Back to Basics by Gabrielle
Summary: *Set several months after NFA* In the wake of Fred's tragic loss, Willow has left Kennedy and magic behind and settled into a monotonous but safe life with a boring job and a rented house. But what happens when the past comes calling?
Categories: Willow/Angel Characters: Angel, Willow
Genres: Drama
Warnings: Spoilers for AtS S5
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 1 Completed: Yes Word count: 3735 Read: 628 Published: 17/12/15 Updated: 17/12/15
Back to Basics by Gabrielle
Back to Basics




“See you tomorrow.”

Willow waved at Kayla-from-software-development (as opposed to Kayla-from-human-resources or Kayleigh-from-accounting, who she always confused with Melissa-also-from-accounting) as she drove off. Another day done. Another invitation to after work drinks turned down. Another evening home with only the TV or a book for company to look forward to.

It was boring and lonely and numbingly monotonous.

It was exactly the life Willow had always dreaded… only now it was exactly the life Willow wanted.

No deaths, no demons, no pain.

No magic.

Of course, the last part was the toughest. It wasn’t like she could just say, “Hey, no more magic for me.” No, she’d learned the hard way that cold turkey wasn’t possible “ not when magic was as much a part of you as the blood in your veins.

Every morning at 4:30 AM, when other people were sleeping or doing yoga, Willow was pouring a circle of sacred sand and releasing her magic back into the earth. It wasn’t exactly morning coffee and the paper and it went a long way toward explaining why celibacy was part of her new life as well. Try explaining the lights and mist to a new lover. Not like your average woman (or man) had grown up on a Hellmouth where there were more vampires than gang members.

Not like your average woman (or man) had once flayed a man alive with the flick of a hand for killing the love of their life.

That last was always on Willow’s mind. Kennedy never got it, never understood that the fear of what was inside didn’t go away because of a kiss in Buffy’s backyard.

It wasn’t just that constant, anxious twisting inside that she couldn’t handle, though… No, it wasn’t just what she could do that was the problem, it was what she couldn’t. All the limits, self-imposed and not, that meant battles lost or at least casualties. All the lives she couldn’t save.

And all the ways she kept winding up a pawn in other people’s games.

Fred had been the last straw.

One last fight with Kennedy, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing in the end. A bag packed and a plane ticket to San Francisco later and that was that. It was nothing like the day when Tara had left her. How sad was it when what you missed most was a pierced tongue that could have been in any mouth?

She hoped Kennedy’s next lover actually bothered to remember stuff about her, like her parents’ names or the city she was from.

Yes, she felt guilty about just what a careless and casual partner she’d been to a girl who probably had genuine feelings for her. It did, however, pale in comparison to memories of Tabula Rasa spells, endangered friends, skinless killers…

… and Fred.

So here she was, parking her car in the garage of the house she paid way too much to rent and looking forward to another evening of coffee (no tea, never tea “ tea was Giles) and books or TV. She had a computer, but she never used it “ not at home. It wasn’t, as she told her coworkers, because she was burned out from coding all day, but at least she had that as an excuse. Not like she could tell them… well, anything, really.

She hadn’t even told them she was from Sunnydale. All right, that had meant playing fast and loose with her employment paperwork, but she felt justified. After all, it had nothing to with her ability to do her job and the last thing she needed was having to field intrusive questions. At least two of the guys she worked with were active in an online forum rife with sinister conspiracy theories about her hometown. If they only knew… but they never would. No one could handle the truth.

Willow was starting to think they were better off.

Trudging up the stairs through the garage and into the kitchen. Pot of coffee waiting for her. The miracle of timers. They were the wife she’d never have “ always doing things for her just when she wanted them.

So she poured a cup and settled onto the sofa, tucking an afghan around herself and picking up the Rita Mae Brown novel she’d finally decided to force herself to read “ long after every other lesbian in the world had done so, she was sure. Then again, it probably didn’t matter. Her new life choices pretty much meant that she wasn’t gay, or straight, or anything anymore.

Except maybe lonely.

Her too-friendly landlady had suggested she get a cat and she’d almost burst into tears. Never again. Cats were Tara and Miss Kitty Fantastico dying a horrible death by crossbow and… no, just no. From time to time, she thought about a puppy, but puppies, even adult dogs, needed exercise and she was such a hermit now that she barely left the house except to go to work (the grocer who delivered being another substitute for the housewife she’d never marry). As for fish… well, that had ended badly enough that even seeing an aquarium in a store display made her shudder.

