They managed to get to the mansion and get Angel safely inside just before the first rays of sunrise began to show. The two helped Angel to his bed and removed his boots and coat. He winced when he lay back onto the pillows that Willow had propped behind him, "Will, can... um... Do you think...?" < What is wrong with me? > Angel didn't know how to tell her he needed her there.
"What is it, Angel? Do you need something?" She stood clasping and unclasping her hands.
"I-I, well... I may need some... Do you think you could get out of school today?" He blurted it out figuring that was the least suggestive way to ask.
"Um, I guess. I don't
think I'll have a problem... Oddly, I'm not all that sleepy if that's why...
Oh wait... Um... Do you need someone. to ah... kinda hang around and give
you a hand?" He nodded, "OH... oh... I um... sure,"
She glanced over at Giles... He nodded back to her, "Okay... You need to eat, Mr. Where do you keep your bloo... ah, food? Oh, probably the fridge, right? Okay, I'll, ah, be right back," She walked out in a hurry then turned and stuck her head back in the door, "Um, Angel... How do you take it? You know, glass or, ah... plastic?" She winced at her lack of appropriate words.
"Willow, there's a thermos in the fridge. It's plastic," Angel gave her that crooked grin, "Pop it in the microwave for 30 seconds. Thank you... I'm sure this probably a bit creepy for you."
of course, no... Well, okay... A little. But Xander's eating habits
creep me all the time... You should see some of the things that boy puts
into his mouth. OH!" Willow threw her hand over her mouth and
then went to the kitchen. Angel looked over at Giles who was blushing several shades of red and looking at the ceiling as if Michelangelo had painted it.
"Well, I-I had better
get to the school and. and work. Yes, work. I will conjure
a story for the pompous little troll concerning Willow's absence and fill
the others in. Take time to recover, and when you are well enough, try
to remember as much information as you can so we can get to the, ah, bottom of this. In the mean time, I will see what I can find."
"Thank you, Giles... I know that. well... that saving me... I don't deserve all you do for me. All of you."
Giles smiled slightly, glancing at the floor, the painful memories of Jenny clearly visible, then turned and left.
Willow returned to
the sparsely lit room that she had left the injured vampire in to rest.
Angel was still in the slight sitting position looking frighteningly pale
< Ooh, he's paler than usual. > against the black silk
pillowcase. She hesitated at the door, noticing he was fixated on non-existent object on the other side of the room. He wore an expression of pain and thoughtful beauty like that of a subject from a medieval painting.
"Um, hi," She started toward the bed with a big smile and a slight bounce in her step, "Here you go... Now, drink up. We need you to get all better real quick, okay? Well? Um... aren't you going to drink up? Ah... Angel, why are you looking at me like that... is there something...?" Willow set the thermos down on the night table and patted herself down as she looked herself over and tucked the hair behind her ears.
Angel picked up the thermos glancing to the container in his hand then looking up at her like a new puppy that just got caught chewing on your brand new shoes, "Um. can you... ah... I can't. can you go to the washroom and get the first aid kit... while I... you know...? I need to fix myself up after... I, uh..." He looked back at the blood in his hand, not wanting her to witness his feeding but not sure how to tell her as he looked back at her.
"Huh...? Oh. Yep, I'm on it... No problem... not at all..." she started out of the room then turned, "Where is the washroom?"
Angel had just brought the thermos to his mouth when she turned and he nearly dropped the drink in his lap, "Oh... Second door to the left," He smiled when she winced noticing how uncomfortable the fact that she nearly saw him drink made him. She left the room and he quickly drained the quart size container.
Outside of the door, Willow leaned heavy against the wall. < This is just too much. I shouldn't be here. What am I doing? Hey, I'm not doing anything... wrong. I'm helping a friend! Being friendly. And helpful. One friend helping another. Umm hum, that's all, just helping a friend, a friend who looks really sexy on those black silk... Oh my GOD, stop that! Bad, bad Willow... Angel equals friend >
She pushed off the wall and went to find the first aid kit. < This is the one... > She pushed open the door to see a large and very lavish room. < This is his washroom? It's bigger than my bedroom. Wow, look at all the marble! > The floors and three of the four walls were black marble with rich gold lines. The forth, also marble, opened with an archway into an alcove containing plants and ivy. < Clearly not the 'in need of sunlight' type of greenery... Oooh a fountain! > In the back of the area there was a small waterfall trickling down stepped stone into a small pool. Bright orange fish swam in offbeat patterns around the cascading water.
