"If you really wanted to help me then why the hell didn't you ask first?" I complained, running my hand through Willow's short red hair. My short red hair, now.
"Don't you think I would have tried to ask you first if I'd though you'd have accepted my help?" Willow replied tearfully in my deeper baritone. Hearing my voice coming from my mouth, saying her words was unnerving. It was like being in an episode of the Twilight Zone ala Sunnydale.
I exhaled in exasperation, taking pleasure in the passage of breath through my lungs. Despite our predicament, it felt good. Damn good. I held door to my office open for her. She brushed by me, leaving a trail of water on my new hardwood floors.
Another burst of irritation hit me. Cordelia badgered me for months to install new floors. It would be a perfect topper to an already miserable day if a weeping, sopping Willow caused them to buckle.
We took the elevator down to the lower level, where I live. Fortunately, Cordelia was gone for the weekend, gone to visit her impoverished parents. And Doyle...Doyle was gone forever. We had the whole place to ourselves, Willow and I, which was good cause this was the most embarrassing thing that had ever happened to me.
Willow dripped her way across my living area and into the kitchen. She seemed intent upon not leaving a square inch of dry floor. In perfect fairness, I was soaking wet too. Both of us were. It was pouring outside and we had walked over two miles in the rain after Willow made me wreck my car.
My car. Grr... Grr...another sore spot.
"I mean, you're such an dunderhead sometimes," Willow continued. "Who knows what you might have done if I had explained the blessing to you." She turned to me, tears welling up in her--my--dark brown eyes. She sniffled, loudly, and wiped her runny nose on the sleeve of my expensive black leather trench.
"I am not a dunderhead!" I exploded. My voice rose steadily with my new feminine pitch. Hers, mine, mine, hers… My God, this is driving me nuts.
"You are!" Willow stomped her foot and changed to game face. "You are the world's worst dunderhead in the history of the world and I am so fed up with your selfish, egotistical, arrogant MALE ways!"
My own eyes glared golden menace my way and a surge of panic swept me. Her control over my demonic half was tenacious at best. "Um, Willow," I said, holding up placating hands. "Honey, please calm down."
"I'm not your honey!" she howled. I began to fear for my life. Suddenly, I was aware of how big and intimidating I am up close, especially to the slighter female form. She moved forward with a menacing threat and I retreated. Oh God! Was I about to be done in by my own fangs? It would be the ultimate irony to end this way.
"You MEN! You're all the same!" She shook her head and her eyes glowed fiercely. "Leaving and thinking that you know what's best and leaving and not caring about anyone else but yourself!" She grabbed my upper arms.
"Willow!" I interrupted in desperation. "I'm not Oz!"
She stopped and blinked. Realization and then shame dawned in her eyes. "Oh!" she exclaimed, staring at her hands gripping my arms with punishing force. "Oh!" She let go, regarding her hands with horror, as if they were the possessed demon hands from the god-awful movie last year.
She moaned. I felt sorry for her. Our body switch seemed to be harder on her than it was on me. After all, I had gotten the better deal by a long shot. Tentatively, I tried putting my arms around her. It was harder than it sounds, considering that she now towered over me. I settled for hugging her waist.
"AngelIdon'tknowwhattodo.I'mSOOOOOsorry," she whimpered. Her paw-like hands patted my back with sad futility. Good grief but I have big hands. Some of my anger with her fled in the face of her obvious contrition.
"Willow, it's OK," I assured her, "Everything is gonna be fine." I wished that I could believe it but the platitude sounded good. "Tell me about the spell and maybe I can find a way to undo this."
Willow sniffled again, peering at me with red-rimmed yellow eyes. I wished that she would revert back to her human mask but there was no explaining how to undertake the transformation and I did not want to make her self-conscious.
Without saying a word, she reached into her pocket and extracted my half of Mitzpah she had given me earlier as a gift. I had stuffed it into my pocket and promptly forgotten about it in the confusion following our body swap and the subsequent traffic accident.
"This was supposed to anchor your soul so you and Buffy could be happy together without you going bye-bye." She sniffed. "I must've gotten the incantation wrong."
A light went on in my head as I stared at the small gold medallion. I reached out and took it from her, squinting at the inscription. It was not the standard "friends-parted-yadayadayada".
"This is Gaelic!" I exclaimed.
"Right," Willow gave me a drunken nod. "It had to be in your native tongue for the spell to work."
"Souls exchanged in friendship, made permanent for all time," I read aloud.
"Oops," Willow muttered, frowning. "I must have used the wrong verb. That's supposed to say, 'Soul gifted in friendship, made permanent for all time'."
"Oops," I parroted with extreme sarcasm. It was not lost on Willow, who looked at me with wide, hurt eyes.
"It's the thought that counts," she defended.
I ground my teeth. Maybe later I would be able to objectively appreciate her charitable sentiment, but at the moment I was two stages short of blowing a fuse.
