Title: Tried So Hard

Author: Kendra A. (kendraangelusslayer@yahoo.com)

Rating: PG-13 for now, though I may change my naughty mind

Distribution: Bite Me… Please?, STTEOT, Near Her Always, Temptation Embraced, and all of my fave lists. If you want it, please ask and I'll say yes. :) Also, my site, blurry, at http://www.iceblur.dot.nu

That's right, folks, the URL *has changed*. Envy.nu has gone wonky so we've moved. New layout and everything.

Summary: After I watched "Wrecked", I felt this kind of wave of nausea at the humiliation Willow was put through. I thought Alyson Hannigan did an acting job that surpassed awesome, but it hurt to watch, and I was super upset because Willow is one of my favorite characters. So, "Kendra," I said, "Kendra," says I, "You've got to do something about this." And so, here is what I did. It's not reversing "Wrecked", per se… it's just setting things right… kind of.

Pairing: Funny question, this. It started out as no 'ship, just fixing "Wrecked", and then I decided to continue it, so I said it would be Willow/Angel, or maybe Willow/Gunn, and then I said, no, I really like the Cordy/Angel ship, can't ruin that can you, it'll be Willow/Gunn. But now we've got Gunn/Fred goodness going on that's just too cute, so I'm not sure what I'll do. Maybe I'll just ignore the C/A and G/F that's going on. To exclusive coupling list moderators, please forgive me if this doesn't turn out right. I can guarantee that there will be both Willow/Angel and Willow/Gunn friendship, though.

Author's Notes: Look, I have no idea what drug withdrawal must really be like, and even less what magic withdrawal is really like. Don't hold it against me. Any spells or side effects are products of me, me, and only me. I don't know binary code, so that's made up; Connor's prophecy is part of "A Ceremony of Carols" by Benjamin Britten, the third movement (I *think*) entitled "This Little Babe". It used to be about Jesus, but I altered that for our favorite vampire/human hybrid.

Dedication: This is wholeheartedly and without question for Lisa (a.k.a. Firedrake), my Muse, who is patient and wonderful and who thinks that I'm working on "Morning". I'm sorry, Lisa, I couldn't help myself. So here's another angst-fic for you.

And now… On to the story! Please tell me what you think.

Spike paced, stoic and blank-faced, beside his Slayer as she huffed down the street. Her short hair was tucked tightly behind a claw-hold, and her face was set in a firm pout.

Finally, after about an hour of stomping around L.A., Buffy stopped. "Argh!" she screamed unhelpfully.

Spike put his hands in the pockets of his duster and wished he had some cigarettes.

"Spike—" Buffy sighed and turned to look at him. He met her gaze levelly and didn't move.

"I feel so guilty," Buffy murmured, and crossed her arms. "But I'm so pissed. So indescribably, unbelievably pissed. Did you see Connor?"

Spike gave a short laugh. "Yes, pet, I did. The pouf's son. Saw him all right. Cute."

Buffy frowned. "Don't you get it? Angel had sex with Darla! Darla!"

Spike pursed his lips and thought about this. "Look. Buffy."

She glared.

"I get that you're pissed that the p—that Angel has done 'the wacky' with Darla." Spike clenched his fists in his pockets and sighed. "But I, personally, do not like being your Dear Abby for love troubles, especially when you know, and I know, that I'm… in love with… you."

Buffy grimaced. "Please."

"Like it or not, it's the truth!" Spike said tensely. "And you don't seem to mind overly much, seeing as we've hardly spent a night apart for two bloody months! And don't you pout at me!" he added as Buffy's lips began to droop. "But think of this—vampires have great senses of smell, eh? Can always tell… who's 'done the wacky' with who. And I'd say that Angel's showin' some nice restraint for someone who's so bloody uptight, considerin' that we've been stinking up his hotel for three days smelling like us!"

Buffy gasped, and a delicate hand came up to cover her mouth as her eyes widened. "He… Angel knows?"

Spike clenched his jaw and nodded, staring fixedly at a fascinating spot on the alley they were in. "Yeh, he knows."

"He can smell it?" Buffy hissed, disgusted. "My best friend almost died, I'm screwing a demon and Angel knows, and I'm worried about where his little son came from." She shifted her weight from foot to foot. "Great. That's just great."

"Puts things in perspective, doesn't it?"

* * *

"I don't know if this will work," Lorne warned. He, Cordy, Fred, Angel, Anya and Dawn stood over Angel's bed, in which Willow and Connor slumbered peacefully on. They'd both been fast asleep for two days, and it was only concern for his son that had moved Angel to periodically lift Connor from Willow's arms and carefully feed him some baby formula even as he slept. Whenever the baby left her arms, Willow shivered and silent tears ran down her face.

It was painful to watch, and also worrying, as Willow's inexplicable awakening had passed so quickly and seemed to have amounted to nothing.

"You were able to get into Cordy's head," Fred pointed out. "When she was having those killer visions."

"Oh, yes, them," Cordy muttered. "Those fun things. How could I forget?"

