The next evening, as soon as the sun went down, Willow and Angel went to the library. Willow had changed her mind, and was trying to worm her way out of it, but Angel wouldn't let her, practically dragging her.
Pulling her through the library doors, she and Angel came face to face with the Slayer, the Watcher, and the Slayerettes. Willow felt totally unconnected to them, no sense of anything familial. Buffy was the first to approach her, putting her arms around Willow's neck and hugging her tightly. Willow responded, lightly, not knowing how tightly she could hug a mortal, not understanding her strength.
She was next approached by Oz, who tried to kiss her.
"No!" she pulled away.
< Get me out of here… >
< Hey, I don't really want to be hear either. >
< Then let's leave… >
< No, Willow… we can't just run away. You have to face this. Even if it is for the last time. You have to have this closure… >
< But… >
"What are you two doing?" Giles voice interrupted their thoughts.
"Nu…Nothing," Willow replied.
"You can read each other's minds, can't you?"
The others in the room stood silently staring at the threesome.
< Angel? > Willow pleaded.
"We're not reading each other's minds, Giles, we're talking," Angel tried to explain.
"What do you mean, talking?"
"I mean that we can talk to each other…"
"Telepathically," Willow helped out.
"Oh, this is great," Buffy muttered.
"What?" Angel turned to face her.
"My boyfriend has a psychic connection with my best friend."
"Buffy…" Angel said.
"No, don't. This is all too creepy."
"Thanks, Buffy," Willow interjected, tears beginning to creep from her eyes, "You think this is creepy for you, try being me…"
"Hey, if I were, maybe I'd get to spend a little time with Angel…"
"Buffy, shut the hell up," Oz popped out of his trance.
"Oz!" Buffy shot back.
"Hey, everybody just calm the hell down," It was the first time that Xander had spoken.
He walked over to Willow and put his arms around her.
"Xander, please…" She pulled away and disappeared in an instant.
"This was a bad idea," Angel said, "Willow was ready for this, but I can see that you guys weren't."
Angel disappeared, too, leaving the library door swinging on its hinges.
He caught up with Willow before she got more than two miles from the school. Grabbing her by the shoulder, he spun her around to face him.
"You're fast, Will, but I'm still faster than you…"
"God, Angel, that was horrible."
"It was. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have dragged you along."
"No, it was necessary. I needed to see them all like that. Together. Without me."
"No, Angel… now I can move on. I want to leave Sunnydale."
"Just like that, huh?"
"Angel, everything's changed. If I stay here, I will never escape them. I want… need to be away from the Hellmouth. Away from all this evil. I have to go someplace where I can learn to be me… the new me."
"Maybe you're right… but you just can't leave like this. You have to talk to them. Despite the way they acted back there, they do love you."
"Maybe I should go see them individually… try talking to them alone."
"That would probably be a good idea. Let's get back to the apartment and you can start thinking of where you want to go."
"I already know… I want to go to Wales. I've always wanted to live in the Welsh countryside, Angel."
He smiled at Willow… Vampire or not, she was still every bit Willow, "You'll love Wales. It's beautiful. It'll suit you perfectly."
When they reached the apartment, Angel wanted to explain to Willow what would be involved in moving to Wales.
"I thought that you'd just pack me up in a big box and Fed-Ex me over there."
"No, Willow… there are much easier ways for us to travel…"
"Us? You're not going!"
"Of course I am."
"Well then I'm not going. Or I'll sneak off without you," Willow plastered her most stubborn look across her face.
< You aren't responsible for me. I don't need you feeling sorry for poor little Willow… >
"Will, I'm going because I want to go. Because you need me, and I need you, and a big change of scenery will do us both good."
"What about Buffy? You're just going to leave her?"
"Yep. You have to admit that I've caused her nothing but trouble. Nothing is the same between us anymore, Willow. I want to get away from her… from here."
Willow knew that he was serious. He wasn't doing this for Willow. This was something that he needed to do for himself.
"So, Angel, how do we get there?"
"On a boat?"
"Yep… for a couple hundred bucks we can stow away on a big tanker. We can pack enough blood to feed off of until we get there. Sleep in the bow during the day, and we can prowl the decks at night. I think you'll enjoy it. The ocean is beautiful at night."
"Angel… are there many vampires in Wales?"
"You scared of them, aren't you?"
"I know that Spike and Dru would love to kill me."
"No, there aren't many in Wales. And they're mostly very old vampires that only hunt for food. But you are right to be scared of Spike and Dru. I'm afraid that they may try to follow us."
"What are we going to do?"
"Buffy is probably out hunting them right now…"
"Buffy probably wishes that they would kill me. Why is she so jealous of me?"
"Because deep down inside, she knows that I don't want her anymore. And if she looked a little further inside of herself, she'd discover that she doesn't want me anymore, either."
"But why, Angel. You two were so in love. How could all of that just suddenly change?"
"There was nothing sudden about it, Will…"
< Why do you suddenly keep calling me Will? You never called me that before I changed… >
< Because I like the way you blush when I say it… >
"Buffy and I started falling out of love the second you restored my soul."
"But why? What you had was so strong…"
"All the things that happened while I was Angelus drove a wedge between the two of us that can never be removed no matter how hard we try. I know that and she knows that. She's just a little more reluctant to give it up than I am. So, leaving town will be best for all of us."
"I want to not have to worry about Spike and Drusilla coming after us…"
"You want to try and kill them, Willow?" he chuckled.
"No," she replied seriously, "I want to restore their souls."
"Sorry, Will, but you are."
"C'mon, what makes it such a bad idea?"
"You're going to have to be a little bit more specific than that…"
"Look, Willow, Spike never had a soul to begin with. He was a mean son of a bitch from the start. I doubt that restoring his soul would do much of anything."
