If Angel had possessed breath, Willow’s appearance would have taken it away. He had known she was beautiful; he’d been around Willow for nearly twenty-four hours straight, and he wasn’t blind. However, seeing her in work clothes and sleepwear didn’t come close to seeing her dressed up for the evening. She was gorgeous, absolutely stunning. She’d left her hair down, and it was slightly wild, as if the wind had been playing with it. And her dress. The bold sapphire color was a brilliant contrast to her pale skin, and it looked amazing with the vibrant red of her hair. The strapless ensemble was cut just low enough to make Angel wonder exactly what she had on underneath, and the loose skirt just barely brushed her ankles. She wore sandals on her feet. She looked exotic, incredibly beautiful, and completely untouchable. God, he hoped he was wrong about that last one; he was absolutely aching to touch her.
Angel was pulled out of his thoughts by Willow’s softly spoken greeting. “Hey. You look... good.”
Spike snorted. “Oh, yeah, that was eloquent. What he meant to say is ‘you look stunningly gorgeous and absolutely amazing, and if you don’t mind, I’m going to commence drooling now.’”
Willow grinned as she linked arms with Angel and began to pull him towards Spike’s convertible. “Gee, Spike, thanks so much for the translation. And I am not getting in that damn car until you put the top up.”
“Why the bloody hell not?”
Amy rolled her eyes. “The tousled look is okay Spike. The ‘I had my head stuck out the window like a freaking dog’ look isn’t.”
Spike muttered a few rather colorful curses in several different languages, then proceeded to put the top of the car up.
Angel leaned in close to Willow. “Are they always like this?”
“Oh, no. Sometimes
they’re worse. But even then, it’s nothing. I mean, just wait
until we see Buffy. She and Spike aren’t exactly the best of
“Is the waiting thing an offer? Because, you know, I’ve decided that I really don’t want to see Buffy.”
“And just what would we do instead?”
“Do you really have to ask?”
“So we’d pig out on ice cream and watch old movies and cry a lot?”
Angel couldn’t help but grin. “Yes, of course. That’s exactly what we’d do. Well, unless you’d rather bake chocolate chip cookies and make crank calls to all the people you don’t like.”
“Are you two done flirting yet, or is it going to be a while?” Angel and Willow whirled around to discover a rather amused looking Amy and Spike watching them. Amy was biting her lip in an effort not to laugh at Spike's comment. Willow blushed, then grabbed Angel’s hand and pulled him to the car.
Angel sighed as he allowed the tiny redhead to pull him into the backseat with her. “Time to face the firing squad.”
Buffy still lived with her mother. The revelation surprised Angel. All of the others had started their own lives. They had moved out on their own and gotten jobs; he’d just assumed that Buffy had done the same thing. He’d obviously been wrong.
Angel got out of the car, then reached down to help Willow out. She sent a dazzling smile his way, and he could have sworn his heart skipped a bit, which was ridiculous because he was dead.
“You know,” he whispered as they made their way to the front door, ”Spike was right. You really do look amazing tonight.”
“Thank you,” Willow replied in the same tone. “You look pretty amazing yourself.” The tiny redhead smiled at him again and gave his hand a gentle squeeze.
Angel couldn’t help it. He had been resisting the urge for an entire day, and he just couldn’t do it anymore. He stopped on the Summers’ front porch, pulled Willow into his arms, and kissed her. A rather surprised Willow returned the kiss, suddenly completely oblivious to Amy and Spike; of course, it wasn’t like they would have a problem with what was happening anyway. Willow felt Angel’s tongue sweep across her lips, seeking entrance. Without thought, she opened her mouth and invited him in.
The moment would have been perfect if the front door hadn’t opened.
“Oh, my God.”
The two jumped apart and their expressions took on that ‘deer in the headlights’ look as they whirled around to face the intruder. Both breathed a sigh of relief when they saw who the shocked whisper had come from.