"Never mind that now. I'm gonna need you to show me the exact spell you used, including all of the components, if we're gonna find a way to undo this."
"OK," she agreed readily enough.
"First of all, let's get out of these wet clothes," I ordered. In demonstration, I began to shed my sopping socks and shoes.
"Eeeiiikkk!" Willow shrieked as I began to unbutton my blouse. I jumped sky-high. "Don't you dare take my clothes off!"
I stared at her shaking finger in frustration. "Willow, I'm freezing! And it's not like I haven't seen you naked..." I swallowed the 'before' but it was too late.
"Since when have you seen me naked?" She stuck her hands on her hips and her flat, broad chest jutted out in the silliest manner imaginable. She glared at me.
I opened my mouth, caught dead to rights and then shut it again. No point in compounding one sin with self-incrimination. If vampires have any rights under the Fifth, then I plead...except that I am not a vampire anymore.
"OH!" Willow stared. My face must have been an artwork in guilt. "You spied on me, didn't you?"
"I was soulless at the time," I excused. Oops, Angel shut your trap now before... Too late!
Without another word, Willow spun on her heel and marched off toward my bedroom. She slammed the bedroom door shut behind her. My bedroom.
I followed her over to the door, leaving the soaking wet clothes upon my borrowed body. So what if I was shivering up a storm! So what if my body got sick! That would show her!
Ack! It had already begun! Two hours in this body and already it was befuddling my sense of logic! I hurried over to the kitchen and removed my clothes, gratefully wrapping myself in a fleece throw Cordy gave me. She said it was "festive".
I will admit to sneaking a quick peak. For once, I regretted my aversion to mirrors. Nice, very nice. Willow has great tits...soft, firm, full. The temptation to play with them was great but I could only imagine her reaction if she came out and caught me in the act.
I sat down and waited. She was in there forever. The longer I sat there, the more worried I got. Finally, I got up and went over to the door. I knocked.
I threw myself face down on Angel's bed and cried. I cried and cried until I cried myself out and then I cried some more. Life sucked. It was awful, worse than awful, dog day terrible.
Angel hated me. I could tell by the way that he looked at me that he despised me for screwing everything up. I had made him wreck his car and I snatched his body like some icky pod person from outer space.
I had only been trying to help. It was pure chance that I happened across the soul spell the same night that Buffy had her first big fight with Riley. She came home really mad, and said that she could not handle Riley's male chauvinist tendencies anymore and that he kissed like dry wall compared to Angel.
She cried. Oh Goddess, I felt so bad for her. I thought that I understood what my best friend had been through before Oz left but it was not until after he was gone that I realized I was clueless. Being in love and being left is like eternal PMS or a finger covered with infected paper cuts.
Full of lemon juice.
Anyway, back to the spell. I found it in an old Romany--that's the P.C. word for gypsy--book, amongst Jenny's old possessions. I never really noticed the spell before. It was a curse, a really nasty one, used to get even with dead enemies by tying their souls to their dead bodies for all eternity and preventing them from reincarnating.
Thanks to my newfound prowess as a pretty kick-ass Wicca (sarcasm here), it occurred to me that maybe the spell could be modified into a blessing. After all, Angel is already dead, right?
So it would be to his benefit to have his slippery little soul tied down to his vampire body, right?
And two negatives make a positive, i.e. two curses are a mixed blessing, right?
I did not think long or hard about this. I shamelessly rationalized my decision and made my choice without thinking. I figured that I already had a kind of vested interest in his soul and its well being considering that I am the one who cursed him with it in the first place.
I have always felt kind of bad about that, the cursing part. It makes me feel vaguely guilty to know that because of me Angel's sweet, puppy-dog soul has to suffer for the rest of eternity. Not to mention the celibacy part.
It has always been at the back of my mind to fix the curse if I ever found a way. Well, I just happened upon a way, and with Buffy unhappy and that vast void of emptiness I have been lost in since Oz left...well, I just saw an opportunity to make things better for one of us at least.
Angel says that I should have asked him and he is one hundred percent totally right. I should have asked him but I did not because I was afraid that he would say no. I was scared that he would not be willing to take a chance on my spell, or a chance at being happy.
Face it, while Angel is really intelligent, sometimes he's just not too bright. Angel is noble to his socks but he loves to be a martyr, loves to suffer cause he feels guilty. He thinks he should suffer, and I have to admit that he is really good at the whole broody-boy thing.
I happen to disagree. Yes, he has done some terrible things. Yes, his past is awful. "Duh!" I hate to quote Cordelia, but he should get over himself already!
This leads me back to my reason for not telling Angel what I was attempting. He would have said no. I know it. He would have rationalized, excused, and run away from his own salvation. "I must remain as I am to fight for the greater good of humanity."
Or, "This may look like my salvation but it's obviously not because it's plain and simple and right here under my nose, so I must smash it."