< This is amazing...
I would have never... Look at that tub... oh, oh, oh, I wanna get in that
tub!! Why does Angel have tub like this? > She hadn't spotted the two steps
leading up to the enormous black marble tub at first.
The fixtures and swan neck faucet were golden matched the lines in the marble perfectly. Willow ran her fingers along the edge of the tub as she turned to look for a closet or somewhere one might keep a first aid kit. She found it under a rather large vanity that held twin sink basins matching the tub.
She lifted the kit
and turned to leave the room. When she did, her eyes caught sight of three
glass doors in the far right hand corner. She set the kit down and went
to see what this could be. The two outer panels were on
angles meeting the center panel. The glass was slightly frosted with black and gold swans delicately etched on them. The two outer panels had golden towel racks and the third had a matching latch. < Hmmm. Angel showering... er, I meant Angel's shower... Angel's shower... jeeezz... I wonder what kind of...? Couldn't hurt to take a peek. > She pulled the door open to find the shower to be nearly a whole other room. < WOW > It was all angles making an octagon shape. The shower was state of the art. Twelve showerheads on the remaining five walls pointed in all directions. Willow spotted racks on the inside of the glass holding a variety of shampoos, shower gels and soaps. She opened a few and sniffed the different scents. < Oooh , this is the usual... spice scented... smells like Angel... > She sighed, < No, no sighing. this is Angel ... Buffy's Angel. bad Willow! >
She quickly closed the door and hurried back to Angel, "Here it is," She bound into the room trying to be 'friend Willow'.
Angel tilted his head at her and grinned, "Did you get lost?"
"Well, ah, no... I just, um, didn't expect... I've never seen a ... Angel, what's with the bathroom?" < I was being nosey and picturing you all naked in the shower... good. good... What now...? >
"Is it too much?" He was questioning his latest purchase, "I just had it remodeled and I thought it was. nice... Not broody... I'm working on anti-broody... Is it broody?"
"No, it's. it's, well, amazing. I'd love to get into that tub. Ah, I mean, anyone would love to have a, ah... room like that. Yeah, not broody . a bit ... you know, wow. I didn't expect it, but it's, well... wow," she moved to the bed and sat down, "Um... do you want me to leave you alone to patch yourself up? I mean, you have to take off your shirt... and stuff... not stuff... oh, I'll be in the other room," She got up but Angel caught her arm.
"Will... I don't think I can even get my shirt off. I heal fast but I'm still pretty beat up and with the ribs, I can't really lift my arms to get this off alone. They are going to start to heal now that, I've, um... eaten, but I have tightened up a lot and the pain is more noticeable now that... I'm more... myself, if you know what I mean. Do you mind?"
Willow sat back down and lifted her hands up to unbutton his shirt. Her hands were shaking and her breath was coming out in short little gasps.
"Um... sure... I mean,
of course, I'll help you. You're my friend and friends help friends
and you are my friend and you need help so, I, your friend, am going to,
ah, help you." < Oh my God... oh my God... Two buttons
left... One button left. oh my God. > She undid the last button and sat back, "Ah... there," she held up her hand as if to show him what a great job she did.
Angel tried to hold back the chuckle that came out with the first words, "Um... Willow, I can't get it off or wrap my rib cage. I'm gonna need more help."
"Oh, okay, sure...
ah, yeah, friendly help," She smiled uncomfortably and nodded.
Willow, keeping her actions slow to control the shaking, grasped either
side of the shirt and began to open it. < Oh. oh. think of math
history or anatomy. NO! Not anatomy. um... frogs. frogs icky yucky creepy. Muscles. ACK! > A small gasp escaped her lips when she finally got the shirt over his shoulders and he leaned toward her so she could pull it out from behind him.