“And just when did this happen?” Cordelia Chase demanded with a slight grin on her face.
Angel shrugged. “I’m going with right this second. Although it almost happened about ten thousand other times today.”
“Well, good for you both. I’m extremely happy for you. However, I don’t think seeing you with your tongue down Willow’s throat would be the best thing for Buffy right now. Or for any of the others, either. I mean, you have been gone for five years. Seeing you will be enough of a shock. But throw in the picture of you and Willow going at it on the front porch? Bad idea.”
“The others already know. Well, some of them do.”
Cordelia’s shocked look turned to Willow. “How could they know if it just happened right this minute?”
“We were going to pretend to be a couple as a way to explain Angel being here. We’ve actually already told the story to Oz and Giles...”
“And now it’s not just a story; it’s true,” Cordelia finished with a raised eyebrow.
Angel looked at Willow, a question in his eyes. The redhead nodded. It was definitely true. “Basically.” Angel replied. “Except the story says we’ve been together for a few months. Just go along with it, okay?”
“Fine,” Cordy said with a sigh. “But you two owe me.”
“What do we owe you?”
The brunette shot a grin in Willow’s direction.
“I want all the details, of course.”
“Why is he here? Was he supposed to be here tonight?”
At Xander’s angry outburst, Doyle, Anya, and Joyce turned to see who was following Cordelia into the room. Joyce’s eyes grew huge as she realized just who it was that Willow was walking arm in arm with, and Doyle couldn’t hide his smirk. Anya, on the other hand, simply looked indifferent to the whole situation.
“Well,” Angel began uncertainly. “I’m...”
Willow quickly interrupted
the vampire, who seemed to be at a loss for words. “He’s with me.
As my date.” Willow sighed and tried to look
rueful. “There’s something I should tell you. Really, I should have told you when you were at the store earlier, but you were already so angry...”
“Just spit it out, Willow,” Xander said through gritted teeth.
“Angel and I are together. As in involved.”
“Since when?” Xander sputtered.
ran into to each other while we were in San Francisco.” Willow smiled
as she said the last part. The lie was getting easier and
easier to say. She was even starting to believe it herself. Of course, that kiss on the front porch had probably done a lot to help with that.
Xander opened his mouth to start what was most likely a truly obnoxious tirade, but a voice from upstairs stopped him.
“Mom? Has someone else arrived? I thought I heard Willow’s voice. Is she here?”
It was Buffy.
Buffy Summers walked down the stairs slowly, searching the room as she made her way down. She knew she had heard Willow’s voice, but wasn’t sure if she’d heard anyone else’s. She thought she had heard another voice, but she couldn’t identify it. She saw blonde hair and realized that Amy had arrived as well. Buffy smothered a groan as she saw that the blonde witch had brought Spike with her. Her mood, however, lightened as she saw Willow. The young woman had her back to Buffy, and she had brought a date. The Slayer began to smile at the thought that Willow was seeing someone, but the smile faded as she realized that the man looked familiar. Tall, dark hair, dark clothes... if she didn’t know better, she’d swear it was...
And then he turned.
And all the color drained from the Slayer’s face.
It was a bit like slow
motion. Angel turned, Buffy saw him and nearly keeled over.
Spike didn’t even attempt to hide his smirk at the spectacle
unveiling itself before him. This was going to be fun.
Buffy stood, just staring, for a moment, then shakily continued down the steps. She came to a stop directly in front of her former lover.
“What the hell are you doing here?”
“He’s with me; he’s my boyfriend.”
“Since...” Willow trailed off as she realized how much she wanted to tell Buffy the truth: that she had just fallen in love with the vampire that very day. She and Buffy had been so close once... there had been a time when Buffy would have been the first to know what was going on in Willow’s love life. But Willow’s friendships with both Spike and Amy had slowly pulled the girls apart, as had Buffy’s many boyfriends over the past few years.
“It’s a really new thing, isn’t it?” the Slayer asked, sensing the other girl’s hesitation.
