Summary: Willow successfully helps Anya to recover her amulet . . .and gets to find out what would have happened if Angel had never lost his soul. Third story in my "Straight Ahead" universe.

Disclaimer: These characters remain the copyrighted property of their owners/creators. . .I'm just steering them down the road not traveled.

Rating: PG-13, for violence and themes.

Time Frame: This story takes place in the "Straight Ahead" alternate universe, from my stories "Left and Up, or Straight Ahead?", and "Which Way?" This story takes place some time after "Which Way?", in which Xander gets together with Buffy, instead of Faith as in "The Zeppo." Readers confused by the different states of affairs in this universe are referred to the two previous stories, or you can just hang on for dear life and try to figure it out as you go along. Either way, enjoy.

Archiving: Please do, but e-mail me at because I'm interested in where stuff I write ends up, and I'll want to see what else you've got there.


Part I

Willow sat in the courtyard of the school, glumly contemplating her lunch. She had just received her fall semester grades; as usual, they were flawless. Ordinarily, she would be enjoying that feeling a lot more, but she had other things on her mind.

As if summoned, the cause of her discontent walked across the other side of the courtyard. Xander and Buffy were smiling and laughing, and as Willow watched, Xander leaned down and kissed Buffy's cheek, causing her to look up at him with a grin and causing Willow to turn away involuntarily. This is stupid, she thought, I've got Oz. . .he loves me and I love him. Why is this bothering me so much? She turned back to see that Cordelia had apparently walked close to the happy couple before spotting them: she flushed crimson and walked quickly away, with Xander and Buffy looking mildly concerned at how Cordelia seemed to be taking it. Willow sighed, thinking that it was a good thing that they believed that she was taking it all right after they talked to her. . . the last thing they needed was to be worrying about her. She finished her lunch and walked away from her friends, and didn't hear the voice calling to her at first.

"Uh, Willow?" Willow turned to see a dark-haired girl who looked vaguely familiar to her. She smiled and asked, "I'm sorry, have we met?" The girl smiled and replied, "I'm Anya. Maybe you've seen me around. . .I know Cordelia." Willow frowned and commented, "Not the best recommendation in the world, Anya." Anya's face fell, and Willow felt guilty-no need to take out her own resentments on Anya. "I'm sorry, that was rude. Is there something you need help with?"

Anya walked over to Willow and motioned her to a nearby bench away from the foot traffic. She looked at Willow and replied quietly, "Actually, yes. There's a little spell that I need help with, and the word around here is that you're a pretty powerful Wicca."

Willow grinned, flattered at the attention that her newfound powers was getting her. "I've done more than my share involving the Art." She looked at Anya, and felt some vague premonition of danger. She frowned and asked, "This isn't anything dangerous, is it?"

Anya shook her head and replied, "Oh no, I just need to recover a stolen family heirloom. I know the ritual, but I need a secondary caster gifted in the Art. Can you help me?"

With misgivings, Willow agreed, and half an hour later they were kneeling in a deserted classroom, chanting a supplication to Eryishon the Endless One as Anya poured sand onto the representation of the necklace that she had lost. Though her eyes were closed, Willow could feel the power of the spell that they were casting, and it frightened her. She opened her eyes, and a rush of images so horrifying that she could not process them passed before her eyes. After a few moments, she gasped and pulled away from the circle as the glow faded from the ritual circle. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, then opened them again to see Anya taking a green necklace from the plate and clasping it around her neck. Willow, still trying to comprehend what had happened, watched as Anya seemed to wait for something to happen, then cursed, "Damn. . .I really liked that place. . .oh well." She stood there for a moment, then turned to face Willow.

