Author's Note: In the original script for "Becoming", there was an exchange during the "resolve face" scene in the hospital which wound up on the cutting room floor. Willow has a line to Cordelia: "If you help me do this, I'll let you give me a complete makeover." "Really?" Cordy says in reply, brightening. "You're not just saying that?"

This exchange, plus the fact that Allyson Hannigan has gotten her hair cut, combined with my imagination to create this story.

Willow, Cordelia, Oz, Xander, et. al. belong to Joss Whedon and the WB. I'm just playing with them. No copyright infringement intended.



Changing

by Jeanne DeVore



Willow stared at herself morosely in the mirror.

Well, what did you expect? she thought disgustedly. You can't go messing around with that kind of magic and not have it affect you.

The others had assumed her gray, pasty complexion and the dark circles under her eyes had been caused by her injury-the head trauma which had put her in a coma. And, to be fair, it hadn't tickled. She'd been tired, feeling lousy even before she'd....

She sighed. The spell had worked. She knew it. She could feel it. But Angel was gone, and so was Buffy. And from what Mrs. Summers had said, what she'd read in the note Buffy had left, it didn't sound like they were together. What had happened, that morning in the old mansion? Unless Buffy came back, which seemed pretty unlikely, all things considered, they'd probably never know.

No, it wasn't just her injury that caused her to look like this-like some rag doll someone threw away. Giles had tried to warn her, and after all, he should know....

Willow sighed again and pulled at a limp strand of hair, holding it away from her head. She gathered her hair behind her, holding it so that it couldn't be seen from this angle, turning her head, trying to imagine herself without the long locks.

They said (they being all those magazines girls her age were supposed to read) that a great way to get over feeling depressed was to have a makeover. Get a new haircut, go in for some pampering. It had been so long since Willow had had anything more than just the bottom ends trimmed on her hair, she couldn't imagine anything as simple as a haircut making any difference at all in how she felt. Changing her hair wouldn't change her heart. It wouldn't put color back into her too pale cheeks or the sparkle back into her eyes.

She let her hair fall down her back again. But she'd promised Cordelia. She couldn't back out now. And actually, Cordy had been great through the whole thing-she'd been there when they needed her, she hadn't been annoying, she'd sat with her and Xander....

And Cordy seemed to think that this makeover was exactly what Willow needed.

Willow shrugged. She couldn't see how it could do any good, but who knew? It might make her feel better after all.



~~~



When the first of the red locks hit the floor of the beauty parlour, Willow thought she was going to faint. Her hair. Her own hair. And it was going away.

But Cordelia looked on, smiling confidently. Far more confidently than Willow felt.

They'd pored through fashion magazines and salon journals looking for that perfect cut. Cordelia had wanted her to get it cut short, like Gwynneth Paltrow. But Willow didn't think she could make such a drastic change. They settled on a style which just brushed Willow's shoulders and feathered away from her face. Cordy said it would give Willow a sophisticated look.

Willow wasn't sure she wanted to look sophisticated. There was a certain safety in the long hair and the baggy sweaters. If no one noticed you, you didn't have to interact with them. And after all, Oz noticed her, and that's really all that mattered.

She hadn't told Oz about her makeover, wasn't sure how he'd react. He loved her long hair, she knew that much, because he was always touching it, running his fingers through it. He was a very tactile person. It was one of the things she liked about him. One of the many things....

She smiled and closed her eyes, unable to bear the stylist's brutal obliteration of her hair. She couldn't remember ever not having long hair. Couldn't believe she was doing this now. She wished she could have talked to Buffy about it; Buffy would have told her what to do.

But Buffy was gone.... And Buffy's being gone was one of the reasons she was going through with this makeover. Because she had to try anything to banish that awful, sick feeling inside of her, the one which wasn't caused by a bump on the head or too powerful magic. The one that was caused by the loss of a friend.

In what seemed like no time at all, the snipping stopped and the stylist blew the shorter hair dry.

"You can open your eyes now, Willow," Cordy said.

"Maybe I'll just keep them closed," Willow answered softly.

"Come on, it looks great," Cordy prodded. "Take a look."

Slowly, one eye at a time opened. And equally slowly, the eyes focused on the mirror in front of her.

Her hair was short. Well, short-er, anyway. Shorter than she'd ever remembered it being, since she was little. It brushed the tops of her shoulders, it swept casually away from her face. It looked....

Kinda cute.

She frowned at her reflection, turning her head this way and that, examining the new hair from all angles, reaching up and touching the shorter hair.

"It looks so different," she murmured.

"It looks cute," Cordelia countered.

"Oz will hate it," Willow whined.

"No, he won't-he'll think you look hot."

"I don't do hot," she insisted. "Hot isn't me."

"But it can be. Come on, I'll show you."



