish very soon,
When, round and full, her silver face
Swims into sight, and lights all space.

You don't want to do it. Because you don't want to face what is on the other side of it. The other-time, and the other-you. The you from before that you want to forget, but is still as real to you as Buffy, or Xander. Giles. Kennedy. You used to be afraid of the girl alone on the stage, and now you are afraid of being alone with yourself.

They all believe in you, of course. And of course they tell you so, in that girl-on-the-other-side-of-the-table way. So casual with words like power, and way. It is coffee with sugar and cream, both liberally added. They choose to believe in you, because they don't want to believe in the rest. That it happened was one thing. That it could happen again was another entirely. Your words of warning are brushed aside, so you have no choice but to swallow them down. They are not the brightly colored vitamins of your childhood, one of a few indulgences allowed by parents that did not believe in such things. Because they read it somewhere, and because of course that made it true. These bitter pills are bigger.

Xander might call it the 'hard stuff'. Buffy? The Buffy-now, not the Buffy-then would say something about life being hard. There would be a speech you do your best to listen to, because you love her. Because even though her blind faith of the day hurts you, you still confuse yourself by loving her even more for it.

How could you train to be so powerful against the vampires, and so powerless against your friends?

So you perform the spell, with your anchor across from you. You look at her one last time, and love her for a space longer than that. All while trying to look like that is exactly the not of what you are doing. Because she would disagree. Because she would lecture. Because she would be wrong. You know she would be wrong. And the time left? The compacted space of time that sits between you? Should not be an argument. You even manage a smile. A bright Willow-y smile that looks like hello, and tastes like goodbye.

You hope she doesn't kiss you, because she would figure it out. However different the loves of your life, they all shared one thing. Intuition. She would kiss you, and she would know.

But she doesn't. So it's ok.

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It was dark by the time Willow pulled into Boston, and she was thankful that most of the construction and congestion seemed to have eased, and navigation did not have to be so thought-inducing, She was still worried about Xander. And Buffy. Other sadness too, but she was feeling unfinished, non-processed, and the thoughts were too far out of reach.

Thankful then, that she was going the one place she could get to in Boston without a map.

Kennedy's, and home. The sad and basic truth was, she had been too much on the road in the past year to call anywhere home. At least until tonight. But as each set of head lights that flashed migh grew successively brighter, and the minutes stretched longer, Willow became aware that it was exactly where she was going.

Home. To her.

They had done the parts they had to, and very rarely got to be where they wanted to. But it was the like Kennedy had always wanted, and the one Willow had chosen. So they seemed to accept the distance between them with something that almost resembled grace.

Or just maybe, perhaps, a cup of tea, made by Giles. Strong and steady, perhaps to sharp to ever become diluded. Or maybe just made that much more favored by a good, long soak. The ripples always traveled, from one end of the cup to the other. Always making it there. Always finding its destination.

No matter how long it took.

Willow? Was home.

She took the stairs two at a time.

((Open to Kennedy))

"Wills. Please call me. I thought I could do this. I thought I could sort it all out. I thought it would make more sense, but I'm here. I'm here in Boston and none of it makes sense. None of it. Just... call me."

Willow sat on the edge of the bed-that-wasn't.

It wasn't hers, belonging instead to a Residence Inn placed quietly in one of the many suburbs of Philadelphia. It wasn't quite the right firmness either, too hard for her reach deep sleep. And yet now, listening to Xander's message, it wasn't anywhere near hard enough now. Too soft, she seemed to be slipping deeper into it, without any promise of support.

The voicemail had been anything but clear, but all it took was two words -- three tops, enough to catch the everything in her best friend's voice that spoke to the not rightness of the world. Understanding only took a few minutes more, the tv now muted in front of her, as E! ran the sort of overbright, repeating coverage that left Willow longing for old kung-fu movies and Xander's basement. She never understood what they were saying, back then.

She didn't want to understand what they were saying now.

Cordy was dead. Just like the words, something else she didn't want to know, to understand. And Willow felt a flare of familiar heat that she did.

People got ripped out of their lives with such violence. Oh, there was blame often enough. Where they lived, the world they knew, what they did rising right to the top of reasons why. But the truth was, it all felt like the ordinary playing dress up with extraordinary.

The moment chose itself to run a commercial for Miami Vice, and silent or not, Willow closed her eyes tight at the guns and echoing shots that followed through the screen. They were truthfully louder than if the volume had been on.

She slid town to the floor, hitting the power button on the remote. But still hiding from the screen after.

They had never expected Sunnydale to protect them. At least after Buffy had appeared in their lives with her smile, and her wake-up call. All such awakenings should have her smile behind them, Willow thought. It made them easier to swallow.

But they had learned to protect each other, because their home wasn't where the heart was. It was where the things that went bump in the night decided it might make an excellent midnight snack. And it had brought them together in the most unexpected ways.

For most of her life, Cordelia Chase had been anything but Willow's friend. They had known each other since they were five years old. They only people she had known longer? Her parents, and Xander.

So much of Cordelia had terrified Willow. Her walk. Her self-assurance. And most decidedly? Her way with words. After a particuarly cutting comment about her shoes in the first grade, Willow spent the next ten years doing her best to stay out Cordelia's way.

Looking back, it occured to her that maybe, just maybe, it was because she was afraid of what Cordelia would have to say if she stood around long enough for her to get past her clothing. Because back then, Willow was lift enough thought a good stiff breeze would be more than enough to blow her away.

She had a very distinct dislike, and almost-hatred of life at home, and not nearly enough in her to say something about it. She loved Xander with all the passion a heart that young could have, and not enough in her to do anything about it. If she wasn't spineless exactly, then Willow was at least operating from pure exoskeleton. Trying to hold all of herself in, and letting everything else bounce safely off. So good at repeating other people's knowledge in class, so much-for-nothing at letting it shape herself.

If she stood still long enough? Cordelia Chase was just the one to call her on that. But towards the end of high school one spine had been acquired, or at least? Discovered. And if she didn't even expect to get along with Cordy, they had had least respected each other. Not like there was still too much between them at the time. But somehow, Willow had always counted on the respect meaning just a little bit more.

It certainly felt valuable. Not that she ever admitted it outloud.

Then Sunnydale got swallowed into the ground, and Willow became even more aware of how few of them there were left. They ones that got out. The ones that survived. It felt like a much more important club than the ones she and Xander had formed before. Whatever got pulled down deep into the earth, the threads still remained. Still there, strings somehow a little taunter and shorter, and the connection changed again.

Because that was when Willow finally counted Cordy as her friend. When she went from fearing what she had to say, to welcoming it, and then? To finally wanting it.

And now, she was gone.

How could they ever have sat around the library, and longed for something like ordinary in their lives?

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