A Few Good Things Remain
Five years. Angel sighed, a habit he had become accustomed to in his years with a soul. Had it really been five years since he had seen any of them? He thought back, trying to remember. Willow. He’d seen her at Christmas in 1999, when she’d shown up with the spell to make his soul permanent. That was the last time he had seen any of Sunnydale’s residents. Except Cordelia, of course. But he didn’t really consider the brunette to be a member of the group from Sunnydale anymore. Like him, she hadn’t stayed. She’d ended up in LA with him and Doyle for a couple years, then she had gone off to New York to try her hand at theater, and Doyle had followed her a year later. Angel realized with a slight shock that, while they had done a good job keeping in touch - Doyle via e-mail, Cordelia by letter (she’d never really gotten the hang of computers) - neither one had been back to LA in two years. Time sure flew when you were brooding. He’d always intended to go to visit them, and he’d always meant to keep in touch with the Scooby Gang...he just never got around to it. And then he got the letter, and he knew he had to go back. With a look of resignation evident on his face, Angel took the turn that led to Sunnydale. To Buffy’s wedding.
It was odd; Angel had expected to feel more hurt when he heard that Buffy was getting married. Instead, he’d been happy for her. It had caught him by surprise to discover that, somewhere along the way, he had fallen out of love with the Slayer. He wondered when it had happened, but he was glad it had.
He parked his car and
got out to survey the town. He could still feel the power that radiated
from the Hellmouth, but it had dulled somewhat over the years. Willow’s
doing, probably. Cordelia’s letters had hinted that Willow
had turned out to be a more powerful witch than any of them had expected.
Angel walked slowly,
taking in the changes of the town. A new movie theater, better lit
sidewalks. He smiled slightly, knowing that the street lamps had
probably been the idea of Mayor Joyce Summers. Vampires preferred
to kill their victims in a dark alley rather than a brightly lit street. Stores lined both sides of the streets, a welcome change from the days when half of the storefronts had advertised that they were for lease. The town had grown; the death rate had as well. Angel cringed slightly as the thought crossed his mind. He wondered if he could have helped. It was too late for that now. Besides, he knew that he was needed in LA; he knew he was helping people.
Angel slowed down even
more, then stopped, as a store caught his eye. It wasn’t just any
store, either. It was a magick shop. When he had lived in Sunnydale,
there had been over a dozen magick shops. Now, as he considered things,
he realized this was the only one he had seen. It was large and rather
brightly lit. He glanced up at the sign above the door. The
Book of Shadows. Interesting name. He stepped closer to the
window, considered going in. He took a look at his watch. It
was almost ten; the store was about to close. He frowned slightly
as he watched a worker wait on one of the customers that had yet to leave.
She looked awfully familiar. Blonde hair... she worked in the store,
so she probably had a knowledge of witchcraft... Amy Madison. Was
that her name? Hadn’t she been a rat when he had left town?
Of course, if Willow had grown in power since he’d left,
it was entirely possible that Amy had been turned back to her human form. Angel started to turn to go.
And that was when he saw her.
The young woman that had just left the store’s office was dressed entirely in black: long black skirt, black heeled boots, black turtleneck. Her jewelry was silver: large, funky rings, a simple chain around her neck. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail, but it was so long that it still reached her waist. Her back was turned to him, but he instinctively knew that she was someone he should recognize. He looked at her hair, taking in the flaming red of it.
“No. It can’t be her.”
The young woman turned then, seemingly oblivious to the fact that she was being watched. She wore black eyeliner, and her lipstick was maroon, but there was no doubt about who she was.
“I’ll be damned.”
It was Willow.
It had been a long
day, and Willow was tired. She mumbled a vow never to wear boots
with heels ever again, then nearly laughed out loud. She’d made that
same vow almost every day for more than two years, and she almost
always forgot about it the next day. Besides, she knew that a lot of people had a specific, if incorrect, view of what a witch looked like, and sneakers and fuzzy sweaters just wasn’t it. Unfortunately, if she wanted the store
to continue its success, she had to give the people what they wanted. And she wanted the store to be a success. It had to be. There was no way that she was going to allow her parents to say ‘I told you so.’ She knew they
were dying to. She sighed, mad at herself for thinking about her parents. She knew that Sheila and Ira Rosenberg still had dreams that their only daughter would someday become a computer magnate. Or maybe a surgeon. They didn’t really care, as long as the phrase “world famous,” or perhaps “world renowned,” ended up in her job description. She didn’t really think “world renowned Wiccan” would cut it.
Willow glanced around
the store as she entered the main room, grateful to see that few customers
remained. It was spring, which for many people meant that love was
in the air. Or, if it wasn’t, it should be. She had no idea
how many people had come in requesting the ingredients for love spells or asking for a love potion. All she knew was that she’d had to reorder the damn stuff at least three times and was about to have to do so again.
“Excuse me, miss, but where can I find canary feathers?”
Turning to the customer,
Willow pasted a smile on her face even though she felt like screaming.
Canary feathers. Another stupid love spell. At this rate, all
of Sunnydale would be engaged in one big orgy by the end of the
“Right this way, ma’am.”
Willow showed the woman where the feathers were, then directed her over
to where Amy was manning the cash register. She started to reach
up her hand to run it through her hair, but managed to
remember that’d she put it in a ponytail that morning. Her mood would have definitely worsened if she’d accidentally pulled her hair down.
With a sigh, Willow
began to straighten the supplies on the shelves,occasionally writing down
something they were short on. This part of the job could be boring,
but it had to be done. Besides, it beat trying to warn
people of the possible dangers of love spells; they never listened anyway. Willow could still remember how embarrassing her actions had been when Xander had blackmailed Amy into casting a love spell. It was hard to
believe that she’d actually been waiting for Xander in his bed that night... thank the Goddess that Xander hadn’t taken advantage of the situation. Oh, well. What was past was past. Willow shrugged her shoulders, trying to
work the kinks out of them. She’d been on her feet most of the day, and it was taking its toll in the form of several aches and pains in various parts of her body. She supposed that the vampire attack she had thwarted the
night before had a bit to do with her soreness as well. It was a good thing Spike had been there; she didn’t think she would have been able to handle it if she had been alone. As it was, she had several bruises on her arms, as
well as a rather nasty scratch on her back. It was not an incident she cared to repeat.
She paused in her work
as the feeling that something was just a bit...off came to her. She
glanced around the store. Everything seemed okay: the customers were
finishing up their browsing; Amy was ringing up a purchase. But something
didn’t feel right. Willow waited a moment, hoping the feeling would
go away. When it didn’t, she sighed, concentrated on the feeling,
and tried to discern what it was. The feeling of...being watched?
holding her breath, she turned, directing her gaze to the front window. And she saw him.
“Oh, my Goddess, it’s Angel.”
She had spotted him. Damn it, she had spotted him while he was standing there virtually ogling her. Quickly, he turned to go.
“Don’t even think about it.”