~~~



Later that afternoon, they were ensconsed in front of Cordelia's dressing table. Spread out in front of them were more bottles, creams, tubes, pots and sticks than Willow had ever seen in one place before, except in a department store. She couldn't believe Cordelia actually used all this stuff.

Cordy, of course, was in her element, all of her "tricks of the trade" spread out around her. Willow did a mental shrug, unable to believe, yet again, that she'd agreed to this...farce.

Oh, lighten up, Rosenberg, she chided herself. It's only play. Let Cordy have her fun, play a little dress up, and then if you don't like it, you can go home tonight and wash it off. No biggie.

They'd started with a facial, though Cordelia said that Willow's skin was really pretty good, even if she was too pale from her recent ordeal.

Willow smiled, grateful she'd never had much problem with acne, beyond the occasional zit, and glad that she at least knew the basics about makeup so that the things on Cordelia's table weren't totally foreign to her. Though the eyelash curler looked more like an instrument of torture than anything she wanted to deal with.

While the mask was in place, Cordy did her nails, filing them, buffing them, doing something funky to the cuticles so that they sort of disappeared, and then putting a pretty pale red polish on them so that they didn't scream "red nailpolish", but just looked nice.

After the mask was rinsed off, Cordelia did her eyebrows, saying they weren't bad but needed a little more definition. Willow frowned. Definition? Eyebrows were eyebrows. She occasionally went after hers with a tweezer whenever there was a stray hair, but mostly they were just...there. Being eyebrows. She never thought of them as having definition.

Layer by layer, Cordy applied, smoothed, powdered, stroked. It felt weird. It made Willow want to do nothing so much as scratch. But Cordy ranted every time she touched her face, insisting that faces are for looking good, faces aren't for touching.

Willow smiled, wondering what Oz would make of that. Oz, who loved to stroke her cheek, kiss her forehead, kiss her lips.... She liked to touch his face, too-feel the soft stubble whenever he decided to grow a beard, feel his lips on hers.... She decided that if faces weren't for touching, then Oz would be the exception to the rule.

Cordy finished with a lip pencil, then filled in with a shiny gloss.

"There," she said with a smile. "All done."

Willow turned and looked at herself in the mirror.

Someone she didn't know looked back.

Someone with wide dark eyes and long, curled lashes, a flush of color on her cheeks, a red gloss on her lips.

"I look like a tramp," she muttered.

"You do not," Cordelia scolded. "You look sophisticated."

"I look like a sophisticated tramp."

"Willow..." Cordy warned.

"It looks weird," she said.

"It looks terrif. You're just not used to it."

"It itches."

Cordelia sighed. "You'll get used to it."

"I don't want to get used to it, I want to scratch."

"Willow..."

"I'm sorry."

She was, too. Cordy had obviously been having fun with her "Willow Doll"-doing her hair, her nails, her makeup. She hadn't wanted to spoil Cordelia's fun. At least somebody should be enjoying this.

"Come on, let's get changed, then we'll go to the Bronze."

Willow went wide-eyed. Even though she knew that was the ultimate goal, the thought of going out in public like this terrified her.

"Can't I just...go home?" she asked.

"Willow, now come on, you promised," Cordelia reminded her.

"I promised you could do a makeover on me, I didn't promise I'd go out in public in it."

"But what's the point otherwise? The idea is to be seen."

She looked at herself in the mirror again and made a face. "Oz is gonna hate it."

"Oz isn't gonna know what hit him, he's gonna be so blown away by you."

She knew that wasn't true. Oz didn't care for the usual trappings girls did. He liked what was inside best. And Oz thought she was beautiful just the way she was, long hair, no makeup and everything.

But she'd promised Cordelia. And after all, at the end of the evening, she could go home and wash her face and let her hair grow back....

Well, maybe she'd keep the hair this way awhile. She was beginning to like it.