"But, it wouldn't hurt to try…"
< Wouldn't hurt to try, my ass… remember what happened the first time you tried it on me? Hurt like Hell, didn't it? >
"And restoring Drusilla's soul certainly won't make her sane again. Don't forget that she's nutty as a fruitcake."
"Angel, we've got to try… it's the only way to be free of them."
"Willow, let's just move to Wales and try to forget about them for a few centuries, OK?"
"No, Angel, not OK. Most definitely not OK. I've made up my mind and I'm going to do this-with or without your help."
"You're going to need more help than I can give you. You're going to need Buffy and Giles."
"So, you're going to let me do this?" she asked gleefully.
"I didn't think you were giving me a choice!"
"I got a visit from Angel and Willow last night…" Giles told Buffy.
"What? Is she OK? Are they OK? Where are they?"
"Calm down, Buffy. They will be paying you a visit, too."
"What's going on?"
"They're leaving the country."
"They are leaving the country. And I honestly believe that it's for the best."
"How can you say that, Giles?"
"Because neither of them can have any sort of a life here."
"Bullshit, Giles! I can't believe that you'd support this…"
"Buffy, sit down now and you listen to me!" Buffy had rarely seen Giles this angry.
"Maybe you do love Angel… and maybe you don't. But the fact is that when he became Angelus everything changed, and he… nothing will ever be the same again."
"OK, Giles, fine… I'll give you that one. But what about Willow?"
"Staying here would be nothing but a constant reminder of her life. The life that she can never have back. She couldn't stay here, watching you and Oz, Xander and Cordelia grow up and grow old… watching her family, knowing that she can never be a part of that again. Buffy, think about this logically and clearly. She can't stay here."
Buffy was crying silent tears now.
"That's not all, Buffy. They need your help before they go."
"Help with what?"
"They're going to attempt to restore Spike and Drusilla's souls."
"No way. No. I will not do that for them."
"For who? Angel and Willow?"
"No, Spike and Dru. They don't deserve to have souls. They deserve to be dusted."
"I'm afraid Willow has her mind set on it. No one has had any luck, uh, dusting them yet, and she doesn't want to have to try learning to be what she is now with those two constantly chasing them around the globe."
"Jesus, what's she gonna do… go running around saving the souls of all the vampires that I'm supposed to be slaying?"
"Very Willow of her, isn't it?"
Buffy spun around to see Angel standing there. She hadn't heard him enter the library.
"Hey, Buff. I take it Giles has filled you in on Willow's plans?"
"I don't like it, Angel. I won't be any part of it."
"Giles, could I talk to Buffy alone?"
"Certainly…" Giles went into his office and shut the door.
"So, where is the little woman?"
"Buffy, would you get over this loony jealousy thing? This is Willow we're talking about."
Buffy sighed, "I know, Angel. But, you know, my world is falling apart here, too."
Angel chuckled, "You'll excuse me if I don't feel a lot of sympathy for you right now. Willow is the one that this is affecting, remember? Willow-sweet, naïve, innocent Willow is a vampire now. Do you think that just maybe you could quit thinking about yourself for a little while?"
"When did you quit loving me, Angel?"
"Buffy… let's not do this right now."
"No, Angel, let's do. I think this is a perfectly good time to talk about this. When did you stop loving me?"
"It's not that simple. I love you, Buffy, and I always will, but not in the same way as before. Everything has changed…You know that as well as I do."
"Angel, why?" Tears sprang to Buffy's eyes.
"You know all the reasons. You're the slayer. My presence in your life is a distraction. How many times have you almost died because of me?"
"I'll die without you, Angel…"
"Buffy, stop it. You were without me for months and you survived. Quit fooling yourself… we're not the same as we were before, and we never will be again. We need to be away from each other. Can't you see that?"
Buffy threw her arms around his neck, "I'll never forget you, Angel. I'll always love you."
"Will you help us, Buffy? Will you help us restore Dru and Spike's souls?"
"This is so much harder than I thought it was going to be…"
"Will, you can still change your mind…"
"I guess even a vampire woman has the prerogative to change her mind, huh?"
Angel placed his hands gently on her shoulders, "So, do you want to change your mind?"
A heavy sigh escaped Willow's lips, "No, Angel, I don't. The only things I want to change, I can't. I can't be mortal anymore. I can't get a tan. I can't have babies… Oh, my God…"
< I'm still a virgin… >
Angel laughed, "Willow, in case you've forgotten a very important detail in my past history with Buffy, vampires can still have sex."
"Yeah, but who'd want
to? I mean, I don't mean who'd want to have sex with you, I mean
who'd want to have sex with me? Nobody wanted to when I was mortal,
so who would want to now that I'm not? It's not exactly like I can
just hang out in single's bars and pick up guys, right? Or can I…?"
"You could, but I hope you won't," he chuckled, "That's not you, and I hope it never will be."
< I can't believe that I'm talking to you about sex, Angel. >
< Does it make you more comfortable if we don't talk about it out loud? >
He smiled warmly at her.
< Well, yes, a little… although it does seem kind of silly. >
"Angel, if we restore Spike and Drusilla, will they talk to us this way, too?"
"Probably… but I think it only works when we're in close proximity. When you were running away from the library the other night, could you hear me calling you back?"
"I think that's probably because you were too far away from me. So… unless you're planning on traveling the world with Spike and Dru, we should be safe from their thoughts."
"Shew… I really don't like the thought of sharing my brain with Drusilla. She's spooky."
"That's putting it mildly…"
< Please try not to ever go so far away from me that you can't hear me… >
< I won't. I promise. >
Two weeks later, the entire group found themselves in the library again. Word had spread through Buffy and Giles of Willow and Angel's plans to restore Dru and Spike and leave the country. A sad fog hung over everyone, especially Oz.
"I'm gonna miss you, Oz…"
"Then don't go, Willow."