Angel turned around slowly, not really wanting to have to explain himself. He didn’t have to. Before he could even say hello, Willow threw herself into his arms.
“Oh, Goddess, Angel, it is so good to see you! I knew you were coming down...Cordelia told me, but I didn’t know when. Oh, you look wonderful...which shouldn’t be surprising, because you’re a vampire, and vampires don’t age, and I’m rambling, aren’t I? I thought I was over that.”
Angel smiled, pulling Willow closer for a moment, breathing in her clean scent, then let her go. He looked into her shining face, grateful to see that, while the clothes had changed, the woman in them hadn’t.
“It’s okay. I like it when you ramble. Always have. You look... wow. The hair, and... the, um... just wow.” He grinned at the tiny redhead standing in front of him. “That wasn’t overly coherent, was it?”
“It’s okay. I don’t mind. I’m not all that coherent myself. Why don’t you come inside?”
Angel felt Willow take his hand, and he allowed her to lead him though the store and into the office.
“I take it this is yours?”
“Yeah. Well, mine and Amy’s anyway. We bought it four years ago, right after our first year of college.”
“I knew you owned a store; I just didn’t know what kind. Cordelia’s letters sometimes lack detail.”
Willow rolled her eyes. “Tell me about it. She once told me a story about Doyle, and neglected to inform me he was half demon. I had no clue why his sneezing in public was such a bad thing. I had to call her and ask.”
Angel smiled, amazed at how easy it was to talk to Willow, even after all these years. He hadn’t felt so comfortable with anyone in a long time.
Willow glanced at her watch, relieved to see it was time to close. She was dying to talk to Angel. It had been almost five years, and she was sure that there was a lot to talk about.
“I’m going to go and help Amy with the last of the customers, then finish closing up. I want you to stay here. No leaving. After I’m done, we can go get some coffee or something and talk.” Willow paused, suddenly uncertain. “Unless, of course, you have somewhere you need to be...”
“No, nowhere,” Angel hurriedly reassured her. “I just need to find a place to stay-”
“Stay with me. We can keep the curtains in the guest room closed. Besides, it would probably be best if we headed back to my place for the coffee and the talk. This is still the Hellmouth, you know. Out and about is not the safest place to be late at night.” Willow turned to head back out and help Amy, then quickly turned back to look at Angel. “Stay put. This shouldn’t take long.” And with that, she left the room.
Angel sat in the office and smiled to himself. The evening was turning out much better than he’d imagined.
He hoped it wouldn’t end anytime soon.
Willow had a lovely home. It was a one-story, but it was more than large enough for its single occupant. Well, its single human occupant, anyway. Angel stepped back, a bit surprised, as a large white cat nearly ran into him on its way to Willow.
“Spike, watch out!” Willow looked at Angel apologetically. “Sorry about that. He can be a bit of a nuisance.”
Angel stared in shock. “Did you just call him Spike?”
“Yeah, after the person who gave him to me. He’s my familiar.”
“Spike gave you a cat? Why the hell would Spike give you a cat?”
Willow sighed; this
was going to a be a rather...interesting night. “I take it Cordy’s
letters didn’t mention Spike.” At the shake of Angel’s head, she
continued. “Look, why don’t you get settled, then I’ll tell you everything
you want to know. I could really use a shower, and I’m dying to get out of these clothes. We’ll meet up in the living room in a half hour, okay? Your room’s down the hall, the first door on the left.” She waited until she was
sure Angel was headed in the right direction, then picked up Spike. “Leave it to Cordy to forget the important stuff,” she sighed, then headed for her bedroom. She wondered what else Cordelia had conveniently forgotten to tell the dark-haired vampire.
In his room, Angel
was wondering the exact same thing. He stowed his suitcase in the
closet, then took a good look around the room. It felt like the Willow
he had known. The bedspread was a bright patchwork quilt, and
the walls were adorned with pictures of friends. He grinned as he picked up the stuffed bear that sat on the bed. Definitely the same Willow. The room was very nice and had a cozy feel to it. He was thankful to see that Willow
had stuck to the same bold colors that she had been so fond of before he left. He’d been a bit worried when he had first seen her through the store window. He wasn’t used to the thought of Willow in black, and, even though
he had been stunned by her beauty, he had been uncomfortably reminded of the vampire version of the tiny redhead. With a sigh, he closed the heavy curtains that adorned the window, surprised to see that they would be very effective in blocking out the sun in the morning. He vaguely wondered if the room had been set up that way for Spike, then filed the question away for later. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to know the answer to that one.
After surveying the room one last time, Angel headed to the living room to wait for Willow.
Willow entered the
room about twenty minutes later, and Angel was stunned by the change in
her appearance. She had taken her hair down, and it now fell like
a silk curtain to her hips. She wore light blue pajama pants and
white T-shirt, and her face was completely devoid of make-up. This was definitely the Willow he remembered. And she was beautiful. Angel shook that thought out of his mind - this was Willow, after all - and accepted the
cup of coffee she offered.
“So,” Willow said as she settled herself beside him on the couch, “what do you want to know first?”
Angel opened his mouth to ask about Spike, but a bruise on Willow’s forearm caught his attention. “How did you get that?” he asked, gently running his finger across it.
“You were attacked?”
“No, someone else was. I saw it happening and went to help. Spike showed up, and he finished the vamps off. It’s no big deal, really. I’ve had worse.”
“Speaking of Spike...”
“You want to know just what the hell he’s doing helping us?”
Angel smiled slightly. “Yeah, something like that.”
“He’s been on our side now for three or four years. I guess Cordy forgot to mention it. I think he was blackmailed into it at first - I don’t know who did it - but I think he likes us now. Or, at least he likes me and Amy.”
“What about the others?”
“Does Spike like them?
Not particularly. It doesn’t really matter, though. Xander
married Anya and moved to San Diego; he got offered a job at the San Diego
Zoo that he just couldn’t pass up. I think it involves working
with the hyenas. Anya teachs at one of the high schools. Oz took off to tour with the Dingoes, and Giles went back to England when his mother got sick. She’s better now, but he decided to stay. I guess he missed England
more than he ever let on. After Buffy and Connor get married and move away, Amy, Spike, and I will be the only ones left. Well, except for Mrs. Summers. She helps when she can.” Willow turned to Angel and grinned. “At
least we don’t have to worry about the mayor trying to become a demon.”
Angel grinned in response;
it was difficult to picture Joyce Summers even being tempted by evil.
No, the mayor of Sunnydale was definitely not a potential threat.
However, Joyce’s position as one of the good guys was not
the most important thing in Willow’s statement. “Buffy’s leaving?”
“Yeah, right after she and Connor get back from their honeymoon. Didn’t you know?”
“I guess it was another of Cordelia’s oversights. What about the Hellmouth?”
“That’s what Amy, Spike, and I are for. Buffy and Connor are moving to Detroit. He got offered a job at some prestigious law firm. Apparently it was too good to refuse.”
Angel snorted. “Detroit, huh? Not much demon activity there.”