So with a sigh, she got up from the dressing table, going to where Cordelia had laid out her new clothes. They'd shopped for them even before the haircut, Cordy saying that buying a new outfit had proven theraputic qualities. Willow laughed, not sure if it was the new outfit part that worked or the spending money part. Or both.

They'd argued over the nature of the outfit, Cordy immediately going for the low-cut, tight-fitting, revealing tops and short little skirts. But Willow was more than a little uncomfortable in clothes like that and finally convinced Cordy that if she didn't want her to walk around all night with her arms wrapped around her body, they'd need to pick something else. Eventually they settled on a long-sleeved form-fitting shirt with a surplice crossed bodice, the deep v-neck suggesting without revealing, much to Willow's relief. And the skirt was ankle length in a pretty floral, but slit up one side to above the knee. Willow would have happily lowered the slit, or closed it altogether. But Cordy was adamant. The colors were a sage green and a soft tan, which highlighted Willow's auburn hair and fair complexion.

"Oh, I'm so jealous," Cordelia had said, "I can't wear that color-it completely disappears on me."

Willow frowned. Wasn't that usually the other way around?

Finally, the moment of truth had arrived. Willow was dressed in the new top and skirt, chunky sandals on her feet, a delicate necklace draping her throat, small studs in her ears. Her hair was fluffed, her makeup was perfected, and the girl who was not Willow Rosenberg went to meet her fate.



~~~



The Bronze was crowded, as was typical on a weeknight, especially one the week after the end of the semester. Fortunately, the band which was playing was not Oz's, though they had made plans to meet there. It would be the first time Willow had been out since everything had gone so wrong. And it would be so strange to be there without Buffy.

Willow walked into the club with Cordelia, felt every eye in the place on her, and made a straight beeline for the bathroom.

"Willow!" Cordy chased after her.

"I can't do this," Willow whimpered, clutching her arms around her. "I'm gonna be sick."

"Come on, don't be childish. You look great. Oz will be falling all over himself and Xander will start drooling. Which, when you stop to think about it is a bad thing, especially coming from my boyfriend, but in this instance I'm willing to make an exception. Now come on." And she grabbed Willow's hand and practically dragged her out of the bathroom.

Fortunately, it didn't look like the guys were here yet. Or was that unfortunately? It meant that Willow didn't have to face Oz and Xander, but it also meant she had longer to think and worry about it. More than anything, she wanted Buffy here....

Cordy went to the bar to get them drinks, and Willow sat at the table miserably, looking around, watching all the couples dancing, watching the friends laughing. It didn't matter how much makeup she wore or how trendy her clothes or her haircut was. She was still an outsider. She didn't fit here. Once she had, when she was here with Buffy. Everything was easier with Buffy. But now.... More than anything, she wanted to be somewhere, anywhere else.

"There's Cordy," she heard a voice behind her say. Xander's voice. "I don't see Willow. I'll go get Cordy, you bag us a table."

She heard a voice she immediately recognized as Oz's. He and Xander weren't exactly friends, but they got along well enough. Of course, Oz got along well with everybody. "Yeah, OK," the voice-Oz-said, coming nearer.

She didn't dare turn around. He didn't recognize her. She was right in front of him and he didn't recognize her!

Then she felt a hand on her shoulder. "Hey, baby." Oz kissed her cheek. "Xander's finding Cordy, so we get to do table holdage." He sat down next to her and smiled.

He stared right at her and smiled.

And didn't say anything.

Was it possible he didn't notice? He could be sometimes-in his own world. But she couldn't believe he didn't notice.

He looked around the room and focused on the band. "Wow," he said, "they really-suck. Suddenly we don't sound quite so bad anymore." He smiled again.

"You hate it!" Willow blurted.

"Huh?"

"My hair, my-my everything. You hate it but you're too nice to say anything."

He looked at her, a slight bemused frown on his face. "No, I don't hate it. It's..." he paused, considering. "Short. But cute."

"You liked it better long," she pouted.

"Not so. I like it any way. Long, short, purple.... Bald." He grinned. "Well, maybe not bald. Unless you wanted to."

She couldn't help but smile. He was so sweet. "Then you're not angry I got it all cut off?"

"Angry? No way. And anyway, you didn't get it all cut off, it's still there. There's just less of it. Besides, It's just hair, it's not who you are. It wasn't your hair I first noticed about you, it was...you." He took her hand. "Don't you like it?"

