Disclaimer: Don't own. Joss Whedon owns. Plus some big company or other. Not me.
Summary: Another short Willow/Angel friendship vignette. If you want to see hints of more, feel free :-) S3, Somewhere during "Doppelgangland". Angel POV.
A/N: The usual - this is not betaed, English is not my native language, bla bla bla. I'm sure it's not exactly canon. Whatever. Oh, and I stole a line from Stephen King. Extra cookies for the one who spots it.
Feedback: Yes, of course. I'd like to know if you liked this, or not, and why. Just remember that I do this for fun, and I tend to ignore long rants about canon and "but that's not how it happened!" and fanfiction etiquette.
"Uncomfortable" is not the word to describe how Willow looks in her vampire-counterpart's outfit. Actually, despite the shifting of her shoulders and scrunching of her nose and ostentatious picking here and pinching there, she seems... all right. At ease. On top of things. And she certainly doesn't seem to be too scared, for a person who is just about to face a room full of very hungry, not to mention obviously nasty, vampires. True, Willow has seen a lot and been through a lot, but still. There is a calmness about her that is almost uncanny.
Not to mention the fact that she's beyond sexy in that leather corsage and pants. She's - stunning. He wouldn't be a man if he didn't notice that. The worlds oldest story, I love my girl, but oh boy.
"So, how do I look?"
She smiles, pleased.
Then a shadow of worry creeps over her face.
"You think they'll buy it?"
"They don't have to buy it for long. Just long enough for you to distract them, maybe get a few of them to leave, even the odds."
Her face sinks even more.
"They're gonna know right away, huh? Well, this is a stupid plan anyway!"
"Willow, no! Listen, I mean it, you look great! Of course you can do it, you could fool anyone! Hey, if I met you, dressed like that, looking all mean, in a dark alley? I would run for my life."
"And I really look mean?"
Not with that sweet, hopeful look on your face, he thinks.
"Ok, try for a mean look. Try to scare me."
She bares her teeth and growls, only it looks more as if she was gurgling after brushing her teeth. He tries very hard not to laugh, and thankfully succeeds. He hasn't spent one hundred and then some years practicing repression and brooding for nothing.
"Um... I was thinking... maybe 'scary' is not really what we should aim for. These guys are your - gang, they already fear and respect you. Maybe the best strategy would be for you to go in there just looking confident. You know, try 'cool' instead of 'scary'."
"Cool. Ok, I can do cool. I'm dating a musician, who's a werewolf too, the Vampire Slayer is my best friend, and I know how to play the clarinet. There's plenty of cool in my life."
Giles steps out of his office, arms full of stakes, which he begins to hand out to Buffy and Xander, who come out behind him.
"So Willow, are you about - oh."
The 'oh boy'-effect again, Angel thinks. But Giles recovers quickly.
"Are you about ready?"
Angel is about to step aside, but Willow touches his arm slightly.
"Almost. Angel is... uh, coaching me on... scary, cool vampire ways. You guys go ahead, I'll catch up."
"Ok, but don't be too long. I'm guessing the natives are already restless", Buffy says. The three of them walk out of the library. How many times have they walked out like this, to meet danger, nameless evil, probable death? Angel can't help but admire them. As unlikely as it would seem, this group of teenagers, more than anything else, are teaching him to believe again. Maybe even in his own humanity.
"So, we were going for cool, right?"
He turns towards Willow. She is walking up and down, a little wobbly on her high heels. Suddenly, she wheels around, and the look of steely determination in her eyes actually makes Angel take a step backwards. It's fire.
"You will do exactly what I say."
Her voice is ice. He shudders.
"That's... really good."
Her face lights up, it's as if the steel, fire, ice never existed. What a confusing girl. Confusing and unsettling.
"Yeah, I thought so too. Well, I suppose we should get going then. Boss is on her way! Do you suppose they call her boss?"
"Um, I don't... listen, Willow, there's something-"
"I just wanted to tell you... it's just, when I saw her", he nods his head toward the return-cage, where the Willow vampire still lies unconscious, now dressed in Willow's clothes, "when I thought you were... well, I'm very glad you're... not..."
"Yeah. I'm sorry if that didn't... I mean, when I saw you, before, I was so surprised, that..."
Shit. 200 years talking, and still groping for words. Talk about a learning curve.
"It's ok. I know you were, you know, glad and all. I mean, you are usually, like, sparse on words. I didn't expect you to join in on the whole hug fest."
Pity though. A hug would have been nice. How long has it been since he hasn't hugged someone? With Buffy it's different, a hug with her is never just a hug. Somehow he had this idea that hugging Willow would make him feel... but of course, not to forget, he is not supposed to be happy.
"So, let's get rolling!"
He smiles in spite of himself. If someone had told him, oh, a mere five years ago, that he would ever be actively involved with a teenage gang who used expressions like "let's get rolling", he wouldn't have believed it. Or he would have suspected evil magic.
As they walk out, he says:
"I also wanted to thank you."
"Thank me? For what?"
"For... hanging in there. I know I've put you all through hard times..."
Now she looks truly uncomfortable. She stares at the floor as they leave the school building and start walking towards The Bronze, and her hand touches her neck briefly.
"Hey, that wasn't your fault. I mean, it wasn't - you."
"You seem to be the only one who believes that."
She looks up, surprised.
"Buffy loves me."
Curiously, he doesn't feel uncomfortable saying it in front of Willow. He couldn't imagine saying those words to anyone else.
"Exactly. And that's why I trust you."
It's as if she was speaking of gravity. "There is gravity, therefore objects fall. Buffy loves you, therefore I trust you." On a sudden impulse, Angel takes her hand and kisses it. Then he lets go, embarrassed at his own boldness. She looks at him gravely.
"Besides, I like you."
"You're... quiet. I like quiet, sometimes."
Angel takes a deep breath. This is going to sound like he is back in kindergarten. Except, of course, he never was to kindergarten.
"Would you be my friend, Willow?"
She stops. They can already see the Bronze's lights.
"I - I really need a friend. It took me a long time to realize that, but it's true. With Buffy, it's... it's beautiful, but also... terrible."
He can't help but remember Spike's words: 'You'll never be friends.' But he pushes that thought aside. Thoughts of Spike are never good.
"It would be nice to have someone... to talk to. If you want."
"I'd have to tell Buffy."
As always, her first thought is of others: who she loves, who could get hurt.
"Of course. I'll tell her too."
"Sure. If you want, I can talk to him."
"No, that's all right. He'll understand."
Then, Willow looks him in the eyes, nods once and says solemnly:
"In that case, yes, I'll be your friend, Angel."
She offers him her hand, which he takes and shakes silently. Maybe he should feel ridiculous, but what he actually feels is a huge relief, as if those words, "yes, I will be your friend", were his guarantee for a happy ending. Or at least, as if those words gave him permission to start to believe in a happy ending.
As she turns towards the Bronze, she adds:
"If I survive this, I'll call you. We'll do popcorn and video night or something. Do you eat popcorn?"
Then she advances, still wobbly, still slight. There goes my friend, thinks Angel as he watches her. And she's fire and ice and steel.