Willow nodded; demons,
especially vampires, had a tendency to gravitate towards warmer climates.
According to Giles, it had something to do with the lack of body heat many
creatures of the night suffered from, but Willow
hadn’t been concerned about why they showed up where they did. She was just concerned about the fact that they did. She sighed.
“I guess Buffy figured she deserved a break.”
“A break I can understand; a permanent relocation is completely different.” Angel paused, let his hand run up and down Willow’s arm. “What about you?”
“What do you mean?”
“Don’t you deserve a break? You’re not the Slayer; it’s not your duty.”
“If I don’t do it, who will? The Watcher’s council won’t send the other Slayer here; they say she’s needed elsewhere. So I stay.”
“Are you happy here?”
Willow sighed and tried
to find a way to answer Angel. She’d resigned herself to staying
in Sunnydale long ago, and she had tried to make a life in the town.
She had a successful business, good friends, and a really
obnoxious cat. All in all, it wasn’t a bad life. It just wasn’t what she’d always expected for herself.
“Well, Willow? Are you happy? Or is your silence the real answer?
Willow shook herself from her reverie. “I’m happy... for the most part.”
“What does that mean?”
“I love witchcraft, so my job’s perfect for me. I love owning my own business, even if it is frustrating at times. And Spike and Amy are wonderful friends...”
“Has Spike ever stayed here?”
“What?” Willow asked, surprised by the vampire’s sudden change in subject. Then she realized what would make Angel ask a question like that. “Oh, you wondered why the curtains in the guest room are so heavy. Yeah, Spike’s stayed here. A couple years ago Drusilla came back to town and decided that a good way to get him back would be to burn down his house. He had to stay with me for a while.”
“You really trust him, don’t you?” Angel asked, eyeing Willow’s white cat as it walked in the room.
“We’ve saved each other a few times; that kind of lends itself towards trusting each other. He’s really not so bad, Angel. He does a good job fighting evil, and he’s my friend.”
“Just a friend?” Angel inquired, trying to squelch the surge of jealousy that accompanied the thought of Spike and Willow together.
“Yes, just a friend. Probably my best, next to Amy. Believe it or not, that’s who he’s dating.” Willow sighed contentedly as she leaned back into the cushions of the couch. “Anything else you want to know?”
“Is there anything I need to know?”
Willow wrinkled up her nose in thought, a gesture Angel found absolutely adorable. “No, not that I can think of. If anything comes to mind, I’ll let you know. So, what have you been up to?”
“Gosh, Angel, don’t
say so much at one time. I just can’t keep up.” Angel smiled
at Willow’s gentle sarcasm. He’d forgotten what it felt like to talk,
really talk, to someone. Usually he just saved the person, then went
on his way. No fuss, no muss. Complete solitude, except for the occasional e-mail from Doyle or letter from Cordy. Angel decided that he’d keep in touch with Willow from now on. There was no way he was going to give up her friendship again.
Angel jerked to attention
as Willow’s soft voice invaded his thoughts. He looked over at her,
not the least bit surprised to see the look of concern on her face.
He wondered what it would be like to kiss her until the
concern was completely gone, replaced by passion. <Whoa, Angel. Where the hell did that come from?> He quickly tossed the thought, as well as the pesky picture that his mind had conjured, from his head and answered the redhead.
“I’m fine. I was just... thinking.”
“Yeah, right. Brooding is more like it.” She looked at the clock on her VCR and sighed. “It’s getting late. I really should go to bed. I have to be at the store early tomorrow; both of our employees are sick, so Amy and I have to run the place by ourselves. You know, you should come tomorrow. I didn’t really get a chance to show you the place tonight.”
“Um, Willow? Sunlight bad, remember?”
“Oh, that’s no problem. The windows in the back rooms are covered, and there’s an underground entrance.”
“For what? Your vampire customers?”
“It’s for Spike.
We have it set up so that no other vampires can enter the store unless
invited. That’s why I invited you in earlier. There would have
been a barrier otherwise.” She grinned at the vampire. “Being
does have its perks.”
The next morning, Angel
traipsed through the tunnels with Willow at his side. Even though
the tunnels were no longer part of the towns sewer
system, and were therefore rather clean, the vampire felt a bit guilty that the redhead had felt obliged to come with him.
“You know, you didn’t have to come with me.”
“It’s been a few years since you’ve been to Sunnydale, Angel. I didn’t want you getting lost in the sewers, and I didn’t think you’d appreciate having Spike for a guide.”
Willow slowed as they
came to a ladder on the wall. She pointed up. “This is our
stop.” She climbed the ladder and opened the trapdoor in the
ceiling, then went through to the store. Angel followed suit and found himself standing in the back room of the store. Several boxes of supplies littered the room, and all the windows had been boarded over.
Angel turned his head as he heard sounds coming from the office. Willow smiled at the vampire, then took his hand and headed for the office, trying to make plenty of noise. “Hey, guys, look who I brought!”
Spike and Amy pulled
apart immediately, a light blush staining the blonde witch’s cheeks.
“Oh, Angel, hi,” she stuttered. “It’s good to see you
Angel nodded his head in response to the young woman’s flustered greeting, then turned his attention to his childe. The two vampires stared at each other warily, neither one saying a word.
“Well, gosh,” Willow stated after a moment, “this is exciting. Are you two going to hold a staring contest all day, or are you going to actually speak at some point?”
Instead of the smart remark that Angel expected, Spike just smiled at the redhead. He nodded in his sire’s direction. “It’s good to see you.”
“Are you sure you’re Spike?”
The younger vampire grinned. “Yeah, well, Amy said I have to be nice. If I’m not, she’ll turn me into a rat and use me in one of her potions.”
“Well, at least you’re honest.”
“It’s one of my best qualities.” Spike sighed, then headed for the door. “Come on, Angelus, you can help me unload some of the new deliveries.”
“What’s in it for me?”
“You can ask me all the questions that are running around in that oversized head of yours.”
“Who says I have questions?”
“I spent over a century with you, you idiot. I know how your mind works. Now, come on.”
Angel followed him.
Amy turned to face her redheaded friend. “Well, that went better than expected.”
“Yeah. No one’s dead yet.”
“Uh, Will, haven’t they been dead for, like, two hundred years?”
Angel set the box down, then turned to face his childe. The two stood in the covered unloading area in the alley. “So, Spike, what are doing here?”
“Unloading a truck.”
This was going to be like pulling teeth. Of course, Angel had been
rather good at doing just that back in his days of torturing
people. “I meant here in Sunnydale, Spike. And helping the Slayer, no less.”
Spike snorted as he carried another box from the truck to the storeroom. “I don’t help the Slayer; I help Amy and Willow. There is a difference, you know.”
“What exactly is the difference?”
“I hate the Slayer. I like the witches. See, big difference.”
“You’re still with the good guys, Spike.”
His childe shrugged. “Yes, I am. I got blackmailed. I want to keep my unlife, I help out the good side.”
