In the Dark (the What's a Nice Jewish Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This remix) by Gabrielle
FeatureSummary: *AU of the AtS Season One episode In the Dark* Oz has a gig in San Francisco so Willow is tapped to take the Gem of Amara to Angel instead, leading her into danger... and into the deepest recesses of herself.
Categories: Willow/Angel Characters: Angel, Cordelia, Other Male, Spike, Willow
Genres: Angst
Story Type: Multi-Chapter
Warnings: Abuse, Violence
Series: None
Chapters: 2 Completed: Yes Word count: 15512 Read: 3224 Published: 10 Aug 2013 Updated: 10 Aug 2013
Part One by Gabrielle
In the Dark (the What's a Nice Jewish Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This remix): Part One

Like nearly all – well, a whole lot - of the danger Willow’s been in since her sophomore year of high school, this is – probably – Buffy’s fault.

Willow is really, really sick of being taken hostage.

”But I thought the Dingoes were playing in L.A.” Willow realized she had just whined, but she couldn’t help it. A feeling of dread was already overwhelming her and she hated herself for feeling it.

“We’ve got the chance to play a showcase in San Francisco. Could be big.” Oz’s voice was the usual monotone, but there was a light in his eyes… yeah, this was major and Willow was so not going to rain on his big, musical parade.

He rained on hers though. Not by what he did, but by what he didn’t do. Wasn’t he supposed to invite her to go with him – or express regret that she couldn’t because now she’d probably have to take the Gem of Amara to Angel by herself? Either would have been good.

She decided to make her own sunshine, pulling her guy into a passionate kiss. “We still have time before you have to leave and I have to leave and… we both have to do the leaving thing, right?”

Sex: it might not fix everything, but it fixed some things. At least this way, she’d have something to smile about before she had to head over to Buffy’s, get the ring, and make the long, traffic-choked drive to Los Angeles. As she shimmied out of her jeans, she tried not to think about the fact that she seemed to be more into this than he was.

Do your best friend a favour by taking the ex-boyfriend she’s not emotionally ready to see again a mystical gem guaranteeing him invulnerability and the freedom to tan and what do you get? Being suspended in chains by evil vampires… and this is so not even the first time this has ever happened to her.

Even after all these years, she sometimes has nightmares about the night she was almost drained of blood to raise the Master. Unlike someone as shallow as, say, Cordelia, she’s not able to take comfort from the fact that she was wearing overalls when she was hanging upside down. What stays in her mind is how helpless she felt.

This has been said before, and only a moment ago, in her internal monologue, but it bears repeating: Willow Rosenberg is officially sick of being a hostage/kidnap victim/whatever. Oh, and she’s really sick of Spike.

“I told you to go back to Sunnydale,” Angel hisses, and Willow immediately amends her most recent thought – she’s sick of vampires, all vampires, with or without souls. She hates them. They’re bigger poopheads than Parker Abrams. Because Angel chiding her for getting kidnapped when all she was doing was trying to find the stupid gem in his stupid apartment to keep it from falling into the wrong hands? Yes, absolutely, she so needs that right now.

Oh goody, things are getting even worse. Because while the other creepy vampire is ramming a poker into Angel’s thigh, Willow’s enduring something far more loathsome and horrible – Spike’s hand is moving up her leg… way, way up her leg and he inhales in deep and exaggerated fashion. “Well, well,” he drawls, “looks like the little girl is all grown up and got herself a taste for doggy style.” Willow hates herself for turning beet red. Isn’t it about time she got over this whole dorky modesty thing? Oz is her boyfriend. They have sex. It’s allowed. But then she finds herself blushing even more when Spike winks lewdly at her. “What do you say, Little Red Riding Hood? Wanna try out a better class of demon?”

She’s about to say something awesomely bad-ass and smart-aleck like ‘I’ll tell you once I meet one’ when Angel groans out a testosterone-thickened cliché: “Don’t touch her!”

