Disclaimer: I don't own these characters, no matter how much I might want to, and someday I'll learn to accept that.
Feedback: Would be appreciated.
Summary: Set in the time when Angelus roamed free and Willow still babbled. When Willow tries to help Buffy feel safe, she has the best of intentions. That should have been a warning sign right there.
The moon hung low in the sky, shedding only enough light to cast shadows into black relief. Buffy shifted impatiently on her headstone perch and swung her legs in idle circles. Occasionally she glared at the freshly turned patch of earth beneath her.
"Come on," she muttered. "Wake up already." She wondered if bringing a shovel on patrol would be considered unsporting. And what if she got the wrong corpse? That could open whole new frontiers of ick.
"Bored already, lover?"
He was behind her.
Buffy half jumped half fell from the headstone; her feet sank deeply into the soft black dirt and it clung to her like tar. She tried to turn around, couldn't turn around, had to turn around because he was still there. And he was coming closer.
"I remember when you could go all night without a break."
He was moving around her. But slowly. Very slowly.
Buffy twisted her head around and caught just a glimpse of laughing yellow eyes before he moved away again.
"But now... you're pathetic. Weak."
Yanking on her legs had no effect; they remained firmly rooted. Her nails cut gashes in the thick denim and the skin below. Blood ran into her shoes, into the dirt.
"I can help you."
There was a smile in the words, and he was getting closer. Very quickly.
Buffy tried to dodge the blow she felt coming; the air was as thick as water or blood and it dragged against her, slowed her down. His arm snaked around her neck, pulled her back until she was curved like a bow, her legs now trapped up to the knees in the horribly soft, horribly wet ground.
"No." Buffy managed to say out loud, bringing the stake she held up slowly. (too slow) He knocked it away easily and left her hands convulsively grasping at nothing. "Stop." Her windpipe was shrinking, dwindling like her vision, in a second both would be gone.
"Calm down," He said into her ear.
His arm relaxed and Buffy took in a painful breath of metallic air. I'm alive, she thought in a hysterical rush. I'm alive alive alive not going to die.
He chuckled. One hand ran up through her hair, hair, the feel of strong cold fingers against her scalp bringing a familiar twinge of pain.
"No, you're not going to die." His grip on her hair tightened, pulled, and forced her head to the side. Angelus lowered his head and spoke against her skin; "You're going to live forever."
Hands closed around her sunken ankles, pulling her down to darkness.
"No!" Buffy jerked upright in bed, her hands snapping to her face. She ran her fingers over the smooth skin as if memorizing her own features, feeling the dry salty rasp of dried tears under her fingertips. I've been crying, she told herself. Vampires don't cry. Vampires can't cry. I've been crying.
It took a few minutes before her mind could process any thought but that. When she could think, the first thing she did was look quickly over at the floor next to her bed. To her relief, the bundle of blankets and pillows showed no signs of life.
Buffy lay back down carefully, feeling for the first time that her mattress was -too- soft and giving. She closed her eyes on new tears, hoping she wouldn't fall asleep again, knowing that she would. Let's see, she thought through the already growing muzziness, that makes three things Slayers can't get that I want: sick days, sex and insomnia. What does that say about my life?
Within moments she was asleep again.
Willow opened her eyes and stared blindly into the darkness.
That's three nightmares in a row, she thought. And from the circles under Buffy's eyes this probably wasn't the first night this had happened.
Willow felt useless. Not just felt, was useless. She couldn't tell Buffy that it would be all right, she couldn't make the monsters disappear, she couldn't even promise Buffy that she wouldn't be vamped, not with Angelus out there acting like it was his personal duty to bring to life every nightmare his 'ex' had ever had.
Besides, Willow thought hopelessly, She's Buffy, save-the-world-girl, stakes vampires in a single bound, the Chosen One. And I'm... She grimaced. ...net girl.
It took a few minutes of silent contemplation before a slow grin started to spread in the darkness. I'm net girl, she thought again. I'm research woman; I can find an answer to every question, a solution to every problem. I can't do what she does, but I can do what I do. It's about time I started doing that.
Willow was still smiling as she snuggled more securely into her sleeping bag, her toes reflexively feeling along the bottom for stray frogs. Finding herself frog free, she drifted off.
Another book joined the growing pile of tomes stacked on the library counter.
There, Willow thought with satisfaction: the complete History of Vampires. That ought to do it. She glanced around furtively and then began to stuff the books into her bag. She stopped. She sighed.
I can't do this, she thought. It's wrong. Willow took the books back out and began the laborious process of signing each one out. So much for working in secret, she thought wryly. Well, I may have signed them out, but there's no way I'm filing the cards. Nope. No way. Not gonna.
She packed up the books again and marched towards the door, smirking to herself. She was in control. She was a rebel. She could just leave the cards lying there all wild and in disarray on the desk.
Where anyone could see them.
Where Giles could see them, she thought with sudden panic. And wonder what I'm doing with all these books. I forgot about Giles!
"Good day, Willow." The voice disturbed her thoughts on the knotty problem of Giles and she looked up.
"Giles!" Willow said, her face freezing into a manic grin. She was intensely aware that the cards were right behind her. She needed a distraction and she needed it right away.
"Is that a new suit?" Willow asked desperately.
"Why, yes. I'm gratified that you noticed," Giles said, fingering the lapels smugly. "It's reassuring to know that at least one American can ...er... spot the difference between the varieties of tweed."