< Oh God... She has no idea what she's doing to me... Just jerk the damn thing off... Quicker... Come on, this is good ol' Willow... Sweet... Willow. >
She had to lean into
him slightly to reach the bottom of his shirt. She was afraid to
pull too quickly and cause him pain. When she did, Angel found his
face buried in her hair. His cheek brushed her neck and instinctively
nestled closer, rubbing his cheek against her. He brushed his lips over her skin barely touching her. Chills, followed by warmth, flooded her body. Every nerve in her body sprang to life and she jerked back. < What was
that...? He didn't mean to do that... My hair tickled his face or something breathe... breathe. >
"OOOowwwwch!" Angel jolted back when she jumped causing pain to radiate through his ribs and chest. <Oww.oww. pain. stupid, stupid Angel... Get a hold of yourself... Christ... >
"Ooh, sorry! Sorry... I didn't mean to... tickle... oh, I mean... hurt you. Oh God." < He thinks I'm an idiot... I am an idiot... Bad Willow. >
"Ssssst," Angel sucked air in though his teeth, "No, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have... I didn't intend... I didn't mean to... well... I meant to, but I didn't. Oh Christ, Willow ... We need to... ow... talk," He winced in pain again.
"Talk... um... talk...
we're talking now and I'm not sure I'm okay with this type of talking...
I mean... Talk... about... um... We don't need to talk because we
are friends and my hair got in your ,uh, face and you moved to get
my hair out of... your face and... it was an accident and your lips are not responsible for my hairs mistake!" < Did I just say that? Oh my God. >
"Willow," Angel looked amused, but frustrated, "You know."
She cut him off, "I know you're my friend and I have to see to your, uh, muscles... er... chest... er... ribs... I meant ribs and then I'll go home and you and your... ah, ribs will heal and then life will be normal... or as normal as life on the Hellmouth with a vampire can be... A vampire FRIEND! Now, how do I rape.er, wrap your ribs?" Willow was more than flustered. She had no idea what she was saying or how she was going to get out of this. < Do I want out of this? Of course, I want out of this... Buffy's Angel. Buffy's perfect... half- naked... GOD! >
Again, she cut him off, "SHUSH! Ribs!"
Angel smiled, finding the bossy Willow very interesting. He handed her the bandages and lifted his elbows as far as the pain would allow him. Willow cleaned up the cuts and covered them, then used the tape bandage Angel handed her and wrapped his chest to stabilize his rib cage for the rest of the day and over night. She then closed the kit, set it down and made to leave, "I'll send Buffy to see you and she'll take care of you," Willow was unaware of the slight pout she had on her face, "I'll see you around okay?"
She didn't stop.
"Willow! You can't... Will? Stay with me a while... I hate being alone all the time," Angel was smiling, one eyebrow cocked as he tilted his head back to see her just outside the door. < Maybe not the smoothest... Oh, I'm not nice... >
Willow took a deep breath, turned around and marched back into the room and plopped herself into a wingback chair about eight feet from the bed. She kicked off her shoes and pulled her legs under her cross-legged. When she looked up at Angel, his head was down and he was giving her those sweet puppy eyes again. His lower lip slightly pushed out.
"Okay... okay... Now you've gone from cryptic guy to guilt guy... Not fair... But I'm here... SO... What now?" She regretted the last part as soon as it came out remembering what had happened just a while ago.
Giles had been in the
library for a short time before Xander and Oz arrived and he filled them
in on the events of the past several hours. Leaving out the parts
that might upset Oz, he let them know Buffy was over-reacting and
most likely to be very unapproachable for most of the day. The two boys went to class. An hour later Buffy stomped into the library.
Giles was behind the counter checking in some books when she tossed her bag up and began, "You know, the strangest thing happened today in class. I was there and Willow was no where to be found. You wouldn't happen to know why my best friend who is now linked to my boyfriend is not at school, which happens to be her favorite thing in the world, as pathetic as that may seem, would you? Hmm?" She was not the least bit happy and the faux cheery tone dripped of anger.
"Oh, she's at Angel's," Giles stated nonchalantly as he picked up a stack of books and moved to replace them in the stacks.
"What? She is where...? Hold on.. I though I heard you say she was at Angel's... I know I am not hearing you right... How does that translate?" She followed him and no longer held back.
Giles ignored her and went about his business until she threw her arm out placing a hand on a shelf and conveniently blocking his path, "Answer me, Giles. What's going on? I know things haven't been great with Angel and I... but Willow? And what about Oz? Does Oz know where his girlfriend is?"
