Disclaimer: I own nothing. It all belongs to Joss and a bunch of other people who are not now and have never been me.

Best Laid Plans (Chapter One)

It's not as if she was doing magic. She wasn't. She was just looking at a book. Okay, so it was a spell book, but she wasn't doing any spells, not even considering it, nosirree. She wasn't even in a magick-y shop at all. Alright, yes, technically speaking, she was in the occult section of the local used bookstore, but hey, it was right next to the books on sport fishing and she'd always wanted to catch her own salmon or trout or whatever it is you could catch off the local pier. So really, the fact that she was looking at a spell book right now was an accident; she was reaching for a book on bass boats and there was this spell book instead.

Of course, that didn't really explain why she was eagerly browsing through its pages, but Willow wasn't looking for a good excuse, just one that was good enough. Good enough to take away the sick feeling of guilt that just kept on building despite her earnest rationalizations. And then...there it was...right there in front of her...it...and the guilt disappeared, replaced by a feeling of excitement she hadn't felt since...since long before she had done her very last spell. Because here, in that bass-boat-guide-that-turned-into-a-spell-book, was something that could make everything alright. Make Buffy and Dawn forgive her completely. Make amends to Buffy for tearing her out of heaven. Show everyone, even Tara, that Willow using magick didn't have to be a bad thing. Just one perfect spell could do all that.

The spell to give Angel a permanent soul.

She made it back to the house with her precious bundle almost as fast as if she'd used magick to get there. The store clerk must have wondered at her behaviour - furtive glances around...stuffing the book into her purse even before she'd been given her change - but Willow really couldn't be bothered about it. This was it! The golden ticket back to her friends' trust, her lover's arms...maybe even being allowed to practice magick on a regular basis again. Add in winning the lottery and...hmmm, maybe there was a spell for that... No! Bad Willow! Scratch that. Only do-gooding from here on in. No selfish spells. She could handle that. Starting with that soul anchoring.

Now, all she had to do was find her address book and call Angel.

"Angel Investigations. We help the helpless."

For a moment, Willow's courage faltered, but she regrouped quickly. This was the most important phone call she might ever make; it would take more than Cordelia Chase to stop her from completing it.

"Cordelia? I need to talk to Angel. It's urgent."

Willow could almost hear the wheels turning in Cordelia's head. Her curiosity, her dislike of Willow, or her memory of the fact that Willow had only ever called with important news. Which would win out? Thankfully, it was the latter.

"Just a minute."

She heard Cordelia's voice, a bit muffled this time, as if she had her hand over the receiver..

"Angel? It's Willow. She says it's urgent."

She heard another receiver pick up.

"Willow? Is Buffy...?"

"She's fine, Angel." Willow waited 'til she heard Cordelia hang up before continuing. "This isn't about Buffy. It's...I need a favour, Angel. Well, it's not so much a favour for me as it is...well, I can't really tell you over the phone. So, here's what I need you to do: Call the Magic Box, say you're looking for me, and tell them that you want me to come to L.A. because you need some computer help really badly. Only don't tell them I called you first, okay? Oh, and don't say you need me for anything magick-related either, make sure and say that it's a computer thing. You got that?"

Willow waited. It seemed like an eternity before Angel spoke and when he did, well, it wasn't what Willow wanted to hear.

"Willow, I don't know what this is about, but I'm not going to lie to Buffy. Why don't you just tell me what's going on?"

Damn that stupid, ungrateful vampire! Here she was, ready to hand him a permanent soul on a silver platter and this was the thanks she got. Okay, he didn't know about the soul spell yet, but still. After all, hadn't she lied to Buffy for him in the past? Oh yeah, and there was also the little matter of...

"Gee, Angel. I guess it was pretty silly of me to expect you to do me a favour. I mean, it's not like I've ever done anything for you. I only almost died giving you back your soul. You're right. You don't owe me anything. Forget I even called you."

There were tears in her eyes and a tightness in her chest as she spoke and she wanted nothing more than to have never found that stupid spell book at all. First thing tomorrow, she would be back at the bookstore, exchanging it for the fishing book she should have bought in the first place. That would teach her. There was no hope for her at all. She would never be loved or trusted again. She might as well just prepare herself for a lifetime of loneliness and pain. Taking up fishing would be a good first step.

Then a voice broke through her anguish.

"Willow, I'm sorry. I...I'll make the call."

A part of her rejoiced in the obvious sense of guilt that dripped from his every word and she immediately hated herself for that. Still, she felt the pleasure and there was no making it go away. Besides, he should feel guilty. So really, why was it so wrong of her to experience some joy that he was feeling exactly as he ought?

"But Willow?"

"Yes, Angel?'

"When you get here, I want a full explanation. Okay?"

"Absolutely, Angel. I'll tell you everything, I promise. Just make the call, okay? And remember what I said: nothing to do with magick."

She could hear Angel mentally filing her emphasis away and knew she was going to be grilled about that later. She just had to make sure that she could explain it in some way that didn't make Angel say "no thanks" to her offer to attach his soul to him forever. He had to let her do the spell, he just had to.

For a moment, she almost forgot that the spell was for Angel at all, so caught up was she in how it was going to fix what was wrong in her own life. Then an image of Buffy and Angel, the way they had been before they'd known about the happiness clause, came into her mind; she suddenly felt very small and selfish. She remembered why she had started doing magick to begin with: to do good, to make things better, to help Buffy fight against evil, to help save the world. When and how had it all gone wrong? When had it stopped being all about using her power to do what was right and started being all about power for its own sake? How had she gotten here?

The ringing of the phone cut off her reverie. Probably a blessing, since she was this close to talking herself out of doing the spell at all now. She knew who was calling and she swallowed the lump in her throat before answering.

"Willow?"

"Yeah, Buffy."

"Can you come down to the Magic Box? Angel called and... we need to talk to you about it."

"Sure thing. I'll be right over."

Buffy hung up before Willow had a chance to ask any questions. Definitely a blessing, from Willow's point of view, as she had no idea what she would have said. In her current state, any sort of verbal mishap could occur.

Ten minutes earlier, she would have been struggling to suppress her glee. Now...now she didn't know what she was feeling. The fact that Buffy had been so cryptic over the phone bothered her a bit and she wondered if Angel had been as bad at lying to Buffy as she had once been.

With a heavy heart and an unsettled mind, she made her way downstairs and out the front door, hoping she could school herself to seem surprised by the topic to be discussed. She wasn't sure what Angel had said or what Buffy might have told Angel herself, but she knew that the only way to find out was by going to the Magic Box as requested. It was an indication of just how distraught her recent introspection had left her that she almost hoped they would tell her she couldn't go to Los Angeles at all.

Tbc...