"I have to… you understand, don't you?"
"No. I didn't bail on everyone when I found out that I'm a werewolf."
"This is so different. I'm a vamp 24/7, not a couple of nights a month. I'm dead. I will never, ever again have any semblance of a normal life. I have to leave here, Oz… not because I want to, but because I have to."
"I'll wait for you then. I'll wait until you come back… until you feel at home in your, uh, new skin…"
"Oz… I'm not coming back. Ever. I'm so sorry… I hate hurting you," Willow began to sniffle.
"Willow, don't cry… I'm sorry. I'm just being my selfish werewolf self. I love you and I don't want to lose you."
"This is beyond my control… and yours, too. It just… it just has to be this way."
< Will… > Angel interrupted her talk with Oz.
< What? >
< We have to get this ritual started… there will, hopefully, be time for good-byes afterwards… >
< I'm scared, Angel… >
< There's still time to forget about this and hop on the boat… >
< NO! No, we're going to do this… I'm going to do this. >
"Um, excuse me…" Giles vocally exploded into their quiet conversation, "Would you two mind letting the rest of us know what's going on?"
"I'm starting the ritual," Willow answered, "The rest of you just guard the doors and windows…"
The ceremony was performed without a hitch. No vampires, no Spike, no Drusilla. Nothing to try to prevent the ritual from taking place. Whether it was because the ritual didn't work or not, no one knew.
"Well, that was disgustingly uneventful," Buffy said, "Think it worked?"
"Yes," Willow spoke up quietly.
"How do you know for sure?" Cordelia asked.
"Because Spike is her sire," Angel answered for her, "She can feel him, just as I can feel both of them because I created them."
"They have their souls?" Xander asked, "This should be interesting…"
All members in the room felt that they hadn't heard the end of Spike and Dru.
"Interesting or dangerous… As I told you all before the ceremony began, Spike never had much of a soul in the first place. And Dru is completely insane, soul or no soul."
< We have to go, Will… say your good-byes… >
< Oh, God, Angel… I don't think I can… > Blood red tears began to form in Willow's eyes.
< You have to, Willow. This was your decision, and it was the right decision. It's going to be all right. We can't change our minds now…you know that. >
"Willow, what's wrong?" Buffy asked, noticing the tears beginning to stream down her friend's face.
Willow and Angel hadn't told anyone that they were leaving that night. The pain would be too hard for everyone to deal with, and the ability to concentrate on the restoration ritual would be broken.
"We're leaving, Buffy. Tonight. Now."
"No, you can't," Xander leaped from his chair, "It's too soon."
"I'm sorry, Xander, but we have to," Angel spoke.
Willow couldn't stand it any longer. With her newly honed disappearing skills, she was suddenly gone from the library.
Buffy jumped up to run after her, but Angel stopped her, "Buffy, don't. She's not strong enough for this emotional of a goodbye. She's right outside waiting for me, and she wants me to deliver her good-byes for her."
Willow was speaking to Angel, sobbing. It broke his heart to be able to hear and feel her misery.
< No, Angel, I can't do it… not even from here. I can't. Please, please just tell them that I love them all, and that I will miss them so, so much…Please, Angel, please, don't make this any harder for me… >
< Hang on, Will. Hold it together for me. Give me two minutes and I'll be out there with you, OK? Willow? Tell me you're OK. Will? >
< I'm not OK, Angel. I'm not. > He could feel the sobs wreaking her body… <But I will be, Angel, as soon as we are away from here… Hurry… >
"I-I'm sorry, guys," Angel muttered, "She just can't say goodbye right now. She says to tell you all that she loves you and that she'll miss you…"
"What about you, Angel?" Buffy asked, tears streaming down her face, "Will you miss m… us?"
"Buffy, I thought that we went through this already. You know how I feel about you… how I'll always feel about you…"
"Angel?" Buffy whispered, but he was already gone.
He stood in front of the school, holding Willow in his arms as she wailed.
< It hurts… Oh my God, it hurts… > she cried to Angel over and over.
That night, Angel ushered Willow away from Sunnydale. They drove to the coast, to the harbor where Angel had made the arrangements for their departure. Just before dawn, he led her aboard a huge oil tanker that was getting ready to sail around the world to the United Kingdom. Willow was going to be traveling through parts of the world that she had only dreamed about, around the coast of Mexico, Central America, through the great Panama Canal, and across the Atlantic Ocean to their final destination. And the only thing she would be able to see would be the black ocean at night.
Angel had painstakingly
planned every detail of the expedition, wanting the journey to be as easy
on Willow as possible. Arranging for their accommodations aboard
the ship had been costly, but would be worth it. The
crew of any major vessel such as this was a surly bunch, and the amount of money waved before their faces by Angel's lawyers assured the pair of uncommon luxury about this tanker. The trip would last nearly a month, and they wouldn't be able to leave the ship at all during this time. A huge bedroom had been quietly installed, quietly hidden away deep in the bowels of the ship. A gigantic bed. A television, with a wide assortment of videos for her to watch. Books, a computer. Angel would be bringing their supply of blood on board himself. As far as the crew of the ship were concerned, Angel and Willow were a couple of too rich school kids out looking for adventure. They were too stupid to question why a lawyer would be involved with this ridiculous story. None of this mattered to Angel. The small fortune that he had spent would be worth it, if it made Willow's life any easier.
The money was insignificant
to him. Bill Gates could fool himself into believing he was the richest
man on earth, but, in truth, there was several dozen vampires around the
world that had amassed huge amounts of money that
would make Gates look like a pauper. Money that would never be noticed, never be missed, scattered around the four corners of the world in forgotten bank accounts and trusts and businesses waiting to be claimed by their masters. Angel wasn't one of the wealthier vampires, but he had enough money built up to spend several lifetimes in the lap of luxury, and the interest alone on these accounts could keep him for several more lifetimes.