“If the blackmail suddenly disappeared, what would you do?”
Spike glanced in the direction of the main room of the shop, where the women were getting ready to open for the day. He smiled slightly as the sound of their laughter floated out. “I’d still help, I guess.”
Angel unloaded the final box, then sat down on a chair that had been left in the storage area. “I never would have thought Amy was your type.”
“Why? Because she’s sane?”
“Actually, I was thinking about the whole ‘she’s a human’ issue, but, yeah, sanity works, too.”
Spike smiled. For some reason, he couldn’t work up the healthy hatred he usually felt toward his sire. Perhaps it was because the younger vampire had come to care for the same people his sire did. Or at least one of them.
“She’s pretty amazing. So’s Willow.”
“Willow’s definitely that. I never realized how much I missed her.”
“You were probably too busy brooding.”
Angel laughed. “Yeah, probably.”
Spike plopped down on the floor, settled himself comfortably, and looked up at the older vampire. “So, what’s your story?”
“You know... what the bloody hell are you doing here and all that?”
“Why should I tell you?”
“I told you mine, now you have to tell me yours. It’s the proper thing to do. So, why are you here in Sunnyhell?”
“Figured I’d come see Buffy’s wedding.”
“Hmmm... closure and all that psychobabble?”
“Something like that. I guess I just wanted to make sure she was happy.” Angel sighed, then looked down at Spike. “What’s this Willow tells me about Buffy moving to Detroit?”
“The chit decided she’d had enough, I guess. The idiot she’s marrying doesn’t even know she’s the damn Slayer. She doesn’t want him to find out, so she’s running away.”
“And leaving you, Willow, and Amy to do her duty.”
“We can handle ourselves. Willow and Amy are tougher than they look. They have to be.” Spike held his sire’s eye. “The Slayer hasn’t been doing her duties for the past six months. The only thing standing between this town and destruction are two witches and a soulless vampire. If those girls weren’t tough, this town would be toast by now.”
“Yeah, well, if something happens to them and I find out about it, Buffy’s going to have to answer to me.”
The women listened carefully, trying to discern what was going on in the other room.
“Well, there hasn’t been any loud crashing noises, so I guess they’re not fighting,” Willow muttered.
“Yeah, but what the hell are they doing?” Amy asked.
“Talking? Ignoring each other completely and totally? Trying to figure out how to kill each other?”
Amy smiled wanly. “I wish it was the first, I’d settle for the second, but it’s probably the third.”
“I wonder what’s going to happen when he sees Buffy?”
Amy looked at her friend, shocked. “You mean he hasn’t seen her yet?”
“Nope. He ran into me maybe ten minutes after he got here, then stayed the whole night at my house. He hasn’t seen anyone besides us. I figure he might be avoiding her.”
Amy studied her friend thoughtfully. She’d seen how Angel had looked at Willow, and she wondered if there was more to it than the redhead believed. However, she knew better than to press her friend on the subject. Willow had a tendency to keep her personal life, well, personal. She never spoke about the guys she dated, so Amy doubted that she’d be up front about her feelings for the vampire. Besides, Amy reasoned, she could always be imagining things.
“So, uh, Wills, when are the others coming in?”
“Cordy and Doyle will be coming in later this morning, so I finally get to meet Doyle face to face instead of just over the phone.” Willow smiled at the thought. Over the past few years, the half demon had answered the phone dozens of times when Willow had called Cordelia, and the two had ended up becoming friends during their conversations. “Giles will be here this afternoon, and I think that’s when Xander and Anya are coming in as well. Oz is coming in either today or tomorrow, I’m really not sure.”
“Do they have any clue that Angel’s going to be here?”
“Well, Cordy and Doyle do, obviously, because that’s who told me. The others... I’m not even sure Buffy knows. I don’t think Cordelia keeps in touch with anyone besides Angel and us, and I sure never told anybody.”
“I guess this should be a fun next few days.”
Willow laughed. “It probably won’t be fun, but I’m sure it will be... interesting, to say the least.”
“Does Connor even know about Angel?”
“He might know that Buffy once dated a guy named Angel; I’m not sure. But the whole ‘we had sex and he turned into a homicidal maniac and I ended up sending him to Hell’ thing? I’m pretty sure that got left out.” Willow gave an unladylike snort of laughter as she thought of something else. “I wonder how Buffy would explain it if Xander referred to Angel as ‘Deadboy’ in front of Connor?”
Amy smiled at her friend. If nothing else, the next few days would be entertaining.
She just hoped they all got through it without any bloodshed.
Cordelia Chase pushed her hair out of her face and virtually snarled at the man at the counter. The three hour layover in Chicago had done nothing for the brunette’s disposition. She’d spent the past three months doing eight shows a week in a Broadway play (she’d finally discovered that people found her singing voice to be reminiscent of fingernails on a blackboard, so she prudently avoided doing musicals), and she was exhausted. The plane ride from hell had done nothing to help. She’d been stuck next to a screaming baby from New York to Chicago, and a lecherous old man had spent the entire flight from Chicago to LA hitting on her. He didn’t even care that Doyle was with her. And she still had to sit in a rental car for the next two hours while Doyle drove them to Sunnydale. Considering the fact that neither she nor Doyle had done much in the way of driving for the past couple of years, Cordelia figured that the ride would be much too... well, terror-inducing to get any sleep, although she did plan to at least attempt to take a nap.
Doyle signed the papers for the rental car, then accepted the keys that the man behind the counter handed him. With any luck, he and Cordelia would be in Sunnydale in a few hours, and the young woman could get some sleep. Then maybe she’d be back to her usual sunny self. Doyle nearly laughed out loud. Who was he kidding? Cordy was never exactly what one would call ‘sunny.’ She was, however, more civil than this. Well, usually.
With a sigh, the half
demon put their suitcases in the trunk of the rental while the former cheerleader
curled up in the backseat. He hoped she’d be able to get some sleep.
He didn’t imagine she’d be able to get much once they made it to Sunnydale.
The next few days probably weren’t going to be very restful.
Xander loaded the suitcases into the car, then turned to his wife.
“Why do we have to go?” Anya whined.
“Because Buffy’s getting married. It’s a very big deal. She came to our wedding.”
“So? I didn’t ask her to.”
Xander sighed. Sometimes he wondered why he had married this woman. Then he remembered. The great sex. Plus she had threatened to hurt him if he didn’t. “Look, Anya, Buffy’s one of my best friends, and she asked me to come to her wedding. I would really appreciate it if you would calm down, shut up, and get in the damn car!” By the end of the statement, Xander was nearly yelling.
With a sigh and a rather put-out look on her face, Anya got in the car. Xander got in the driver’s seat, started the car, and headed for Sunnydale.
He just hoped that
the next few days would go smoothly.
Rupert Giles hated to fly. He had, however, decided that the wedding of his former Slayer was worth the sacrifice. He grimaced as he reminded himself that the ‘sacrifice’ had taken nearly a day when factoring in layovers. Buffy had better be thrilled that he was there. Of course, Giles admitted to himself, it would be nice to see the others.