Willow gasped as she saw the demonic features that had replaced Anya's. She got to her feet and took a deep breath before whispering, "What happened to you, Anya?" The demon looked at Willow and smiled horribly. "The name's Anyanka, actually, and what happened is that you've given me my powers back." She saw Willow's horrified expression and quickly divined the problem, grumbling, "Oh by the Powers, Willow, you'd think that you never saw a demon before." Her features returned to those of Anya, and she looked at Willow's baffled expression. She met Willow's gaze and commented, "Here, this is quicker than explaining it to you." After an instant, images began passing before Willow's eyes. . .Cordelia, angry at Xander's betrayal, meeting Anya and wishing that Buffy had never come to Sunnydale, not realizing that her new friend was the patron demon of betrayed women who could grant that wish. . .Cordelia discovering that without Buffy the Master had risen and taken over Sunnydale, turning Xander and Willow into vampires in the process. . .Giles fighting hopelessly against the Master with the help of Oz and some of the other Sunnydale students. . .Buffy arriving in town to try to deal with the situation, while Giles tried to interpret what Cordelia had told him about Anyanka before she died. . .Angel a helpless prisoner of the Master, tortured by vampire Willow and Xander. . .the climactic battle against the Master where Buffy, Angel, and the vampire Willow and Xander died. . .and Giles, valiant to the end, had summoned Anyanka and destroyed her necklace, ending the nightmare. . .

Willow blinked and stared at the demon. "So now that horrible place is going to be real again?" Ice touched her heart. . .what had she done? Anyanka shook her head and replied sadly, "No. Apparently Eyrishon chose to retrieve the necklace from the instant before I granted Cordelia's wish. . .that place now never existed. Pity. . .I really liked it." She looked at Willow, who was visibly cringing, and soothed her, "Relax, I'm not going to kill you or anything. . .in fact, I owe you a favor. What can I do for you?"

Blind terror rushed through Willow as she remembered what a single idly expressed wish by Cordelia had caused, and she began backing away from the smiling demon. "Uh. . . thanks but no thanks, Anya. . .bye!" She ran recklessly from the room and through the corridors, not stopping until she burst into the library screaming, "Giles! Giles!" until the Watcher came out of his office and grabbed the terrified young woman. Buffy and Xander burst into the library a moment later, having heard of the cause of the commotion.

It took a few minutes of quiet coaxing from her three friends to get the story out of Willow. When she had finished, Giles was heading for his private collection of arcane works to research Anyanka, Buffy was squeezing Willow's arm in support, and Xander was grumbling about how his love life seemed to inevitably lead to incursions by dark powers. A look from Buffy quieted him, and she whispered to Willow, "At least you're all right, Willow."

Willow looked up at the ceiling and blew air through her lips in frustration, then turned to her best friend. "Am I, Buffy? I get involved with some demon, invoking dark powers and unleashing a scourge back on the world. . .and why? Because I needed an ego boost to make up for my being upset about. . ." She paused guiltily, and stared at a wall, but Buffy and Xander divined what she meant, and both looked guilty as Buffy said quietly, "You should have told us you were still having problems with that, Willow."

Willow looked back at Buffy, and abruptly she could not hold back any longer. "I'm sorry. . .you know that I love you both. . .it's just that sometimes I think that life would be easier if. . .I just wish that Angel's curse had been unbreakable, that would have made things different." Her vision clouded for a moment, and she felt dizzy. When she could see clearly again, Xander and Buffy were gone, and the library seemed subtly different. She quickly realized that the dark blinds that had been installed after Giles had been turned into a vampire were gone, and sunlight streamed through the window. She had little time to ponder this before Jenny walked into the library, apparently oblivious to the wide shaft of sunlight that would be fatal to any vampire directly in her path. She screamed, "Jenny, no, stop!"

Jenny looked up, puzzled, but she kept moving until she was directly in the sunlight. Willow gasped, waiting for her friend to be destroyed by the merciless rays, only to see Jenny staring at the terrified young woman. Willow was paralyzed by shock for a long moment, then leapt to her feet and ran over to Jenny, hugging her fiercely, sobbing, "You're alive, Jenny, you're alive!"