What makes it worse, and even more demeaning, is the way Spike leers and waggles his tongue, running his hand up her other leg… while looking at Angel. This whole ‘pawn in a game between two men’ thing? It’s reminding her of something she’s never wanted to face and it’s the reason that, even hanging here in the clutches of two evil vampires and unlikely to be alive tomorrow, her life isn’t flashing before her eyes.

She doesn’t have a life. Not one of her own, anyway.

Nope. Willow Rosenberg, reared to be an independent, self-determining icon of feminism – well, as much as her mother could actually be bothered to do the rearing thing – is nothing more than a supporting character in other people’s lives. She’s Buffy’s trusty sidekick, Giles’s eagle-eyed research assistant, Oz’s encouraging girlfriend. She exists to aid other people in shining, but she’s never stood in a light of her own.

Always too timid, too afraid she isn’t good enough to even try, too afraid people who already hate her will hate her more and that the few people who let her hang on their coattails will hate her worst of all if she stops letting them stand on her shoulders to be taller.

She’s a small, blurry shadow, faded and indistinct, and when she’s gone… people might miss what she does for them, but will anyone miss her? No they won’t. And you know why? Because there isn’t a her to miss.

“Well now, isn’t that sweet? The brave poof defending the honour of the helpless damsel.” Spike’s words both break through and confirm her depressing thoughts. His ensuing chuckle maddens her, but it’s the words ‘helpless damsel’ that really get her goat… and it’s a goat she’s about ready to sacrifice for just a smidgen of respect, especially from herself.

No one’s even looking at her, are they? No, the other one, Marcus – that’s his name, is jabbing that poker in Angel again and Spike, even though he has his hand on her thigh… “Enough!” she cries in a voice she doesn’t even recognize. It’s a voice filled with fury and it would scare her if it wasn’t for the fact that the fury is hers. What comes next would scare her still more if she wasn’t so consumed by that very hot rage.

Without realizing that she’s looking for anything, her eyes find a piece of wood and, before she can even think about what she’s somehow doing, that piece of wood hits its target… and the poker clatters to the ground as Marcus explodes in a shower of dust and a shrill scream.

“What the hell?!?!” Spike cries, looking around before his eyes finally come back to her… and that smirk she hates so much is completely gone. Whatever he sees in her face, she’s pretty sure it’s nothing you could describe with the words ‘helpless’ or ‘damsel’. For a moment, she wonders why the stake hit Marcus and not Spike, but she has no idea. What she does know is that she enjoys the way Spike looks like a deer caught in very big, very hot headlights right now. Maybe that’s the answer. Maybe it’s all about seeing him realize that she’s not some pathetic little victim after all and it’s not like he’d realize anything if he were dust.

Or maybe she just wanted to save Angel, being the good little supporting character, as usual, putting others before herself… whoever that is.

She looks at where Spike was standing and now he’s gone; there’s an echo of footsteps so she knows he’s not dust. Is she sorry? Who knows? Of course, she and Angel are still doing the bondage thing.

“How did you do that?” There’s a something in Angel’s voice that she can’t figure out at all and it somehow brings her back to…

How did she do that? Suddenly she doesn’t even remember what it was like to feel powerful. She feels like the Willow she’s always been – scared, confused, and not at all in control. Also chained.

At this same, difficult moment, Cordelia and Doyle appear. Good, because even though she managed to magically dust a vampire just a minute ago, she has no idea how to get herself out of these chains. “So this is where you are,” Cordelia says and Willow is suddenly not at all sure she’s still glad to see her, because the tone in her voice… it’s like she’s blaming Willow for something. This day is all badness and pain and not even the fact that at least her magic didn’t go wonky when it counted is enough to make any of it okay.

Especially not the part where she saw herself in a mirror so much clearer than any glass.

Interestingly, though, it’s the thought of that which makes her cut off Angel before he can say a word and bark, “Marcus is dust, Spike is gone, you’re safe. Just get us down, okay?” The way Cordelia takes a step back is almost as nourishing to her self-esteem as the fear she’d seen in Spike’s eyes. It soothes the sting of… well… everything.

