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TITLE:  Positive Reinforcement [1/1]
AUTHOR: Elaine McMillian /
SUMMARY:  A short vignette:  Willow gets a pep talk from her "aunt."
DISCLAIMER:  I don't own BtVS or Willow.  Joss Whedon and the WB do.  I
don't own the special guest star, either. 
NOTES:  This is for Miriam-- she knows why.  

Positive Reinforcement

"Willow, it's for you!" Mrs Rosenberg called, standing at the foot of the
stairs.  Willow came down quickly, securing the end of her long, red hair in
its neat braid.  "Morning, hon."

"Good morning, Mom," Willow replied, taking the receiver.  "Thanks-- who is it?"

Mrs Rosenberg just smiled, picked up her books and lesson plan, and hurried

Willow waved good-bye, and turned to the phone.  "Hello?"

"Hello, Willow.  I'm glad I caught you at home," said a woman's voice.

"Aunt Dee!" Willow exclaimed, pleased and surprised.  "How are you?  *where*
are you?  What--"

"One question at a time, please!" her aunt laughed.  "I'm fine, thanks.  I'm
just up the street, more or less-- in Eugene, Oregon.  I've got some time
off coming, and I  thought I might drive down for a visit."

"Wow!  That'd be great!" Willow said.  

Dee wasn't really Willow's aunt; but she was an old friend of Mrs
Rosenberg's.  In fact, Aunt Dee had given Willow her first microscope.
Although Willow had soon after discovered computers, letting the world of
chemistry fall to the way side, the microscope still held a place of honour
on the shelf above her bed.  

"We can go to Frodo's for lunch, and show you around town." Willow said
excitedly, "and by the time we're done, our orders will be ready.  And I can
show you the high school, and the computer lab, and the library--"

*I'll have to warn Giles, first,* she realised, *and I'd better make sure to
hide all my. uh, 'special' projects, although I bet I could explain the
coroner's office stuff, or maybe not--*

"You'll love Ms Calendar," she concluded, a bit raggedly.

"Ms Calendar?"

"My computer instructor," Willow clarified, sitting on the bottom step.
"She's really smart, and she's a witch, too, so--"

"She's a *what*?"

*Oooops.*  "A, um, a witch. You know, um, a computer wizard, only a girl,"
Willow invented hastily.  "It's slang.  Like, bogus...?"

"I see," Aunt Dee said, sounding a bit doubtful.

"Anyway, you'll like her."  *This is like having a secret identity, only I
don't have a costume.*

"I'm sure I will.  Um.... How's Xander?"

"Oh, he's just fine," she said, brightly.

"Are you two dating yet?" Aunt Dee asked.

"Well, not exactly.  We're just friends, Aunt Dee, really," Willow said firmly.

"So you're not interested in him anymore?" Her aunt sounded surprised.  *I
hope Willow isn't going to get hurt,* she thought, pushing a strand of red
hair out of her eyes.

"Well, I am, but he isn't, and part of life is accepting stuff, and moving
on, and it's part of being an adult, and taking on responsibility, and
empowering yourself.  You can't spend your whole life just sitting in one
place, waiting for Prince Charming to wake up, you have to  make your own--"

"Willow, you've been reading self-help books again, haven't you?"

"Not *books*.... Just some Internet sites...."

"Uh-huh.  Willow, I wish you'd learn to trust yourself.  You're smart,
you're resourceful, you're creative.  You don't *need* to read books, *or*
web pages, for that matter, to learn how to be someone different.  You're
fine just as you are."  

Willow heard a rustling, as her aunt shifted position.

"It's hard, um, trusting myself," Willow admitted.

"I know," Aunt Dee said.  "But it gets easier, and you've got to start
sometime-- might as well be now.  And I've noticed that you're getting more
sure of yourself all the time."

"I told you about my friend Buffy, didn't I?" Willow asked, swinging the
phone cord idly.

"Yes, you've mentioned her."

"She helps a lot.  She's so cool, Aunt Dee.  She's brave, and funny, and
really pretty-- Xander's crazy about her-- and--"

"Wait a minute.  Is *that* why you're 'not interested' in Xander anymore?"

"Well, sort of," Willow said.  "I mean, he's interested in everyone *but*
me, so it's time for me to get a clue.  Anyway.  Buffy listens to me, she
really listens to me, and she trusts me.  She appreciates me, Aunt Dee, and
that's nice."

"I know how you feel...!" Aunt Dee said, ruefully.  "When the people you
care about dismiss you, forget about you, it hurts, I know.  I'm glad you've
got friends who understand that.  I hope you let them know how you feel, too."

"I try to," Willow said.  "They're really good friends, Aunt Dee."  

"Even though Xander and Buffy...?"

"Well, they haven't done anything, really-- I mean, Buffy's in love with
someone else, so that isn't the same thing.  And, even if she was.... Aunt
Dee, do you think it's easier to find friends you can trust, or, well,

"Boyfriends, definitely," Aunt Dee said.  "Boyfriends come and go, but
*real* friends never leave you.  Well, okay, maybe they ditch you sometimes;
and they can be over-protective...."

"But it's only because they care about you, and want you to be okay," Willow
finished, excitedly.

"Exactly," Aunt Dee said, approvingly.  Her voice took on an almost wistful
note.  "You have to talk to people, sometimes, and let them know how you
feel.  It doesn't do any good to say 'I'm fine' when you're really hurting.
We're all mortal, and fallible, and none of us can read minds."

"Explaining how I feel can be hard, too.  *Really* hard," Willow said.
"Sometimes I feel like they're only putting up with me because they don't
want to hurt my feelings.  I'm not used to belonging, you know?"

"Everyone wants to be included; no-one wants to be left out," Aunt Dee
assured her.  "Believe me:  if your friends didn't enjoy your company, and
appreciate your abilities, they wouldn't pretend they did.  And if they
don't-- well, then they don't deserve you."

"You're kind of biased, Aunt Dee," Willow said, smiling a little.

"Not really.  I know you, Will-- and I know your worth.  Trust me.  Better
yet, trust yourself."

"Thanks, Aunt Dee."

"No problem."  Willow heard a door open in the background, and a man's
voice.  "I'll be right there," Aunt Dee said, and then, to Willow, "I've got
to go-- work calls.  I'll call back tonight, and we'll work out the details,
but I hope I'll see you soon, okay?"

"Okay!  Bye, Aunt Dee!"

"Bye, hon."  

Willow hung up.  She went back upstairs for her bookbag, and hurried out of
the house.  

"Hey, Will, wait up!" Xander called from down the street.  She turned and waved.

When he caught up, she put her arm through his.  "So, Xander-shaped guy,
how're you today?"

"Hey, you're in a good mood," Xander said, grinning. 

"Yeah.  It's one of those days.  By the way-- have I ever told you how glad
I am to have you as a friend....?"

Dana Scully hung up.  She pulled on her trenchcoat, and left the hotel room.  
"Scully, I think we've finally got a lead," Mulder said, locking the door to
his room.

She climbed into the Taurus.  "Good.  Let's get this wrapped up."

"What's the hurry?  Got a hot date?" he asked, grinning.

"Something like that," she replied.  "Mulder, have I ever told you how much
I hate it when you ditch me?"

"Only about ten thousand times," he said, as they pulled out of the lot.

"I appreciate your intentions."

Fox Mulder stared at his partner, but she was looking out the window,
smiling to herself.

"Well, that's what friends are for," he said, uncertainly.



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