Author: tmbreck / eclectic_tongue / eclectic
Warning: References to non-con/rape
Summary: Willow is not dealing as well as she believes.
A/N: Written for my wonderful beta, velvetwhip. This story has taken forever to get this far, but she's been ever so patient.
The world never stopped when you wanted it to, no matter how chewed up and mangled your insides felt. The big, original evil didn’t care that Willow was still trying to get her head straight; it just wanted to mess with Angel and Buffy. And her mother didn’t take into account that getting involved with her life – and trying to burn her at the stake – right now was not the best thing for a mentally and emotionally shaken teen.
No, the bad things didn’t stop happening just because someone desperately needed them to. It seemed like the world was slowly coming to an end – Buffy lost her slayer-ness and Giles got fired – and then the world really almost did end. Of course they stopped it, but it only added to the nightmares that already plagued Willow. Then something… unexpected happened.
Not that someone dying was unusual, but this wasn’t the normal Sunnydale death. This was a human death by slayer hands. It should not have been shocking that Faith would kill someone – especially to Willow. Remembering how much those brown eyes reminded her of blue ones, the same greedy want/take/have look that led to… It really shouldn’t have been as shocking as it was. But she was shocked.
Then she came face to face with what should have been impossible. Given what she had seen since Buffy came to town, she had thought herself pretty much open to believing anything. After all, she had seen vampires resurrected from bone, the Hellmouth open, and found out her stuffy school librarian used to be a leather-wearing, demon-summoning bad boy. Now, though, she was face to face with what she could have been.
This creature – this thing, was bound up in leather and cold, evil smiles and, at first, Willow only feared for her life. Then her doppelganger from another universe got up close and personal. A flash of red and the smell of cheap perfume morphed into dark hair and expensive cologne in Willow’s mind and that image, in turn, shifted to white blond, leather, and cigarettes.
“Wanna be bad?”
“Show Daddy how good you can be, show me how much you want it.”
When they caged this nightmare with her face, she heard what went unsaid by Angel. While Buffy tried to assure her that she could never be like the locked-up demon, she remembered Spike lovingly recounting Angelus’s plans to turn her. As they planned how to stop a bloodbath at the Bronze, memories of gifts and letters mixed with the drugged half-memories of a night she had been trying to block. A clear memory came forward once, and only because she caught a look she didn’t want to name in Angel’s eyes while she was dressed up in her evil twin’s clothes.
“Underneath that brooding shell, deep under that pathetic soul, he's still a demon and he still wants now what he wanted then.”
However, there were roles to play – both in plans and in day-to-day life – and she could not let memories get in the way of that. As brave as that thought was, it didn’t actually make her a very good actor. And when push came to choke-down on the stage, her evil alter ego had her beat without question. She was not entirely sure she should be grateful that Buffy listened to her and sent her vampire-self back to the other reality. Sure, it made her feel better at the time that she chose not to kill, but that still meant that there was Willow-shaped evil out there in the universe.
However, there was no time to dwell on could-have-been when there was a dark slayer wreaking havoc in Sunnydale. Still, while Buffy was understandably shaken by the possibility that Angel was making time with Faith, Willow couldn’t help but be a bit relieved. She didn’t assume this meant he would totally give up his nightly vigil outside her door – the one he still kept despite the fact that she called him a creepy stalker right before the white blond/leather/cigarette night no one talked about, but she did have hope that he would ease up some if he were preoccupied with the homicidal slayer.
She received an unpleasant shock when her constant fear was used as a sick act to get closer to Faith and figure out the Mayor’s plan. It didn’t bother her that Angel had to fake being soulless; it did bother her that no one thought to warn her. She got that things had to move fast, but there had to have been a moment where she could have been told. Instead, she was left panicking on the inside while putting on a brave face, believing she was going to face the demon who probably wanted to torture her personally for having ruined his big plans. There was a moment, when they entered the mansion and Angel was thrown into them, that she almost bolted.
It was only after Faith ran and Buffy and Giles explained what they had done that Willow realized she had tears streaming down her face. When she saw the looks of confusion from her friends, it dawned on her that they didn’t remember. Oh sure, if they had let themselves look back, they would vaguely recall that Angelus had done some threatening things, but they didn’t remember that he had stalked her, killed her boyfriend, and had planned to turn her right before sucking the world into hell. She understood pushing these things to the back of the mind – she had become an expert at it – but she had assumed that this was too big to just forget. Before the anger could really set in, though, she saw Buffy’s sudden realization and growing horror.
“Willow, didn’t Giles tell you what was going to happen?”