Naturally, it’s Doyle who begins to undo the chains… on Angel. Yes, chivalry is dead. Oh well, at least now she can feel a little bit feminist… along with a whole lot afterthought-y. “You look like hell, boss,” and Willow restrains herself from quipping that he’s been there. What’s weird to her is that she was about to in the first place. Then Doyle asks the big question, and of course he asks Angel. “How did ya ever manage to dust that…”

To her surprise, Angel cuts him off with the truth. “Willow did it. Magic, I think.”

Setting Angel down, Doyle regards her with eyes so wide she can see the roundness of his eyeballs. “Aren’t you the spitfire then,” he offers with a low whistle. At last, he sets to work on her chains. “Surprised ya didn’t get yourself down.”

“I’m surprised there was a pencil here,” Cordelia snarks and Willow’s back in the library again, wearing a baggy sweater and biting her tongue.

Again, Angel’s the one to speak in her defense. “She didn’t use a pencil. She used that board over there.”

Grateful – she should be grateful that Angel is standing up for her and her skills, but instead that rage is building inside her again. Who is she angry at and why? Everyone, but mostly herself. And she knows why. Rotating her shoulders to soothe the ache, she wonders if she has enough magical energy to jab that poker lying uselessly on the warehouse floor into Cordelia’s side. Something inside her tells her that she doesn’t want to know the answer.

Temptation is a suitor whose attentions she might not want to court.

Then again, Oz hasn’t exactly been the best boyfriend lately.

Is now really the time when she wants to think about that? Or does it matter? Because right now she’s got all kinds of painful thoughts crashing around in her head, so why shouldn’t one more join the party?

“We should get you to a hospital.” Willow’s about to argue when she realizes Doyle isn’t talking to her. Of course not. He’s talking to Angel. Which makes no sense.

“He’s a vampire,” she reminds them curtly. “Hospitals don’t usually treat patients who don’t breathe and have no heartbeat.” She walks over to Cordelia. “Where’s the ring?”


“The ring. You know, the reason we’re all here? The reason Angel and I were kidnapped to begin with?” And no, it’s neither inappropriate nor self-pitying that she’s reminding them that yes, she was part of the festivities.

It isn’t, is it?

No more worrying about that because Doyle hands her the ring – which Willow then shoves onto Angel’s hand. Immediately, and in a way that actually makes for kind of an interesting show, his wounds begin healing.

“Wow. That’s some special piece of jewelry there, boss.”

“Yeah. Too bad it can’t fix your shirt.”

Willow snorts at Cordelia’s unchanged shallowness, but no one hears. Nope, it’s all about Angel; the fact that Willow’s the one who came up with the idea to fix him up with the ring has already been forgotten. Great. Once again, this day just keeps on sucking.

One piece of goodness amidst all the badness is that Willow sees her purse lying about twenty feet away. She makes a beeline for it… and there’s her wallet, obviously emptied, lying right on top. Spike stole her money. Things just can’t stop getting worse, can they? She picks up the purse and wallet and notes with relief that at least her ATM card is still there – and the keys to her rental car. So okay, not complete and total badness.

Except for the part that here she is in some warehouse that reeks of dead fish and salt water and she has no idea where it is in relation to her car.

Well, the only way to find out is to start walking. Maybe find a gas station or something where they can tell her how to get back to Angel’s place. Judging by the fact that no one has even looked over to see what she’s doing, she’ll have better luck with strangers than with anyone she knows and anyway, right now, the last place she wants to be is stuck with those three.

She needs to leave before she starts crying – or incinerates Cordelia and Doyle and Angel in a magical rage. That second option would be bad. It would. It really would.

What’s worse is the fact that she really has to sell herself on how bad that incineration idea actually is.

It suddenly strikes her that even though she’s restored a vampire’s soul and done a bunch of other – okay, smaller - spells, it’s only now that she truly realizes that there’s power in her and it can do things – big things. Those things can be good, but they can be dangerous too, and she’s still not sure how she feels about that last part.

