Willow and Angelus: Dangerous Love

by Kendra A.

distinguishing w/aus from w/a 

reality: the difference between lust and love 

things to look out for: fanfiction stereotypes 

changing with the times: fanfic writers need to move on 

One thing that should be established from the very start about the Willow/Angelus pairing is that it is not the same as Willow/Angel. 

There is a misconception that Willow and Angel in a relationship automatically means Willow and Angelus would be, and vice-versa [1]. This is not true. Angel and Angelus are not the same person, though they both inhabit the same body. Angel is Liam [2]—two hundred-odd years older, true, and more responsible, romantic, adult and guilt-ridden; but Angelus is a demon. A sexy demon, of course, and his being a demon does not in any way make him an illegitimate partner for anyone; but the distinction has to be made. 

There are so many fics that make Angelus out to be a sappy kind of guy. Perhaps after years of exposure to humans (like Anya), Angelus might soften, but his entrapment behind Angel’s soul is enough to make him really, seriously hate—we all remember BtVS’ Second Season, don’t we? Angelus hated Buffy. He hated all of her friends who had treated Angel as one of their own. He even hated Spike and Drusilla, who had been there to witness Angel’s weakness, and in the end he hated the world enough that he was ready to send it to Hell. 

But I digress. None of this is to say that Angelus isn’t capable of love. Joss Whedon and his team of writers—and even more so the thousands of amazing fanfiction writers out there—have shown us time and again that a demon is capable of love and, if they want or need it (they don’t always), redemption. What this does mean is that the Angelus we know—abstracted from any particular fanfic-y plotlines—does not love the way Angel does. 

Now, to the point: Willow and Angelus. 

A fanfic favorite is that Angelus is drawn to Willow —actually, this is a favorite excuse for any romance in any fandom, with any pair (or trio, or orgy…). It makes us happy to think so. Willow , our favorite girl—so meek, so mild, but with all that hidden fire that makes her snap at the nastiest of nasties without thinking—and of course, she’s a computer hacker (which is really cool), and she’s magic girl. And she’s got great hair. The “irresistible” thing has been done over and over again, but it seems to work almost ! every time. However, what I don’t buy is that Angelus would be in love with Willow from the very start. 

Oh, sure, it’s easy to provide evidence that he finds her attractive (“She’s so cute and helpless—it’s really a turn-on [3]” is one of the more poplar quotes); who doesn’t? Work with me here: even the straightest of straight girls and the gayest of gay guys have got to admit that little Ms. Rosenberg is something special. Lust is not the problem. The problem is finding out where the love comes from. 

From Willow ’s side of the equation, it’s not too hard. She herself has admitted she finds Angel attractive (disregarding the whole soulful/soulless problem), and since most of W/Aus fanfic is set when Willow is an angsting teenage girl, and since a great many of us fanfic writers (be fair, you know it’s true) will be, are now, or used to be angsting teenage girls ourselves, we can get how a girl as pure-hearted as Willow could be attracted—secretly, against her wishes, of course—to her best friend’s boyfriend, and how that attraction would remain even when sai! d boyfriend became the Big Bad. Please: how many times have we insisted that “Ours is a forbidden love! [4]” was said in jest but meant from the heart? And we’re all hyper-aware of Willow ’s forgiving tendencies: she wants to believe that everything’s sunshine and daisies. She doesn’t like to think that there are people who really, truly are evil. She’s ready to give someone a second chance, but she’s pretty clever: she forgives but nev er forgets. 

Of course, her idealism can always be her undoing: given a chance to try and redeem Angelus, Willow could be caught! Kidnapped! Turned! Fanfic doesn’t vary too much on these themes, at least not when it’s set before or during BtVS Seas on Four. Willow is a perfect model of the damsel in distress and, quite frankly, she really was one until Season Five, when she really started to come into her powers. 

The damsel in distress thing isn’t always fun, though—we’ve all read Anastasia and Inell’s “Fallen Angels”[5] (and if you haven’t, you should). A great read, of course, but too realistically, Willow is at the mercy of Angelus and Spike. Her only defense is to make them fall in love with her. 