As his connecting flight
from New York took off, Giles settled himself in, trying to content himself
with the thought that once this flight was over, he could have a restful
week in the company of old friends.
Oz tossed his things into a duffel bag and headed out to his van. The guys had been pissed when he’d told them he had to back out of a few gigs, but he figured Buffy was worth it. Of course, if Oz was truthful with himself, he would have admitted that it was the prospect of seeing Willow again that helped him make the decision to go to the wedding. He found himself wondering if the petite redhead was involved with anyone, but shoved the thought out of his mind. He and Willow had broken up four years ago, and it was over.
Of course, if Willow wanted to rekindle the flame, he wasn’t opposed to it.
“Oh, my Goddess, Cordelia!”
Doyle watched, amused, as the brunette went from grumpy and exhausted to happy and, well, exhausted at the cry of her friend.
“Oh, wow, Willow, you look wonderful! Absolutely amazing.” With a smile, Cordelia hugged the redhead. “It is so good to see you.” She turned and gestured to Doyle. “I think you two have met. Well, over the phone, at least.”
Willow grinned, then hugged the half demon. “We finally meet face to face.” She pulled back and looked at her two friends. “I think there’s someone else here that you two will want to see.” Smiling, Willow took her friends by the hand and led them to the back of the store where Angel and Spike were.
“Angel!” The dark-haired vampire looked up at the exclamation, and a grin slowly spread across his face.
He pulled the brunette in for a hug, then let her go. “You look wonderful.
I like the hair,” he added as her touched one of the
riotous curls surrounding her face. The years had been good to the former cheerleader. Even exhausted, she was beautiful. He turned to Doyle and hugged him as well. “It’s good to see you, too.” He gestured toward the vampire behind him. “This is Spike. I’m sure you’ve heard of him.”
Spike stood and shook Doyle’s hand, and Cordelia gave Spike a tentative hug. The blonde vampire still made her slightly uncomfortable, but he had saved her life the year before when she had visited Willow, so she liked him. After extricating herself from the blonde vampire’s arms, the brunette turned back to Angel.
“So... when did you get into town?”
“Last night. I ran into Willow, and I ended up staying in her guest room.”
“And you’ve been here all day, haven’t you?” Cordelia shot Angel a chastising look as he nodded. “You wimp. It’s been five years, and you’re still avoiding Buffy like the plague.”
Angel snorted. “This from the girl who hasn’t seen nor spoken to Xander Harris in just as long.”
“Yeah, well, unlike you, Mr. Broody Vampire, I’ve actually had other relationships.”
Doyle smiled. “Yeah, with some real pretty boys, too. I think the last one was gay.”
“But he was a fabulous dresser!”
“Which, of course, is the basis of any lasting relationship. The clothes.”
“I hear you.”
“Cordelia, that was a joke,” Doyle gently informed the young woman.
“I knew that. I did. Really.”
In an effort to take the brunette out of the figurative spotlight and ease her embarrassment, Willow took her friend by the arm and spoke.
“I know you two must be exhausted. You’ve been traveling since last night, haven’t you? I’m sure you didn’t get much sleep.”
“Yeah, but we can’t check into our hotel until this evening.”
“Go to my place. Cordy, you can sleep in my room, and Doyle can sleep in the guest room. That way you’ll be fresh for tonight.”
“What happens tonight?”
Willow turned to Doyle and smiled with false sweetness. “Tonight, you get to meet Buffy.”
“Hey, Wills, guess who’s here? It’s your favorite-” Xander stopped short as he caught sight of his old friend. It was always a shock for him to see her in what she considered her work uniform. He always wanted to go up to her and scrub her face until it was clean, then force her out of her sexy black clothes and back into her tights and fuzzy sweaters. Xander sighed. Even when she wasn’t at the shop, Willow didn’t wear fuzzy sweaters anymore.
Willow turned at the sound of her old friend’s voice. It had been almost three months since the young man had visited, and Willow felt a surge of guilt over the fact that she wasn’t particularly glad to see him.
“Hi, Xander. It’s so great to see you,” she said with false brightness as she returned his hug. Xander didn’t seem to notice the hollowness of her greeting. Willow nodded at the woman standing next to him. “It’s good to see you, too, Anya.”
Willow felt her smile
tighten fractionally at the indifferent, almost scornful tone in the former
demon’s voice. Oh, yeah, this was going to be a
fun weekend. Buffy was going to end up face to face with her vampire ex-boyfriend for the first time in five years, Xander and Cordelia would be together for the first time since high school graduation, and Xander would probably snipe at both Spike and Angel at every opportunity. Not to mention the fact that Anya was acting like a bitch. As usual. Willow understood that Anya had had a difficult time adjusting to being a human, but it had been five years. Enough was enough. It was time to learn how to relate to people.
“So, have you seen Buffy yet?”
“Nah, we figured she’d be busy, so we stopped to see you first. Don’t you feel special?”
Instead of feeling
special, Willow felt angry. Unlike her, Buffy didn’t have a job.
The blonde had just graduated from college on the five year
plan, and she was probably at home watching soap operas while her mother put all the finishing touches on the wedding. Willow, on the other hand, had been juggling her work and her friends all day. Not that she usually minded that sort of thing. She had, in fact, been the one to invite Angel to come to the store. And seeing Cordelia and Doyle had been fantastic, even if it was only for a few minutes. However, that was the point. Whereas Cordy and Doyle’s appearance had been brief, and Angel had been helping out all morning, Xander and Anya would probably sit on their butts complaining, annoy her, and run off potential customers.
“Um, excuse me...”
Willow turned at the
tentative interruption and smiled at the customer standing before her.
The teenage girl was one of her favorite customers,
and she was thrilled to have a diversion from her dark thoughts.
“Merry meet, Sandy. What can I get for you today?”
“I need some jasmine for a spell I’m trying.”
“Nothing dangerous, is it?” Willow asked as she reached behind her to get what the girl needed.
“No, no, nothing, uh, dangerous. I’m not, uh, ready for anything that could even be considered dangerous.” Willow smiled at Sandy’s stuttered reply. The girl reminded Willow of how she’d been back when she’d first discovered witchcraft. She had been excited and frightened at the same time. Willow sighed. Even after six years of practicing, magick still had that effect on her.
Willow handed the package to the girl. “That’s good to hear. Anything else?”
“No, that’s it,” Sandy replied as she followed the older witch over to the cash register. The girl paid, then left the store.
While Willow had been busy with her customer, Xander had decided to take a look around the store. He didn’t like what he saw.
“What the hell is he doing here?”
Willow rushed to the back of the store, where Xander was glaring at Angel. She sighed. She’d been hoping to avoid this confrontation for as long as possible.
“Well, Xander, I see you remember Angel.”
“Yeah, I remember Deadboy. What’s he doing here?”
