Angel In A Bottle Continued...




Buffy was away from Angel's side and with Giles before he even had chance to mention the noise to her. "What was that?" she whispered. "Should we be worried about Angel's body?"

"I suspect that it's rather us than Angel that ought to be worried," Giles informed Buffy passively, reaching into his bag and beginning to rummage about. "The chances are if whatever it is felt able to attack Angel, Angel would already be dead. I've heard of curses where the death of the lone body can bring about terrible and lasting problems to the magic user who perpetrated the act. Possibly even an indefinite haunting of sorts. No, actually, it's entirely feasible he's protecting the body until he's sure he's dispatched the mind."

"And in the real world that would be, he's protecting Angel from us so that he can kill Angel?" Buffy looked mildly impatient.

"You mean why he's moving towards us?" Giles' voice rose a pitch or two. "No, I think it's more likely that's because he wants to kill us."

"About time," smiled Buffy, taking up a fighting stance. "Come and get it, little wizard."

"Err, Buffy, I don't think he was planning on..."

For a moment Giles was under the impression that the warehouse had been fitted with a highly functional lighting system, possibly an entire sun, and someone had chosen that moment to turn it on. Then he realised the light show wasn't quite that benevolent. "Buffy, run!"

Buffy held her ground, advancing slightly on the small, bearded, apparently human, warlock and getting a couple of kicks in before he could stop her. "I'll hold him off while you do something."

"Do something? Like what exactly?" Giles began to rifle more frantically through his bag, seeking a book which at the very least would contain a couple of handy counter-spells. "Buffy, do pay...."

He looked up to see Buffy flying through the air in a perfectly arced trajectory, hard enough to blast straight through one of the less solid walls with a clatter that made Giles wince despite himself. "... Attention." He added.

He looked up at the warlock and began to recite the words of the spell.

"Hear me, greater beings of all worlds, I summon thee..."

*********************************************************************************************************************

"There!" said Willow, the fight returning to her eyes as she saw sparks of light flashing around the inside of the vase. Flashes which completely confirmed the direction they had chosen. "I was right. Yay. Ten points to the hacker!"

"Definitely a magic user," grumbled Angel, hoping that magic wouldn't preclude some pummelling. "OK, Willow," he began to consider their options. And his, admittedly remote, chances of persuading her to let him take the first shot. Willow on the other hand wasn't waiting. She had already closed her eyes and had begun to wave her hands in the general direction of the flashes. "Willow, slow down. What are you doing?"

"I've been dying to try this," she whispered over the roar of the energies pooling around her.

Angel found himself wishing she hadn't chosen those words. And possibly that he could learn to think a little faster.

It seemed that distance wasn't important to Willow, something Angel hadn't really appreciated. She may have slowed her step, even stopped completely, but the spell she had begun to recite was clearly well underway and she showed no sign of pausing while he asked her to consider strategy. As she spoke, her palms pointed towards the source of the light unmoving now and Angel began to feel more than simply Willow's presence beside him. He didn't have much feel for magic, but he could feel the power coming through her as the spell took hold, taking her energy and turning it into a weapon to be hurled at their captor.

In the present circumstances, Angel was reluctant to admit it even to himself, but it was pretty scary. He knew that Buffy could take on anyone, but he was having a hard time imagining Willow in anything resembling the same, well, breath. Not that he breathed - maybe that was the problem.

Then the spell activated fully, and light bright enough to make Angel squint flew from Willow, clearly well beyond her control now as it targeted the source of the other lights, and hopefully the warlock. Briefly, it was as though an entire store's worth of fireworks had been set off simultaneously. Angel found himself fiercely willing it away from them, even throwing the odd kick in its direction, in the vain hope that he was somehow helping. After all, it was a battle of minds.

But the opposing lights seemed to be gaining.

This can't be good, thought the vampire.

There was really only one choice. Much as he wanted to properly hit the source of his current frustration, Angel wasn't willing to leave Willow just now, even if it meant their freedom. He had no idea what was might happen to her then.