Yeah, Cordelia told me what he did to the ring of Amara. Pretty stupid, huh? Noble, but stupid. Here, Buffy gives him the best gift in the whole world, the best gift that anyone COULD give a vampire and what does he do with it?
He smashes it.
I made up my mind not to tell Angel, not to tell anyone, in advance. I did all of my research in secret. I gathered my components, practiced my casting, and agonized over every little detail of the spell for weeks. My care paid off because the casting went perfectly.
Which explains why I must have messed up the inscription. Murphy's Law: if anything can go wrong, it will. I was so exhausted by the time that I had the Mitzpah made that I mistranslated the blessing and never realized it.
It was not until I suddenly found myself inside of Angel's body that I realized that I had screwed up. I guess maybe I should have waited until we were out of the car to give him the medallion but I was nervous.
I was a babbling brook flooding out of control. No matter how hard I tried, I could not stop talking. I thrust the necklace into his fingers with a quick, "Here!" and the next thing I knew I was behind the wheel.
In Angel's body.
Suffice it to say, I crashed the car. Things went downhill from there. We called a tow truck and walked two miles in the rain because no taxi was available. Angel glared and brooded at me the whole time. It made no difference that he was in my body, his brooding talent could not be suppressed.
Oh Goddess, this is awful! I want my body back! It may not be the most beautiful or athletic body in the world but at least it was mine! My hands and feet fit! I had a pulse and working lungs! My body temperature equaled above room temperature!
Calm Willow! OK, think... If I go getting hysterical again then I will be in here forever, and this body will live that long. As much as I hate admitting it, Angel had a point about talking...and about changing out of wet clothes.
For the first time I noticed what I was wearing. Black shirt, black leather trench, and black leather pants with classy black loafers. Classic Angel. I dressed for a funeral or maybe a night out in a really chic gay bar.
Spike insists that Angel is a sexually repressed POOF. I try not to listen to him but...well, Spike IS Angel's child and if anyone knew about Angel's poofiness or lack thereof it would be Spike.
My mind will not go there.
I jumped up off the bed and hurried over to the wardrobe. Inside the wood chest I found plenty of dry clothes, mostly black. I dug and dug and finally managed to find a gray pullover but it was a labor.
Change of clothing in hand, I tried to focus on the task at hand and not to let my thoughts stray. Gingerly, I unbuttoned Angel's shirt, trying not to look too closely at the pale expanse of heavily muscled chest under my fingers.
Oh Goddess! He's buff! He's beautiful! Oh sigh and drool! Against my will my fingers rubbed over his pale marbled flesh, pinching his pecs and caressing his nipples. The tiny nubs hardened and lighting shot through my crotch.
I jumped three feet.
I had given myself a hard-on!
It wasn't like I had never *thought* about Angel before in *that way*. I have a very good imagination. Even nice girls can have very naughty fantasies and a woman would have to be blind not to notice Angel.
I mean, he IS gorgeous.
But never in my wildest dreams or dirtiest fantasies had I imagined standing in Angel's bedroom, undressing Angel's beautiful body, arousing his huge, heavy cock (That is actually speculation because I have not checked. Yet.) and it being MASTURBATION. I had NEVER been the soul inside of his form!
The harder IT got, the more uncomfortable my pants got. Tentatively, as if it might bite me, I eased my zipper down and gasped in relief. It helped relieve some of the tremendous pressure on my crotch.
Oh Goddess! This was embarrassing!
I tried to ease Angel's leather pants down off my hips but they got stuck. The wet leather had mostly dried, and apparently, had tightened. Angel's pants are already inhumanly tight. The dried moisture from the rain had made them shrink like Saran Wrap in the microwave.
I pulled and pulled but they would not budge. I kept losing my balance so I finally laid down on the floor on my back. "EH, EH, EH," I grunted and groaned. I squirmed, strained, shoved, pushed, pulled, flexed, twisted, thrust, and fought those pants like my life depended on it.
They would not come off.
All of the rubbing and friction made my hard-on worse. It ached and throbbed and hurt really bad. No wonder men have so much trouble thinking clearly all of their lives. I was nearly in tears again.
Sniffling, I decided to give it one last try. I grabbed hold of my pants, which were down around my thighs by now and impeding my movements as effectively as a bolo, and TUGGED with all of Angel's mighty strength.
"Willow?" That exact same moment, Angel opened the door without knocking. Startled, I jumped again and tore the pants to shreds. Above me, Angel gaped with rounded eyes.
From flat on my back, I stared up at him in unmitigated terror, clad only in an unbuttoned shirt and skimpy black silk boxers. Horrified, I grabbed my shirttails and pulled them across my lap. I sat up, wrists crossed at my crotch, attempting to hide Mr. Happy's salute.
"ANGEL! HI!" I shrilled in a high pitch. I plastered a goofy grin on my face. Goddess only knew what Angel thought I had been doing in here with his body all this time!