Angel hadn't told Willow
many of the details of the trip, other than he promised her it wouldn't
be horrible. He led her into the area in which they would be living
for the next month. Even though she no longer needed to draw
breath, she couldn't contain the gasp that escaped her lips. The walls had been painted white, and lamps and lights were placed everywhere, trying to give the room a bright, airy feel. The huge king size bed was draped with a white comforter and white pillows. There were vases of fresh flowers that Angel knew wouldn't survive more than a few days, but he didn't care. There was a huge desk with a massive computer for Willow, and a bookshelf full of books and movies. Willow couldn't believe her eyes, and that Angel had done all this for her…
"For us," he said, reading into her thoughts as he dropped the huge cooler full of blood onto the floor, "Mostly for you, but I want to be comfortable, too," he winked at her.
Willow managed a melancholy grin at her companion. She had cried herself to sleep once they left Sunnydale, and had slept all the way to the harbor. She hadn't spoken much as Angel led her to their quarters, barely saying a word to him.
"Angel, I'm sorry I was such a poop-head back at the library…" she told him as she went to sit on the big bed.
"Poop-head? Did my traveling companion just refer to herself as a poop-head?" Angel teased as he followed her to the bed and sat beside her, taking one of her hands in his.
"It's just… it was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be…"
"I know…" he traced small circles on the back of her hand with his fingers, "it was difficult for me, too. They… you included… are the closest thing I've had to a family since I was embraced…"
"Angel, I'm so sorry for taking you aw…"
"Shh… no, Willow, you're not taking me away. My life in Sunnydale, for all intents and purposes, ended when the curse was broken and I became Angelus. Even if this hadn't happened to you, I would have still had to leave."
"Angel, it's just not fair…"
"Willow, nothing that has happened to either of us has been fair. But, it's time for us to start over, and maybe, just maybe, together the two of us can find a little happiness."
Willow laid her head
on Angel's shoulder as he continued caressing her hand. She closed her
eyes, slowly feeling herself beginning to drift away inside of Angel's
touch, "You'll be sick of me by the time we reach Wales… you'll
leave me behind as soon as you can escape from this ship…"
"Never… won't happen, Will. We're bonded, you and I. I know that we weren't thrown together by choice, but, Willow, don't you know what you mean to me?"
"I'm the geeky, mousy friend of the love of your life…"
"Wrong. You're my friend. My only friend. The only one that never gave up on me. Twice you performed the ritual to bring me back. You never lost faith in me, when everyone else did, including Buffy."
Willow unconsciously snuggled against him.
"Willow, I'm going to tell you something that I've been keeping to myself, and it's probably going to make you madder than hell at me, but I need you to know."
The serious tone of his voice made Willow sit up and take notice. She looked Angel in the eye, waiting for whatever bombshell he was about to drop on her.
< I spied on you… >
"WHAT?! What do you mean?"
"As Angelus, I used to lurk outside your bedroom watching you, listening to you. You were supposed to be my first target, remember? I knew that it would hurt Buffy the most if I killed you first…"
"Don't say 'I', Angel. That was Angelus, not you…"
"Will, it was… I watched you, every night. Maybe it was Angelus, but I was still inside this body, too, and I saw everything that he saw. "
"You saw me naked," Willow drew away from him, shocked.
Angel couldn't stop the chuckle that escaped his lips, "Yes, I did, Will. Many times. But, Willow, that's not…"
"Oh my God," she cut him off, "Nobody has ever seen me naked," she buried her face in her hands, mortified.
Angel rose from the
bed and knelt on the floor in front of her, pulling her hands away from
her face, "Willow, I am so, so sorry. It was a horrible thing
to do, but you have nothing to be ashamed of. God, you're beautiful.
You have a beautiful, exquisitely perfect body…"
"Stop it, Angel. Don't lie to me…"
"Damn it, Willow, you
have spent so many years pining away for that idiot Xander that you can't
see yourself for what you are. So many years of rejection from that
moron that couldn't see what was right in front of him. Willow, you have
to believe me. Not only are you the most beautiful person I've ever
met on the inside, but you are beautiful on the outside, too. Willow,
look at me," he released his grip on her hands and took her face
between his hands instead, forcing her to look at him, "You are beautiful. You are. Please, believe me," he pleaded.
"Why are you telling me this?" she asked as red tears began to spill down her cheeks.
"Will, it gets worse. Much, much worse. I saw your most private moments. Things that you thought that no one would ever see, ever know about…"
Willow lurched away from him suddenly, launching herself to the far side of the bed, "Oh! Oh, no, Angel, tell me you didn't…"
"I'm so sorry, Willow… I swear, if I could take it all back I would…"
"You know, don't you?"
"Yes," he answered quietly.
"I hate you."
"Will, please let me explain…"
"Explain? How the hell can you explain that? You watched me mastur…"
Willow wasn't quite the person that everyone in Sunnydale thought that she was. She had a dark secret, that, until this moment, she thought was entirely unknown to the rest of the world. From the moment she met Angel, she had dreamt about him. She never seriously had any feelings for him. She loved Xander. Then she loved Oz. But Angel was always in the back of her mind. She was a teenage girl, and when she thought about sex, it wasn't Xander or Oz. It was her best friend's vampire boyfriend. Even after he became Angelus, Willow still fantasized about Angel. And this secret… the secret Willow planned to never reveal, was suddenly exposed.
"Willow, there is nothing wrong with what you were doing…" Angel foolishly tried to dissuade her anger, "Even vampires do it…"
"God, Angel, do you think I'm that big of an idiot? I know that there is nothing wrong with masturbation. The wrong part comes in masturbating to thoughts of your best friend's boyfriend…"
Angel couldn't hide the smirk on his face.
