The Adventures of Willow ‘Danger’ Rosenberg and Angel the Souled Vampire (Chapter One)
Yeah, right; maybe for every other teenager in the universe, but not for Willow Rosenberg. She hated summer. Other than greater freedom from the taunts and slights of Cordelia Chase, she couldn’t think of anything good about being out of school. After all, she was a geek, and a geek’s natural habitat is an academic environment.
What was she supposed to do all summer? There was no computer lab full of fellow geeks to swap hacking stories with, no classrooms full of students who would hate and fear her for her ability to blow every grade curve, no library full of arcane volumes only she could understand. There wasn’t even a need to do Xander’s homework or help Buffy and Giles research demons.
All she had to look forward to was five nights a week of Jeopardy, and what fun was that when the only person around for her to impress by answering every question correctly was herself?
She was so bored that she decided to take a chance and go for a walk.
She wasn’t the only one who thought so, actually, though the other person thinking along similar lines wasn’t a teenager...and wasn’t even, strictly speaking, a person.
Angel hated summer. Long, hot days, short nights, and his kinda-maybe-he-was-pretty-sure-one-true-love was far away, having left without even a real goodbye. She was off having a typical teenage summer of mindless fun in Los Angeles while Angel pined away for her at home. As of now, Angel wasn’t so sure that Buffy’s status as the Slayer was the greatest obstacle to their happiness. Damn fickle adolescent girls with their ridiculous adolescent hormones and resultant whims.
What was a vampire with a soul supposed to do for these three horrible months, anyway? Play Scrabble? Evil seemed to have decamped right along with his supposed-to-be-but-maybe-not-really-after-all-girlfriend, leaving a vampire in search of redemption also in search of some way to actually redeem himself. Some Hellmouth. Sunnydale was right now evil-deprived enough to have a hard time qualifying as the mouth of Purgatory.
All he had to look forward to was marking the passing of each weary, boring day on his wall in anticipation of Buffy’s return, just like a prisoner or something.
Oh well, it was nighttime at last. He might as well take a chance and see if there was finally some evil afoot for him to do battle with. He walked out the door of his apartment, out of the building, and onto the streets of Sunnydale.
Within a few minutes of leaving the house, Willow realized she’d made a stupid mistake. The stake she’d brought with her was lying several feet away, having been knocked right out of her hand by one of the two really skanky vampires now circling her. This all looked so easy when Buffy did it. Guess there was a reason she was the Slayer and Willow was the sidekick.
“Well, well, little girl. Didn’t your mother ever tell you not go out alone at night?”
“Didn’t yours ever tell you not to play with your food?” Lame, so lame. It had sounded a whole lot wittier in her head.
The vampires said nothing, just guffawed. Great. Not only was she going to die, but she was going to die while being laughed at. She’d had a nightmare like this once. Was it too much to hope that her blood might choke them if they were still laughing when they bit her?
The walk was dull and Angel was beginning to think it had been a mistake. It was easier to brood alone, in his apartment, with a refrigerator full of blood to remind him of just what he had to brood about - centuries of vampiric evil.
Wait a minute? Was that a scream? Maybe tonight wasn’t such a total loss after all.
As he rounded the corner he saw two vampires circling a helpless girl...a helpless girl who looked very familiar.
“Willow? What are you doing out here?”
“Umm...right now? Kind of trying to not get eaten. What about you?”
“Thanks. Because fighting vampires isn’t nearly as easy as Buffy makes it look.”
It seemed like both of them had nearly forgotten the presence of the two ravenous fledglings...and that didn’t appear to sit too well with the fanged duo.
“What?” Angel shot back. This pair wouldn’t even give him enough of a fight to work up a sweat, so to speak. He’d been hoping for something a lot more dangerous. Oh well.
“We’re hungry. So if you don’t mind, we’d like to get to the part where we eat you and your little girlfriend.”
“I’m not his girlfriend,” Willow helpfully corrected them, though she had to admit it was kind of flattering that they thought she was, even if they were just vampires and Angel wasn’t the guy whose girlfriend she wanted to be.
Angel himself said nothing, but that wasn’t too big of a shock. Even Buffy said that Angel wasn’t big on conversation and she was his girlfriend, or sort of, anyway. Willow was kind of fuzzy on that right now since Buffy was mad at him but never told her whether they broke up or not. It wasn’t like she could ask her either. Buffy hadn’t even called since she’d left for L.A. To tell the truth, Willow’s feelings were getting pretty hurt.
Just at that moment, one of the vamps made a move. Oops. Maybe she needed to focus on the here and now. Luckily, she had a more alert companion.
Angel’s face changed – wow, did he ever look scary with the ridges and fangs – and he grabbed the vamp around the neck and twisted. Willow heard a sickening crack before Angel plunged a stake into its heart. Talk about overkill. She suppressed a shudder as she stared. This was so different from watching Buffy. Was it weird to think that killing looked a lot more serious when Angel did it? Maybe that’s because he didn’t say anything witty – or anything at all actually.
She watched as he made short work of the second fledgling and dusted himself off, his face transforming back to humanity as he brushed the remains of the vampire from his clothing. Wait a minute? Was he just going to leave? Without saying anything? Not to be ungrateful and all, but Angel was really rude.
Angel was about to leave. After all, he’d done his good deed for the night, what reason was there to stick around? He figured Willow was close enough to her house to get there safely and anyway, he’d probably double back and follow her from a distance just to be sure. What he didn’t want to do was have a conversation. She was Buffy’s best friend, but really, other than her, they had nothing in common and Angel was in no mood to try to make small talk. He was two hundred years old; he knew nothing about twentieth century teenage interests.