So he had to stay and help.

And if he couldn't add to the magic independently, maybe the only way was by adding to Willow's own energy.

Standing cautiously behind the red head, Angel reached over her shoulders and took hold of each of her hands, ensuring that he touched her bare skin with his palms too facing their enemy.

It was a heady experience, and not one Angel was in a hurry to repeat. As the spell began to take hold of him too, channelling his considerable energy into the blasts spewing from Willow's hands, Angel was sure he must have grabbed hold of a live wire which was at this very moment burning the flesh from his palms. Belatedly, he wondered if the spell was vampire-proof, he wouldn't be much use to Willow as a pile of spell-induced dust either.

Then, to Angel's amazement, the forces buffeting against them began to recede and finally die off, with the sparks flying between them slowly easing off and disappearing until there was once again the dimly lit darkness of the vase. Initially, he was hit with the traditional end of battle good cheer, as the threat had quite clearly subsided, but then all at once he was struck by Willow's limp body in his arms.

And his surroundings.

They were still in the vase.

And then they weren't.

********************************************************************************************************************

Not for the first time, Giles had been completely sure that he was dead.

The warlock had been hitting them with everything he'd got, with bolts of light showering all around them, and no easy means of escape even making us of his meagre selection of magical volumes. Buffy was clearly dazed and slightly disoriented and Giles himself found that even hurling the books at the warlock didn't make the blindest bit of difference. They were doomed.

Then another force was added to the mix, and one acting on their side.

Willow, he hoped.

Suddenly, the warlock was confronted with the power of Willow's will, and he found himself in trouble. As their opponent's attention was turned, Buffy and Giles released a renewed attack, with Buffy providing further, physical, distraction as Giles finally let forth the best spell he could muster for the moment, intended to undo all magic currently in use by the warlock.

Then, the little man crumpled to the ground and was still.

Under no illusion that they had been the cause of his demise, Buffy and Giles were justifiably cautious in approaching the body, aware of just how dangerous he might be if this was a ruse.

"We should get back," said Buffy, prodding the body cautiously with the toe of her boot.

"Agreed, but first we must see if we can glean any useful information from this fellow. Like perhaps why he might have been after yourself and Angel?" pointed out Giles.

Buffy shrugged, sticking her hands in her pockets and sinking down into a squat. "Where is Angel, anyway?" she asked. "He was right here."

"Fascinating." Giles couldn't resist. "It appears that the magical backlash must have been sufficient to catapult him across..."

"Catapult?" asked Buffy. "Literally?"

"Well, err, probably not. I'm afraid it's all rather theoretical and metaphysical, but I suspect that Angel's mind left the vase with Willow's and as a result his body found itself with him."

"Hellmouthy fun as usual then," noted Buffy. "We should really get back and check they're OK though."

"Absolutely, just one moment." Giles began to rummage through the pockets concealed beneath the man's robes.

********************************************************************************************************************

"What did you do to her?"

Angel blinked, the change of scenery confusing his senses considerably. He felt as though he'd just tried bungee jumping and mistakenly got run over by a truck as he hit the bottom. Do? Gathering his wits, or what remained of them, he glanced first at the palms of his hands, then, following his arms, up to the girl who still lay there unconscious. Somehow he was kneeling beside her bed, with his arms under her body, and in his opinion he was far too close to that annoying best friend of hers.

"What?" Angel finally managed to speak.

"Why are you back when she's still there? She was trying to help you, you bastard!" Xander sprang up from his side of the bed, and running round it began to punch Angel heavily in the face.

Changing, more by reflex than anything, Angel reached out to defend himself, only belatedly realising that his arms were temporarily trapped beneath Willow. "You'd better hope she's fine, Harris," he grumbled, gently removing his arms as rapidly as possible, and wiping the blood from the corner of his mouth. "If she's dead I don't need to keep my promise about hitting you, and you know I've had a really long day, I could do with a spot of mindless violence to round it off."