It has to be better than being helpless, though. She knows she’s really fed up with that, just like she’s fed up with being invisible and easily ignored. She’s left the warehouse and is shielding her eyes from the harsh, smoggy glare of the sun, and yeah, it hurts to realize that she could make good money placing a bet that no one realizes she’s gone.

Well, she can stand here and drown herself in self-pity, or she can start walking. The salt breeze tells her the ocean’s not far, which means there have to be gas stations and ATM machines nearby for the throngs of tourists who always clog California beaches. So walking it is.

About a block and a half or so down the road and she’s lost in the thinkiness of trying not to think, because it just doesn’t seem like the right time or place to be assessing herself and her existence. It’s harder than you’d believe, this whole not thinking thing, and she’s wondering if Xander was right about her when he said she had too many thoughts. So lost in her not-thoughts is she that she doesn’t realize someone is behind her until there’s a hand on her shoulder.

She whirls around and – oh god, it’s Angel. Sunlight and… yeah, he still has the ring on, so he’s not on fire. No, she’s not going to think about the fact that she has mixed feelings about that, but hey, if she does, she’s entitled. After everything she’s done for him, he’s never even tried to pretend to be her friend. Does he know her last name? A part of her wants to ask him – right this second. Would he get paler? He’s pretty pale, she realizes, and he looks more like a pathetic goth wannabe than ever.

Despite the crappiness that is this entire day, she can’t help smirking as she remembers that dork at the Sunset Club who was all decked out in a stupid satin shirt and black pants just – like – Angel. Oops, because he’s noticed her expression and… you know, why should she even care? She’s just unstrung enough from the magic and the self-loathing and the way she’s been treated to blurt out exactly what she’s thinking. “I was just remembering that time at the club when you said none of the kids knew how vampires dressed and the nerdiest one was wearing the exact same clothes you were.”

Ouch. She scored, huh? He takes a step back and stares as if he’s never seen her before. About time he realized – because no, he hasn’t. “You’re angry?” He’s phrased it as a question and he’s standing there all bewildered and acting like the aggrieved party and… you know? She doesn’t have time for this. She has a car to find and a non-life to hurry back to.

Instead of trying to explain or defend herself she gets back to the business of finding a gas station and/or ATM. She starts walking and doesn’t look back – not even when she hears footsteps behind her. Of course, that changes when Angel grabs her arm again. She wants to zap him, but unfortunately her magic doesn’t seem to be doing the ‘on command’ thing right now. Darn… no, damn. Damn it! She’s old enough to start cursing like a grown-up.

Turning around, she does her damnedest to at least glare hard enough to have an effect.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Again with the put-upon look, like he’s Mr. Perfect. She can almost hear him thinking ‘PMS’ and she’d knee him in the groin if she didn’t suddenly realize that it might be stupid to assault an invulnerable demon. He’s got some nerve, though, looking all innocent and confused.

“Nothing,” she spits out. “Now that we’ve got that cleared up, I have a car to find. You’re welcome for bringing you the ring. Buh-bye now.” Of course, he ruins a picture-perfect ‘storming off’ by grabbing her arm again. Stupid jerk vampire.

Oh great. Now he brings out the ‘wounded soul’ look. “I didn’t thank you, did I? I’m sorry.” Willow wants to barf. Did this work on Buffy? Because if it did, she’s rapidly losing respect for her best friend – and finding it disturbingly and unpleasantly easy to see how Parker got into her pants.

No, that’s not fair. Love, as she knows well, makes you do the wacky – and so does heartbreak. So she’s not thinking uncharitable thoughts about Buffy anymore. Angel, though? Yeah, he’s a creep. She’s not going to waste any understanding on him; not today. “Don’t worry about it. You’ve never thanked me before. There’s no need to start now.” She meant to deliver that with a Faith-like carelessness but it rings in her ears with tinny self-pity and she just can’t stop hating this whole stupid day. “You better go back and catch a ride home with your staff,” she says, this time coming closer to managing the level of airy superiority she was trying for. Mentally high-fiving herself, she goes for the gold medal. “Because standing out here in public in that shirt? No offense, but if you wind up in some ‘worst dressed’ column, Cordelia might never speak to you again and you sure wouldn’t want that.”