“Yes, Buffy, it is,” Angel answered as he slipped his arm around Willow’s waist. “It wasn’t something we planned on; it just happened.” That much, at least, was the truth.
Buffy swallowed hard over the growing lump in her throat, and she felt tears well up in her eyes and threaten to spill over. This was not happening. Angel and Willow a couple? Never, not even in her worst nightmares, had she thought that this would ever occur.
“I’ve... I’ve got to go,” Buffy managed before the tears overtook her. She ran out of the room, not even noticing when she stumbled into her fiancé, who had just entered with Giles and Oz.
“What’s going on here?” Connor asked as he stared at his fiancée’s retreating back.
“I take it you told her?” Giles asked quietly.
Willow and Angel both nodded slowly while Joyce leapt up from the couch. “Someone should go after her,” the older woman murmured.
Willow started toward the door, but Angel held her back. “This is my doing; I should be the one to talk to her. Besides, we have a lot to clear up.” Angel bent down and gently kissed Willow on the lips, then lifted his head, trying to reassure her with his eyes. He was no longer in love with Buffy; he was Willow’s, completely and totally. However, it still bothered him to see the blonde Slayer in pain, especially since he was the cause of it. He had to try to fix things.
Willow smiled her understanding, then gently squeezed the dark hairedvampire’s hand. She knew this was something he had to do. Whether he admitted it or not, it was what he had returned to Sunnydale for.
Angel turned to go, certain he’d need all the luck he could get.
Angel found Buffy at the park, sitting on a swing.
“Hey,” he said softly as he sat on the next swing.
“Why Willow?” the blonde asked woodenly, not even looking at him.
“She was your best
friend for quite a while; you figure it out. What is it exactly that
bothers you, Buffy? Is it that I’m with someone else? Or is
it that I’m with Willow? Because, whichever one it is, it’s a bit hypocritical, considering the fact that you’re getting married, don’t you think?”
“That’s different. I’m not marrying your best friend.”
“My best friend’s been dead for a couple hundred years; it would be a bit difficult for you to do that.”
“This is serious, Angel.”
“And I’m more than willing to be serious. I just need to know the truth. What is it that upsets you the most: me, or me and Willow?”
Buffy briefly rested
her forehead on her knees, then looked up at the vampire. Tears were
glistening in her eyes. “Why did you have to come
Angel gave a hollow
laugh. “I told myself that I just wanted to make sure you were happy.
Now... I’m not so sure why I’m here. The fact that
Cordelia and Doyle came in from New York was a factor...”
Angel sighed. “I never knew just how much I really missed her until I got here.”
“And now you’re in love with her.”
“You expect me to believe that you came here without any hopes of getting me back?”
Angel put his hand under Buffy’s chin and forced her to look at him. “Yes, Buffy, I expect you to believe that. It’s the truth. I’m glad you’ve found someone else.” Angel smiled ruefully. “Am I ever going to get to meet him?”
Buffy shrugged. She’d seen the truth in Angel’s eyes; he really wasn’t here to mess up her wedding. “I guess so. Oh, God,“ she continued in a panicky voice, “I think I ran into him when I stormed out. How am I going to explain that?”
“You’ll think of something.” Angel paused, then continued. “You’re actually taking this better than I thought you would.”
“Well, I’ve changed since you’ve left.”
“That’s for sure,” Angel muttered.
Buffy stood up from her swing and glared down at the vampire. “Just what is that supposed to mean?”
Angel stood as well, not liking the sensation of being looked down upon. “The Buffy I knew was the Vampire Slayer.”
“I’m still the Slayer.”
“Oh, come off it, Buffy! You’re running away, or haven’t you noticed? When’s the last time you patrolled?”
“Oh, please! They don’t even need me!”
“It’s < your > duty, Buffy. You’re the Slayer. Do you even plan to patrol once you get to Detroit? Not that there’s really a need,” he added as an afterthought.