"I knocked," I said hastily, staring down at Willow. Willow looked sad and silly sprawled across the floor in my body, her eyes full of unshed tears and her hands modestly sheltering her crotch.
"I didn't hear you," Willow whimpered, losing the high, shrill pitch to her tone. She still looked and sounded on the verge of hysteria but I was glad the strident, grating note was gone.
"You must have been busy," I made up an excuse. Obviously, she had been...busy. Removing my pants. Strips of leather lay about her bare legs like black streamers. It did not take a rocket scientist to figure out that she had gotten turned on and did not known how to turn herself back off.
"AngelmypantsshrunkwhileIwascryingandIcouldn'tgetthemoffandthenITgothardandIdidn'tknow whattodo.I'mSOOOOOsorry," she wailed. Tears spilled down her cheeks in copious quantities.
I wanted to laugh so bad it hurt but even I am not that big an asshole. Poor Willow looked so miserable. I wanted to comfort and shelter her.
I hurried over to the bed and grabbed a pillow. Then I knelt beside her and settled it modestly across her lap, freeing her hands. She accepted it from me with a watery, grateful smile.
Willow was not in possession of anything I have not seen before a million times. Believe me, I have lived with the equipment for well-over two centuries. I know *exactly* how contrary the male organ is, especially since I cannot do anything more with it than whack off in the shower.
"ThisisSOOOOOhumiliating!" Willow sobbed.
"There, there," I placated, patting her back.
"Howdoyoumakeit hic hic hic gobackdown?"
I thought about telling her but decided that she was not quite ready for that bit of information yet. I scurried and came up with a semi-decent answer. "Willow, is there anything that really turns you off? Something really gross?"
She nodded. "Frogs hic hic hic."
"OK," I nodded. This was good; frogs are kind of gross. "Now listen to me," I commanded. She looked up and met my eyes. "Think about frogs...think about having sex in a tub full of wet slimy frogs."
She blanched. "Ewww..."
"Is it working?" I asked.
"A little." She sniffed and self-consciously fluffed the pillow on her lap. As she rubbed away her tears with the back of her hand, I sagged with relief.
"OK, good. Now, I'm gonna get you some clothes. Stay right here."
She nodded and pointed. "I put some on the bed."
The bed, right. I looked and found clean, dry clothes stalked neatly at the foot of the bed. I picked them up and carried them back over to Willow. "Do you need help dressing?" I asked, feeling like I was addressing a toddler.
Or a child vampire.
"NO!" Willow shouted. Then, more quietly, "I mean, no thank you." She clutched the clothes. "I can manage." I waited and she stared at me pointedly. "You can wait. Outside."
I started. Right, outside. I left, closing the bedroom door behind me. Once in the living room, I collapsed on the couch.
I have to get my body back.
It was easier getting clothes on Angel's body than it had been getting them off. I focused on dressing and tried hard not to think about what had just happened between us.
I did anyway.
Oh Goddess! This was so humiliating! He had caught me with my pants down--off!--in a horribly compromising position and he had been so *sweet*. I was petrified that he was going to laugh at me but he hadn't. Instead, he was kind and gentle and understanding.
And he helped me get rid of IT.
Better not to think about IT, lest IT get excited again. Hastily, I did what Angel had taught me and envisioned frogs again. TUBS FULL OF WET, GROSS, SLIMY, AWFUL FROGS. Thank the Goddess, it worked.
I finished dressing and hurried out to the main room. Angel was sitting on the couch, wearing only a red blanket, which I had not noticed earlier. My cheeks flushed bright red. I guess Angel ignored my protest and changed anyway.
Which meant that he had seen me naked.
My mind rushed. What had he thought? Had he been disappointed? Impressed even a little? Had I met any of his expectations or was my body a terrible let down to him? I bet that he would have preferred Buffy's body to mine if he had a choice.
My humiliation and embarrassment increased. Dropping my eyes, I stared at my feet and wished that I could melt down into the earth. A quick trip to hell would have been preferable to Angel telling me how unattractive he found his new body.
Angel stared at me and arched a fine eyebrow. He must have noticed my blush but he chose to ignore it. "I'm gonna throw on something more comfortable," he said, jumping to his feet. He disappeared into the bedroom.
I heaved a sigh and flopped down onto the couch. At least Angel seemed to be over most of his anger. He was not glaring at me anymore. He still seemed broody, but then, when is Angel not broody?
He was back faster than I expected, wearing men's clothing that were six or seven sizes too large for my petite form. He looked comfortable though, so I suppose that was what mattered.
"Let me grab a notepad and we can get started," Angel said, hurrying into the kitchen. I nodded eagerly. The sooner we got started, the sooner I could get my body back, and the sooner this ordeal would be over.
"Start with the spell components," he ordered, coming back with a pen and a pad of yellow legal paper.
I complied. "Hemlock, powdered quartz, hematite, sulfur, phosphorus..." I paused while he wrote, scrunching my forehead as I concentrated on recalling every little ingredient of the spell.