Before she could answer, Buffy had already turned to Giles, looking like a child who wanted desperately to be told that she had just misunderstood and there weren’t really any monsters.
“I thought it best to let as few people know as possible. She was never in any danger, so I thought…”
Willow was sure he had some line of reasoning that had allowed him to justify this to himself, but she stopped really hearing him when she felt her knees start to give out. Instead of the hard floor, though, she felt Buffy’s arms around her. Her world became a blur of warm slayer and indistinct mumbling, followed by her own bed. She wasn’t alone; Buffy stayed wrapped around her, as if she could keep the memories and pain at bay if she only held on tight enough.
The memories refused to be pushed down any longer, however. As she sobbed helplessly into Buffy’s shirt, she relived everything. Guilt and shame coursed through her as she remembered that, mixed in with the anxiety and dread that accompanied the first note from Angelus, there had been a petty thrill of triumph and pleasure. The small part of her that had always come in dead last to the Buffys and Cordelias of the world was glad that someone was picking her over them. As the letters and gifts kept coming – and the reality of who was sending them and what he was capable of really began to sink it – she no longer got that feeling. The terror began to build and never truly let up, not until she managed to give Angel back his soul and put a leash on Angelus.
It was possible that being the one to actually perform the spell and stop Angelus helped her to cope. Her nightmares began to fade away and she was able to be in the same room as Angel without a churning in her stomach. That was when she decided that the only way to get passed what he had done – and wanted to do – without a soul was to try to be his friend. Looking back, she wished she had never opened her doors. If she hadn’t, then he wouldn’t have danced with her and she wouldn’t have felt the need to go to his home a few days later to talk to him about what was going on.
“Angel, you can’t keep lurking outside my window like a creepy stalker-guy. Friends don’t do that!”
He moved closer to her than he had since before he lost his soul. His hand half-raised toward her before it dropped back down.
“Is that what we are? Friends?”
Hurt flashed through her along with the familiar feeling of rejection. Before she could stammer out some sort of apology for intruding and turn to leave, Angel grabbed her hand.
“I’ve tried pretending that my obsession with you is somehow normal and won’t go any further than it already has. Dancing with you outside your room was nearly heaven, but I’m not sure how long I could have gone before I did something we’d both regret.”
At that, he let go of her hand and turned to the fireplace, staring at it instead of looking at her.
“I’m thinking of leaving Sunnydale. I don’t know how long I can fight the demon, and I don’t want…”
His words trailed off, but Willow could imagine all too well what he intended to say. Instead of feeling the relief she was sure he expected, though, she started to feel angry and panicked. After all that she had done to try to recover from his bout of being evil and he was just going to run out and leave her to find a way to cope with this alone?
“So that’s it, then? Things get too hard for you, and you think it’s all right to just leave? Things get difficult and you decide that it’s best if you’re somewhere that’s not here? That’s not being noble, or – or doing the right thing. That’s running scared. It doesn’t make you not evil, it makes you a coward.”
It wasn’t so much that he was leaving; it was that it almost said that he thought that she wasn’t strong enough or that he didn’t think being there for her and helping her carry her secret was worth the struggle against his bad side. Without thinking, she grabbed the nearest thing to her – some dusty old book – and hurled it at him.
“I’m doing everything I can to be all right with what happened, learning to cope with the nightmares, and you’re letting a couple of bad urges call the shots? You are a coward! God, I can’t even look at you right now.”
As she ran out into the daylight, part of her wondered if it really was best if he left. It would be easier on her if she wasn’t reminded of all the bad things she was trying to heal from every time she saw him or someone mentioned his name. She mentally shook the thought and slowed from a desperate run into a determined stride. However, she was now angry with herself as well for wanting to take the easy way out. It would hurt less if he was not here, but she wouldn’t be able to overcome her fears then. She would instead end up living her life as a slave to them, convinced that every noise in the dark was either Angelus or Spike come back to finish what they started.
They would be back, she was sure of that. She had seen enough scary movies through the gaps in her fingers to remember that the bad guys, especially the supernatural ones, always came back. She might not have Buffy’s strength, but that didn’t mean she had to live her life always afraid. She would work on her magic and face her demons – or demon, as the case may be. However, in order to do that, she had to have Angel here, to administer his presence in small doses, like a poison she had to take to build up a tolerance. And she would explain that to him, as soon as she could face him without this anger and desperation choking her. He would have to understand; she would make him understand.