This is good, Willow told herself. We have a topic. Now, get him out of the library before he notices the cards. We have to be subtle or he's going to suspect that there's something going on. Subtle, Willow. Subtle. "You'd be surprised!" she blurted.
Giles looked up from his suit, his brow creasing. "What?"
Willow smiled innocently at him, hoping he didn't notice that her eyes were watering. "You'd be surprised, uh, how many people...like tweed!" That almost made sense. She decided to go with it.
"As a matter of fact," Willow continued, glancing out the library door, "I happen to know that Miss Blanchard is passionately interested in tweed! And look, there she goes now!"
"Really?" Giles eyed Miss Blanchard's retreating back sceptically. "Are you quite sure?"
Willow nodded quickly. "Oh yes," she said. "You should talk to her. Now. About tweed!" Tone it down, she cautioned herself. "I mean, since she'd be interested."
Giles gave her a last odd look before he turned and went out the doors. She heard a surprised feminine voice say, "Why, hello Mr. Giles! Your suit-?" before the library doors mercifully swung shut.
Willow's shoulders slumped and she offered up a silent but heartfelt apology to Miss Blanchard. Two steps carried her back to the counter where she swept all the carefully signed cards into her bag before running out of the library, wracked with guilt.
Willow had to wait until that night before she could begin searching for a way to vamp-proof Buffy. Securely locked in her room, she spread all of her resources across the floor in a huge semicircle of books that fanned out with her at the center. I have the books, she thought. I have the links, I have the time. Let's go!
Several hours later, Willow surfaced from her paper nest and faced the unpleasant possibility that she didn't have the time. At this point, it was beginning to look like only vampires would have enough time to do this kind of research. Not that they would, but they could.
Willow thought about that, and she thought about the things Buffy said into her pillow while she slept, and she bent again over the books.
Her computer beeped. She hopped up nimbly, shedding books like water, and picked her way over to the computer. The e-mail icon was flashing; when she clicked on it one message came up. It was from someone at firstname.lastname@example.org, and the body of the message was empty. The subject header read, "Lure of the Shadows, reversed."
Willow's eyes widened. Falling to her knees, she dug through the books, pushing volume after volume aside until - she triumphantly pulled out a large book that looked like it had been designed as a prop for a wizard's lair. Gold letters crawled in spidery script over the black cover, spelling out "Legends of Nightfall."
She flipped quickly through the book until she found the spell she vaguely remembered reading. She'd barely scanned it then, but now a sunny smile crept over her face as she read.
It was no wonder that she'd missed it on the first read through; the Lure of the Shadows spell was intended to -summon- demons, not repel them. But the clue was in the details - the spell itself was designed to be cast on a human. The spell made the blood of the sacrifice irresistible to demons, the otherworldly equivalent of smearing peanut butter on a pinecone and tossing it in a squirrel cage.
Willow couldn't suppress a shudder at the thought of how many people this spell had doubtless turned into instant no-fail demon bait.
It was pleasant to think that she might make up for some of the evil the spell had caused in the past if she reversed it properly.
The best part is that I don't even have to tell Buffy, Willow thought. At least, not until I'm sure it worked. That way, nothing could go wrong!
Willow frowned to herself and muttered, "I wish I hadn't thought that."
One school day and a few quick shopping trips later, Willow stood in her room surrounded by assorted occult paraphernalia. She ran through her mental checklist for the thousandth time before beginning the preparations, which were long and complex and involved a good many more sticky liquids than Willow would have preferred. She stopped frequently to wash her hands and put down newspapers. Not for the first time, she wished her parents hadn't put in shag carpeting.
The preparations complete, she read over the revised words of the incantation one more time before she stepped into the center of the overlapping marks that gleamed in wet black circles on the floor.
She carefully placed a picture of Buffy inside one of the smaller circles by her feet, and wished for a panicked moment that she'd written the words of the incantation on her hand instead of trying to memorize the whole thing in one go. She took a deep breath and began.
Closing her eyes and spreading her arms, she spoke to the dead sorcerer Maltheus, addressing him as master and friend. She begged him to lend her the power of the balance he had created that the blood of the sacrifice would be as something unclean to the brethren of the pit.
The syllables of a forgotten time fell from her lips as she praised his power, asking him to force the demons to fear his strength as she did. She bound the name of Angelus into the spell, and bade him be doubly affected by the workings of the magic.
She picked up the picture of Buffy without opening her eyes, carefully placing it in the bowl of water and herbs that stood ready by her hand. She held the bowl above her head as she spoke the words of ending and entreaty.
Steam spilled over the sides of the bowl and streamed over Willow's face and hands in white rivulets. The clay of the bowl was ice against Willow's fingers when she lowered it, still steaming, to her lips.
The strange taste in her mouth was inconsequential, a fading note buried under the growing roar in her ears. The carpet was rough under her cheek; she tried to remember falling. The black hole in the center of her mind was an insistent tug; she let her thoughts fall into it and was grateful when it closed behind them and took them away.
The candles went out.
Some people might remember this fanfic. Those would be people with fantastically good memories, considering how long ago I first posted it. However, in a burst of nostalgia, I finally finished it and have now decided to impose it on you guys to achieve some kind of literary closure. *g* The entire thing is being re-edited, which is surprisingly fun.
You know, I miss Angelus. There was something about him that appealed to me. Maybe it was the leather pants, maybe it was the smirk, maybe it was his sense of humor... Funny guys are sexy, y'know. Even when their humor is almost entirely centred around blood, death and the prospect of more death to come. It's sad but true.
Comments are always appreciated, of course.