Angel flinched at the hatred in the other man’s voice. He’d thought that maybe, just maybe, Xander would have been able to release his hostility over the years. Apparently, he was wrong.
“He came to visit old friends.”
“Oh, he actually has some? I figured he would’ve eaten them all by now.”
“That’s enough, Xander!” Willow was furious. Angel hadn’t even said a word yet, and Xander was already launching a full attack. “Either play nice, or get the hell out of my store!”
“It’s okay, Willow,” Angel said in a voice barely above a whisper. “I’ll leave.”
Willow grabbed the vampire’s arm as he turned to walk away. “No, Angel. Please don’t go. I want you here. This is my store, and I won’t let anyone chase you away from it.” She gazed up at him imploringly, and Angel suddenly knew he could never refuse her anything. If she looked at him in that same way and told him to go out for a walk in the sun, he would. “Please stay.”
Angel nodded and gently removed Willow’s hand from his arm, briefly entwining his fingers with hers before letting her go. “I’ll stay.”
Willow smiled sweetly. “Good.”
“Um, Will? Some help out here would be a good thing.” Willow wrinkled her nose as Amy’s slightly panicked request reached her.
“Coming!” She turned to the two men beside her. “You two behave, okay? And by ‘you two,’ I mean you, Xander. Got it?”
“Got it,” Xander replied sullenly. As soon as Willow was gone, however, he turned to the dark-haired vampire. “Why did you come back?”
“I heard Buffy was getting married.” Angel carefully left out the fact that Cordelia was the one who had told him; he wasn’t sure how Xander would react.
“And what? You decided to come and ruin it for her? Can’t you just let her be happy?”
“I didn’t come to ruin her wedding. I just... wanted to make sure she was happy, I guess. Maybe I just wanted to see everybody again; I don’t know.”
“You expect me to believe that you’re not here because you want Buffy back?”
Angel gave a rather rude snort. “It’s been five years, Harris. That’s more than long enough to get over Buffy Summers.” Angel glanced toward the front of the store where Willow was, then left the young man alone to stew.
Xander stood there, fuming, as he thought about Angel. What was that old cliché? Actions speak louder than words? Well, Xander had been watching Angel’s actions.
And he sure as hell didn’t like the way the vampire acted towards Willow.
Willow sat on the floor of the office, quietly eating her lunch. Angel, for the sake of keeping her company, was eating as well. Spike was standing on his head in the corner.
“How long has it been?”
Willow glanced at her watch. “Twelve minutes. That’s a new record for you, isn’t it?”
Spike grinned at the redhead, an odd expression considering the fact that he was upside down.
“Does he do this often?” Angel asked as he watched his childe.
Willow grinned. “Only every single day for the past two weeks. Claims it helps his balance. I personally think he’s just destroying the few brain cells he has left.”
at the redheaded witch, then lowered his feet to the floor, effectively
seating himself beside the others. “That’s not very
nice, pet. You should remember that I can kill you,” he said with a laugh.
Willow snorted at the vampire’s empty threat. “And you should remember that I can stake you with a pencil. I’m sure you’d love to have that end up in the Watcher Diaries. Death by number two.”
“Very funny. See how I’m not laughing.” The blonde got to his feet and sent a mock bow in Willow’s direction. “If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go find someone who appreciates me.”
“That’ll take a while.
It’s a good thing you’re immortal.” Spike sent a stern glare in his
sire’s direction for that particular comment, but ruined
the effect by breaking into a grin. Turning, Spike left the room in search of Amy. Willow turned to Angel.
“Well, I guess I can die now. I’ve seen everything.”
“You and Spike getting along. And you actually making a funny. I didn’t think you were capable of doing that.”
“There’s a lot you don’t know about me.” Angel cringed as soon as the words left his mouth. God, that had sounded absolutely ridiculous.
Willow grinned in obvious delight. “Apparently I do have a lot to learn. I never knew you had a thing for really lame and clichéd lines.”
“Well, you learn something new every day and all that garbage.”
“Very well put.”
The redhead looked over at the sudden change in Angel’s voice. Just seconds ago, he had been joking with her and Spike. Now, he just seemed sad. Shifting slightly, Willow turned so that she was facing the vampire and reached out to take his hand.
“What is it, Angel? What’s wrong?”
For a moment, Angel simply stared at their joined hands. Hers was so tiny; his was so big. He couldn’t get over how pale she was. She’d always been that way, though. Almost as pale as he was. After taking an unneeded deep breath, Angel began to speak.
“It’s just something that Xander said. It’s...”
“What did he say? Do you want me to turn him into a rat for you?”
Angel smiled slightly. He had the feeling that Willow would actually go through with the offer if he asked her to.
“I don’t think turning Xander into a rat is the answer, although it is a good suggestion.” He sighed, wondering how to tell the woman beside him what he was feeling. “It’s just... I guess I don’t want Buffy to think that I came back to ruin things for her. I just wanted to make sure that she was happy. I wanted to see Doyle and Cordelia; I wanted to see you. I really wanted to avoid Xander, but obviously that didn’t work out. And now... I’m just afraid I made a mistake.”
“Why would you say that?”
“Me being here... it’ll just stir things up. And how the hell would Buffy explain me to her fiancé?”
With a sigh, Willow got up from the floor and looked down at the vampire. She shrugged.
“We can tell him you’re my lover.”
Angel scrambled to his feet and stopped Willow before she left the office. “What did you just say?” He didn’t really need her to repeat it, but he wanted her to. He wanted to hear those words come from her lips again.
“I said we can tell them you’re my boyfriend.”
“No, you didn’t.”
“Yes, I did.”
“No, Willow, you didn’t. I distinctly heard you use the word lover. You said we could tell them I’m your lover.”
Willow’s blush was
approximately the color of her hair. She couldn’t believe she had
actually said that. “Look, I know what I said, okay? And
obviously you do, too. So let’s just move on.”
“Do you think Buffy and Xander would go along with it?”
Willow snorted. “It’s not like they could prove otherwise. I’m not exactly forthcoming when it comes to my social life.” She wrinkled her nose. “I guess that’s because I don’t have much of one, at least not lately.”
“Why not?” Angel asked, shocked. Willow was gorgeous, brilliant, and one of the nicest people in the world. How could she not be involved with someone? Angel knew she hadn’t mentioned anyone the night before, but he had thought that was because they’d been so busy talking about everything else.
Willow looked up at the vampire who towered over her. He was less than six inches away from her. If she just moved a little, she could... no, bad idea. Willow shook herself out of her stupor and stepped back slightly.
“It’s just hard, you know? Maintaining a relationship and fighting bad guys and keeping it a secret? I just haven’t found a way to do it yet. Besides, fighting evil definitely cuts in on dating time. Not to mention the shop, and spending time with Amy and Spike, and learning new spells. And you know, not all guys would be overjoyed to discover that they were dating a witch.”