As she looked back on it, she wished either that she had stayed to talk it over with him and calm down, or that she had held onto her anger a bit longer. Maybe just long enough that she wouldn’t have gone running out into the dark to apologize as soon as she heard a noise outside that she had assumed was him. If she hadn’t gone outside then, maybe she wouldn’t be so broken right now. Maybe she wouldn’t have Spike’s voice in her head, telling her that Angel wanted more than she was willing to give, that he still wanted to do all the things he had promised in his horrific ‘love’ letters.
More importantly, she wouldn’t have to remember the other things he had said or the way his hands felt. She wouldn’t have to deal with the way her entire body had burned, even while she wanted so badly for it not to. Inside she had been screaming no – screaming and wanting to escape, but outside she had been straining against him, begging him for things she didn’t even have words for.
That was the worst part, she decided as her sobs slowed. Clutching Buffy, she was sure that she could have overcome what Spike had said and done, if not for the way she had felt and the fact that it would torment her forever. It wasn’t supposed to be like that. Her first time even making out with someone shouldn't have been with a ruthless killer who had kidnapped her and started a twisted game of dress-up with her as his doll. Then, after all that, to have piled on the humiliation by breaking down her carefully-constructed house of lies?
Deep down, she knew that a soul lost or replaced didn’t really change what a person wanted, it only changed if and how they went after it. However, she had been able to bury that knowledge and separate Angel from Angelus, the friend from the demon, in her mind. One was an evil monster who wanted to break her and do unthinkable things to her, while the other one was a hero who only shared the same face.
But Spike cut through those delusions so sharply that, even as drugged as she was, she had felt it. He hadn’t been aiming for her; she knew it was all for Angel’s benefit, but it still broke a part of her. Since then, there had been a part of her that just didn’t feel like it fit right – as if it was not really a Willow piece anymore. It belonged to Angelus and Spike, and it was like some grotesque, growing seed of darkness inside her. That darkness seeped into her dreams, strange half-nightmarish fantasies where wrong became right, and she begged for things she didn’t want and was terrified of.
Willow knew that she could fight back that dark inside of her, though, no matter how far it spread. Angel hadn’t told anyone what he had seen or what he knew had gone on in that abandoned house with Spike. He’d put her back in her own clothes, even though his hands shook and his eyes remained averted. He’d sworn that he wouldn’t tell anyone, that it was her decision. And she had decided. She had kept that secret to herself, never really healing. It may not have been healthy, but it kept her together; she could stay strong as long as no one else knew.
Except, she obviously couldn’t stay strong. She may have been able to win against the darkness, but the secret that festered inside her seemed to have made her walls hollow and brittle. Still, she couldn’t bring herself to tell Buffy about cold hands that set the drug in her system burning, or the feel of gel-stiffened, bleached hair crisp between her clutching fingers. She couldn’t tell Buffy of the mix of want and shame that she still felt. She wasn’t sure if she would ever be able to tell anyone about the nightmare fantasies she had in which she turned the tables on Spike and used her magic to bend him to her will. She couldn’t stand to see the disgust on Buffy’s face that she felt choking her the morning after one of those awful dreams.
Maybe she could share just a bit of the weight, though. A part of the horror that Buffy could understand, relate to, and maybe even help her with. Willow buried herself deeper into her best friend’s arms, and took a deep breath.
“Spike told me things.”
When she felt Buffy’s arms tighten to an almost painful level, she lightly tapped her friend’s arm to let her know she still needed to breathe.
“He told me that, even with the soul, Angelus wasn’t really gone. But the way he said it, it made me afraid. I know Angel wouldn’t hurt me, but the things Spike said, it made me believe that the badness wasn’t really buried, that one day Angel could snap.
“I tried so hard to be brave when I thought Angel had lost his soul again. I tried to tell myself that he wouldn’t get to me. But I was so afraid, Buffy. I don’t want to be afraid anymore.”
Buffy didn’t dismiss her fears. She didn’t tell her everything would be okay, or that she would always protect Willow. In fact, she didn’t say anything. She simply kept holding onto Willow, rocking her slightly, and crying along with her. It didn’t solve any problems, or vanquish any fears, but it made Willow feel like she wasn’t alone in her fear. It let her know that Buffy understood and was there with her.
It felt good to finally not be alone. Yes, Angel knew more about what went on that night, but he was a part of it. The fact that he knew, the fact that he had seen, just made it that much more traumatic. As much as she tried to pretend otherwise, he was the monster that got to her first. He ripped her world apart long before Spike dragged her off to play a sick game of dress up. Having that monster see her vulnerable again made her that much more worried that one day Angelus would be back for her.
For tonight, however, she could just let Buffy wrap those strong slayer arms around her and hold back the dark and all the demons in it. Tonight, she didn’t have to be strong or brave.