"Why, yes. yes, he does and unlike you, he understands that they are both recovering and Angel needed someone to look after him."
"Look after him? Why Willow... Why not... me... or Xander...? Okay, not Xan, but Oz. or you or ME!"
"Look, Buffy, you have
training, classes to pick up on, and, if I recall correctly, Angel's safety
was not your priority last night, now, was it? I have to work here...
as you know... I have some research I need Oz and Xander
to do, besides... Willow can afford to miss a few classes and she needs some time to recover. She was injured the night before last. However, that fact has clearly slipped your mind," Giles took off his glasses and glared at
her, "Buffy, go to class. I will discuss this with you when you stop being childish and selfish."
"What? What is that supposed to mean?" She was ignored again, "Fine," she left the doors swinging.
"Willow... I promise I'll behave. Now, will you come sit over here and talk to me? Please?" Angel smiled sweetly.
"Fine... and I'll control
my hair if you don't make me... talk about that... that... whatever, it...
is... NOT going to, ah, happen..." She got up and walked over to
the other side of the bed and sat against the headboard, "How
are you feeling...? Are you comfy... because I could get you more pillows or something...? Do you ah have more pillows...?"
"It's a bit hard to
get... well. I need to change into something ... less... like track pants...
Could you grab me a pair? They are in the top drawer. And while
I change, you can get more pillows, okay?" Angel was planning on
getting to this talk but he knew she needed to calm down first.
"Good... um, sure you change, I'll get pillows, " She slid off the bed and went to the dresser and pulled out a pair of track pants, "Here you go. Okay, I'm getting pillows."
"Ah, Will? Could you just undo the buttons... on my, er... pants...? Just a quick yank and you can run from the room," Angel managed to get to his feet, and found himself less than a foot from her.
"Unbutton your pants?
Um... ah... Angel... they are ...uh. your pants... You know? Pants...
guy's pants..." She was staring at his stomach just above the
waist of the jeans he had on. She looked up at him. <
He looks so
helpless... Oh God... pants... Angel's pants... I'll do it really, really fast. > She sighed, "Okay, real fast... Won't that hurt your, uh, ribs... I mean if I just jerk them open?"
"Well... if you take your time like with the shirt, it's going to be more of a problem for me to get out of them," He smiled innocently.
"Oh, okay," She
grabbed the top of his fly and yanked. The buttons came undone.
Quickly, she ran from the room and into the hall. < Well... Not
as bad as I thought... why did he... oh OH... oh my... oh God... Oh...
Pillows... frogs... > Willow realized what Angel had meant about getting out of them. She went into one of the spare rooms and pulled four pillows off the bed and started back to Angel's room.
"Hey, are all your sheets silk an... OH MY GOD!" She jumped into the hall, dropping all but one pillow. She held it under her chin and pressed it tightly to her chest. < Okay, breath ... breathe... I'm good... I'm okay... it's not big deal. >
Angel was standing where she left him having only gotten the jeans as far as his thighs before the pain became too much. When she walked in, he looked up, saw her face and busted into a full laugh that caused pain to wreak his body but he laughed in spite of it.
"Stop laughing at me.
Hey... stop that. This is so not funny... I didn't even see
anything... I didn't see... Stop laughing... Hey I'm not the one standing
helpless in my boxers with jeans around my legs," Willow yelled
from the hall, beginning to giggle a bit herself.
"If you didn't see anything then how do you know how I was standing?" He was now sitting on the bed holding his ribs.
"Um... Just I... Okay
so I saw... < Boy, did I ever. > But the funny thing is the big tough
vampire getting his butt kicked by a pair of Levi's!" She was in full out
laughter now, "You know what... Angel? I don't think that I've
ever heard you laugh before," she added thoughtfully.
Angel became serious, "I don't... laugh... much. Willow, I know this is hard for you but can you please help me?"
Willow peeked around the corner , picked up the other pillows then shuffled into the room. She placed the pillows on the bed and knelt down in front of him. She tapped his left leg and he lifted it enough for her to place it in her lap. She did the same with the other and pulled the jeans off. Angel handed her the track pants and she slipped one foot then the other in and scooted them up to his knees.
"Willow, you... how... why have you always treated me so well? I mean, the curse. Why? I never understood. You always just accepted me. Always. I need to know why."