"Keep going," he grunted.
"Cat tails?" Angel looked ill.
I glared at him. "The plant, not the pussycat."
"Oh." He went back to writing. I kept going, reciting spell components. Finally, we moved on to the actual steps for performing the spell, which Angel also wrote down. He took copious notes.
He finished up frowning down at the notepad. "This seems really familiar," he said, "but I can't quite place..."
"Oh," I said awkwardly. "Well, the spell is actually modified slightly. I changed a few details," I said, cringing.
"What details?" he demanded, his jaw working.
"Well...err...gulp...Originallyitwasagypsycurse.Irewordedittoturnitintoablessing." I spat the truth out at him in a hurry.
Angel exhaled and glared, his expression growing horrified with enlightenment. Mentally, he jumped to conclusions. The right ones. "Jenny's tribe?" he howled, his pitch rising steadily.
I nodded frantically.
Angel leapt to his feet. His much smaller hands grabbed my shoulders and shook. "WILLOW, DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT YOU'VE DONE?" He did not have enough strength to actually shake me but I hunched my shoulders and dissolved into tears again. I shook my head no.
He leaned forward, his face in mine and forced me to meet his eyes. "That curse is irreversible," he hissed.
I gulped frantically for air I could not breathe.
Then I fainted.
Willow closed her eyes and went over like a toppled tree. It was a slap in the face. All of the sudden I became aware of my hands on her shoulders and my raised voice shouting at her.
I let go and she slumped over, still unconscious. I checked her with shaking hands but a sleeping vampire is indistinguishable from a corpse. She might as well be dead until she woke up.
She only fainted...she only fainted. The litany repeated over and over in my head but it was an empty consolation. Sickness and disgust with my own behavior left me shaking.
Am I abusive? Am I a bully, someone who picks on women? Can I not control my own anger without expressing myself physically? Up until now I have always blamed the demon but this time there was no demon to blame but my own anger.
My stomach heaved, lurching me to my feet. I sprinted for the toilet and nearly made a face dive into the porcelain bowl before spewing the contents of Willow's stomach into its ivory depths. Afterward, I clung to it for a long time and cried. The porcelain was cool beneath my cheek and the sobs shook me so hard that my sides hurt.
Gentle hands touched my shoulders and Willow turned me into her arms. "I'm so sorry, Angel," she said, crying herself. "This is all my fault and I'd give anything to undo it." She hugged me awkwardly and I hugged her back.
We knelt together on the bathroom floor, crying together but over different things. I knew Willow thought that I was upset over the seeming permanence of the body swap, but really that was only a distant matter in my mind. The reality of my own nature, the questions it raised, was of far more concern.
No matter how much better it might have made her feel, I could not bring myself to tell her the truth. I wanted to but that meant confessing to my fear, and I was too ashamed, too afraid. My own nature scares me to death, it always has and it probably always will.
Try living with the knowledge that you were the cruelest vampire to ever walk the face of world and see what kind of complex it gives you! A vampire's nature is not unlike that of its host. Everything the demon did and was has its roots in me. I AM it.
It took a while but I finally calmed down. Willow continued to mutter soothing nonsense in my ear, rubbing my back all the while. It was sweet of her, and more than I deserved.
"Angel, we just can't accept that this is permanent without even trying to fix it," Willow said.
"You're right," I agreed. I drew back, wondering what the demonic half of my nature made of the new tenant soul. Not that I cared what it thought or felt, but I did wonder. Does this mean that it will start having gender issues?
Of course, it's not the only one with gender issues.
My hands are so soft.
"Is there anyone we can go to for help?" Willow asked, interrupting my introspection. Then her cheeks turned red and her hands waved in agitation. "I mean other than Giles? Cause I really don't want to explain this to Giles if I don't have to...he'll go all parental on me and give me that stern, disproving look." She demonstrated.
I laughed and shook off my mood. Now was not the time for brooding. Cordy would have whacked me upside the head with a shoe for even trying under these circumstances. I can hear her now, "Angel, get over yourself already! We have stuff to do! How does this polish look with my dress?"
I thought for a second and an answer came to me. "Come on," I said, standing and drawing Willow up by the arm. "I might know someone."
"Who?" Willow asked.
Angel went and got all cryptic-guy on me after that. He would not say where we were going, or who this friend-person was, but he did insist on stopping at the grocery store on the way there.
Our souls are in peril and he is thinking about food?
The trip to Safeway was quick. We had the cab wait (Yes, grr, grr, I can hear Angel grinding his teeth). Angel used one of those little red baskets and bought mostly basics--bread, milk, eggs, cheese, and some meat.
We went through the express line and he paid with an ATM card, which staggered me. I have always envisioned him digging through pockets of old money looking for the right year and country's currency.
Guess he is more up to date than I thought.