Pets were off the lifestyle menu then. Which meant that she’d suck it up and adjust to appreciating her own company.

She was feeling twitchy all of a sudden, as if the magic were collecting too fast within her. Damn it! She was going to have to do the ritual tonight, wasn’t she? Outside it was already dark; it would be just her luck if the flashes of light could be seen through the curtains and some nosy neighbour came around.

Nothing to be done about it, though. The feeling was growing and she had to deal with it. Getting up from the sofa, she went to the bookshelves, staring balefully at a familiar carved wooden box. ‘The bad box’ with its carved pagan motifs which was one of the only things she had left from her old life. She opened it and pulled out her ingredients. Oh great. She was going to need more sacred sand. That meant a dreaded trip to the magic store tomorrow.

But for now…

The doorbell rang.

Who the heck could that be?

Of course, there was no law that said she had to answer it, so she decided not to. They probably had the wrong address anyway. Who would be paying a call on her? So she stayed quiet, not moving, and waited.

Just as she thought she’d waited long enough and they’d probably left… “Willow? I know you’re in there. I’m not leaving until I talk to you.”

Oh no! She knew that voice. It was Angel.

What was he doing here?

If I say something you really don’t want to hear, do you promise not to bite me?

That promise probably didn’t hold for being responsible for his friend’s soul being hollowed out of her body and eradicated by a god who wanted a shiny new place to live.

Think Angel would wait to hear her defense or would he snap her neck first and ask questions later? Would she blame him if it were the latter?

We who are about to die salute you, She got up and went to the door. She opened it. “Hi.”

They stood, eyes locked, for what seemed like forever before Willow finally took two steps back and, in the nervous voice she remembered from long ago, said, “Come in.”

He did. “Nice place.” Which it was. Willow had figured if she were going to be a hermit, she should make her house as close to her dream home as she could. Her furniture was eccentric but comfortable, most of the pieces one-of-a-kind, and she’d discovered to her surprise that she had a good eye for art. Two of the paintings on her wall had already doubled in value since she bought them from local artists. Guess maybe Joyce had rubbed off on her. She liked to think so anyway.

Waiting for the other shoe to drop was nerve-wracking, though, and the feeling of magic once again building beneath her skin was making her twitch even more than before, so she decided to cut to the chase. “I’m sorry about Fred. I didn’t know. You probably don’t believe that, and I don’t blame you, so if you’re here to kill me…” With that, she tilted her head slightly to the side, letting her hair fall away from her neck.

She wasn’t surprised at all when Angel grabbed her.

The surprise part? That was when he hugged her. “I know it wasn’t your fault.” Huh? Okay, that was nice, but the whole being hugged thing was strange after so long without physical contact. It felt… really intimate. One more thing that was making her twitch.

“Why are you here?” she asked once he finally let go.

“You’re not easy to find.” Was it just her or was that a non sequitur? She must have looked as confused as she felt, because he offered an actual answer then. “I need your help.”

“You need my help?” What could he need…? Oh. Maybe she should tell him something. “I don’t… I gave up magic. So if you need something on the computer, that’s cool, but…” Oh god. The expression on his face. She was right. He’d wanted something magical “ something really important, obviously, because he looked totally crushed. “I’m sorry,” she said, putting what she hoped was a comforting hand on his shoulder. “I might know somebody who can help. I’ll call some of my old contacts and stuff. It’s just that, after what happened to Fred, I…”

His eyes shot wide and his expressing brightened. “What if I told you this was about Fred?”

Now it was Willow’s eyes that shot open “ she could almost feel her eyeballs bulging. But no… it couldn’t be. She’d been told… “Her soul is gone… isn’t it?” Did he…? Oh god. He just shook his head! Wait, though. Was that a ‘no it isn’t’ shake or a ‘yeah it’s gone and it’s a tragedy’ shake? “It’s…?”

“Her soul is still… it still exists.”

Willow stumbled to a chair just in time before she collapsed and began to weep. Fred. She wasn’t gone “ not completely. Oh how Willow hoped she was in a good place. But wait. How… “How do you know?” Her voice was choked with emotion and barely audible.