"I don't know," she said helplessly. "I think I do, but I'm not used to it yet. I've been feeling so yucky, and Cordelia thought it would cheer me up. But it doesn't really change anything."

"Course not. I mean, how could it? It's only a haircut." He put his other hand on top of the first, enclosing her hand in his. His hands were warm, comforting. "I sometimes change my hair if I get bored," he went on. "It gives me something to do. But it doesn't change me. You can get a new haircut, or new makeup, or a new outfit, which I really like, by the way. But underneath it all you're still Willow. Nothing's changed."

She sighed. "Sometimes I wish it would."

"I don't," he said. "If you changed, you wouldn't be you. You wouldn't be the Willow I...." He swallowed, looking nervous for practically the first time since she knew him. "I-the Willow I love."

She stared at him, shocked, surprised and delighted all at the same time. She opened her mouth to speak, but no sound came out.

He loves me?

He loves me!

"And I wasn't gonna say that yet," he said, ducking his head.

"Why not?"

He shrugged. "I didn't want to put any pressure on you. You know. Make you think you had to feel the same way or anything. You don't. I mean, if you don't, it's okay."

"I-" She paused, not quite sure what to say. "I think I do, too. But I'm not sure." She owed him honesty. "I mean, I've never been in love before to be sure."

He tipped his head quizzically. "What about Xander?"

"Oh." What about Xander? "Yeah, I guess I was in love with Xander. But this is...different, somehow."

"Different better or different worse?"

"Different different. I loved Xander, but I always felt, I don't know, kind of afraid, too. But I don't feel that way with you. In fact, you always make me feel...totally unafraid."

He opened his mouth and the look on his face was absolutely awestruck.

"Wow," he whispered.

She smiled. And then she leaned toward him, her short hair and her stylish clothes making her bold, and she put his arms around her and and kissed her-tenderly, gently, still chastely. But with an underlying passion that made her heart do flip-flops and her toes tingle.

"Hey, you two, no public displays of aff...." Xander's words sputtered and died as Willow and Oz broke off their kiss. Xander just stared at Willow, his mouth open, making funny looking "guppy" faces.

"See?" Cordelia was saying to him, "What did I say? Doesn't she look great?"

Xander was still staring, doing his best guppy imitation.

"Xander?" Cordy asked him again. Still guppy, so she thumped him. True affection, Xander and Cordy style.

"W...willow. Oh...wow," he finally managed to stutter. "You look-wow!"

Willow blushed. Xander had never been speechless in front of her. Because of her. It was.... It was something she'd always dreamed of. But now that she had it, she realized it didn't mean anything. He was reacting to the makeup, the hair, the clothes. He wasn't this way because of who she was. Only how she looked.

"It's just a haircut, Xander," she said softly.

Xander blinked, seeming to come back into himself. "It's not just anything," he said. "You look incredible Gorgeous, even. Wow," he gushed again.

She laughed. "Xander..." she protested. Now he was making her embarrassed.

"You do," he insisted. "Don't you think she looks really hot?" he asked Oz.

"Oh, yeah," he said, then smiled at Willow. "But I always think that. No matter what she's wearing and how she looks."

Willow blushed again. Now that meant something.

"Come on, babe," Oz said, standing and extending a hand to her. "Dance with me."

She took his hand and he led her to the dance floor. As they went, she heard Cordelia saying, "Look at that. We spend all that time and all that money to impress guys and the one who's supposed to be impressed doesn't care, and the one who's not supposed to care, does."

"What do you mean I'm not supposed to..." Xander began, but Willow tuned him out. Her chunky sandals made her taller than Oz, so she slipped out of them as he put his arms around her and they swayed, cheek to cheek, to the music.

It felt good, being in his arms like this. The feeling of his breath against her neck, his hands on her back, the soft stubble of his cheek.... It felt right. And if she still missed Buffy terribly, which she did, and if she still felt kind of-not quite all there, like she'd been feeling since that night.... Well, right now, it didn't really matter.

The hair would grow. Or not, depending on her mood. The makeup would wash away. But Oz...Oz would still be here. Still be looking at her like the sun only rose and set just for her. Still be holding her hand and kissing her and making her feel more beautiful and more special than any makeover possibly could.

Still be loving her.

And that would go further toward mending the ache inside than anything else.

~End~

 

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