… But really. How realistic is this? Angelus is not a nice guy and neither—in all honesty—is Spike. Angelus in particular is out to prove that he’s bad. Angel—this soulful, pansyish impostor—has been swaggering around in Angelus’ body, dropping his name, saving people, falling in love with a Slayer and making nice with her friends! It seems to me that the last thing Angelus wants to do is go and fall in love with anyone, particularly not an admittedly—forgive me—wimpy teenaged girl. I’ve been proven wrong, of course, several times. If Willow and Angelus can reach an understanding of sorts—if Angelus finds Willow interesting enough to keep around—if he’s Big and Bad enough to castrate, disembowel, behead or otherwise teach a long-lasting lesson to anyone who dares to speak up against him—if Willow can convince Angel that her trust is worth the tarnishing his rep would take if he lets the Scooby Gang live—then, yes. Willow and Angelus work. They work beautifully. Angelus finds he likes the way he feels when Willow trusts him (or, more specifically, has sex with him willingly); Willow decides she can forgive Angelus for the obligatory introductory rape[6] (is that always necessary? It seems so: vampires are all about sex and blood), and they usually end up galloping off into the sunset, or at the very least driving smoothly away in Angelus’ suave and svelte black convertible. 

But this ending is not a given. What if all Angelus wants from Willow is sex[7]? What if Willow can’t convince him that her engaging, lucid conversation is reason enough to keep her alive? What if Angelus’ cold, dead heart isn’t prompted into beating again by Willow ’s inherent forgiveness, touching innocence and beautiful love of life? 

Usually, we get another Drusilla. 

Why wouldn’t Angelus have a pattern? Maybe he likes ‘em insane. Maybe Angel’s fervent love for Buffy was his souled part’s denial of the demon’s need to take and break. Maybe Angel chose the strongest girl he could find [8] because he hoped she wouldn’t let him break her. 

If Angelus were interested enough in Willow to keep her—but not keep her alive—he would turn her, but I honestly don’t think he’d try to make her his consort. Vampires are treacherous; a consort is great for the sex and the eternal companionship, true, but a consort is also a rival. Despite the obligatory sire/childe relationships that I won’t get into now because it’ll take too long[9], an ambitious childe would not hesitate to do away with her sire, if he were the only thing in the way of achieving mastery. 

Remember, neither Angelus nor Darla wanted to keep Spike when Drusilla brought him home [10]; that was because Spike, unlike Dru, was not insane. As a childe (as opposed to a minion) of a childe of an extremely powerful vampire, Spike had the potential for serious power-stealing—the main reason he didn’t try to gain advantage over Darla and Angelus was because he was too involved with Drusilla to care. The likelihood of Willow being made Angelus’ consort if he didn’t love her is, in my opinion, next to none. 

All of these opinions are, of course, just opinions, though they aren’t unfounded. Pure Angelus/Willow fanfic simply isn’t that large of a genre—most W/Aus mixes in some W/A, and Willow /Angel on its own is more popular. It is thus difficult to make these kind of generalizations when there frankly isn’t that much to generalize about. There is not much new Willow/Angelus, either—that was far more popular before BtVS Season Five began, I think because people are accustomed to seeing the Willow /Angelus relationship in a certain light: with Willow at the mercy of t! he Big Bad. While this makes sense—that was all we could really conceptualize up through Third Season without getting really outlandish and dressing Willow up in leather and completely re-designing her character—this kind of leaves us at a dead end. The “rules” of any one fandom’s fic are established by the pioneering writers, and it is extremely hard to brea k out of the mold. One of the problems is that the Willow we’ve got now, to be blunt, kicks ass. 

It’s kind of surprising to me still. Most of the ideas I get about Willow I get from fanfiction. For instance, her hair isn’t really “ fla ming.” Be honest, guys, it’s never been “flaming,” particularly not during the First and Second Seasons, when people were still in the midst of the initial justifying- Willow -as-beautiful phase. Now that BtVS is healthily into its Seventh Season, most of us long-tim! e writers are comfortable enough with Willow ’s character that there is a lot of new fiction that waxes poetic about other things than physical beauty (although we never leave that out, of course). Willow ’s eyes aren’t emerald, either. They’re a sort of amber-hazel-greenish-brownish (there’s also this misconception that Buffy’s eyes are blue [11]. Whatever). 