“Lorne. And before you ask, I don’t know how he knows and I don’t know how to reach him to ask. He still hasn’t forgiven me for… what I asked him to do.” There was a story there, but Willow decided not to ask him to tell it. She had her own stories she’d prefer to hold inside. “He called, said his peace, and that was it. He told me I should call you. I didn’t even get the chance to tell him I had no idea where you were before he hung up.”

All kinds of ideas began roiling through Willow’s head about what this could mean. It wasn’t like Fred had died, so maybe…

Then the burn of magic that had once been so natural she never noticed it became more insistent and it reminded her… oh damn it! Of all the ironies. “I’ve been sending all my power back into the Earth,” she choked out, hoping Angel could see how sorry she was. “I’ve been doing it every day for almost a year now. If I’d only known, but now… I don’t think I could go to war with a god. Even before… back when I fought Glory… I was strong then and I only managed a draw. I don’t think… Oh god, Angel, I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.” She kept repeating the apology over and over, tears flowing and her voice becoming thicker and less intelligible.

He was just standing there, looking lost, and Willow was sure he hated her, which she didn’t blame him for at all. She hated herself. Okay, there was no way she could have known, but… Her eyes went around the room, wanting to look anywhere but at the vampire crumbling before her and…

Oh goddess! There… It was a spell she’d done as a newbie. All right, it was a big spell and she had felt a force bigger than she was, but lightning could strike twice and maybe the unexpected magic boost was a sign and… “The Orb of Thesulah,” she choked out. “I have one… I… just in case…” She leapt from her chair and raced to the shelf with ‘the bad box’ and there it was, looking just like a cutesy paperweight from the Psychic Eye or some other New Age mass marketer.

But Angel still looked lost. “I used this to restore your soul, remember? Twice.” She could see realization dawn… but then she herself deflated as it struck her… “Your demon wasn’t a god, though.” She was about to put the Orb back when Angel grabbed her arm.

“She’s not… Illyria’s not as powerful as she was. Her… Fred’s body couldn’t contain all of it. Wesley…” Angel’s expression grew sad and then turned hard. “He used a Mutari generator to extract most of it.”

It took a moment for Willow to process what Angel told her, but when she did… “Oh… oh!” Not that that made this a cakewalk, but it made things possible… or sort of possible. Maybe. In a long shot kind of way. “I need to be close to her. Oh, not in the same room, or even the same building, but… the same town would be good.” In her head, Willow was already assembling the email requesting a bereavement leave from her job when…

“They’re here. In San Francisco.”

Well that made it easier, sort of, as long as she pretended that she wasn’t still almost terrified of the magic still building beneath her skin.

That made her wonder. “Maybe they know,” she whispered.

“No. They don’t even know I’m here, or that you are.”

She hadn’t realized Angel would hear that. “I don’t mean Illyria.” Who did he mean by… “You said they?” she asked, interrupting herself.

“Spike. For some reason he’s been tagging along with her since the battle. We don’t have much contact anymore. He called me once, but only because he needed money.” A soft sigh that spoke of family and all the complicated feelings he had for his. “I know they’re here because of the credit card bill.”

As much as Willow sympathized with Angel, she couldn’t get sidetracked by her concern for his situation right now. From a practical perspective, she realized Spike’s friendship with Illyria might complicate things. If Willow had learned anything, it was that she did not want Spike as an enemy. Been there, done that, almost got turned into her leather-wearing dominatrix vampire doppelganger. “Spike likes her… like this?”

Angel nodded, but then said, “He liked Fred more. If we could get her back… Don’t worry. You don’t need to worry about him.”

Setting the Orb down gently, Willow took a deep breath. “I can’t promise this will work. I think maybe the Powers want this, though. I’ve been feeling way more magic in me than usual today.”

A second later, she found herself being hugged by Angel “ again. And again, it was weird and more intimate than she thought was strictly kosher. He seemed to feel the same way because when he let go there was an expression of… not discomfort, maybe awkwardness, but he was also looking at her like he was seeing someone new.

Yeah, she was feeling kind of the same way. It had been a while “ how many full moons? “ since she’d gotten at all tingly over a guy.

Now was not the time. She pulled the bag of sacred sand from ‘the bad box’ and told Angel to “stand over by the couch” as she drew a circle carefully in the center of the room. She picked up the Orb and was about to enter the circle when she thought of something “ something important. “Angel?” He nodded. “Before I do this, I need you to promise me something.” He nodded again. “I want your promise before you hear what it is, okay?”