*I* got to carry the groceries. I am not sure quite how it happened that his groceries wound up in my arms but the clerk just handed then to me, and I accepted them, quite naturally. Welcome to the world of being a MAN, Willow Rosenberg.
Our next stop was in a rundown section of LA. (All of LA's slums look the same to me. Dirty, dingy, and dangerous.) Angel paid the cab to wait again and led me around the back of an old tenement building. We climbed a flight of stairs and knocked on Apartment D.
I was starting to get pretty scared. I mean, this section of town looked like Vampire/Demon Central if LA has such a thing, which I am sure that it does because it has its own Hellmouth! Angel could not have done much to protect me in his new body and I hardly knew how to use his abilities.
If we got into trouble maybe I could growl and glare. Angel is pretty intimidating when he tries and I think I am starting to get the hang of this game face thing. Mad Face On; Mad Face Off. I practiced in the cab on the way over until Angel noticed and made me stop.
"Who's there?" an old woman's voice called through the door.
Angel jabbed me in the ribs and I stared at him, offended, rubbing my ribcage. Ouch, that had hurt! He jerked his head and I started. Oh! He wanted me to say something!
"IT'S ME, ANGEL!" I boomed, deepening my voice in an attempt to sound convincing. I came out sounding more like Superman. For effect, I put my hands on my hips and stuck my chest out, striking a pose.
Angel poked my ribs again, scowling up a storm.
The door opened and an old woman peered out at us. She squinted at me through wrinkled eyes set deep within a wrinkled face. She was a gypsy, a very old one, and very spooky. I shifted my grip on the grocery sack nervously.
"Madame Beulah," Angel said, stepping forward.
Madame Beulah's head swivelled toward Angel. Her eyes widened and she started as if struck with disbelief. "Angelus," she cackled, poking his boob with a gnarled finger. He squawked and covered his breast protectively with one hand. I snickered.
HA! The poker becomes the pokee! Serves him right!
Unfortunately, my snicker drew Madame Beulah's attention my way. "If you're in there, then who's in here?" the old woman demanded, poking my chest with her razor tipped finger. I jumped away. That finger was like a knife. She probably could have staked me.
"Madame Beulah," Angel said respectfully, "that's why we're here. This is my friend, Willow. I'm in here." He indicated my body, then his. "And she's in there. We need your help."
She cackled again and I wished that she hadn't. It was a nerve-wracking, awful sound. "Well, well, well," she sang. "Don't you get yourself into the strangest predicaments, 'Angelic One'. Come on in." She hauled open the door. "What have you brought me?" she demanded, grabbing for the groceries. I hastily surrendered them to her.
We went in. The inside of her apartment was dinghy and crowded full of all sorts of junk. A lot of it was gypsy junk, and most of it was pretty scary.
While Angel explained what was wrong, Madame Beulah dug through the sack. She carried the food into the kitchen, stuffing pieces of bread into her mouth and began opening containers and preparing something on the stove. It was really gross and I tried not to watch.
I figured that she was not listening but apparently she was. Without warning, her gnarled old face was in mine. It could see the chewed up bread dough in her teeth. Eww...
"What tribe originated this curse, Dearie?" she demanded.
"Calderesh," I supplied, naming Jenny's tribe. "Why, are you one?"
She spat and I flinched. "Damnation no!" She turned, heading back to her concoction in the kitchen. "Despise the Calderesh!" She cackled. "That's one of the reason's Angelus here, and I, get along so well! Normally, I don't cotton too well to blood-suckers."
I looked at Angel and he shrugged. I have never seen his expression so noncommittal and vague but he looked a little guilty. Not that I really blaming him (I would probably hate the Calderesh too, in his shoes) but I was seriously beginning to wonder how and where he knew this woman from.
"Madame Beulah, can you help us?" I pleaded. "Please?" I wanted so badly to get away from his awful woman--and to be back in my own body--that I would have crawled on my hands and knees and kissed her stinky old feet. Anything, ANYTHING, to get out of this mess. I swore to the Goddess that if she just got me out of this that I would never again monkey with a curse beyond my ability, ever again.
The old woman grunted. "Maybe," she said. "I need for you to tell me everything, I mean *everything* about this spell."
She asked so I told her. I talked and talked and talked while she ate. I explained the whole spell to her, front start to finish, in minute detail. I excluded nothing, not the remotest detail, on the off chance that it might be important. When I finished, I was out of breath (Yeah, yeah... I *know* I don't breathe) and exhausted.
Angel and I watched her hopefully while she sat at her little round table, chewing with her mouth open and making loud smacking sounds. It was so GROSS... She stared off into the distance, a vein pulsing in her forehead.
I had ants in my pants. I shifted pensively and Angel took my hand. It helped a little but I could tell that he was nervous too. His palm was all sweaty and I could *smell* anxiety and fear rising off of him.
"Well?" Angel finally asked.