Xander backed up. "You're evil!"

Angel sighed, at least the boy had stopped hitting him. With considerable effort, and restraint that he felt should have earned him something other than stony faced glares, Angel changed back into his human face and sat on Willow's bed, his weight shifting her slightly as he did so.

"Willow, do you think you can wake up and tell this moron to stop hitting me?" he pleaded quietly, knocking away the cross Xander thrust in his face.

"You can't have her," persisted Xander.

"Because she's yours?" asked Angel, turning to the boy and looking him fiercely in the eyes.

"Yes."

"Now you have to share," Angel informed him, calmly, proud of himself for even maintaining that level of civility given the circumstances.

For once, Xander was silent, at least momentarily. Angel was grateful for the respite, it gave him chance to see how Willow was doing.

"What happened?" the boy asked. "Why were you with her?" He looked down at Willow's still body. "Is she OK?"

"I think she's just recovering," Angel told him, understanding at least his need to question. "There was a magic battle, she used a lot of power."

"Magic?" Xander's face fell.

"You don't like her using magic much, do you?" asked Angel.

"I can't protect her when she does that," said Xander. "I always said I'd look out for her, ya know."

"I know how you feel," replied Angel quietly.

They both turned back to the girl on the bed, a truce finally called as they recognised their similarities. Briefly.

"I have to just..." began Xander, leaping up again, although it seemed to Angel that he'd barely been still for a moment. "I have to go to the bathroom," he finished. "You won't hurt her, will you?"

Angel shook his head, unwilling to fight the boy any further, despite the implications. It seemed to be more habit than anything anyway, he presumed. "I promise."

"Cross your heart and... oh, never mind." Xander dashed out.

Angel turned his attention back to Willow as though Xander had never even been there. "Willow," he whispered, "I have to tell you how incredibly brave I thought you were back there. You were amazing, I can't even begin to... Willow?"

At first it was just a twitch in her hand, but then her eyes blinked wide open and he found himself talking to her directly.

"Willow!" he exclaimed, kissing her gently on the forehead, then moving to hug her tightly. "You're awake! We were worried."

"Wills!" Xander sprang back into the room excitedly as he realised that his buddy was awake again. "I guess I can't rag on Angel for hurting you if he brought you back to life too, huh?" He flung his arms round Willow, only letting go when she seemed to be having trouble breathing, then slapped Angel hard on the back. "Sorry, man."

Angel found he didn't entirely believe it. Although he wasn't entirely sure it made him want to hit the boy any less - maybe a little. So that he could have a cosy life as Willow's immortal pet rat maybe...

Or maybe not. Angel figured he'd had enough of being small for a while.

*******************************************************************************************************************

It was a long drive back to Sunnydale, especially in Giles' car, given the state of Buffy's mind as they'd left. Angel had vanished, and despite all the reassurance Giles could give, she was desperate to see both him and Willow safe. No particular longings for Angel, just a need to know that he was OK, Buffy supposed that that part was a relief, if she could just focus on that. It was hard though, with the way the car was shaking and dislodging every thought she had.

"At least we made it," said Giles, in answer to Buffy's silent complaints about the state of his car.

"Giles, the demons have better cars."

"Especially if evil provides company cars," he responded. "I thought you were in a rush to see Willow and Angel, rather than complementing my car's vintage?"

"I am," she agreed, running up the path to the dorm leaving Giles to follow at his own pace. He'd catch up.

The sight in her room was better than Buffy could have dreamed, not only were both Willow and Angel OK, but they were considerably less banged up than her and Giles. Not to mention Willow looked vaguely happy, and Angel and Xander were actually getting along. A nagging thought that she may have entered a parallel universe crossed Buffy's mind, but then Giles walked in and she remembered the journey back from LA. Certainly, in the perfect parallel universe, Giles would have a car that moved, Buffy figured she'd probably have one of her own too.

"Guys, Will, you all look so good! I was so scared there'd be massive hospital duty," exclaimed Buffy, moving around Xander to hug Willow.