"Yes, I know, sweetcheeks," Lorne said, hitching the legs of his dark red slacks and lowering himself onto the bed. "But that was just to glimpse at something—take a little look-see and go—and even then I got thrown back against the wall like—like—something that gets thrown back against the wall really hard." He sighed. "With Cordy, it was like standing by a city's entrance, just to see what's going in and out. With Sleeping Beauty here, I'm going in. Who knows what kind of mental guards she'll have up?"

"I thought Willow wasn't doing magic anymore," Anya said pensively. "How can she have guards on her brain?"

"It doesn't have to be magic," Angel answered, shifting apprehensively. "If she's strong enough mentally, she'd be able to get anyone or anything out by pure force of will. It's kind of personal to have someone walk around in your mind."

"Not helping with the reassurance, Mr. Pessimist," Lorne scowled. "Go away. I can't concentrate with all of you standing around being nervous."

"But—" Dawn protested.

"Shoo! Scoot! Cease and desist! Begone!" Lorne huffed in decidedly hostile manner.

The cowed group shuffled out of the door.

"Ooookay, Willow, honey," Lorne muttered. He flexed his arms in an attempt to raise morale and gently placed his fingers on her forehead. "Ready or not, here I come."

With a slight mental push, the green-skinned demon was in.

Lorne looked around and furrowed his brow. "Hmm. That was easy."

He stood in what looked like an office waiting room. There were several dark green armchairs against one wall, and in a corner was a table covered in magazines. There was even a receptionist's desk. The intercom balanced on the counter suddenly turned on and a little red light blinked. "Miss Rosenberg will see you now," a mechanical voice said.

"Thanks," Lorne said confusedly, and stepped through a door into the main office.

The room was five-sided, with one wall that was all windows. The rest were book-lined, and while almost every shelf looked to be dust-free and in impeccable alphabetical order, a few books from a shelf near the floor were shoved haphazardly in next to each other, and some had fallen onto the uncarpeted honey-wood floor. Lorne knelt to look at them: "The Liatian Codex of the Dead" was the title of one, and "Mesopotamian Resurrection Practises" was another. He frowned and put the books back down before he turned to look at the rest of the room.

In front of the wall of windows was a wide desk. On it were three small detached shelves labeled "in", "out" and "pending"; there were some computer-printed papers in each box. Lorne picked one up from the "pending" box, and after looking at some other papers realized that everything was written in binary code, all ones and zeros.

"For goodness' sakes," Lorne grumbled, and replaced the papers. He glanced around again and was somewhat surprised to observe that a slender laptop computer had appeared on the desk besides the boxes. Lorne hesitantly walked around the desk to stand in front of the laptop and flipped it open. The monitor flickered to life immediately and he was asked for a password.

"Password?" he repeated under his breath. "Uh…" He typed in 'willow', and was pleasantly surprised to have the computer chime and flicker to the main desktop. There was what he assumed was the hard drive, which was labeled "Nano-Willow"; there were several independent folders labeled "Scooby Gang" and "Buffy's Resurrection" and "Magic Stuff"; and the rest looked like anyone else's computer. There was an Internet Explorer alias as well as one for Netscape Communicator; there was an AOL Instant Messenger alias, and two Mac StuffIt files. There were links to two different printers, a color one and a black-and-white, and aliases for MacScrabble, Myst, Riven, RealPlayer and the Sims.

"This is the wicked witch's brain?" Lorne muttered. He tentatively double-clicked on the folder entitled "Scooby Gang", and was presented with a list of Microsoft Word files, each with the name of a different White Hat, even those at Angel Investigations. Lorne dragged the mouse across all of the files and then released the button to go to File and open all of them.

They were all in binary code.

101011110001010111010100010101000101010001011110100010101010111101001010101011001010101000001010100010101010101010101101111010010111101000110010101101111110100101

said the very beginning of the file entitled "Harris, Alexander LaVelle", and the same went for "Summers, Buffy Anne", "Summers, Dawn", "Emerson, Anya", "Giles, Rupert", "MaClay, Tara", and "Chase, Cordelia". There were also files on Faith Wilkins, Daniel Osbourne, Alan Francis Doyle, Gunn, Angel, and Wesley, with two very small files on Lorne and Fred.

"Why are these all encrypted?" Lorne scowled.

"To stop anagogic demons from snooping through my brain," Willow said.

Lorne looked up suddenly. Willow stood in front of him, a few feet from the desk, cradling a cooing Connor in her arms. She smiled. "You're Lorne, right? Angel's buddy?"

"I wouldn't call me his buddy," Lorne said dubiously. "After all, it's kind of trying to be a 'buddy' to someone who can butcher Barbra without even trying."

"Angel's sung Barbra Streisand?" Willow asked with a smile. "Never mind. I don't want to know." She gently bounced Connor in her arms and her face grew grave. "Am I really a wicked witch? Is that what they think?"

