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Caged

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Willow stood in front of the cage, watching Angelus inside. He was saying something in his 'sleep'. She reached a hand out to touch the bars, whirling around as she heard someone on the stairs.

Wesley gave a strained smile. "Sorry, didn't mean to startle you. I was looking for you upstairs. Was worried when I couldn't find you."

"It's okay." Willow let out the breath she didn't realize she was holding. "Just wasn't listening for any of Angel's friends."

"Not a friend. Just me." Willow frowned a little at the bitterness she thought she heard.

Wesley dropped his eyes as he felt her looking at him. He walked over to stand next to her. "Funny. How completely different Angel and Angelus are."

"Being turned changes you, but it also just brings out things inside you. Things you would never let yourself do, things you didn't realize were in you. And not just evil stuff. I mean, some of it can be pretty normal. Good even. You think you'd never do something, but then you realize...." Willow's voice trailed away as Wesley was now focused on her. "Okay, didn't mean to go there."

"Willow, you sound almost as if you know what it's like to be a vampire."

"I was kinda. I mean not me me, but me. Sorta." Willow had to turn back to the cage. "When Anya was trying to get back to being Anyanka, when she first arrived in town, she tricked me into helping her with a spell. To get her power base back. But instead we brought me from another reality. Where Buffy never came to Sunnydale and the Master had taken over. Me and Xander were his two favorite Childer. Well, the me and Xander from there. Everyone feared us." A strange smile crossed her face. "The Master captured Angel and he became Puppy. A reward for doing a good job was being allowed to play with Puppy." Willow suddenly caught herself, her face turning a bright red as she glanced at Wesley before looking down.

Wesley continued to look at her in amazement. He could sense her embarrassment, but there was something else there as well. Something calling out to him. "She, the other Willow, told you all this? How else was she different from you?"

Willow looked up in surprise. Her eyes caught Wesley's. Something in them... Willow caught her bottom lip in her teeth. "She was so sure of herself. Powerful. She had some local vampires working for her in no time." Willow walked around the cage, suddenly needing to move. "She was everything I wasn't and wanted to be. People noticed her."

"They paid attention. Didn't just assume you'd be there no matter what, ready to help. You weren't the one in the background, trying to prove your worth. Always having to explain himself to everyone. Having to worry about your actions."

"Could just do and take what you wanted. Didn't have to worry about anyone else judging you."

"Didn't have to see their disappointment in you. Have them turn their backs on you and then wonder why you're different now."

Willow's eyes seemed darker somehow as she looked back at Wesley. "Before, when I told you about flaying someone and almost ending the world? I finally knew how it was to be her. Having that power. That..."

"Freedom."

"Freedom." She quietly echoed. "Do you ever wonder, Wesley? If it's really worth fighting it? The Darkness I mean. The Evil. It seems like no matter how much we try, there's always something else to have to deal with."

"Someone has to. Fight the good fight and all that. It's what I spent half my life training to do."

"I didn't. I just got wrapped up in it because of Buffy. I didn't even know vampires were real before she came. I mean, she's my best friend. And she's saved my life over and over again. But she always has to be so...noble. And it seems like she's allowed to do things just cause she's the Slayer. Always has to be for the Greater Good. Even if the Greater Good has just ripped your heart out."

Wesley put his hand on Willow's shoulder. "I wish I knew what to say."

"Just admit that the Darkness feels so good. That I'm not the only one it calls to. I'm not the only one fighting it every day. Scared and hoping that someday it will win and take me."

"You're not. It does call to me. Some times louder then others. When I see that look on their faces. When it just seems to be too much. I want to leave all of them behind. And yes, make them feel like how I feel, whether they deserve it or not."

"How you feel."

The two of them shared a look, then turned to face the staircase when they heard footsteps. Gunn and Fred stopped near the bottom.

"Hey, English. We got a lead on that last ingredient Willow here needs. Connor, Fred and I are going. Lorne's watching over Faith and Cordy's still upstairs. I assume you can watch the place okay?" Gunn's expression said he had his doubts.

"Willow, Buffy called. She wanted to know why you hadn't called when you got here and how much longer you're going to be with us. She sounded kinda mad." Fred's eyes went to Angelus inside the cage, giving a little shiver as she thought back to when he had grabbed her.

Wesley glared at Gunn while Willow half smiled and nodded her head.

Gunn put his hand on Fred's shoulder, squeezing it. "Come on Fred. Sooner we get Angel back, the better."

Wesley and Willow watched them leave, then turned back to each other.

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Angelus woke up with a start, groaning as he held his head. Fucking Slayers. What was it with them and sending him to Hell? Though he almost preferred the Hell that bitch Buffy had sent him to over the one that bitch Faith had. He thought Angel had really looked at him for a second. But then...

Angelus froze when he realized he wasn't laying on the basement floor anymore.

His eyes snapped open and he jumped to his feet, scanning the room around him. He frowned as he realized he was in Wesley's apartment. The frown deepened as he saw who was sitting by the bed.

Then he began to laugh.

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"I can't believe it took us three stops just to get some stupid herb. And can just one of those shopkeepers be a regular human, just once?" Gunn threw his axe down on the counter in disgust.

"Hey, at least that last one had it. Bad enough we're using magic, don't need to make a substitution on top of it." Connor glowered at the small bundle in Fred's hand.

"Guys, there's a message on the machine." With a frown, Fred pushed the play button.

"Well gang, today's your lucky day." Angelus' voice boomed out of the recorder, the laughter evident. "Seems I'm going to be a little busy for a while. Hope you don't miss me too much. But don't worry, we're all going to have a little get together soon enough. But duty calls.

I do have to say, it does take the fun out of it when they ask, well beg really, to be turned. No thrill of the hunt like with Dru. But, you do get that automatic loyality. Speaking of which: Connor, tell your slut upstairs we're going to finish our talk. Fred, tell Buffy that Willow says hi. She'll be visiting her soon. And Gunn, you can thank me for getting Wesley outta your hair. Oh, sorry, guess I shouldn't have said it like that. But you know what I mean. They would tell you themselves, but they're a little busy right now. And don't worry, Lorne and Faith are safe and sound, if a little uncomfortable at the moment. I was tempted, but figured 'Hey, why not let them live?' Give my boy and girl a prey they already know as part of their training.

Well, got to go. This isn't exactly the kind of place I had in mind for my Childer to die in. Not the best view, that southern exposure's a real bitch I gotta tell ya. So we're taking off. My girl mentioned somewhere nice. A place to really let loose. Sooo, be seeing ya around."

The three of them looked at each other. And wondered what they were going to do.