Yay! He’s let go of her arm and she’s about to walk away – finally! – when he says, “Wait,” in a tone of voice that the dutiful girl within instinctively responds to. Great. One more reason to kick herself for being… herself. She watches as he whips off the tattered rag he was wearing and now he’s standing there, shirtless and pale and… yeah, he looks like a male model. Is it supposed to whip her hormones into a frenzy or something so she’ll immediately forgive him, maybe even beg him to forgive her? More proof that he really doesn’t know a – single – damn – thing about her because she is so not into the GQ look. Hello, dating Oz? He of the small, compact, not-very-muscle-y-ness? Thanks for the show, Angel, but it’s wasted on this girl.

At least, however, it does a nice job of irritating her into action. She rolls her eyes very dramatically and makes it clear she’s now officially on her way. Time’s a-wasting, much like the Chippendale show Angel trotted out, and more than ever, Willow just wants to get home… even if she will be boyfriend-less for awhile and have to answer way too many questions from Buffy and be forced to relive this whole stupid day over and over.

Even if it’s back to being everything she now realizes she despises. Back home, it’s entirely possible she’ll forget she hates it at all.

As she turns away, though, she catches a look on Angel’s face that almost – not quite, but almost – makes everything okay. Because she was right, he was totally trying to disarm her with his ‘manly charms’ and his deflated ego is splattered all over his face like egg or tomatoes thrown by an unappreciative audience. It’s another powerful sensation and, as much as hurting people’s feelings has always been one of her seven deadly sins, she has to admit she’s enjoying being a bad girl. Take that, dumb jerk vampire!

And yes, there is now a spring in her step for which she probably should feel guilty, but doesn’t. Hey, he was trying to manipulate her. Spiking his guns is fair play.

Unfortunately, instead of scuttling after Cordelia and Doyle, Angel is following her. Oh goody. If he so much as uses a word beginning with ‘b’ let alone says her name, she will rip that ring off his finger and watch him fry like bacon in the sun. She is so very not in the mood to be the good little sounding board, especially since she’ll have to spend hours being just that upon her return to Sunnydale.

“The warehouse is back that way.” She points for him, in case he really is just big, dumb beefcake and has no idea where he’s going.

“What did I do to you?” he asks, and she wants to punch him in the jaw. Let’s see, shall we? Dead fish, dead teacher, not so much as a smile for the returned soul… and that’s just the greatest hits. She could add more to this list. But why would she even bother? Because the fact that Angel doesn’t have a clue is proof that there’s no point.

Then again, why should she be angry at him for not thinking of her as a real person – like Buffy or Cordelia – when she has to admit she really isn’t, now is she?

She could be, though. She’s supposed to be. There’s a sensation in her limbs like wings beating frantically against glass and it hurts, and she’s angry – so, so angry – and it’s worse than when she was in chains and she’s afraid that something else will happen and…

Across the street, the window of an abandoned building shatters. No, there’s no one else around and she’s pretty sure there’s no one in the crumbling structure, so…

“You did that,” Angel says – and is that just a hint of awe? “Why?”

For some reason, she decides to be honest. “I don’t know. I didn’t mean to do it, actually.” She thinks about those wings. “Maybe I did. I don’t… I really don’t know.” There’s that fear again, because she has no control. If she did, would she be as scared of what that power inside can do? Does she want to know the answer to that question?

“Let’s walk,” he says, taking her arm, and she has to agree it’s probably a good idea to leave the area since you never know if loud noise will draw a crowd, though she’s coming to realize that there are all kinds of oblivious and Sunnydale’s is not necessarily the most potent.