She got the pants as high as she could with him sitting, then stood up. She didn't seem nervous anymore. The nurturing... loving Willow kicked in and over-powered the fearful and shy one. Once she saw for herself the fact that he needed her to help him everything else fell away.
"I-I just... like you.
I always have. You're neat!" Her smile stretched across her
face, "I mean, most people walk around everyday and don't care about
anyone else < like my so called best friend > and they take others for
granted. You are a good person. It's a fight for you everyday. No one has to fight like you do and you are still better at good than they are."
She grabbed his hand
to cue him to stand. The way he was sitting there with his pants
at his knees was distracting < oooh nice thighs... eek > He stood
and she pulled the pants up to his hips never taking her eyes from his
then stepped back to let him pull them past the < other > parts.
He did but remained silent. She felt like he could see right through her
but his face looked soulful, as if he were close to tears, "Um, okay...
accomplished!" She moved to the other side of the bed and arranged the pillows, "There. Back into bed. You look like you need some rest."
"Ah... yeah... Will you stay?" He was now scooting back into the pillows and stopped, "Take a pillow, Willow. You could use some sleep, too."
"Um, sleep with you? I mean, go to bed with you... er, I mean... you know... lie here... you lie there... We... sleep... at the same time... in the same bed... together?" She was nervous again.
"I would feel better if you were here. And I promise to behave. If you do," He winked at her.
Willow felt the blood
rush into her face and she felt suddenly very hot, "Oh... um... okay..."
She climbed in the bed so close to the edge that had she sneezed she would
have fallen out. Then she noticed Angel couldn't reach
to cover himself. She crawled down and lifted his legs up, pulling the sheet and comforter out and over him.
"Um, Willow, can you
get the light?" It was on the night table on Angel's side.
She shrugged and leaned over him carefully so she didn't put any pressure
on him and pulled the switch. The room was in utter darkness and
she was now stuck with one hand on the table and the other on the far side of Angel's shoulder.
"Um... Angel, I can't see where you are or where you are, uh, not, to put my hand back to get to my side... I don't want to hurt you."
"Well, well, looks like your stuck there... Don't fall on me though," She could hear the smile in his voice.
"Oh, yeah, you're funny. Funny broken guy. Help me, humor boy."
"Oh. O-kay. Slide your hand that is on the bed up by my neck."
to the whole petting thing figured less contact was best. With this
in mind, she slid her hand up Angel's shoulder, her fingers barely in contact
with the skin. Then up the curve to his neck. When her
palm gently hit his neck her four finger nails grazed the back and he shivered.
"Are you cold? Should I pull the other blanket up?"
< She is truly innocent... If she had any clue to how cold I am not. >
"No, I'm... ah, fine," His voice cracking slightly with his last word, "Okay, um... now just put the other hand on the other side and you can find your way back to where... you want to be."
< Oh no... > Willow
put her weight on the hand now on the side of Angel's neck and removed
the other from the table. Lightly touching his throat, it slowly
found the bed on the other side. < Oh, I'm right over Angel's
Angel's lips... Oh... Oh... Keep moving. keep moving. > She hesitated.
With his eyesight sharper than a human, he could see her face clearly. The desire in her eyes for things she'd yet to know. < Should I...? I could just lean up and inch or so... She's so close... > Angel started to lift his head from the pillows and stopped, "Willow..." her name barely a whisper, "If... I was to... say, get your hair in my face... would you run out and leave me here alone?"
"Huh... why would I...? OH..." < Yes... no... would I...? > Her thoughts were cut off.
Angel lifted his head and his lips met hers. He quickly leaned back to allow her to escape if she chose to do so. Neither said a word. She didn't pull away. Willow remained above him confused and scared but wanting so badly for him to kiss her again, "Angel."
"Is this... am I... are we... is this bad?" Guilt wasn't a part of anything she was feeling. < Why don't I feel bad...? Oh great, now, I feel bad for not feeling bad... I'm bad... Bad friend... Bad girlfriend... Oh, I'm a bad person. >
"No, you are not!"
Her feeling that way was killing him and he couldn't let
her feel this way, "You are the best person I know or have ever known."
"Hey... I didn't... say... oh God... Oh... Oh ANGEL!" She slapped his shoulder and moved to her side of the bed but didn't make to leave, "How long have you... how... did... Hey, how come I can't do that...?"
