More Than I Can Stand

Characters: Willow POV
Pairings: Cordelia/Willow, Fred/Willow
Rating: PG
Spoilers: Thru "Tabula Rasa", Season 6
Setting: Willow's first visit to L.A. happens in the week following "Tabula Rasa".
Summary: Above all, that feeling of love multiplying her power, that's what Willow remembers.
Author's notes: Written for Vik, who asked for "The pairing would be Willow & anyone from AtS - whoever would work, I don't have qualms about who. Set after Tabula Rasa - Tara has broken up with her but Willow hasn't given up the magicks. And a happy feel to it. It doesn't have to be fluff, but nothing depressing." Betaed by Manda, who rocks my world.

"It said 'I love you, darling,
more than I can stand'
and I don't remember a thing"

- Paul Kelly, "I Don't Remember A Thing"

Willow's gift, not that Buffy would ever acknowledge it, was remembrance. Xander saw the truth. Buffy protected the truth. Willow remembered the truth. Not magic, but the power of human memory. The memory of Jesse's death; the memory of her doppelganger and the fear she might be gay; the memory of losing Oz, and getting him back, and losing him again. Willow remembers loss and marks the days by it. Willow remembers pain. Willow remembers.

What Willow does not remember is the drive between Sunnydale and L.A. She's made it at least a dozen times now, to see one or the other or best, still, both of the women she loves, but there's nothing she can recall about it. Willow has no recollection of where she stops to fill the gas tank, what cheesy tourist attractions slide past her windows, how she makes the turn off for Wolfram and Hart without a second thought, perfect every time. Willow remembers directions. Willow remembers.

The things that Willow remembers are the same things that make her forget the long stretch of highway between her apartment and her life. While Highway 10 spins out in front of her, she takes the silence of the road to remember one afternoon 2 years ago. Willow remembers the first time she drove this road.

Willow stood in the lobby of the Hyperion Hotel, and she couldn't remember why she had thought this was the place to go. With Buffy raging against the world of the living and Tara out of her life and Xander so wrapped up in planning for the wedding that he couldn't see Anya in front of him, there was no one left for her to turn to. She spent a fruitless day and night calling old friends, trying to find Oz in Tibet or wherever he was this time, and then she sat down on the floor in the Summers' kitchen and cried.

So she got in her car and drove without thinking, up to San Francisco and the Bay and women in bars who smiled at her and sent her drinks. She caught the notice of a lot of women, a teary-eyed young redhead drinking alone on a Thursday. After San Francisco couldn't make her feel better, all that water and history and nameless magic, she drove down the Pacific Coast Highway, stopping to pick sage as though she was heading home to a spell with Tara. She passed the exit for Sunnydale, Willow remembers that. She remembers the choices she made: a woman, a spell, an exit missed on the highway and a small foot on the accelerator. Willow doesn't remember deciding that L.A. was her final destination.

Willow doesn't remember choosing the path to the Hyperion, a place where residents remembered who she used to be, but she was standing in the lobby. She was a little tired and a little groggy, and she really just wanted to lie down and sleep for about a week, only to wake up and not remember this. Willow wants to wake up and not remember anything, some morning on one of these long days in her life.

It was raining in L.A. that day. Willow was soaking wet, dripping puddles onto the tile of the Hyperion's entrance. Willow doesn't remember it ever raining in L.A. besides that day, but she also remembers that she thought it was appropriate, the rain. Soaking wet from rain, no one could see the tears that she couldn't stop.

Standing in the foyer of the Hyperion, Willow remembered that she's been crying, but not that her eyes have gone all red from it.

There was an eerie silence in the hotel lobby. Willow listened to the rain rolling off the roof for long minutes before she found her voice in the echo-y room. "Hello? Angel? Is anyone here?" The silence continued unabated. Willow cleared her throat into the cavernous room. No answer. She was turning to go when she heard high heels clicking along the same tiles that she's creating puddles on.

"Wesley?" A woman's voice said. "Is that you, Wes?" Willow cranes her neck forward, straining to make a face out in the dim light provided by wall sconces. There's a hallway, darkened, behind the registration desk, and the disembodied voice is coming from that direction.

Willow remembers being nervous. "No," she called, her voice still breaking with tears. "It's Willow." The woman's figure appeared from the shadowed doorway.

"Willow Rosenberg," finished Willow, at the same time Cordelia Chase sputtered, "Willow Rosenberg?"

Cordelia's eyes widened in a way that Willow remembered, but she didn't remember that Cordy looked this tired. She was still stylish and polished, but her eyes were older. Willow always remembered Cordelia at 17. Beautiful, smiling and young.