So they walk, heading where Willow needs to go, and it suddenly dawns on her that – oh god, this is Angel’s first walk in the sunlight in… centuries. Wow. Bet he wishes he was sharing it with someone else. The truth is that she does too. Maybe she’s selfish or a bitch – finally, at last – or petty, but she’s not softened by being part of this epochal moment. The funny thing is, she might have been before he took off his shirt, but that last insult to her intelligence and depth was the straw that broke the camel’s back. They’ll never be friends, not now. Still, she seems stuck with him, so she plays the part. “This is pretty big for you, huh? The whole ‘sunlit stroll’ thing?”

He smiles that ‘man of mystery’ half-smile and says, “Yeah,” and she realizes she’s supposed to ask questions or somehow otherwise wrest from him the inscrutable intangibles of his experience.

Sadly, she’s such a Pavlov-reared creature that she does. “Bet the world looks a lot different than you remember.”

There’s that smile again. “It does. I never thought… it’s hard to describe.”

Buffy would find this magical and Willow has some unselfish feelings of guilt and regret. For a moment she wonders if this has any effect on his soul. Should she look into this? Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. She’s still the ultimate sidekick: Research Girl. “I’ll bet,” she says noncommittally.

They keep walking in silence – not Willow’s usual style, but hey, maybe it’s time to change that… change something, anyway. For a moment, just a moment, but a sharp one, she wonders if she should take the car, drive… somewhere – anywhere with a university would do. She really was accepted to every learning institution with a stamp and enough chutzpah to think someone of her calibre would matriculate there.

Of course she won’t, but just considering it is something she would never have done before and maybe it’s a small victory. Sad and pathetic by most standards, but heroic for a girl like… a girl who isn’t much like a real girl at all. Or at least she wasn’t.

“Why were you so angry? Back there.” Angel’s second attempt at getting her to tell him what he thinks he’s supposed to want to know breaks through her thoughts and she’s not happy about it. She knows how this conversation goes – and it ends up with being patronized and made small and unimportant and she’s not volunteering to help with that this time. Especially not with Angel as the arbiter of her worth.

It shocks her to the core – and the words sound even louder than the crash of broken glass a few moments ago – when she answers, “Why do you care? It’s not like we’re friends.”

The look on his face… “We’re not?” He can’t really be as stunned as he looks. Is he that stupid and clueless? Really? How has he survived all these years? Harmony isn’t that dense.

And isn’t that a super memory? Her hand drifts to the mark on her neck. Oh great, Angel notices – though, hey! Big, honking bite mark that pretty much anyone who looked at her for ten seconds would see. Which explains why neither Cordelia nor Doyle saw it… and why she pretty much had to drape it in tinsel and take out an ad announcing its presence for Angel to spot it. “Where did you get that?”

Willow shrugs. “Oh, the bite? Harmony. No big deal, though. She’s not all that tough.”

“She bit you,” Angel counters.

“Caught me by surprise,” she shoots back. “Not like she’s the kind of girl you think of as being a super villain.”

“You knew her?”

Oh god. Angel really didn’t pay attention to anything or anyone but Buffy, did he? And even then he seems to have missed a whole lot of conversation. “She was in our class. Cordelia’s best friend, actually. Turns out she got vamped while we were fighting the Mayor.”

He gets that brooding look and… You know, he’s feeling more deeply about Harmony, a girl he doesn’t even remember, than he’s ever felt about her and it’s just one more confirmation that somehow she’s been robbed of her personhood and her humanity and her… self and she’s feeling that rage again – the beat of wings against glass. However, if she doesn’t get control, more stuff is going to get destroyed and the last thing she needs is to be responsible for damage to the BMW across the street.

The neighborhood has changed rather abruptly from industrial to what seem to be expensive seaside townhomes jammed up against each other as if every inch of space is too precious to waste on privacy. Even the garages are narrow – so narrow that fancy cars are parked on the street. It’s so different from the world of spacious backyards and comfortable distances where she lives. For a moment she wonders, but then… no… she’d be just as invisible here as she is in Sunnydale.

