Title: Hopelessly Unfair
Disclaimer: Joss owns BTVS, Laurell own AB.
Spoilers: S1-2 for BTVS, and CS for AB.
Summary: Willow knew that having the Hellmouth in the school library meant that weird things would happen from time to time. She just didn’t think they would get this weird. Maybe that was her mistake. She should call Giles to ask. If only she was tall enough to reach the phone . . .
Notes: Response to the Mommy Anita Challenge.
Chapter One: Not Good
Life was hopelessly unfair.
This revelation had come to Willow some ten minutes ago, when the ugly purple-skinned tentacle thingy had erupted from the Hellmouth and decided that she would make a good first snack. Of all the people in the room, the ugly purple thing had picked her. She supposed after a lifetime of feeling overlooked, being picked first for something should have made her feel a bit proud. And yet, she was having trouble mustering up the emotion.
The redhead sighed and looked around her surroundings again. Her eyes sidled over to the long metallic pole again. She felt the blood rush to her face and dropped her eyes quickly. She wasn’t really sure, it could have been a firemen’s pole, but with the rest of the décor, she wasn’t really going to bet on it.
Her fingers had been busy picking at the hem of her floral skirt for about five minutes, and now she let them stray a bit. They ended up on the ground underneath her, all ten digits pushing down on the plywood as if to verify it was real. She knew she was sitting on a stage, a stage with a pole, which made the firehouse thing seemed even more unlikely. She let her eyes travel along the surface of the platform, stopping when they reached the edge. She spied rows of tables just beyond the edge, with the chairs piled upside down on them, just like what restaurants did when they closed for the night.
Willow also knew that it wasn’t likely that she was in a restaurant. Sure she could see what looked like a bar off to the end of the room, a door that looked like it led to a kitchen-type facility, and what looked like menu cards piled up high at the end of the bar counter. She could almost pretend that it was a restaurant . . . But the pole was still there.
She was really starting to hate that freaking pole.
Willow stared glumly at the tips of her pink sandals. She wriggled both of her big toes, saw them both respond, and suddenly felt more depressed than she could ever remember feeling. This was way worse than all those times she had to sit through one of Xander’s ‘I’m-so-in-love-with-Buffy’ spiels. And it was even worse than all those times her life had been in danger. Hell, this topped the hyena thing!
How in the hell did she end up eight years old again?
She had kind of been hoping that this was a weird dream. That maybe she had bumped her head on something while Miss Calendar had been trying to keep her out of the ugly purple thing’s mouth and was currently delving into the stranger parts of her subconscious. But since she had turned her arms into series of angry-looking red welts from all her pinching without waking up, Willow had come to accept that this was no dream.
But she still wasn’t ready to accept the pole.
She shifted around uncomfortably on the hard stage, folding her legs in front of her as her fingers returned to their previous torment of her skirt. Willow dropped her eyes, taking in the pink floral pattern of her skirt, the stark whiteness of her nylons, and the shiny straps on her pink sandals. It was a cute outfit. It was a cute little girl’s outfit, and that’s what Willow’s mother had been banking on when she picked this little number out for her. Willow had worn this number on the most auspicious day when she had gone from seven years old to eight. The fuzzy pink sweater still kind of tickled; just like it she remembered it.
From eight years ago.
She was being very calm for some reason. She almost felt like she was detached from the realistic part of her brain. That part of her brain was probably going haywire, lights flashing, alarms blaring, and an endless scream set as the soundtrack for all the mayhem. That part of her brain was remembering everything that happened to her prior to this little adventure, making all the connections, and then proceeding to have a gigantic meltdown.
But Willow currently wasn’t using that part of her brain. She wasn’t sure which part she was using, if she was using any part of it all. She felt kind of empty, like she wasn’t really connected to her situation, her surroundings, or even her own body. It was like she was this ghostly type person, floating just beside the real Willow, watching everything just as she did, but not having to realize the implications because this wasn’t really her problem.
It was sort of nice, and was probably the only thing keeping her from having a massive heart attack. Only problem was that she knew it couldn’t last forever. Sooner or later, she was become reconnected to the realistic part of her brain and she would have to deal with whatever this was. Just the thought of doing that was making her feel slightly anxious, so she pushed the thoughts down and continued with her dazed semi-exploration of her surroundings.
