"Blast!" Giles uttered the mild oath as he slammed his fist on the keyboard.
Willow rolled her eyes, "Giles, you have to remember to copy the text after it's highlighted. Then you can insert it wherever you want. And be nice to the computer, they get angry when you talk mean to them."
"Give me pen and paper any day. These infernal machines will be the ruination of mankind."
Oz walked into the library. "Ruination of mankind? Are we talking run of the mill vampires are just you're average earth-sucking demons?"
Willow and Giles exchanged a quick glance and then turned to Oz. Willow had asked him to meet her in the library. She'd told Buffy what she was planning, and Buffy had promised that she and Xander would steer clear.
Willow answered, "No, computers. Giles was just going to the cafeteria... for that thing."
"Ah, yes, right you are, Willow. That thing." He picked up his cup. "Actually, I need a spoon. I'll be back in a moment." And with that, he left the couple alone.
<Goddess this is nerve wracking.> Willow leaned on the table, trying to collect her thoughts. She'd practiced last night in front of the bathroom mirror and again this morning. She'd been great; calm, thoughtful, but very resolved to end the relationship. Now all those carefully rehearsed words had fled from her mind.
Oz pecked her cheek. "So, what'll it be tonight. Pizza and a movie or pizza and bowling?"
"Uhm, neither." She waited, trying to get up enough nerve to say what she needed to, hoping that at least a bit of what she'd planned to say would return to her brain. Nope, nothing was coming. It was now or never.
"Will, baby, what's up?" Oz placed a comforting hand on her shoulder.
She took a breath and blurted out the first thing that came to her. "Oz, you know how when you really like something, like... like Cap'n Crunch Cereal? Just the regular kind, not the kind with the gross fruity things? And you eat it every day for breakfast, and it's great, it's the only thing you want in the morning. So you eat it every morning, and everything's fine, until one day you realise that the entire roof of your mouth is sore, and you're not really thrilled with the taste anymore... and maybe you should stop eating it for a while. And that's it, no more Cap'n Crunch." She finished, and looked at him, hoping that he had been able to make sense of her rambling.
Oz wasn't a fool. He'd been dating Willow long enough to decipher what he liked to call 'WillowSpeak'. She was trying, in her own weird way, to break things off with him. He was being dumped by the girl that he loved. He had two choices, anger or acceptance. Calculating the odds of which would be more likely to maybe someday win her back, Oz took the high road.
"So... you're saying I'm Cap'n Crunch, and you don't want to eat me
So to speak."
"Oz, I am so sorry. I never in my life wanted to hurt you. I just need a little time. I'm not sure what I want anymore."
He tried to tell himself he wasn't surprised. After all, he was Willow's first boyfriend. And she had blossomed, becoming more lovely and confident every day. He shouldn't be surprised she wanted to test the waters. But, he was, a little. And he was jealous. He tried to stop himself from asking the question, but couldn't.
"Is Xander on the brunch menu, now?"
Willow had been so caught up in Angel, that she'd never even considered the thought that Oz would think he was being dumped for Xander.
"No! Definitely no. Xander's... Xander is bacon. Not even
allowed in my diet.
Well, maybe on the table, but for someone else, not me. He's my friend, Oz, just my friend."
Oz was relieved. If Xander wasn't the reason, then there might still be hope. Better to back off, give her space, and see if maybe she might come back to him. But he had to leave, now. Before he lost it and let Willow see him cry.
Oz kissed Willow on the cheek again and turned to leave. He stopped.
"Willow, I still like Cap'n Crunch, maybe you'll develop a taste for it again."
Willow watched him walk away from her, amazed that it had been so easy, and genuinely sad to see him go. Having someone else, having Angel, hadn't made it any less hurtful.
It was time to go home.
Angel and Buffy were at the playground. It had started well enough, with talk of Slayer-things and school, but had turned into something ugly when Angel had broached the subject of backing away from being a couple.
"No! No, Angel. I lost you once, I'm not going to let you go again." Buffy was near tears. They welled up and spilled from her beautiful blue eyes.
"Buffy, this isn't about losing me. This is about letting go. A union between a Slayer and a vampire is not meant to be. You know that! Deep down, you know I'm speaking the truth. And it's not like we won't ever see each other again; we'll still be...
She interrupted, "Friends, Angel? Was that what you were going to say? You're wrong. Spike was right when he said we'd never be friends. We can't ever be just friends. We feel too much, love each other too much, to be friends."
Angel was quiet for a moment. What Spike had said had been true at the time, but things change. Things always change.
"I feel for you, Buffy. The feeling just isn't what it was before. I'm sorry, but that part of us is over and it's not coming back."
Angel started to walk away from Buffy. He went a few feet, but her sobs stopped him. Angel went to her, and held her in his arms.
"You'll find another love, you'll see. And he'll be able to give you the things that I can't anymore."
She spoke through her weeping, "Angel, you give me everything. You give me hope, something to live for. You give me your love."
Angel released her, knowing it was time to finish it. "But I don't, Buffy. I don't give you my love... my heart. Not anymore."
Angel left her as she sank to her knees, her crying echoing through the playground. He knew he should feel worse than he did, but he was beyond that, beyond Buffy. He was heading home.
It was ten o'clock. Willow sat on the floor of her room, using a mortar and pestle to grind herbs. Angel sat on her bed, watching her, trying not to distract from her preparation of her magick. But he had to ask.
"What kind of charm are you preparing, exactly?"
Willow stopped her work. "It's not a charm, really. More of a comfort spell. For Buffy and Oz. It won't stop their pain, but it will make it a little easier to bear."
Angel moved off the bed, sitting next to her. He hugged her, a gentle hug, to comfort her. He knew that tonight had been hard on her, too. It would get better though. Together, they were better. They were each other's safe place... home.
The phone rang. Willow rose to answer.
"We know who that is. Be quiet." She picked up the phone. "Hello? Buffy, I did it! I told Oz I needed my space, just like I told you I would."
"Buffy?..." She paused, listening intently to her friend, already knowing what she was going to say.
When she spoke again, there was genuine sorrow in her voice. "Buffy, I am sorry. Why don't you come over? We'll talk... okay, I'll see you in a few."
Willow replaced the receiver.
"You should go now. Buffy's coming over. She needs me."
Willow was crying. Angel held her again, whispering quiet words to ease her sadness. She slowly regained her composure.
Angel spoke, "I'll come back, after she's gone."
"No! I'm Buffy's best friend; I need to be here for her, tonight. If I know you're waiting, I'll just rush her out. I can't do that to her, too."
Angel nodded, understanding Willow's obligation to her friend.
"You'd better not come tomorrow night, either, Angel. She's not just going to sleep on it and wake up all better."
"The night after, then. Please, Willow?"
"All right, night after tomorrow."
Angel kissed her, deeply and sweetly, then released her from his arms. "I love you, little girl."
Willow looked at him, knowing he needed to hear his words echoed. She couldn't though. Not yet.
She placed her index finger to his lips. "Ssh. I know. But it's too soon for us to be happy. It's not fair... not fair to Buffy... not fair to Oz."
Angel left her. <At least she didn't hit me this time!> He'd
let Willow help heal Buffy. And then Angel would help restore Willow.