Title: In The Spotlight
Characters: Willow, Aldo Gianfranco
Summary: Living through your worst nightmare is no laughing matter.
Word Count: 660
Disclaimer: I don’t own BTVS, or the characters. They belong to Joss Whedon.
A/N: Dialogue is borrowed from the episode.
It had seemed funny when Xander had been the one living out his nightmares, but now the shoe was on the other foot and suddenly it wasn’t some huge joke anymore, it was deadly serious. There was nothing like facing your greatest fear to give you a whole new perspective on a situation.
Willow looked down at the green kimono she was suddenly, inexplicably wearing; this couldn’t be happening, and yet it felt completely real. So did the mortal terror that was making her mouth dry as the Sahara desert and turning her legs to jelly
“Man, I thought you weren't gonna show! Aldo is beside himself.”
Who’s Aldo? Willow wants to ask but she can barely get enough air into her lungs to keep from passing out, never mind enough to speak. She has no idea where she is, why she’s dressed like this, or who the man is who’s straightening her kimono, all she’s sure of is that she was somewhere else and then she was here, which appears to be backstage. Someone’s making an announcement.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, we are proud to present two of the world's greatest singers!”
The unseen audience breaks into thunderous applause.
Singers? Is the person on stage talking about her? Willow hopes and prays that’s not the case; she can barely even speak in public, never mind sing. But before any thought of protesting can cross her mind, she’s being steered onto the stage behind the heavy curtain.
The man guiding her is speaking again. “I hope you're warmed up. It's an ugly crowd out there tonight. All the reviewers showed up.”
Crowd? Reviewers? Surely this nightmare can’t get any worse.
She can hear a voice coming from the other side of the curtain. “All the way from Firenze, Italy, the one and only Aldo Gianfranco! And all the way from Sunnydale, California, the world's finest soprano, Willow Rosenberg!”
Nonononono! Please, no! Aldo is already on stage, a huge, portly man in a tuxedo. He holds out a hand towards her and she steps back, wanting only to flee.
“But I... I didn't learn the words!”
The man who led her here isn’t listening, he just shoves her forward, through the curtains and onto the stage she barely manages to keep her feet, stumbling and colliding with Aldo, who looks none too pleased with her clumsiness.
As the spotlight settles on the big man, the audience goes quiet and the orchestra starts to play. The music’s completely unfamiliar to Willow, something classical, operatic. Aldo is singing now in Italian, his voice is beautiful. She might have been almost entranced under other circumstances, but not now. She’s too scared.
Then the spotlight shifts, settling on her, and she’s frozen to the spot. Everyone is waiting for her to sing, but she can’t, she doesn’t know the words and even if she did it wouldn’t help. She’s no singer. She stands there silent as the music plays,
When the spotlight returns to Aldo and he continues to sing, it’s no comfort. She’s still standing on stage in front of hundreds, maybe even thousands on people, and they’re all still expecting something from her that she can’t give.
Aldo’s glaring at her again, waiting for something. The heat from the spotlight is so intense that Willow is sure she’s going to faint dead away any second.
“My turn?” Her voice is so weak as to be barely audible.
Willow doesn’t want to, but for some reason she’s compelled to try. Staring out across the crowd, unseeing, she opens her mouth but all that comes out is a squeak. The audience stirs; they don’t sound happy. Aldo turns away, disgusted, and Willow waits, wishing the stage would just open up and swallow her. Anything would be better than standing in the spotlight with crowds of strangers witnessing her humiliation.
Nightmare or reality; it makes no difference. This is the worst day of her entire life.