Willow, however, didn’t seem to get it. Seconds later, despite having turned his back on her – as clear a signal as he could send, he’d figured – he felt a tap on his shoulder.
“Thanks.” He turned around to see her smiling at him. It was the smile of someone desperate to please…and even more desperate to be liked. Dammit. There was no way to get out of spending time with her now, not without an extra helping of guilt added to an already intolerable load.
“It was nice of you to save my life and all.” The smile was still there. He was starting to hate that smile.
“You know, you really shouldn’t be out at night.” Angel realized he probably sounded rude – blame that damn guilt-inducing smile of hers – but it was sound advice, even though he really should thank her for alleviating his boredom by getting attacked. “I thought you were smarter than this.”
The look on her face told him that was not at all the right thing to say.
Did Angel just insult her intelligence? He had some nerve! Here she was, the only one who was on his side when it came to his romance with Buffy, and he was treating her like an idiot. See if she’d put in a good word for him next time Xander and Giles were running him down.
“I’m very smart, I’ll have you know! But there’ve hardly been any vampires around since Buffy left town and I was alone and bored and…” Her voice trailed off. She hated how pathetic she sounded.
But if she’d been worried that he’d laugh at her, he didn’t even seem to be stifling a chuckle. Instead he was looking at her as if he was seeing her for the first time. It was weird, actually.
“Wanna walk me home?” she asked.
Had she asked him that question only a minute ago, he’d have felt trapped. Now, however…there was a kinship between them, even if it was forged of nothing more substantial than boredom and loneliness. “Sure,” he answered, though even now he wasn’t sure at all. Forging ties with humans was always a bad idea. Still, he chided himself, walking a girl whose life he’d just saved home hardly constituted developing a friendship. And if he made conversation? Well that was just being polite, now wasn’t it?
“Why aren’t you with Xander tonight?” he asked, since that was the only friend of hers besides Buffy who he knew by name. She had other friends, though, didn’t she?
Willow felt awkward now. She couldn’t very well tell Angel the truth, could she? How could she tell him that she’d begged off with Xander because she needed a break from his endless speculation about his prospects for winning Buffy when she got back from Los Angeles? It was too hard to keep believing in the possibility of Xander opening his eyes and suddenly realizing that the perfect girl for him wasn’t Buffy, but his best friend if she didn’t have some time off to breathe and rationalize his obsession away.
“He had other stuff to do,” she said after a just-too-long pause. “I mean, it’s not like we don’t each have our own lives or anything.” Of course the last thing Willow wanted to do was admit that she did not, in fact, have her own separate life.
“I can see why you’d want to spend some time away from him,” Angel said rather quickly and unexpectedly.
Was that a personal remark?
As much as Willow wanted to defend the boy she loved, there was something almost human about Angel’s outburst; a chink in the armour he always wore. She couldn’t help herself; she laughed.
Angel started. Was she laughing at him? That didn’t seem like her. Then he realized what he’d said; that must be what had amused her. It made more sense, anyway. After all, if anyone was worthy of derision, it was Xander Harris. The way the boy had accused him of ‘checking out’ his neck. As if he’d ever stoop to dine on that worthless moron. He’d rather go back to eating rats.
Of course, in his relief, he managed to put his foot in it badly. “What about your other friends?”
There was silence for a few seconds. “Buffy’s in L.A.”
“Yeah, I know, but…” His words died as the look on her face became ever more stricken.
“There used to be Jesse, but he’s…”
It took a moment, but Angel recalled the name. He’d been turned by Darla, dusted by Xander…and he’d been Willow’s friend – apparently the only other friend she had. Nice one, Angel. There were reasons he had fewer friends than Willow did. And he began to think that his own solitary tendencies were possibly the least of them.
Awkward – that was the word for the reigning silence. She never should have mentioned Jesse. That had to remind Angel of Darla and, while Buffy hadn’t said anything about it, Angel had to feel bad. Darla might have been evil and skanky and homicidal and all – and it’s not as if Willow was unhappy she was dead – but she was Angel’s sire and that was kind of like her being his mom, wasn’t it? And who knew better than Willow that, no matter how bad your parents were, you couldn’t help but love them?
“I’m sorry,” she said tentatively.
“What for?” he asked, as if he had no idea. She’d been wrong about him being rude earlier, because he sure seemed like a gentleman now.
“For bringing up Jesse and all. I mean, I know Darla was the one who…and…I didn’t mean to remind you of…” Her tongue tripped over her train of thought and she felt herself losing control of her words. It didn’t help that Angel had a blank look on his face that gave her no reins with which to pull herself back into coherence. How was she going to get out of this?
Angel was stunned…and ashamed. He’d barely thought about Willow in all the time he’d known her and here she was, empathetic and considerate enough to worry about how he felt about the death of his sire. It brought him up short.
“There’s no need to apologize,” he said, trying hard to show that he was being sincere, not merely polite.
He wanted to say more, but she spoke and what she said signaled the end of the evening. “Gosh. Here we are. My house. Thanks, Angel.”
Her mood was…well…chaotic might be a good word for it. She seemed to want to go inside, but at the same time, she stayed right where she was, shifting her weight from foot to foot and fidgeting. The thought that she was adorable occurred to him and he had no idea why. He suddenly felt as uncomfortable as she looked.
“Good night,” he said, making the first overture of leave-taking because one of them had to do it.
“Good night,” she caroled. “See ya.” It sounded uncomfortably like a promise, like something a friend would say to another friend. Angel said nothing, he just watched as she hurried up the walk to her front door.
It was some time after she was safe inside that he was finally able to bring himself to leave. He had the strangest feeling that, like it or not, he had just forged a tie to a human who wasn’t Buffy.