And wouldn’t you know it? Her eyes landed on that damn pole again. She frowned at it. The pole was becoming troublesome. It was making her think real hard about her situation, and then about what kinds of places would have a pole like that. Those kinds of thoughts just made her squirm, which made her upset, which brought her closer to the breakdown that was impending.
Where was Buffy? Willow squeezed her eyes shut and tried to push thoughts of her friends back down like the other upsetting thoughts, but these ones would not go easily. Her mind replayed images of the last time she saw them and came up with several horrific scenarios about what could have happened to them by now. What had happened? Was the Master dead? Was Buffy dead? Was Willow dead and this place her own sort of weird hell dimension? And what about Xander? And had happened to him? And Giles? And Jenny? And Angel? And, what the hell, Cordelia? Did they make it out okay? Was the apocalypse still coming? And why hadn’t any of them shown up to save her yet?
Okay. Enough. Calm. She repeated those three words to herself several times until she regained some semblance of control over her emotions. Willow opened her eyes and saw herself looking at that stupid pole again. She forced herself to keep looking at it, because dancing around it certainly wasn’t helping her. She was just going to have to look at it and accept what it was. Once that was done, she could move on to figuring out where she was, why she was here, and why her friends weren’t here with her. She wasn’t delusional enough to think that she was going to get any answers, but sooner or later she was going to have to move.
She just wasn’t sure where she was going to move to.
Willow unfolded her legs carefully as she regarded the pole. She had seen enough movies to realize what kind of pole it was, and though it embarrassed her to think about it, she was going to have to suffer through her discomfort. She couldn’t just sit around here all day. Well, she could, but she didn’t think anything productive would come out of that. Not that she was sure that moving around would be productive, but what was the harm in trying?
Her fingers reached out to touch the damnable pole, her tips just brushing it when she heard the telltale signs of a lock turning. Instead of doing something smart like hiding, Willow froze right in her tracks. Buffy would have moved and hidden until she could determine if the newcomers were friendly or not. Xander would have hid on the sheer fact of being afraid. But Willow couldn’t gather enough common sense to hide, nor could she will her legs to move as they seemed to be stuck to the stage.
The door opened, and she heard a series of male voices carrying on in a friendly banter. And as she stood there, stuck to the floor by her own stupidity, Willow decided to try and listen in the conversation of the newcomers. But all talking stopped almost as soon as it began. Instead there was silence where there should have been some sort of noise. But she heard nothing, no footsteps, no whispers, no shuffling clothes-nothing. It was like the newcomers had vanished.
But she knew that she could never be that lucky. In fact, she knew that they were probably sneaking around the building somewhere, most likely trying to get the drop on her. And if her brain could manage to send coherent messages to her limbs, she would have told her feet to move her to underneath the nearest table to wait out her guests. But that wasn’t the case; she was still stuck and without a clue as to who was in the building with her.
The seconds stretched on like hours and Willow just stood there in her little pink birthday outfit, hands touching the stupid pole, and eyes trying in vain to locate the new arrivals.
There was a round of soft cursing from somewhere to her left, followed by hushed reprimands. She turned around to face the source of the noise, even though her brain was still sending frantic run-for-your-life signals to her unresponsive legs. Her eyes scanned the dimly lit area around her, not seeing anything until finally one of the newcomers took pity on her and stepped into the light.
He looked to be a little older than she was. Or rather, older than she actually was, not older than how she appeared to be now. She would say nineteen at the most. He had curly blonde hair and the most gorgeous eyes she had ever seen. If she hadn’t been so frightened of him, Willow suspected that she might have melted into a pool of silly teenage girl right at his feet.
“Hey there,” he greeted her, approaching slowly as if she was the dangerous one here. Yeah, like anyone who barely topped three feet could be a threat to a full grown adult. “What’s your name?”
She didn’t respond. She just looked at him with big, terrified eyes. He smiled in what was supposed to be a reassuring way, but it did nothing to relax her. She just stood there; now clutching the pole like her life depended on it, mutely watching the very attractive man approach her. She could hear other voices mumbling in the shadows, and it did nothing to calm her down.
“It’s all right darling. We won’t hurt you. Just tell us your name and we’ll try and find your Mommy and Daddy, okay?”
It was probably how one was supposed to talk to a frightened child, but it wasn’t turning out to be the best way to talk to a frightened Willow. Her eyes locked on his, and although he smiled very nicely at her, she couldn’t shake her fear. And so she did the only thing she could think to do.
She burst into tears.