“I’ve been fighting demons since I was sixteen years old. Don’t I deserve a break?”
“Willow’s been fighting them since she was sixteen, too. What about her? My God, Buffy, you’re the Slayer. She’s not. And Amy and Spike aren’t, either.”
“Spike’s a vampire; he can handle himself. But Willow and Amy? They’re human. They don’t have the strength, or the skill, or the healing power that you do.”
“They don’t have to do it.”
“You’re right; they don’t. But if they don’t do it, who will?”
The Slayer merely shrugged in response.
Angel stared down at Buffy, completely disgusted. “You are not the girl I fell in love with. You’re nothing like her.”
“You’re definitely right there. The Buffy I knew may have been afraid, but she still fought. She even gave her life trying to keep the Master from rising when she was only sixteen years old. She didn’t want to die, but she did it anyway. She would have done anything for her friends. But you? You’re just throwing them to the wolves, leaving them to fend for themselves. To fight the fight that you were chosen to lead. The Buffy Summers I knew was an amazing person. You’re nothing but a shell of a person that happens to have her face. I’m out of here.”
As Angel walked away, the Slayer slumped to the ground, sobbing, as she realized the truth in his words.
Spike was on his face. The cat, not the vampire. Angel groaned as he pushed the ball of white fur off his head and sat up. After showering and getting dressed, he went to the living room and collapsed on the couch.
“Well, somebody’s not perky this morning.” Angel sent Willow a bemused look, and the redhead smiled sympathetically. Angel had told her about the conversation with Buffy. Willow had been surprised when Angel had stormed back into the Summers’ house without the Slayer, but had immediately agreed when Angel asked if they could leave. That was what had done it. Even though she could see the pain in his eyes, he had asked; he hadn’t demanded. Then they had come home, and he had told her everything. Willow sat down next to the vampire and reached for his hand. “I didn’t think you’d be up this early.”
“Well, usually I’m not, but your cat decided my face would make a good bed, so I got up.”
Willow laughed. “Maybe next time you should shut your door.”
Angel grinned in response and pulled the redhead so that she was leaning against him. “So, what happened last night while I was gone? You never told me.”
Willow snuggled closer,
relishing the feel of being in Angel’s arms. She never wanted to
move. “Not much, really,” she replied in answer to the
vampire’s question. “Some yelling, mostly by Xander. He knows some pretty interesting swear words. I think he learned them from Anya.”
“Well, she has been around for over a thousand years. She probably knows a lot of... interesting things.”
“Probably,” Willow murmured sleepily. “Anyway, Xander yelled until Cordy’d had enough and got nasty. I haven’t seen her that mad since high school. It was great. After Cordelia had put the fear of God in Xander, things were pretty much calm, although Connor had no clue what was going on. We talked a bit.”
“No one else reacted badly?”
“Not really. I mean, everyone else - except for Joyce, that is - already knew that you were in town and that we were together. They all pretty much expected Buffy’s reaction. Can we stop talking now?”
Angel pulled Willow even closer, shifted so that his chin was resting on the top of her head. He loved the feel of her in his arms. There was so much that they needed to say; everything had happened so quickly. Nothing had been settled, nothing planned. They’d spent less then forty-eight hours together, but Angel already knew that he didn’t want to leave, couldn’t leave. At least not without her. He only hoped that she felt the same way. He felt Willow pull away slightly, and he looked down to find her staring at him.
He was only too happy
to oblige. They had kissed twice before, both times having been the
night before. They had never kissed without an audience. Angel
lay down completely on the couch, pulling the tiny redhead on top of him.
Her hands found their way into his hair as their tongues dueled; Angel
wrapped his arms around her, pulling her so close that they almost seemed
to be one. Then, the inevitable
The doorbell rang.
Willow pushed herself into a sitting position, flushed and breathing heavily. Angel reached up to pull her back down.
“Don’t answer that.”