"Don't you dare laugh at me, you son of a bitch," Angel was shocked. He had never heard Willow speak with such vehemence.
"I'm not laughing at you, Will. It's just…" Angel stopped and looked at the extremely embarrassed and pissed off Willow, "There is nothing I can say right now that's going to make you feel any better, is there?"
Willow shook her head at him.
Angel sighed, "We should get some rest. The sun is rising and the ship will be sailing soon."
Willow lay down where she was sitting on the bed, and rolled over to face away from Angel.
< Willow, I'm sorry. >
< Fuck you. >
Willow didn't sleep. She was fairly well rested from the sleep she had gotten during the trip from Sunnydale to the ocean, and her mind was spinning. Angel hadn't tried to speak to her any more, realizing that she needed time to work through her anger at him, and had drifted off into a fitful sleep.
Willow rolled over
to watch him, trying to talk herself out of her anger. Angelus, not Angel.
Angelus, not Angel. She reminded herself over and over that Angel
had been an unwilling participant in everything that Angelus had
done. Angel would never intrude on her, or spy on her like that. Only Angelus. But it didn't help. Angel had seen a part of her that she never wanted anyone to see, especially not him. She had never felt so humiliated or
embarrassed in her life.
Many nights she had brought herself to a shuddering climax, with thoughts of Angel dancing in her head. Angel's lips, his hands, his eyes. And, even though Angel hadn't said anything about it, she knew that in these, her most private moments, she could be very vocal. The thought of Angel watching her while she lay alone on her bed, sometimes on her back, sometimes on her stomach, her hands thrust between her legs, fingers plunging as deeply as she could inside herself, crying out his name through clenched teeth, mortified her.
rose from the bed and pulled a book out of the bookcase. She climbed into
a big easy chair on the other side of the room, and tried to read.
All she could do was stare at Angel's sleeping form on the bed, and
wallow in her embarrassment. Many hours later, Angel opened his eyes, immediately focusing on Willow watching him from across the room.
< Willow? > He called out to her.
She lowered her eyes and went back to trying to read the book without answering him.
He shook his head and got out of bed, walking over to the large wardrobe. He opened the doors and pulled out some clean clothes for himself.
"There's a bathroom just down the corridor, and your clothes are in the wardrobe, too. I'm going to take a shower…" he voice trailed off as he noticed Willow wouldn't even look up to acknowledge him.
He returned twenty minutes later. Willow couldn't help but glance up to see him as he entered their room again. She admired his wet hair, and his white tee shirt and the way his jeans fit his body as he sat on the edge of the bed, pulling his shoes and socks on. He pulled a jacket out of the wardrobe and put it on.
"I'm going up on deck for a while," he started to walk out.
< You're leaving me down here alone? >
Angel stopped in the doorway, but didn't turn around to face her.
< You hate me, remember? I figured that you wanted me as far away from you as possible. >
< Fine, then. Go ahead and leave me. >
Angel turned back into
the room, and pulled another jacket out of the wardrobe. He walked
past Willow's chair and grabbed her hand, dragging her out of the chair
and out the door with him. By the time they reached the
deck, Willow was almost running to keep up with him. He turned and tossed the jacket to her, even though neither could feel the cold temperatures. He strolled over to the guardrail and looked out over the dark ocean. The moon was shining brightly on the sea, and Willow was immediately hypnotized by the millions of stars in the sky over their heads. The pair stood in silence for many long minutes before Willow finally broke out of her trance and spoke to him.
"Why?" she asked.
"Why what?" Angel turned to look at her, leaning back on the railing.
"Why did you have to tell me? Why couldn't you just go on letting me be oblivious to the fact that you know all my dirty little secrets? Why'd you have to embarrass me so badly?"
"Will, I wasn't trying to embarrass you. I was trying to make a point…"
"What point? That I'm a pervert?"
"You are not a pervert. I was trying to tell you how much you mean to me."
"That is a damn weird way to show it, Angel."
"In retrospect, you're
completely right. Look, Willow, here's what I was trying to say to
you last night… I know how you feel about me…or, at least, how you
felt about me, and I wanted to let you know that it's OK. That I'm
OK with that. That you mean the world to me. Jesus, I sound
like an idiot… We have so damn much in common. We're both lost
souls. We're both looking for some sort of unconditional love.
We both can never go home again. We're both desperately lonely, and
have been pretty much our whole lives. And yet, we're completely
different, too. You're optimistic, and bubbly, and you try to see
the best in everyone that you meet. I'm just the opposite.
Except you're infectious. When I'm with you, and Willow, this hasn't
changed as long as I've known you, you make me want to be more like you-hopeful,
and open and accepting. You make me smile-even better, you make me
laugh. Even though I hate what's happened to you, I'm so very thankful
that I have you. You make
me want to live. Do you understand now?"
Suddenly, a huge grin broke across Willow's face, "I make you happy?"
Angel felt a huge wave of relief wash over himself, "Yes, Will, you do. Giddy, and silly, and deliriously happy."
"You're laying it on too thick," she teased, "I've never seen you giddy."
"On the inside, then," he grinned back at her, "Giddy on the inside."
Willow crossed over to where Angel was leaning on the railing and curled herself into his open arms, which quickly engulfed her in a tight hug, "Willow, I have so much to teach you and show you about the world and about being a vampire-a souled vampire. It will take us a lifetime to even scratch the surface. Have you really given much thought about what it means to be immortal?"
Willow squeezed him tightly, "Not tonight, Angel. Being immortal means that we have forever to talk about this, and tonight, for right now, I just want to think about being Willow, and being with my Angel… M-My friend, Angel, I mean…" she stammered.
Angel threw his head back and laughed, pulling her closer to him, "I know what you mean."