He looked puzzled, annoyed, and slightly fearful, but after a moment, he said, “I promise. You have my word.”

“If I start to… If my veins turn black… my hair… You need to kill me.” He looked horrified, but she was resolute. “I mean it.”

Slowly, he nodded one last time. “I’ll do it.”

Somehow she was sure he meant it and that gave her the calm she needed. With a nervous smile on her lips, she entered the circle and sat cross-legged, the Orb in her lap, mentally asking the goddess to bless her and guide her as she performed this task.

The words, so long unspoken, flowed as if written on a page before her, and at first, nothing was changed from what it had been:

“Quod perditum est, invenietur
Not dead nor not of the living
Spirits of the Interregnum, I call.”

But then…

“Cast out the usurper.
Send it back from whence it came.
Restore the body to the soul to whom it belongs.”

Her head jerked back and she could feel heat and light and power all around “ within “ and more words poured forth from her but she was too caught up in the intensity of the spell to even understand. Once more, she was being guided by something greater than she was.

Then it was over… which she only realized when she opened her eyes and saw a panicked Angel…

Sideways.

Oh goddess, she’d passed out, hadn’t she? She didn’t feel all black and veiny though, so that was of the good. “I think it worked,” she managed, just as the sound of a cell phone’s ring… was that Kayla? No, it wasn’t her phone, a perception which was returned when Angel reached into his pocket and answered his own.

“Spike?”

Willow immediately tensed and tried to get up, but Angel reached out to her and pushed on her shoulder to keep her on the ground.

Then she heard a tinny, phone-distorted version of a voice she remembered well, a very loud voice. “She’s back, Peaches! Fred! She’s back. Don’t ask me how, but…”

“Willow,” Angel interrupted. “I’m with her right now.” There was silence and then it seemed like Spike must have said something more softly this time because Angel smiled and said, “I’ll tell her. See you in a few.”

“I guess I shouldn’t have worried about Spike, huh?”

There were tears in Angel’s eyes and then… she was scooped up from the floor and held close, like a child. “Thank you. I… thank you.” Then, to her shock, Angel kissed her.

It wasn’t on the forehead.

Was it hot in here or was it just her? Oh heck, who cared? Willow wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him back.

Tongues might have been involved.

On both sides.

Of course then they came to their senses.

“I’m sorry.”

In stereo.

Nervous chuckling and then Angel set her down. Amazingly, Willow was able to stand.

“I’m really glad it worked.” Willow grinned, possibly too cheesily. “You probably want to go see them now, huh?”

“Yeah. But you’re coming too. We’re going out for dinner if she’s up to it “ you, me, Spike, and Fred.” Oh god! A double date? Willow was trying to figure out if this was officially a Back to Boy’s Town thing “ and if so, did it mean she could throw away that Rita Mae Brown novel? “ when Angel added, “We’re relying on you to tell us where to get the best tacos.”

Oh. Okay. This was a ‘local friend’ kind of thing. That was fine. Good even. And no, she wasn’t disappointed at all. She loved Rita Mae Brown. Really. “Cool!” Ouch. She had just chirped, hadn’t she? No big deal, though, right? Because nothing about that said ‘overcompensation’ in any way… well except for the ‘in every way’ part.

“I’d want you with us even if you didn’t know how to find a phone book,” Angel said, taking her hand and staring into her eyes.

She should really be thinking about Buffy right now and feeling guilty, but she wasn’t. Buffy had a shiny new boyfriend, and anyway, it wasn’t like Willow and Angel were…

“Spike offered to shag you.”

Wha…? “Huh?”

“He told me to tell you that. He said your girlfriend could watch too.”

“I don’t have a girlfriend. And anyway, I’m not into boys…” she paused, saw the flash of disappointment in Angel’s eyes and then added, “who dye their hair. I kinda got over that after Oz.”

Angel said nothing, but he gave her an appraising look that made her blush and then he smirked. “Willow, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

Still holding her hand, he escorted her out of the house and to his car. Willow paused for a moment and stared up at the sky.

“What are you thinking?”

Today had started like every other day since she moved here but in one night she’d made peace with magic, righted a horrible injustice which she’d been used to help bring about, and put a toe back over the border into Boy’s Town.

What was she thinking about? “Nothing. Let’s go see Fred. I know where to get the best tacos you’ll ever eat.”




The End.
This story archived at http://nha.magical-worlds.us/viewstory.php?sid=7251