It’s not for nothing that she thinks of Marcie Ross more than anyone will ever know.

Angel’s talking now, so she grudgingly leaves her unpleasant thoughts for his even more unpleasant conversation. “I’m sorry.” You know, it really doesn’t mean much coming from him since he pretty much uses guilt as a way to get off. Does he even miss sex? Because scarily, she is about ninety percent sure that the answer to that is ‘No.’

She knows she’ll hate herself for asking, but she does. “What for? Not like you were even in town. And anyway, Harmony wouldn’t have drained me.”

Oh how she enjoys the weird look on his pasty white face. “Why do you say that?”

“Please. As much like her human self as she acted? I guarantee she’s still obsessed with being super thin and too dumb to know the perks of being undead. No way would she risk her figure by drinking me down to the last drop.”

Well what do you know? Angel is laughing. Curiouser and curiouser. Well, maybe now he’ll remember her. Someone should.

Does Oz miss her? Or is he having too much fun with the band in San Francisco? Because he seems far away so often now, even when they’re making love. Can you even call it making love anymore? It’s starting to feel disturbingly like fu…screwing.

Guess she’s not ready to go all the way with the grown-up cursing.

But then, considering her willingness to go right back to the second class world she lives in and slip right back into her nothing role, it seems like she’s not ready to go all the way with much of anything, is she?

“We were talking about you,” Angel suddenly says. “Why you were angry.” Oh goody. The one time, the one and only time that Willow can remember, that someone has come back from a tangent that took them away from talking about her, and it has to be now? It has to be Angel?

It occurs to her that here – and only here – she can be honest and mean and it won’t matter. She won’t be jeopardizing the fragile tissue paper of her negligible identity. So she repeats what she said before, only more vehemently and with more venom: “Like I said, we’re not friends, so what’s the point? Because you care so much? Spare me, Angel. You might not realize this, but my IQ is a whole lot higher than Cordelia’s. Higher than yours too. So nope, not falling for it.”

You know, she’s starting to enjoy the nonplussed look on Angel; it suits him. Just as he’s about to say something and ruin it, a commotion from a nearby parking lot causes both their heads to whip around. What do you know? They’re right by the beach… and something bad is happening. They race across the street just in time to see a man shoving a screaming little boy into a sedan. There are onlookers – or were – but Willow hears the man telling them that the boy is his son and all this fuss is just because he doesn’t want to go home. The people are buying it and walking away, maybe because the car is a Mercedes and everyone knows that’s a guarantor of solid respectability, right? Willow, however, comes from Sunnydale, home of the demon mayor, and she doesn’t believe it for a second, especially not when she locks eyes with the little boy through the back window of the car. He’s terrified.

“Hey!” He was about to get into the front seat, but now the man turns and looks at her. He all but sneers dismissively and it reminds her that Sunnydale isn’t the only place where she is small and insignificant. It doesn’t seem that he’s any more impressed by Angel. Guess that rich criminals are as snooty as law-abiding rich people because it’s pretty obvious from the movement of his eyes and the way they linger on various points that their respective wardrobes are fueling his disdain. Maybe she should get his number and give it to Cordelia.

“Let the boy go,” Angel growls and Willow’s not going to argue with him taking part. What matters is rescuing that small, frightened child.

“He’s my son,” the man repeats. While she’s pretty sure the boy can’t hear him, Willow sees him shaking his head. His eyes are wide and scared and helpless and it reminds her of… She doesn’t want to think about that.

Instead, she draws herself up, trying to find some grip on the power inside her. Maybe it only works when the enemy is as supernatural as that power, because facing off against a human? She feels like just plain Willow, the girl who’s more closely related to Marcie Ross than anyone with whom she actually shares DNA, the girl whose eventual death will be as empty as the life that can’t flash before her eyes.