Angel nodded his understanding of Willow’s statement - he knew most people would not be thrilled at the realization that they were dating someone ‘different’ - then considered her offer to assume the role of his girlfriend. He had to admit, the thought of pretending to be with Willow appealed to him. Hell, the thought of actually < being >with her appealed to him.
“How will we explain it to the others? Us being together, that is.”
“I went on a trip to
San Francisco a few months ago to get some supplies. We can say you
had a case there, and we met up.” Willow sent an
irresistible grin his way. “One thing led to another... and here we are.”
Angel reached over and rested his hands on Willow’s hips, then pulled her towards him. The contact sent a jolt through him, and he tried to hide it. He smirked slightly.
“Yeah, here we are.”
Willow swallowed audibly. Here she was, standing in Angel’s arms, and... she really wanted to stay right where she was. What in the hell was going on with her? This was Angel. Buffy’s Ang... ex-boyfriend. As in no longer hers. As in completely and totally unattached. Which meant it was completely okay if something happened between them. Did Angel want something to...
Willow started as she realized that she had been standing there dumbstruck in Angel’s embrace for who knows how long.
“What? Did you say something?”
Angel grinned at the confused young woman. “No, you were just spacing out. Are you sure you’re okay with this whole thing?”
“Yeah, of course I’m okay with it. I’m very okay with it.”
Angel gave a sexy grin,
and Willow’s heart did that annoying thing that feels like it’s flip-flopping
in your chest. Willow closed her eyes as
Angel started to lean in towards her...
“Willow! Aren’t you done yet? I could really use a break, you know.” Willow and Angel broke apart guiltily as they heard Amy’s yell.
“I should, uh, go. You know, um, work and all that.”
“Yeah, you, uh, should,” Angel replied, trying to figure out what to do with his hands. He desperately wanted to touch her again. However, he was afraid she would bolt if he tried.
“Well, uh, see you
later. We can, uh, finish this... uh, TALK about tonight later.
Bye!” Willow virtually flew out of the room, leaving Angel to
contemplate what had just happened.
“Yeah, we’ll definitely finish this later.”
Willow rushed into
the front room, blushing to the roots of her hair. She stopped short
at the sight in front of her, which was obviously the real
reason for Amy’s sudden and completely false desire for a break.
“Giles! You’re here!” Willow gave the older man a hug, then allowed him to hold her at arms’ length.
“Willow, you look lovely.”
“Under all this make-up and black clothing, you mean,” Willow replied, gesturing to her tank top, leather pants, and heeled boots. She had used a glamour that morning to hide the bruises on her arms that were left over from the attack she had Spike had thwarted two days earlier.
Giles smiled gently. Willow had been dressing in black while she worked for so long, he almost didn’t notice it anymore. “No, dear girl, I meant you look lovely as you are.”
Willow smiled back, then hugged Giles again. “It is so good to see you. I’ve really missed you.”
“And I’ve missed you.”
“When did you get in?”
“Just a few minutes ago. I thought I’d stop by and say hello before I went to Buffy’s. I’m not interrupting anything, am I?”
“No, no, of course not,” Willow responded quickly, studiously avoiding Amy’s gaze. She knew that the blonde realized something had definitely been going on in the office.
“Are you sure? I wouldn’t want to bother you.”
Willow had to smile at the man’s concern. At least he understood that she might be busy. She wished Xander was that considerate. Like that would ever happen. “No, Giles, you’re most definitely not bothering me. Why don’t you come into the office where you can sit down? I’m sure you’ve got to be exhausted.”
“Yes, well, that would be lovely.”
Willow and Giles walked into the office, and Willow was relieved to see that Angel had vacated it. His appearance was something that she wanted to break gently to Giles. Giles sat down in one of the chairs in the room, and looked up at his former student.
“How is everyone?”
“Fine, as far as I know.” The young witch grinned. “Obviously Amy’s good. Spike’s kind of nuts, but that’s usual.”
“And the others? Has anyone else arrived yet?”
“Xander and Anya are here. They were annoying, but that’s pretty much par for the course lately. Oh, and Cordy came with Doyle. They’re good; they’re at my house right now resting. They can’t check into their hotel until this evening.” Willow paused, then looked at the former watcher. “There is one more thing, though.”
“What is it?” Giles asked, slightly alarmed by Willow’s hesitancy.
“It’s Angel. He’s came down from LA.”
“Good Lord. Does Buffy know?”
“That’s a big no. In fact, she’s the only one that doesn’t know.”
“Xander and Anya know?”
“Yeah. They stopped by the store and accidentally ran into him. It wasn’t pretty.”
“He was here?”
“I still am.”
Giles turned his head to face the vampire in the doorway. He waited for the hatred that usually welled up because of Jenny’s murder, but none came. Apparently, he’d had enough time to heal. The realization surprised him.
“Hello, Angel. It’s good to see you.”
“May I ask why you’re here?”
“To see me,” Willow responded before Angel could say a word.
Giles quickly swiveled around to look at the redhead. “Excuse me?”
“I came to see Willow,” the vampire confirmed as he walked over to the young woman. He wrapped his arm around her waist and smiled down at her.
“I, uh, see. Does Buffy know?”
“Not yet,” Willow answered.
“And just when do you plan to let her in on this little secret?”
The vampire and the witch exchanged a nervous glance, then both answered at once.
“Well, that went better than expected.”
Angel grinned at the redhead. Giles had just left, and the relief the young witch felt was evident on her face.
“Yeah. One down, how many to go?”
Willow sent a glare in the vampire’s direction and began to pace. “First of all, Spike and Amy and Cordy and Doyle will be happy to help us pull this off. Second, don’t rain on my parade, okay?”
“Whatever you say.”
“Look, I know how hard it’s going to be to pull this off. I mean, Xander’s going to be a complete ass about the whole thing; I’m sure of that. Buffy probably won’t believe it, but I imagine she’ll help up just to keep Connor from being suspicious.”
“Does Connor know anything about me?”
“He might know that
Buffy once dated a guy named Angel; I’m not sure. I think Buffy was
pretty evasive about her past, what with the whole Slayer thing and all.
It’s not a big deal if he recognizes the name, though. We’re just
old friends who ran into each other and ended up getting
“Right.” Angel reached out and pulled Willow towards him. “We just saw each other, completely by chance, and the sparks flew.” The smoldering look Angel sent her nearly turned Willow’s knees to mush.
Willow gulped and pulled. This so could not happen right this second. “I really have to get out there to help Amy. I’ve kind of been doing nothing all day, and if I don’t get out there, Amy going to get pissed. It’s not a good idea to make a witch angry, you know?”
“Yes, I know.” Angel smiled as Willow rushed out of the room.
“You have a thing for her, don’t you?”
Angel looked up at the sound of his childe’s voice. “A thing?” The dark-haired vampire shrugged. “And what if I do? What would you do about it?”
Spike walked over to stand beside his sire, then leaned against the desk. “I guess I’d tell you to go for it. The soul’s permanent, right?”
“As far as I know. Willow did the spell.”