Madame Beulah's head turned to us suddenly. "Nope!" she proclaimed. "It can't be undone! What's more, you'd better hope that you don't die in that body, Angelus. If you had died as a vampire at least your soul would have gone into the ether. If you die now, your soul will be trapped in a rotting corpse."
She waved her fork. "Yep, you had it better as a vampire. At least vampires are animated. This time you won't be able to move because even death cannot separate your soul from your body. It is the nature of the curse. Even the same spell cast twice cannot undo what is done. You are forever, irrevocably, irreversibly, permanently, and everlastingly linked to this form for all of eternity."
I gasped; Angel gaped.
"You too, Dearie," Madame Beulah informed me. "But at least your body goes *poof* when you die."
Madame Beulah demanded a twenty and shooed us out the door.
The taxi ride home was dead silent.
Willow pushed the mug another inch away from her. It could not go much further before it was in front of me on the table. She had already pushed it to arm's length and the thought of semi-congealed blood wafting its aroma under my nose made my already upset stomach lurch.
"You have to drink it sooner or later," I mumbled, covering my mouth as a belch expelled from my cantankerous stomach. I had gas bad, and it hurt. Bad.
"Later better than sooner," Willow snapped sullenly. She was not a happy camper, definitely not enamored with the idea of a vampire's natural diet.
"Later will come sooner...*belch*." I slapped a hand over my mouth again. There were certain aspects of being human again there were not sitting well with me either. My stomach was one. The nineteen-year-old girl part was another.
I AM NOT A SHE.
I do not wear makeup or skirts, talk for hours on the phone, gossip with girlfriends, shop for hours on end, or worry about my period being late. OH GOD! My period... Mood swings, cramps, and crankiness... Not that! Please, anything but that!!
I am not a she but look between my legs and the equipment says otherwise.
I belched again and began to hyperventilate.
"Serves you right for eating all that junk," Willow zinged with a shrewish I-told-you-so look. "My stomach is easily upset."
I nodded, too miserable to argue. I did not keep any Pepto Bismal or Tums in the house. Earlier, I had made the awful mistake of thinking that because my ironclad stomach handled a day of pigging out on everything in sight, that Willow's would too. Now I was paying for my gastro-intestinal indiscretions.
Willow's expression softened. "What are we going to do, Angel?" she moaned, turning the mug in a circle. She continued to rotate it by the handle but made no move to drink it.
I had no answer. All I could think about was Willow's stomach...and my own. She had to be hungry. I had not eaten yet today. Willow's unexpected visit from Sunnydale had caught me off-guard and I had not fed before I picked her up at the bus station.
"A-a-angel," Willow stuttered. Her brown eyes were wide with tears again. It was there on her lips again, apology and contrition, but this time she could not bring herself to say it.
"I'm sorry," simply was not adequate. Willow had taken my already awful existence and actually succeeded in making it worse. The thought of rotting forever in a immobile corpse holds far less appeal then being a vampire, even one that cannot fuck, and I am sure you can see why.
The bitter, petty little part of me wanted to condemn her. It was on my lips, the words that would have reduced her to tears, but I looked up and met her eyes and I would rather have cut out my own tongue than speak. Willow already felt as terrible as a person possibly could, or should. I could see it in her eyes, which pleaded with me for forgiveness.
I opened my mouth and shut it again. Strangely, my anger and resentment passed with blessed ease. Who the hell am *I* to place blame? I, who murdered Willow's teacher, strung her fish on a line, threatened her life, and stalked and terrorized her for months?
Who am I to deny forgiveness? Lord knows, she forgave me far worse than a body swap and a botched curse.
I reached out and took her hand. "I'm not angry, Willow, and we're gonna find some way to get through this. Just because Madame Beulah says that it can't be undone doesn't mean that we have to accept it." I forced a hopeful smile and suddenly my stomach felt a tad better. "We'll keep looking for a solution, OK?"
She smiled and it was like watching the heaven lighten. "OK." The smile was tremulous but real. Without warning, she reached out and grabbed the mug, gulping the blood down. Then, she gagged with distaste and wiped her mouth on the back of her hand.
"Fresh tastes better," I commented randomly. "And human better than animal. But I don't recommend developing a taste for it," I finished hastily as her eyes widened. "The cravings get harder to control."
"You've lived on this stuff for eighty years?" she asked with newfound admiration, which made me uncomfortable. I do not deserve praise.
"Over a hundred," I corrected. For some reason there seems to be a commonly held misconception about how long I have abstained from consuming human blood.
"I have to get the taste out of my mouth." She stood.
"There's a toothbrush in the bathroom." I pointed and she left, closing the bathroom door behind her. My recalcitrant stomach grumbled again and I wished that she had not closed the door. Just in case.
"So," I said, returning the table with minty-fresh breath. Yeah!! I no longer smelled or tasted of icky cow's blood. Or whatever that was that Angel had fed me. It had tasted so totally gross that I did not want to think about the fact that I had drunk it.