"She had us worried for a little while," commented Angel, looking down at Willow. "How did it go your end?"

"Peachy, got thrown through a wall, warlock guy singed my hair and we lost an entire Angel body, but I'm here - no thanks to Giles' car." Buffy smiled.

"We do have a little news," put in Giles, "I'm afraid we failed to determine the source of the warlock's intentions, but we did firmly establish that he was a demon." He looked straight at Willow. "He wasn't human."

The relief in Willow's face was palpable, "thank you Giles," she beamed at him. "How did you know I'd...? You always know!"

"I've been there," he told her quietly. "But not you. It was a demon, remember that."

"And what party fun you are, G-Man. So, we're all here, we're all good, how about a nice relaxing demon-free evening?" suggested Xander. "Maybe at the Bronze?"

"Well, there is research to be done, you know," pointed out Giles. "We should try to establish what we're up against, should it try for Buffy or Angel again."

"Or Willow," added Angel.

"Or Willow," agreed Giles. "Nonetheless..."

"Giles," Buffy put her hand on his shoulder. "You need to take a break from the worry. We made it, we're good, we'll worry about the big new evil tomorrow."

"And in the meantime, party?" asked Xander.

"I-I'm thinking I might sit this one out, Xand," Willow told him apologetically, "I'm beat."

"Bad TV and ice cream party in dorm room?" suggested Xander.

"Again?" exclaimed Angel. "Do you ever eat anything other than ice cream?"

"Hey, Mr I-Only-Drink-One-Type-Of-Food!"

"Guys!" Buffy glared at them. "I thought you were getting along. Come on, chill out, relax, enjoy the vibe that is my friends are here and we beat the bad guy."

"Sure," said Xander, sitting back on Willow's bed. "I can do that."

"Me too," agreed Angel.

"I think I will take my opportunity to bid you all good night," put in Giles, "and well done."

"So," said Buffy, regarding the three people before her, "you said something about ice cream?"

Three tubs of ice cream and an assortment of spoons lay scattered on the dorm room floor besides the four warriors as they compared exploits and marvelled at the changes in their lives. But it was late now, late enough that Willow had already dropped off to sleep, leaning lightly on Angel's shoulder from her position against the bed, one of her feet drifting steadily closer to kicking the nearest tub of ice cream.

"Hey, Will! I was going to eat that," whispered Xander in mock protest as he moved the container.

"I guess it's time to call it a night, guys," said Buffy, nodding at the form of her sleeping friend.

"I should get back anyway," said Angel. "Before it gets light."

"How?" asked Buffy, "isn't your car in LA?"

Angel grinned, "There are other ways."

Buffy frowned.

"I called Wesley," confessed Angel.

"Cheater," muttered Xander, with no particular malice in his voice.

Slowly, Angel stood, taking Willow's still form and placing it on the bed again without waking her. "She looks so peaceful."

"Ice cream can cure anything," said Buffy.

"She's spent way too much time there the last few days though," pointed out Xander, nodding to the bed.

"She'll be OK," Angel told him, moving towards the door.

"Angel," Buffy made him turn, wondering what she was going to say. "thanks for the help."

"Any time," he replied. And there it was, complete peace between him and Buffy. He reached into his pocket and withdrew a small envelope, handing it to Buffy. "Give this to Willow."

*******************************************************************************************************************

The sun streamed through the blinds as Willow woke up, warming her and confirming beyond all doubt that the demons of the hour had been laid to rest. She felt better too, better than she had in weeks probably. Still, despite the gorgeous weather, it seemed a shame to rush out of bed, maybe she should just open one eye at a time.

The first eye revealed sunlight dancing across the room and over Buffy's empty bed. No great surprises there, it was probably late and Buffy's classes started earlier than hers today - assuming that was where she'd gone.

The second focussed on an envelope resting on her pillow and addressed to her in elegant handwriting.

"Willow...."

Finishing the letter, Willow smiled broadly. She really was having a much better day.


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