Spike nodded decisively. “Then it’s permanent. You’re going to be brooding indefinitely. So go for it.”
“Maybe I will,” Angel replied after a moment, then headed for the door. He had a lot to think about. At the sound of his childe’s voice, Angel paused.
“Oh, and Angelus... if you ever even think about hurting her, just remember how good I used to be at torture. I did learn from the best, you know. It’s been a few years, but I’m sure I still remember a thing or two.”
Oddly pleased by Spike’s threat - it showed that the younger vampire really did care about Willow - Angel headed to the storage room to contemplate what he was going to do next.
Willow smiled at the customer as she handed the girl her change. “Good luck with the spell,” she called as the teenager left. She turned to Amy, who was restocking some of the supplies. “Busy day.”
“Yeah, and somebody’s been working the front all by herself for most of it.”
Willow made a face at her friend. “I know. I’ve been bad. I’m really sorry, though.”
Amy shrugged. “It’s okay, Will. At least I didn’t have to talk to Xander or Anya. Those two are so obnoxious. Of course, I will have to see them tonight.”
“Speaking of tonight...”
Amy groaned. “What? Please don’t ask me to make Spike be nice to Xander. It was difficult enough to get him to promise to be nice to Angel. It was just sheer luck that he actually likes him now.”
“Don’t worry, I’m not going to ask Spike to be nice to Xander. I kind of figured the two of them would be the entertainment for the evening.”
“Then what is it?”
“Well, Angel and I -”
Willow broke off in mid-sentence at the sound of the familiar voice.
“Oz. Um, hi.”
“Don’t I get a hug?”
Willow quickly obliged the currently blue-haired guitar player, and Amy did the same.
“It’s good to see you,” Willow said.
“You, too.” The girls shifted uncomfortably under Oz’s penetrating gaze. After a moment, the young man spoke again. “What’s this about Angel?”
“He’s, uh, here,” Willow began. “In Sunnydale.”
Oz’s brow furrowed in an uncharacteristic show of concern. “For Buffy’s wedding?”
Willow took a deep breath. This was harder than she thought it would be. Telling Giles had been easy. Of course, she had never been in love Giles. There had been a time when Oz had been her world. That, however, had been a long time ago, and they had both moved on. “No. He’s here to see me.”
“We’re seeing one another.” Willow sent a pleading glance Amy’s way, hoping that the blonde would back her up.
“The two of you are together? As in dating?” Oz’s fist clenched as a wave of jealousy hit him. Angel and Willow?
“They sure are,” Amy replied with a winning smile. She had no clue what was up, but was more than willing to play along. “They’re so cute together it makes me want to heave.”
Willow snorted. “God, Amy, you’re really starting to sound like Spike. Did you know that?”
“Oh, bite me.”
“Sorry, Amy, you’re not my type.”
Oz just stood there,
staring at his former girlfriend as she and Amy exchanged barbs.
Willow was dating a vampire? That was insane, that was
unnatural, that was... not all that different from dating a werewolf. Well, except for the fact that werewolves weren’t dead. As long as they
instituted the ‘no biting’ rule, Oz figured that Angel and Willow would be just fine.
“How long have you been dating?”
Both girls started
in surprise; in the midst of their banter they had obviously forgotten
that the young man was there. Willow recovered first,
which was a good thing, because Amy didn’t know the story that the false couple had concocted.
“About three months. He was in San Francisco on a case; I was on a buying trip of sorts. We ran into each other.”
“Are you happy with him?” If she was, he knew he’d have to let it go. Above all else, he wanted the redhead to be happy.
“Yes, Oz, I am. He’s wonderful.”
“Then I’m happy for you,” Oz replied, sending the redhead a genuine smile that sent a wave of relief through Willow. The young man had seen the honesty in Willow’s eyes; he knew she was telling the truth. She was happy. “I should get going. I have to see my parents. I’ll see you tonight, though.”
“Looking forward to it.”
“Bye, Oz!” The
blonde witch waited until Oz had left the store before turning on her friend.
“So, Willow, do you mind telling me just what the
hell that was all about?”
“So the two of you are just < pretending > to be together?” Amy asked as she stared at her own image in the mirror. If she didn’t get the eyeliner just right, she’d end up looking like a raccoon.
“Yes, that’s right,” Willow replied, pulling her hair into a high ponytail. The two were in the bathroom attached to the master bedroom at Willow’s house, getting ready for the evening. Spike and Angel had gone to Spike’s house, and Cordelia and Doyle had headed to their hotel.
Amy put her lipstick on, then turned to face her friend. “Uh-huh. So, there’s nothing actually going on between you and Angel, right?”
“Right. No, wrong. No... Gods, Amy, I don’t know.”
“You don’t know? Well, that sounds promising.”
“Don’t be snide.”
“I’m not... exactly.
It’s just kind of nice to see you a bit confused, or flustered, or whatever
it is that Angel seems to cause you to be. It
reminds me of the way I was when I first got with Spike.”
“I’m not with Angel.”
“And I believe you,”
Amy replied in a voice that let Willow know she believed nothing of the
sort. “Even so,” the blonde continued, ”I can’t
help but wonder what the two of you have been doing during those extended amounts of time in the office today.”
“Nothing happened, I swear.” Willow sighed as she took her hair down. It just didn’t look right up. She threw the hair clip at the wall with sudden ferocity. “Oh, who am I kidding? We almost kissed. Twice.”
“Just almost? No actual kissing? What stopped you?”
“You did. Well, I did, too.”
“Excuse me? What do you mean, I stopped you? And why did you stop him from kissing you? Didn’t you want to kiss him?”
“You yelled for me
to come help you at the front. So I did. That happened the
first time, the time I didn’t panic until < after > we’d been
interrupted, by the way; your timing sucks. And as for me... I kind of freaked out the second time. I mean... it’s Angel. Gorgeous, amazing,
completely untouchable Angel. I’ve always sort of thought of him as Buffy’s... and now, he seems to want me. It’s a little overwhelming.”
“But let’s get back to the real question: did you want to kiss him?”
Willow sighed and closed her eyes. “Oh, Goddess, I did.”
Amy smiled at her friend’s emphatic response. “Then go for it. You deserve to be happy, Willow. And if it turns out that Angel’s the guy who can make you happy... honey, you’ve got to give it a chance. You owe it to yourself.”
Willow smiled, then began to brush her hair. She’d decided to leave it down for the evening. “Thanks for the pep talk, Mom.”
At that moment, the doorbell rang. “Damn,” Willow muttered. “They’re here.”
Amy sighed. “Goddess, I hope we get through this night without any major fights.”
Willow grabbed her purse off the bed, then handed Amy hers. “I just hope I don’t end up getting staked.”
“Um, Will? You’re human; you don’t have to worry about getting staked,” the blond pointed out as she followed her friend to the door.
Willow put her hand
on the knob, then turned to Amy. “Yeah, well, Buffy’s kind of out
of practice with this whole Slayer thing. She may think she gets
to stake anyone who pisses her off now.”