Anyway, these stereotypes extend beyond those teeny physical details. We’re also all accustomed to envisioning the Willow in a W/Aus relationship as a short, skinny, young, inexperienced, relatively unmagical, high-voiced fluffy sweater-wearing hacker with a tendency towards the babbling. Granted, Willow is skinny. But Alyson Hannigan—not that short, guys. She’s at least five foot six, maybe a little more. She is definitely taller than Buffy, who always looks taller than her own five foot two (or is it five foot three! ?) because she wears high heels. She’s not that young— Willow ’s twenty-one, twenty-twoish as of Season Seven, in her last year of undergraduate college. She’s been in two very meaningful relationships that we all know didn’t skimp on the sex. She practically blasted the world into oblivion with her magic, and now she’s all in tune with the Earth. We don’t know what that means, but it sounds cool, huh? Also, as Willow has matured, her voice has seriously dropped—in the very few lines she got in the musical, what we heard was not a soprano singing. Willow is an alto. She has this mature come-hither thing going on now. She hasn’t gone near the fluffy sweaters since the beginning of Fourth Season—as a matter of fact, what she’s wearing now is what innumerable fanfic authors have been writing her into for years. The tight jeans, the short skirts, the Steve Madden boots—she wore mesh tights earlier this season, did anyone notice? And the whole bohemian thing she had going on in Sixth Seas on was pretty cool, too. 

She still hacks—but her main strength seems to be in the magic, now, which is interesting because that’s also her greatest weakness. She only babbles when she’s really nervous, nothing like the talk that needed to be monitored in Third Seas on. And now—now her hair color has finally come close to what could liberally be called “flaming” or “blood red” or “auburn with golden highlights.” Our baby’s grown up, which rocks—this is dream Willow , guys! But none of us seem to know what to do with grown-up Willow when it comes to Angelus. Our old tool was Willow ’s fear. But now… She’s killed a man. She’s levitated a bag of knives, she’s gotten the hang of talking telepathically, she can magically shield herself against pretty much anything (that weak shield against the UberVamp was a ruse), and as far as we know, she can still float a mean pencil [12]. What does Dream Willow have to fear from Angelus, particularly when it was she who real! ly defeated him by restoring his soul last time? 

What we have to do as fanfic writers is overcome the self-imposed stereotypes that are suffocating the Willow /Angelus relationship. It’s almost extinct as it is—the last really excellent W/Aus fic I’ve read set relatively near to recent seasons was Part IV of Medea’s “Masters and Minions” series, and even that was AU [13]. We have to reconstruct the Willow /Angelus fandom, or at least crack a couple of holes in it to let the new ideas in. A Willow without fear means an Angelus with respect. 

On that note, considering Angelus is scheduled to make an appearance on Angel this season, how do you think he’d react if he hightailed it to Sunnydale? Willow has finally blossomed. She’s changed—which means we all have to, too. 

[1] “There is a misconception that Willow and Angel in a relationship automatically means Willow and Angelus would be, and vice-versa.” On a further note, I do not mean to say that it is inconceivable for Willow to have a relationship both with Angel and Angelus. This happens in plenty of fics, and seems to work just fine (Tisienne Blue is particularly fond of this tack, and, in my opinion, does a great job in rationalizing her theory that for Angel or Angelus to be in a ! working relationship with anyone, the soul and the demon need to come to… and understanding). The point I am making is that Willow and Angel together does not mean Willow and Angelus by default, and Willow and Angelus together does not mean Willow and Angel by default. 

[2] “Angel is Liam.” Actually, this is arguably not true: Angel can be said to be a combination of Liam and Angelus (the demon never disappears, remember?), while Angelus is just demon. For more on this, I suggest reading some of Medea’s fanfiction if you haven’t already. 

[3] “She’s so cute and helpless—it’s really a turn-on.” This is a quote from the BtVS Season Two episode “ Inn ocence.” For more, check out Psyche’s Transcripts and Fanfiction. 

[4] “Ours is a forbidden love!” This is a quote from the BtVS Seas on Two episode “Lie To Me.” The Place Where Forbidden Love Dwells was one of the first large Willow /Angel(us) archives on the ‘Net. 

[5] Anastasia and Inell’s “Fallen Angels” can be found both at Anastasia’s site, Dark Comforts, and Inell’s site, Kiss or Kill. For easier searching, it can be found under Angel/Angelus or Willow /Spike/Angel fanfiction on the respective sites. 