"Well I should think so, Willow. . .a dead woman would have a hard time marrying me in June." Willow turned to see Giles standing in the sunlight with a puzzled expression. He walked up to Willow and looked at her with concern. "Willow, are you all right? I knew that that binding spell we used to close the Hellmouth might have dangerous side effects. . .it's just that we had no choice." His face clouded over for a moment with sadness, then again changed to concern

Willow's mind was in a whirl. . .Anyanka must have been listening, and granted her halfhearted "wish". Well, maybe it would make things better, even if she was evil. He thought quickly and came up with a plausible lie: "Giles, my memories seem to be all screwed up. . .like I seem to think that Angel's curse was broken last year when he and Buffy. . .well, you know. . .and he was evil and ended up turning Jenny into a vampire, then she turned you into one, then we re-cast the curse on all three of you."

Giles looked horrified for a moment, then smiled and replied sadly, "No, Willow, the curse was never broken, though Jenny feared that it might after her uncle warned her. . ." As he spoke, images appeared in front of Willow's eyes, and she realized that she was seeing things as they had been in this world:

*Jenny had burst into the corridor where Angel, Xander and Willow stood, warning Angel to stay away from them. Willow and Xander had stared at her, puzzled, while Angel asked her what was wrong. After a moment, Jenny dropped her guard and asked them all to come to the library. Once they were all gathered there, Jenny quickly told them who she really was and what she was doing there, and she told them what her uncle had told her about the curse. At that point, Angel and Buffy turned to look at each other, and Willow realized that they had made love, but that the curse had not been broken. Both Giles and Buffy had been inclined to be angry with Jenny, but they were stopped short by Angel, who told Jenny quietly that he didn't blame her people for still being angry with him, and that he still considered her a friend. Buffy had accepted that verdict, though she obviously still didn't feel completely comfortable with the whole thing. Wondering why the curse had not been broken, Giles broke out some of his mystical texts and discovered a spell that would examine the state of the curse on Angel. . .apparently some unknown magic had attached itself to Angel since the original curse was cast. . .as long as it was there, the curse would be unbreakable. *

Willow's vision cleared, and she interrupted Giles, exclaiming, "Oh, I remember now! That's wonderful, Giles. . . I can't wait to see Angel again. . .he'll get a good laugh out of the whole "Evil Angel" thing. . ." She stopped as she saw Giles and Jenny exchange looks, and a chill went through her as she asked, "What's wrong? Isn't Angel around?"

Giles walked over to Willow and put his hand on her shoulder, and Willow knew what he was going to say, though her mind screamed in denial even as he did so: "Willow, Angel is dead." As he began to elaborate, Willow's vision clouded again, and she was seeing more of what had transpired in this world:

*There was little time for joy at the good news about Angel. . .Spike and Drusilla, concerned about the threat posed to their plans with the Judge by Buffy and her friends, staged an attack on the school when the Judge's power had reached more powerful levels, rather than the mall as she remembered it happening before. The two opposing groups had played a cat and mouse game in the corridors, with Buffy and Angel picking off the occasional stray vampire, then fleeing as the Judge, Drusilla, and their vampire escort approached. Buffy had the rocket launcher, but lacked an opportunity to fire for quite a while. . .eventually, the Judge and Buffy faced off across fifty feet of courtyard, but the Judge had reacted first, and his hands crackled with power as Buffy struggled to get the rocket launcher aimed before. . .Abruptly, Angel leapt from the shadows and grappled with the Judge. The demon's power flowed through his body and smoke began to rise. . .he should have died almost instantly, but he was of the line of the Master himself, and that powerful lineage was buying him precious seconds. Willow saw him lock eyes with Buffy and mouth the words, "I love you," and nodding. Tears streaking her cheeks, Buffy aimed the rocket launcher carefully as Drusilla, recognizing the danger, fled. She pulled the trigger, and the rocket streaked at the grappling pair and exploded, burning Angel to ashes and blowing the "invulnerable" demon to fragments. Buffy had crumpled into a heap, sobbing, while her friends stayed with her, suffering their own pain at the loss of a friend. . .*

Giles paused in his account, seeing that Willow had buried her face in her hands and was sobbing openly. He could hear her whispering something, and leaned in to hear:

"My God, what have I done. . .what have I done.?"

As always, comments are welcomed and desired