Willow felt more relaxed and comfortable than she had in months, maybe years, since she discovered that vampires were real. She was in a place with the one person that she trusted implicitly with her life, someone that she loved, a place where, for the time being, no vampires could reach them, going to a place far away from the monsters of the Hellmouth. She was happy. And feeling brave. Whether is was something having to do with being a vampire, or whether it was something to do with being in Angel's arms, she didn't care.
< Angel? >
< Yes… >
< Can I kiss you? >
Angel didn't answer, and for a moment, Willow thought-hoped-that he didn't hear her. But then he slowly released her from his embrace and took her upper arms is his hands, pushing her slightly back away from him. Willow felt a bolt of searing pain shoot through her heart, thinking he was rejecting her.
But then he gently placed two fingers from his right hand under her chin and pulled her face towards his.
Willow's eyes drifted closed and her lips parted waiting for the kiss she knew was coming, as he tilted her face back leaning in to press his lips against hers.
It was a gentle, tender,
chaste kiss, but it felt incredible to her. She didn't move a muscle
as Angel continued to press his cold lips against hers. He drew back
slightly and slowly traced the edge of her lips with his tongue.
Willow opened her lips a bit more, allowing her tongue to softly meet his, drawing him into her mouth. It was all happening in deliciously slow motion, their tongues deliberately snaking together in a sensual dance. It felt so
erotic, so hot, that Willow thought that she would pass out at any minute. Then Angel tenderly bit down on her lower lip, causing Willow to loudly gasp against his mouth, her body arching against his, bringing her back to life. She threw her arms around his neck, pulling herself roughly against his hard body. She entangled her fingers in his still damp hair, forcing his mouth violently against hers. Angel slipped his arms around her small waist, his
fingers clawing against her back through the jacket she wore. Feelings Willow had never experienced before began to rip through her body, something feral and savage, and she knew that Angel felt it, too. Their tongues
hungrily, angrily fought against each other, jockeying for the better position to taste the other with. Their hands tore at each other's bodies, lost in a violent, erotic tango.
Suddenly, Angel's words ripped into her head.
< Willow?! Willow, stop! Pull away… >
She heard him, but couldn't stop. Didn't want to, couldn't even try.
< Willow? Please, stop. Please… >
Angel roughly pushed Willow away. Angrily, she rushed at him again, lost in her passion, but he caught her, and held her at arms length.
"Willow! Willow, look at me!" he shook her.
As he shook her, the fog in her head began to clear, and she focused on Angel's face.
"Oh, my God…" she mumbled, reaching up to touch her own face.
She realized that sometime during their kiss, they had both slipped into their game faces. Ashamed, she turned away from him.
"Willow, please don't hide from me," he wrapped his arms around her shoulders, tightly embracing her from behind, "This is what we are. This is what happens when vampires make love… you've got so much to learn about. You're just not ready for this yet…"
She sniffled, struggling to hold back her tears, as she felt her game face disappear, "I wasn't ready for it as a human, and now I'm not ready for it as a vampire… Am I destined to be the immortal virgin?"
Angel gently kissed
the top of her head, squeezing her tighter in his arms, "Will, I can promise
you with almost one hundred percent certainty that you will not remain
a virgin forever. I know you know all about the birds and
bees, but with vampires, it's different…"
"It wasn't different with Buffy, was it?"
He felt her body tense in his arms, "I… it… Willow, with Buffy… God, I don't know how to explain this to make any sense to you… I had sex with Buffy in the very technical, clinical sense of the word, but it wasn't… there wasn't…"
"You broke the curse, Angel. You experienced complete happiness."
"Willow, sex is… even bad sex is still pretty good. I am a guy, after all," he spun her around to face him, both of their faces back to normal.
He took her hands in
his, and continued, "If I had made love to Buffy, real vampire love,
I would have killed her. You felt it… you felt what was just coursing
through your body. You wanted to rip me apart, limb from limb.
more we clawed at each other, the more violent we got, the more aroused you got. Me, too. Willow, when we make love, I want you to know exactly what to expect. I don't want you to be shocked by anything that you do to me, or anything that I'm going to do to you. Do you understand me?"
"So, is there like a sex-ed book for vampires?" she forced a weak grin.
Angel threw his head back and laughed, a real laugh, and held Willow in his arms, "You do make me happy, Willow. You really do."
The next several weeks
passed in a blur. Willow and Angel had both thought that they would
be bored to tears on the boat, but it turned into an experience neither
of them would ever forget. The days were spent sleeping,
on opposite sides of the bed, or reading or, for Willow, surfing the net on the computer. The nights were spent on deck, usually sitting or lying on a blanket, talking for hours and hours. Willow wanted to hear every detail of
his two hundred and forty plus years, and Angel was delighted to finally have someone to tell all his stories to, both the good ones and the many, many bad ones. She felt she was learning every possible thing she would need to know to live immortally as a vampire. Angel felt that he finally had a partner. Not some psycho like Dru, or a mortal like Buffy that he could only spend a few years with, but someone that he could be completely open with. He had reluctantly told Buffy from stories from his past, but she had mostly learned about him through Giles and his books. With Willow, the openness seemed natural. He felt that there was nothing that he had to keep from her, and it made is heart soar. And Willow genuinely wanted to hear every word he had to say, both because she knew that he needed to unburden himself, and because she knew that she needed to hear it all for her own good. Not to mention that Angel was a fascinating storyteller. The Angel that she knew before was quiet
and sullen. It was like pulling teeth to get him to say a complete sentence. Willow's Angel was eloquent and passionate. He spoke with a quiet authority that demanded her attention and she loved him for it.