[6] “ Willow decides she can forgive Angelus for the obligatory introductory rape.” All too often, authors demonstrate the depths of Angelus’ badness by having him rape—or, more commonly, seduce—a seriously reluctant Willow . There is a very fine line between seduction and rape, but really I think in this situation it’s the same thing. Angelus is a two hundred-year-old vampire who knows more than any healthy person should about sex and how to get it when he wants it. Most W/Aus fics take place during BtVS Season Two, when Willow ’s an extremely inexperienced, extremely insecure teenaged girl. It is far too easy for Angelus to overwhelm Willow with compliments and sex appeal. Technically, Willow consents to have sex, but it’s not really a balanced situation. This, in my opinion, is rape. Now—as an author who has more than once used rape as a convenient plot device, I am not condemning the use of rape as a tool in a fanfic. However, I think it is something that should be re! cognized and taken seriously. 

[7] “What if all Angelus wants from Willow is sex?” One of the best-written prime examples of this particular scenarios is “Dianthus Barbatus,” by Kate the Cursed at Pure Evil. Heads up for serious NC-17 content, angst, and chill-factor. 

[8] “Maybe Angel chose the strongest girl he could find.” Yes, I mean Buffy. I honestly believe that Angel and Buffy had a serious love thang going on for the first two seasons, and I’ve pretty much gotten over my Buffy-bashing phase (though Buffy Bashers Anonymous will always hold a special place in my heart). I’ve had some flaming for my trouble, though, so I just think it’s fair to let y’all know where I’m coming from. 

[9] “The obligatory sire/childe relationships that I won’t get into now because it’ll take too long…” Ah. Yes. Those. Vampire protocol gets so complicated that I just don’t feel it has much to do with this essay. You want to know more about vampiric customs? Check out Medea’s “Masters and Minions” and Laure Alexander’s “The Erotic Adventures of Willow and Spike.” There are tons of fanfics out there that deal with the intricacies of vampire social what-have-yous (all of it a jumble of what-Joss-says, what-Anne-Rice-says, what-Vampire-the-Masquerade-says, and what-I-the-author-say), but those are the only two I can recommend offhand. It’s getting late, you know. 

[10] “Neither Angelus nor Darla wanted to keep Spike when Drusilla brought him home.” This can be proven in the BtVS Seas on Five episode “Fool For Love.” The reasons I give are my own, but they’re not based on shadows and clouds. When I find some actual concrete proof to make these godforsaken footnotes even longer, I’ll let you all know. 

[11] “There’s also this misconception that Buffy’s eyes are blue.” Buffy’s eyes are green. This is a particular pet peeve of mine, when people make up physical details about live-action characters that aren’t true. Buffy’s eyes are, in fact, greener than Willow ’s are. Check out a close-up photo sometime and you’ll see what I mean. 

[12] (a) “She’s killed a man.” After Warren killed Tara , Willow went on a revenge rampage and killed him right back, quite painfully, in the BtVS Season Six episode “Two To Go.” 

(b) “She’s levitated a bag of knives.” After Glory… er… sucked Tara ’s brains out, Willow went on a revenge rampage. She seems to do that, huh? BtVS Seas on Five, “Tough Love.” 

(c) “She’s gotten the hang of talking telepathically.” This is one of my favorites. Willow did the talk-y thing with Spike in BtVS Season Five’s “The Gift,” on patrol in Season Six’s “Bargaining, Part I,” to Anya in “Grave,” and with Buffy and Xander in Season Seven’s “Showtime.” 

(d) “She can magically shield herself against pretty much anything (that weak shield against the UberVamp was a ruse).” We first saw Willow ’s neat magic-y shield in Season Five’s “The Weight of the World,” and we saw it again in Season Seven’s “Selfless” when she kept that creepy spider-y thing away. And then, of course, she momentarily kept off the UberVamp in “Showtime,” but I was led to believe that was del iberately weak, as a supplement to Buffy’s little performance. 

(e) “She can still float a mean pencil.” Season Three. You should know this one without me helping you. “Doppelgangland,” since you’re curious. 

(d) “It was she who really defeated him by restoring his soul last time.” This is really just my opinion—Buffy did the slayage, but Willow restored Angel’s soul, which was crucial. I don’t think Buffy would have killed Angelus in time, otherwise. Oh, come on, you know this. Season Two. “Becoming, Part II.” 

[13] “Part IV of Medea’s ‘Masters and Minions’ series.” Ah, yes. Dies Irae. Highly recommended.