Angel looked up. His arms were still crossed protectively over his tummy and I felt so terrible for him. Poor thing... If he is this miserable from a bad case of indigestion, they might just have to hospitalize him when he gets his first period.
I giggled. I could not contain it. Angel looked at me strangely but did not ask any questions, which was just as well. Poor Angel... Poor vampire... Poor me...
"So," I repeated. "How are we going to handle this?" I was determined to be positive. If Angel could find it in his heart to forgive me, if he could be magnanimous, generous, and gentle, then I would do everything in my power to make things better. I was gonna be the friggin' Sunshine Fairy of Cheery Feeling if it killed me!
"Well," he drawled thoughtfully. "We could start with damage control. I'd rather not have my entire life upended...what I have of one anyway...because of this, and I'm sure that you feel the same." He met my eyes and I nodded.
"So we lead each other's lives until we get this all sorted out?" I asked. That sounded almost OK. I could walk a couple weeks in Angel's shoes if I had too. (I deliberately did not let my thoughts stray into the realm of months or years.) "Who do we tell? About the swap?"
Angel considered. "How about keeping this to a need-to-know basis?" he asked and I found myself agreeing. This was defiantly not something that I wanted all of my friends to know about. It was way too embarrassing and personal.
Xander would freak, Giles would disprove in his stern parental way, Anya, that demonic little freak, would say something tactless, and Buffy...poor Buffy would be lost. I mean, technically, Angel CAN be with Buffy now. The happiness clause is gone.
If Buffy wants to become a dike.
"That sounds good," I said. "We can just treat this as a needs-to-know secret and cover for each other until things get back to normal. Which should happen really quickly." I grinned, perkily, with all of my teeth. It only occurred to me later that an alligator grin from a vampire is probably pretty darn scary. "Who needs to know?"
"I'm not sure," he replied. His expression was puzzled. "Probably Cordy." He nodded. "Yeah, Cordelia will be able to help you a lot. She knows most everything about my life that you will need to know." Angel suddenly noticed the face I was pulling. "Cordelia's not that bad."
I stared at him pointedly, in disbelief.
He spread his hands. "Really. She's changed a lot since high school." His voice softened. "She's my friend, Willow. Please give her a chance." His desperate loneliness-tone made me teary.
"Oh, all right," I grumbled. Angel made having a friend sound so precious that I felt bad for having doubted Cordelia's saintliness. Mother Cordelia would get no more lip from me. It made me feel bad that I had not recognized his generally friendless state before, or done anything about it, too.
Suddenly, badness occurred to me! "Wait a second!" I exclaimed. "If you're talking about *me* leading your life, that means that you're planning on going back to Sunnydale and leading mine!"
"That was the plan."
"But how will you do my homework? What about my GPA? I take Calculus and C Programming and they didn't even have computers when you were born!" I kept going, babbling like no one's business. It was a Babble Attack. It was The Invasion of the Babble Beast. A Babble-A-Thon, a BabbleFest, and a Babble-Off all wrapped up in one.
Angel was the Babble Buster. "WILLOW!" He interrupted, holding up his hands, demanding surcease. I shut up and stared at him. Angel never shouts.
"If I have a problem with your homework, then you can help me, OK?" he asked gently. I nodded and felt like a fool again. I am good at that, nodding and being a fool. Since Oz left my self-esteem has been somewhere around Grand Canyon level and this whole soul-swap fiasco had dragged me even lower.
In some ways I am lower than I ever was in high school but the grown-upness of college has been confusing. Too much of my life, my identity, has become labels. I am Willow the Wicca, Willow, Oz's girlfriend, and Willow, Buffy's sidekick. I used to think of myself in adjectives, as Willow who is bright, intelligent, capable and loyal. I was Willow who was a good friend and really great with computers.
When did I lose so much of myself to labels?
My most recent screw-ups with magic...that thing with the "my will be done" spell and now this had me seriously questioning my Wicca value-set. Maybe conjuring the forces of darkness, practicing transmutation, and fooling with curses are not the brightest things I have ever done (sarcasm here).
I am in over my head and I know it.
My pride has led me to my fall. Now I am Willow who is stuck in a vampire's body. A MALE vampire's body... Given, a REALLY gorgeous body but *still* a vampire's and *still* a male one. I think that if I am going to keep my sanity intact, I need to go back to concentrating on who *I* inside and not on my socially assigned designations.
Angel and I talked for hours after that. It was decided and agreed that we would live one another's lives and continue to seek a cure for the curse. Our friends would be informed on a need-to-know basis and we would spend the weekend together exchanging pertinent personal information.
On Monday, Angel would go back to Sunnydale and resume life as a UC Sunnydale student. I would stay here and battle the forces of darkness, or at least try. Privately, I think it is more likely that I will spend a lot of time brooding and look really good while I am doing it.
You want to know the really freaky part about all of this, the part that scares me to death and makes me thing that all of this is a joke? My life has changed forever and it is still only Friday.