"I have been with you
since you brought me back... I usually make it something I don't allow
myself to do. You know, shut it off. Like you do. But since the hypnosis,
I've needed to know you cared. Mind you, I found out
more than I thought I would, but I needed... I need you."
Like to help you get better. You need me to keep you company. You
need me to be your... ah, friend, right?" He didn't answer,
"Right?! Um... This is the part where you say 'Yeah, Will, you are my pal...
We are pals.' That is exactly what I meant. Okay, go... Come
on... I filled in the blanks... Just ah... Go on..." < Clearly
this is what he means. He loves Buffy... I'm his friend and he needs
a friend... Yup. that's it ... Okay,
answer... Agree... >
"Do you believe that's what's happening?" His tone was so deadly serious it bordered on cold, "Would it stop the way I'm feeling, the way you are feeling, if I agree? Will that make it stop?"
Willow covered her
mouth trying to stifle the sobs she felt building in her chest. Angel
sighed, realizing quickly that this was not Buffy and cold hard fact wasn't
the way to deal, "Willow... I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be
harsh. It's all I've ever known, then all of a sudden here you are. I know that was uncalled for. What I should have said was I spent a year playing this game with Buffy. If neither of us said it out loud, would it go away?
The feelings would stop? It doesn't work like that."
"Yeah... and you love Buffy! And... and I lo... really like Oz a whole lot. Like you said. it doesn't stop just because you want it to or avoid saying it," The tears were falling rapidly.
"Feelings do stop... for reasons. I don't know how I feel about Buffy. I know it isn't what I thought I felt for her. She's different. I'm different. Hell will do that to a per... to you. Denying my feelings or avoiding them didn't make me stop feeling for her," Angel paused, "Willow... can you honestly, and remember before you answer... I may know the answer already..." He grinned, "Can you honestly forgive what I've done? What I did to you, to Buffy. Jenny?" The pain of being run-through in that very mansion the day Willow restored his soul shot though him every time he said the computer teacher's name. "Can you tell me that?"
"Angel, the only thing you did to me or anyone else was help. That was not you. When your soul was lost you were not there. You had no control. What the demon did was NOT you!" Her answer was clear and with out hesitation.
"Do you think that is how Buffy feels?" His matter of fact tone told her he knew the answer already, "Well? Do you? Willow, please this is important."
Willow knew Buffy wanted
to. She knew that on the nights Angelus was tormenting Buffy with
Angel's memories and Willow reminded her that it wasn't Angel that she
would agree. < Buffy wanted to believe that... I hated it
when she called him Angel > "Angel... she does," He looked at her and although she couldn't see his full expression with the small adjustment to the darkness her eyes had done, she knew it was a hard one. One of pain but a kind of triumphant pride, "She wants to... it's harder for her. She thinks she's responsible." < Why am I defending her? Because... she is. or was... is my best friend. >
"She'll never be able to let that go. She'll never fully trust me. She'll never love me like before. I never expected her to. And you defend her because you're Willow. You're better than the rest of us," He lifted his hand a wiped the tears from her face.
"No, I'm not... look
what I'm doing to her now... And Oz... And stop doing that!" Angel
quickly moved his hand away, "I, uh, meant the Jedi mind trick stuff...
but you shouldn't be doing that either," Willow sighed heavily.
She leaned back against the headboard and drew her knees up resting her forehead on them.
Angel winced as he
brought his arm up and scooted her easily closer to him. She stiffened
as Angel moved her pillow over so it was under his arm, "Will, lie
down... Come on, you've got to rest. We'll talk later and figure
all out. Just lay down, okay?" She was exhausted and did as he told her. She curled up on her side with her back to him avoiding the pillow and his arm, "Damn it, Willow! Put your head on the pillow and relax. Get some
She lifted her head
and placed it on the pillow above the crook of his arm. Angel wrapped his
forearm over her and rested his hand on the arm closest to him. He
lightly kneaded her small shoulder and she was soon drifting off to
sleep. < Ummm, nice hand... Angel's hand. >
<Sweet, sweet, Willow... Thank you. >
<Huh... Oh... You're welcome... Hey ... >
< Ssssshhhhh. sleep. > Angel soon followed her lead.