Lorne had to recall his self-addressed comments from a few moments before to remember what Willow was talking about. "Wicked—oh, no, honey, not at all. I don't always mean exactly what I say," he explained.

"I try not to use magic in my head," Willow said, "not even to guard my own brain. So I let you in, but you can't read anything I've got filed."

"Want to explain that again, pumpkin?"

Willow smiled at the word pumpkin and shifted Connor slightly. "I felt that if I wanted to get rid of my magic addiction I shouldn't even use spells inside myself for protection. So all of the encryptions should be totally magic-free. I'm a computer whiz, you see."

"I think you're the only person I've ever met who files their brain," Lorne said, letting his glance drift around the room with all of its carefully shelved books. Willow looked around with him.

"Most of my information isn't in the books," Willow said. "A lot of this stuff is memories, from when I was little and before I really understood computers enough to file and save. See? Those are my seventh grade pre-Algebra textbooks." She nodded towards a shelf to her right. "And those are my fifth grade journals." A nod towards her left, where there were several shelves full of smaller books patterned with flowers and hearts.

"I really started sorting through the info in my brain once I met Buffy. It had never occurred to me that I'd need all of this… stuff. I like to have my thoughts in order." Her eyes flicked to the small pile of books that had tumbled from their shelves. "And this way I always know when I need to sort something."

"So the loose books… those are unresolved issues?"

Willow tickled Connor's cheek and smiled. "Yes. And the independent folders on the desktop, those are unresolved too. You'd be able to read the files if you'd given the right password."

Lorne raised an eyebrow. "Why do you have computer games in your head?"

"So that when I'm asleep but not dreaming I have something to do," Willow said. "Here—you might need this." She bent slightly to catch the paper that a printer at her side was producing.

"That wasn't there a minute ago," Lorne observed.

"Of course it wasn't," Willow said. "It's my brain, after all." She handed Lorne the piece of paper.

Der kleine knab, kein'n tag noch alt,

Est stürmt die Burg des Satans bald;

Sein Nahen macht die Hölle zag,

Ob selbst vor Kält' er zittern mag;

Denn unbewehrt und schawch und klein

Ins Tor der Höllen bricht es ein.

"This is gibberish," Lorne protested.

"No, it's not, it's German," Willow said. "It's the first verse of the prophecy you pulled from my brain. It got translated when you picked it up, but it would probably be more accurate if you just had Wes or Angel sit down and translate it into English word for word."

"Speaking of which, young lady," Lorne scowled, "What are you doing still asleep? You woke up and then came back in here, taking the apple of Broody's eye with you, and they're all worried back at the hotel."

"Tell them I'll be out in a little while," Willow said. She crossed the room and sat down at her desk in front of the computer, moving Connor to cradle him with her left arm. "I need to go through my files."

"Can I take Connor with me?" Lorne asked gently. "They're worried about him."

Willow glanced down at the now-sleeping baby. "You *could*, but he's perfectly safe here with me. And I might get the second verse of that prophecy. It's delivered to Connor in care of me, but he can't read it himself. I've got it saved on the hard drive in English, German, and Latin."

Lorne shook his head. "Sure, honey. Just finish up soon, and come on out. Everyone's here—even another stuffy Watcher is flying back from England. And they're worried about you."

"I'll be about as soon as I can," Willow assured him. "Just one thing—how long have I been asleep?"

"A day, and then you woke up for a half hour, and then two more days," Lorne said.

"That long?" Willow looked alarmed. "Oh, I'll finish up all right. Tell them I'll be out soon."

"Sure thing, sweetness. And—just think of this: a long shower awaits you when you get up. You can get rid of all that blood."

"Blood?" Willow said. "What blood?"

Lorne lifted his fingers from where they'd been pressed to Willow's temples and shook his head to rid it of cobwebs. He stood to let the others know that Willow was all right, and noticed a small, cream-colored envelope that was laid neatly in the center of the girl's collarbone. He gingerly picked it up, and as it wasn't sealed he extracted the contents.

Der kleine knab, kein'n tag noch alt,

Est stürmt die Burg des Satans bald;

Sein Nahen macht die Hölle zag,

Ob selbst vor Kält' er zittern mag;

Denn unbewehrt und schawch und klein

Ins Tor der Höllen bricht es ein.

"Jumping Jellyfish," Lorne whispered, and then frowned as he realized he'd really said what he'd thought he'd said. There was a small note at the bottom of the page.

Wes: You shouldn't have too much trouble translating this. It's not any archaic form, just your basic modern German, though some references might be a little dusty. Any German dictionary will do for translating, though Spike tells me he speaks the language as does Angel, so they might help for this to go faster.

Angel: Connor is absolutely fine, I promise. He's with me while I decode and sort some files. We'll be out in a little while, none the worse for wear. Connor should not be altered at all except for being a little precocious. But then, he tells me you've got aspirations for Notre Dame, so that shouldn't be a problem.

Willow

*Non-message portions of this document have been removed*

"Jumping Jellyfish," Lorne whispered again.

To be continued… please tell me what you're thinking right now?