Physically, they kept their distance, aside from a few simple kisses shared when their eyes locked onto each other. Willow wanted Angel badly, and she knew that he wanted her, too. She also was beginning to understand, though, the need to wait. Willow still had so much to learn about the passion that would be involved in their lovemaking, and she still held certain doubts about whether or not he truly loved her, or loved having someone to be with. She had no doubt that he cared deeply for her, but she also knew how much he had loved Buffy. Angel had lived with his curse for years, having his soul. Willow had never asked him, but she couldn't imagine that he wouldn't know what it would be that would end the curse. She had no doubts that he had loved Buffy enough to be willing to give up his soul for her. He had to have known the danger inherent in making love to Buffy. Willow knew that the restoration ritual she had performed was fixed so that it was irreversible. Making love to Willow wouldn't take his soul away again, but she wanted to be secure in the knowledge that he would give up his soul to love her if that's what he had to do.
It was way too early
in the relationship for her to broach this subject with him. There
would be plenty of time for that later, once they were settled in Wales,
and once she was certain of his commitment to her. She still didn't
understand exactly what Angel meant when he told her that he wanted her to understand the things she was going to do to him, and the things he was going to do to her during their lovemaking. The thought scared her. All her young life, she had imagined what her first time would be like… gentle, and loving. What she knew that her and Angel would share would be nothing like that. And she wasn't entirely sure that she would ever be ready for that.
One night, near the end of their voyage, they were lying on the deck, watching the stars. Among many of the things that Willow was learning about Angel was the he was a master astronomer. He pointed out the stars and constellations, pointing towards far away galaxies. Gingerly, in the dark, he reached out and grasped her hand, holding it to his chest.
"Will, you know we can still touch each other without it during into some violent, erotic lovemaking session..."
"You might be able to, but I'm not sure that I can," she giggled nervously.
"You're strong, but not strong enough to take me without my consent…" she saw his grin in the darkness, "You have learned so much in the past month. You're going to be fine, with or without me…"
"Angel," fear shot through her heart, thinking he was wanting to leave her.
"Shh… Willow… you'll never have to do it without me. I'm staying by your side forever. You have my word on that. But if you had to, you could…"
"Don't talk like that, Angel. It scares me."
Angel released her hand, and rolled over on his stomach to look into her eyes. Leaning on his elbows, he gently caressed her cheek, "Will, I'm never leaving you. I want nothing more at this moment in time than to live a quiet, humble existence with you somewhere in the Welsh countryside. You know that we can't stay there forever, but wherever we go, it will be together. I don't want you to be scared of anything ever again."
"I don't know what to say, Angel…"
"Will, do you know that you talk to me in your sleep?"
"While you sleep… I don't know if you're dreaming, or if it's conscious or not, but you pummel me with questions. I don't know, I might do the same thing to you…"
"God, it must be miserable for you listening to me babble all night…or day… or whatever…"
"I can't hear you when I'm sleeping. Only when you're asleep and I'm awake, and only when you're in a very deep sleep."
"What do I ask you, Angel? Or am I going to be horribly embarrassed again?"
"Everything, Will. Your mind fascinates me, and I can't wait to start exploring all the dark recesses of your mind, learning everything that makes you tick… but, mostly, you ask me about sex…" he grinned at her.
Willow clasped her hands in front of her face, "Could I be anymore the horny teenager?"
"Is there anything that you want to ask me, Willow? Now, when we're both conscious?"
"I'm being serious… ask me what you need to know."
"I can't, Angel… it's too embarrassing. I can't believe I ask you questions in my sleep."
"I'm glad that you do, Will. Because you're holding back from me. You have questions and fears that you're not confiding in me."
Willow sat up from her lying on her back, "Angel, I…"
I understand. You don't trust what I feel for you, and I don't blame
you. I will always love Buffy. But, Will, I'm not in love with
her. I love you, right now, as strongly as I ever loved Buffy, and
I am rapidly
falling in love with you. And I know that's just words, and that I have to prove it to you. In time, I will. But until we get off this boat, there's not a lot I can do but try and reassure you. You are everything that I could
ever want in an immortal partner, someone to live through eternity with. And I don't have to be afraid to love you. You are what I am. You are a part of me. I can love you as freely and as openly as I want, and it's something that I've never had before. I'm not going back to Sunnydale, and I'm not going back to Buffy, ever. Period."
"It's not about you going back to Buffy, Angel. It's about you loving me, for me. Not because I'm here, not because I'm a vampire, not because I have a soul. It's about putting me and Buffy, side by side, or any other woman for that matter, and deciding that you love me more than anyone else."
Angel grew silent in thought for a few moments.
Willow felt tears beginning to sting her eyes, "I'm sorry, Angel. That's unfair of me… it's too much to ask you…"
"No, Will, it isn't. You deserve that, and a hell of a lot more… and I wish I could tell you that, but I just can't… yet, Willow. Yet."
"No, you don't. I can hear it in your voice and see it in your eyes… Willow, I do love you. As a friend, I've always loved you. And it just seems natural for the two of us to be together now, but you deserve to have someone that will love you with all the passion and roses and champagne and moonbeams in the universe… I'm sorry, Will… I just can't give you that, yet."
Tears began streaming down Willow's cheeks as she tried to jump up and run, but Angel grabbed her arm and pulled her back down , "Don't, Will… don't run away from me. I'm sorry I can't give you the love that you want right now…but can you honestly say that you love me? I mean, the way that you want me to love you? Think about Oz, and Xander. You loved them, remember? I was Buffy's boyfriend. You may have had sexual fantasies about me, but that wasn't love."
"But… it's… I…"
"Talk to me, Willow. Whatever you're thinking right now, tell me. Don't close yourself up."
"I want you to make love to me."
"No. Willow, I can't… you don't understand."
"You're right," she cried, "I don't understand. Show me…" she was yelling at him now, "Show me what I don't understand."
"It wouldn't be right,
and I won't do that to you. You're a virgin, and you're first time
should be with someone that you love with all your heart and soul, and
someone that loves you back. Willow, we could have sex, the
humans do, and it would be all sweet and tender… but it wouldn't satisfy you. It would be so wrong…"
"How could that be wrong, Angel…?" she sobbed.