"What are you doing here?" Cordy's voice cut through Willow's memories. Cordelia's voice didn't sound as hard as Willow remembered it, either. It was a weary voice, and Willow could summon enough power from underneath her paralyzing grief to see that the young woman's aura was wearing thin, as well. Willow remembers feeling powerful then, as if she could run a magical marathon with no problems, despite the pain. It felt good. She let the magic run up through her veins, taking over for the heartbreak.

"I broke Š I mean, I just needed Š I needed to get outŠ" Willow trailed off. Cordelia considered her carefully.

"Cup of coffee?"


"Would you like a cup of coffee, or tea, or something? The sopping wet look might go over well with the Broody Avenger, but women like you look better dry and warm."

"Angel looks good wet?" Willow boggled through her tears. She could feel a laugh bubbling up in her chest, against her will. "How do you know that Angel looks ­ no, wait. I don't want to know how you know that." Women like you echoed in Willow's mind. What does that mean?

"Come on." Cordelia took her arm. "Angel and Gunn are out tracking down some greasy demon. It's just us girls, and we were just sitting down to have a cup of tea."

"Girls? As in more than one? As in more than you?" Willow said, but her voice was lost in the echoes of the hotel as she followed Cordy down the dark hallway. Willow can't remember how the Hyperion smells, no matter how hard she tries, but she can remember the faint floral scent of Cordelia's perfume, drifting into Willow's nose. Willow remembers that Cordelia's perfume made her feel a little woozy, but, you know, in a good way.

Willow remembers moments, and feelings, and pain. Willow remembers blinking when she walked into the kitchen of the Hyperion, and Willow remembers her first glance at a slight, beautiful young woman. While Cordelia's voice bounces off tile and chrome, as she narrates her search for a coffee mug, Willow stays frozen in the doorway, staring at this woman she's never seen before, who's staring back at her. Willow doesn't even have to think about it anymore, but all that magic in her system and she can read this one's aura perfectly clearly: overriding fear, slight distrust and underneath, surprisingly, a faint twinge of desire.

"I'm Willow," she stammered out.

"Fred," the pretty woman says. She blushes, turns her head away, but Willow remembers the edges of a smile playing on her face. Willow always remembers the way that Fred blushes, when you tell her how smart or pretty or amazing she is. There's a pleasant pink her face takes on, and she lowers her eyes and hides behind her hair, but if you can make it past that barrier, there's always a tiny, pleased smile on her face. Willow remembers that Fred likes praise, and Willow remembers that before she came to L.A., Fred didn't get much of it.

The rest of the afternoon is a blur to Willow's memory, but she remembers the way her tears hit the surface of her tea when she told Fred and Cordelia about Tara. She remembers how soft Cordelia's hand felt when she stretched it across the table to Willow. Willow remembers that Fred didn't say much, but she stared at Willow and smiled sympathetically at her a lot. Willow remembers that Fred bolted like a rabbit, stammering excuses, when Willow tried to ask her some questions about how she ended up in the Hyperion's motley crew.

Willow remembers that Cordelia hugged her a little too long when she stood to leave, three hours later. Willow remembers that Fred appeared suddenly and skittishly, seemingly from nowhere, as Willow was climbing the steps to leave the building. She remembers that Fred stood close to her and put a hand on her sleeve, and Willow remembers turning back to see what Fred wanted. Willow remembers the cautious way Fred leaned in towards her, pressing her lips to Willow's gently. Willow remembers Fred's down-turned eyes and her quiet statement before the young woman ran back to whatever hiding places she had here.

"Come back and visit," Fred said. "Cordy and I are lonely."

Willow remembers that statement all the way home. Willow remembers that Tara has broken her heart, but she also remembers that Oz did, too, and that pain faded away to memory. This too shall pass and all those cheesy sentiments. Willow doesn't believe them, which is why she's on the highway to L.A., a thousand volts of magic coursing through her veins. She'd stopped off to get a hit before the long drive, and she's getting jittery now, 30 minutes from the Hyperion.

It's enough to make Willow wish she smoked, just so she'd have something to do, but Willow remembers that Cordelia hates smokers. Smoking is definitely out, then.

Willow can feel the power in her veins all the time now, but it gets worse when she's driving to L.A. to see her girls. When Cordy kisses her, when Fred wraps her arms around Willow's waist, Willow can feel the magic ten times over.

Above all, that feeling of love multiplying her power, that's what Willow remembers.

Feedback always welcome.