No, no, no. She’s not going to just stand by and let Angel be the hero while she’s the useless lump on the sidelines. Not here. Not this time. Something in her cries out to her that she’s needed and it’s time – time for her to exist. Wings beat hard against glass once more. “Yeah, right,” she cracks, a beat too late, but not so late that it’s pointless. “I think you need to just open the door and let the kid out.”

The response she gets is far from encouraging. A dismissive smirk and the man’s hand on the driver’s side door, ready to leave… with the boy. At last the rage is back, tingling along the edges of her fingers.

Angel is moving toward the man – cautious, probably hampered by his inexperience in doing this stuff in daylight and with humans, but he’s going to pounce any second.

A few people are standing around, watching the show, though, so maybe she should do something herself, something that won’t draw attention to the fact that Angel isn’t exactly human. She could use magic, maybe in some subtle way that won’t look like magic.

There is, however, the small matter of control, something she doesn’t actually have. Plus, moving objects telekinetically? Not so subtle. People, even normally oblivious people, have a tendency to notice stuff floating through the air.

She closes her eyes and prays – or something – for guidance or help or a set of instructions, and it happens. Jerking her head at the opposite side of the car, the passenger door flies open; for a split second her eyes are locked with those of the boy, and she silently screams at him to run.

Which he does, faster than he ever has, she’s sure, tiny feet in white sneakers pounding against hot asphalt and carrying him out of sight in short order.

Hopefully, there’s a family waiting for him, a family who have been looking all over for him and will be so very grateful to find him safe and sound. But no matter what, he won’t be enduring whatever nightmare this creature had in store for him.

Angel’s grabbed the man’s arm now, keeping him from fleeing, but it’s sort of superfluous. The guy seems totally paralyzed; he isn’t even looking at the big, shirtless, pale guy with a meaty grip on his bicep. Nope. He’s staring at her. His eyes are wide, pupils blown, and all she did was open a door. Fear and disbelief are pouring off him in waves she can actually feel and she’s guessing maybe the reason her magic was needed to get that door open in the first place was that this guy had it rigged so it wasn’t supposed to be able to open at all – not from the inside, anyway. Makes sense if you’re a creepy, kidnapping pedophile.

A creepy, kidnapping pedophile who’s more frightened of her than he is of the vampire right in front of him.

It’s a heady sensation and she feels the danger more keenly than ever.

She also feels the high.

That’s something she needs to get away from, so she gets her head back into the situation going on. “Call the police. This guy tried to kidnap a child!” she barks at one of the looky-loos, and he rushes to a car. Guess he’s got a cell phone, which makes sense, what with this being L.A. Everyone’s an actor or a musician or a mogul and they can’t be out of range of their ‘people’ for two seconds.

Oh god, she can almost hear her mother’s voice as that last observation makes itself in her head. It’s an almost verbatim transcript of the last conversation they had, not that it was much of one, but it was more than the far more common ‘bye-darling-the-bills-and-the-credit-card-are-on-the-hall-table-back-in-insert-month-here’ which usually passes for mother-daughter interaction at her house. Her father’s voice is completely gone from her memory. She thinks that maybe they spoke a year ago, but that’s probably just wishful thinking.

Does she really need to be focusing on her parents right now? No.

Time to take charge.

She strides to the passenger side of the car. The door’s still utterly intact – magic is an amazing thing – and she closes it. Well, slams it would be more accurate and she enjoys the way the creepy pervert winces at her manhandling of his expensive automobile. Angel gets what she’s doing and, in a flash, he’s got the door on his side open and shoves the guy in, closing the door even more sharply than she had. “Keep an eye on him until the police get here,” Angel instructs the gaggle of people who are still watching all of this like it’s a movie. The guy is pounding on the window, trapped, and it sounds nothing like her wings. She lets Angel take her arm and they set off back in the direction they came from at a brisk pace.

When you're a powerful witch and an invulnerable vampire who've just subdued a pedophile with the help of magic and supernatural strength, getting out of Dodge seems like the best course of action.

To be continued
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