"Because vampires feed off of each other during sex, Willow. Are you ready for that? Could you stand it if I sank my fangs into you? Could you do the same to me? You've never fed off of the living before… it's violent, and dangerous, and ugly. But that's the way we get our most intense sexual release, Willow… could you do that? Do you even want to?"
Willow hung her head and sobbed.
"Please, Willow, listen to me… I don't mean to be harsh, but you have to understand…"
"No, no, I won't," she cried, "You're telling me that no one will ever make love to me… I'm immortal, and no one is ever going to love me…"
"That's not true, Willow," Angel grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her, "You're not human anymore. Making love doesn't mean what it used to for you. But you have to become used to what you are first. It's the same as humans not having sex until they mature. You need to mature as a vampire before you can think of having sex. That day will come, Willow. I promise. I swear."
Willow fell into Angel's arms and he held her tightly, "Will, please, don't try to rush this. Don't try to do something that you-we're-not ready for. It's going to happen. Let's just get used to each other… give ourselves time to fall in love."
Willow's sobs began to subside as Angel smoothed her auburn hair down her back.
"Shh… it's OK, Will… shh… I do love you… I never meant to imply that I didn't. We just… we'll both know when the time is right, Willow… I promise."
"Angel, I need a little time alone… please."
"The sun will be coming up soon, Will… you should come down below…"
"Just a few minutes… OK?"
Angel gathered their
blanket and went below deck to their compartment. Willow leaned out
over the railing and stared out over the vast ocean, recalling everything
that had happened to her in the past six weeks. Six weeks… it
seemed like much longer to her. She had barely mourned for her past life. Being with Angel made it all seem so much easier. Everything that he was sharing with her fascinated her. The stories, the lives he was carving out
for them. Willow couldn't imagine why he was doing the things he was. She knew from Buffy just how passionately the two of them had loved each other. Willow had always felt that the two of them were meant to be. Why was Angel running so far from her? Things had changed. No one could deny that. Maybe they had changed too much. But if Buffy, and Sunnydale, would prove to be a constant reminder to Angel of the things Angelus had done, why didn't Willow serve as the same reminder?
Willow was more confused than she had ever been in her short life. Could Angel ever love her the way he had loved Buffy? Did Willow even want that sort of love? It was a tortured, tormented, passionate love, and it had hurt them both very deeply. Willow never wanted to cause Angel that sort of pain, and she knew that Angel cared for her enough to not want her to experience that sort of pain, either. As miserable as her own life was at this point, she knew that Angel's two hundred forty years had been much, much worse. She loved him. She really and truly did. Maybe not in the same way she had thought of love all her life. It certainly wasn't anything like she had ever felt for Oz or Xander. It was something deeper, something more real. She didn't want to be a burden to him. She loved the idea that she could make him happy, make him smile. She knew that she was tormenting him now. She was in pain, and he felt that he was the cause of it. The hardest part of their journey was still ahead of them. They had to begin their lives in Wales. Willow didn't want to make this a dark time in their lives. The lighter she could make things between them, the easier this transition would be for them.
Willow could feel the sun starting to rise as she made her way below deck. Angel had changed into the silk pajama bottoms that he slept in and was sitting on the bed, his back against the headboard, reading a book.
He glanced up as Willow entered the room, wearing the nightgown that she had changed into as she stopped in the bathroom on her way down the corridor. He could sense a change in Willow immediately, a change from the distraught, unhappy young woman that he had left on deck earlier. She felt him watching her as she crossed the room and climbed into the giant bed beside him. She lay on her side, facing him, head resting on a pillow. A huge grin spread across her face as she watched him curiously scrutinize her.
Laying his book on the table beside he bed, he spoke, "What has suddenly gotten into you?"
"Nothing," she smiled at him.
"Don't give me that," her infectious grin spread to him, "what's made you so happy all of the sudden?"
"I wasn't making you very happy a little while ago."
< Angel, ever since I was embraced… you've been there for me every minute of every day. I don't know why… I don't want to know why. I just know that you're here. And that's all that's important. >
< Come over here closer to me. >
Willow slid over to Angel, who opened his arms to her. Putting her arms around his waist, she rested her head on his chest, feeling his strong arms encircling her, his cheek rubbing against the top of her head.
< Will, you are so important to me… >
< Angel, listen to me… this is so difficult for both of us… maybe even more difficult for you than it is for me. You told me once that I make you happy. I don't want our relationship to become something dark and heavy… a burden. I want us to feel good together. I want to make you smile… >
< You do. You do make me smile. >
< I love you, Angel. Just let me love you. >
< Willow… >
Willow lifted her head from his chest to look him in the eye.
< Don't say anything else right now, Angel. Let's just leave it right here, for now… >
< Whatever you say, Will… >
Angel leaned forward to kiss Willow, his upper lip catching hers, his bottom lip gently pushing hers down, opening her mouth just slightly, just enough for him to slip his tongue inside her mouth, brushing softly against her tongue before pulling back and ending the kiss. He reached over and shut the light off next to their bed, and slipped further underneath the covers, holding Willow against his body, where they slept tangled in each other's arms until late in the afternoon.
Several days later the massive ship upon which they had been sailing arrived at Port. Just before midnight Angel hurriedly whisked Willow from the boat, away from the dock, and into a taxicab. The cab drove for hours seemingly in no direction. Willow was tired, she leaned her head against Angels strong shoulder. She was scared but excited of the same time. The most exciting adventure of her young life was just beginning, and she couldn't imagine a more wonderful person to share it with than Angel. She turned her face up to look into the eyes of the man that she could well be spending immortality with. Angel looked into her eyes returning the glow that she felt. Silently he spoke to her.
< It's all going
to be all right, Willow…I swear. >