Willow evaded the vampire’s grasp and rose from the couch. “Have to. If it’s someone who knows me, they know I spend Sundays at home. If I don’t answer, they’ll think something happened to me. They may even break down the door, and I really don’t want that to happen again.”
“I had the flu once and felt too lousy to answer, and Spike freaked and broke my door,” Willow replied as she headed to the front of the house. She looked in the peephole, then turned to Angel, a stunned expression on her face.
The Slayer sat perched precariously on the edge of Willow’s couch, her hands fidgeting nervously. Angel had retreated to the guest room before Willow had opened the door, and the two women were alone.
“Why are you here?”
The Slayer looked up at Willow’s blunt question. “I needed to talk to you. To, uh, to apologize.”
“Apologize for what?” Willow asked, sitting woodenly in the chair across from Buffy.
“Well, you’re not going to make this any easier, are you?” Buffy replied nervously. Unable to sit still, the blonde got up and began to pace around the room. “This is really hard. It’s even harder then when I came back from running away, and you know how that was.” The young woman paused in her pacing and gazed at her former best friend. “God, Wills, I’m so sorry. These past six months... the past few years, really.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’ve been loading my duty onto you. Slowly but surely, I let you and Spike and Amy take over for me until I wasn’t doing a damn thing. It wasn’t right, and it wasn’t fair.”
“I learned a long time ago that nothing was really fair, Buffy.”
“Do you remember when we were seniors in high school? You could have gone anywhere - Harvard, Oxford, Yale. But you stayed. You stayed here to help me fight, and now I’m the one who has deserted you.”
Willow smiled sadly. “You’re just realizing this now?”
“Sometimes you need someone to shove your face in a mirror before you can really see yourself. I didn’t mean that literally or anything, by the way. Angel didn’t actually shove... never mind. You know what I mean. Don’t you?”
“Yeah, Buffy, I do. But what can you do about it now?”
The Slayer sat down across from Willow, a tense expression on her face. “I know I can’t fix the past few years, but I can change. The firm Connor’s going to work for? It’s huge; they’ve got offices all over the country. They’re opening one in Texas. Do you have any idea how many demons there are in Austin?”
“Actually, I do. I’m still research girl on occasion.”
“Oh, yeah. Right.”
“What about Connor?”
“My secret identity’s
going to have to become a little less secret. I should have told
him a long time ago. He’s just one more person I haven’t
been fair to.”
“So you tell Connor and try to get a transfer to Austin?”
“That’s the plan. Fight evil wherever I end up. It’s my job. Believe it or not, I’ve actually missed being useful. I missed being the Slayer.”
Willow reached out and took Buffy’s hand. It felt good to talk to her old friend. Things had changed immensely over the years, but somehow the sincerity in the Slayer’s eyes made it seem that things were back on track. “I believe you, Buffy. You loved being the Slayer. It wasn’t a job to you; it was what you were. You lost that for a while, but I’ll help you find it again. If you want me to.”
Tears began to course down Buffy’s cheeks as she recognized the redhead’s offer of friendship. “Oh, God, Wills, I missed you so much.” The blonde pulled the redhead into a hug, and the young woman allowed herself to cry out all her fears. “I’m so scared, Willow. What if Connor doesn’t want me anymore? Everyone must hate me... Giles, Oz...”
“They came here to see you. They love you, Buffy.”
“Angel must think I’m so awful...”
“I don’t think that.”
Both women turned to see the dark haired vampire in the doorway. Buffy sniffled and wiped her eyes.
“I didn’t know you were here. You heard everything, didn’t you?”
“I heard that the Slayer is back. I’m proud of you, Buffy.”
“You have no idea how much that means to me. The two of you... I’ve loved you both so much for so long. Even now... what you think is so important to me.” Buffy turned back to Willow. “And last night... I acted badly. I’m sorry about that, too. I was just so surprised; I’d never thought that the two of you would end up together.”
“It wasn’t exactly
the brightest idea to just spring it on you,” Willow replied ruefully.
“Originally, it was just a way to explain why Angel was
“Then it really happened,” Buffy finished with a half smile. “I’m happy for you. Okay, so I was shocked and a bit hurt last night. Seeing Angel and finding out he was with you was a bit overwhelming. But it’s really a good thing. You’re both so wonderful... I’m glad you found each other.”
Willow wiped her eyes. “That is so sappy I could just barf.”
Buffy laughed. “That was a bit melodramatic, wasn’t it? I meant it, though.”
“I know,” Willow whispered as she hugged her friend again.
Buffy pulled back and reached down to get her purse. “You know, I really hate to sob and run, but I have to talk to Connor and tell him everything. I need to see if he thinks we can swing the transfer thing. And, you know, once he knows the truth, I really need to find out whether or not we’re still getting married.”
Willow and Angel walked the Slayer to the door, the covered front porch allowing Angel to see her out as well. Buffy hugged both the witch and the vampire, then headed for her car. When she reached her car, she turned back to her friends and lifted her hand in a tentative wave.
“Wish me luck?”
“Good luck, Buff!” Willow called as she waved back.
“Break a leg,” Angel added.
Buffy smiled at the old show business line, then got into her car and drove away. Angel draped his arm around Willow’s shoulders and headed back inside before finishing his thought.
“And if he doesn’t take it well, I’ll break both of his.”
Willow sat curled up on her couch, looking through pictures from Buffy’s wedding. She’d just gotten them developed, and they were fantastic. The wedding itself had been so perfect that nobody really cared that it had occurred a week later than scheduled. Connor had been incredibly shocked to find out about Buffy’s secret life, but, in the end, had decided that he’d rather make some adjustments to his life than lose Buffy. Some strings had been pulled (and a tiny bit of mind control had been used by Amy) to ensure that the transfer to Austin would happen. Willow smiled. Right now, Buffy and Connor where in Hawaii, enjoying their honeymoon. They’d be back in a few days, and Willow had plans to help Buffy pack for the move to Texas. She was so glad that the two of them had been able to mend fences before it was too late.
“What are you doing?”
Willow looked up and smiled at Angel. The vampire had stayed for Buffy’s wedding the week before, then just never left.
“I got my pictures developed,” the redhead replied, holding up a photo of herself with Buffy as evidence. Angel had taken the shot.
Angel smiled as he sat down on the couch and pulled Willow closer to him. After a moment of silence, Willow looked up at him.
“What is it?”
“We need to talk.”
This was the talk she’d been dreading for the past two weeks. Everything
had been so wonderful with Angel, she was afraid to
discuss the future. Afraid she’d have to say goodbye.
“What do you want to talk about?”
“If I move here permanently, is there a place for me?”
Willow nearly burst into tears. Had he really just asked that? Did he really intend to stay? “Yes, Angel, of course. You have no idea how badly I want you to stay. But what about Los Angeles?” She hated to bring it up, but she knew it had to be said.
“I know you said they wouldn’t send the other Slayer here, but do you know where she is?”
“What?” Willow asked. That reply didn’t make any sense at all.
“She’s in LA. I’ve fought her.”
“You’ve... you’ve fought her? As in against her, not with her? Why?”
“It was either that
or let her kill me. I don’t particularly want to die. I’ve
seen her in action several times, Willow, and she’s a very strong
Slayer. She can handle LA without me. In fact, it’s probably better for her if I leave. To her, I’m just another vampire to slay. I can’t exactly
approach her and make a deal with her. She’s not like Buffy; she would never accept a demon as an ally. Not even one that possesses a soul.
There’s nothing to hold me in LA... and there’s a whole hell of a lot that’s pulling me here.”
“There’s not much here anymore. Almost everyone’s left.”
Angel pulled Willow closer and rested his forehead against hers.
And that’s more than enough for me.”