Willow looked over the Bronze, her eyes momentarily clouding with tears. Buffy was there, dancing with some random guy she had started talking to only moments after they entered the club. Xander had to be at work early and hadn’t even came with them.
So here she was, alone in the Bronze, thinking about Oz, when the entire night out idea had been to take her mind off of the now-gone werewolf. She sighed, sipping heavily at the drink in her hand. It had taken only a small amount of magick to convince the bartender to make her Coke a rum and Coke despite her not having the proper ID – and then just a small amount more to make him add more than the normal amount of rum. The alcohol burned the back of her throat as it went down and the bitter taste assaulted her taste buds. She had gagged at the first sip she had taken but, slowly, it had grown on her.
‘Not that drinking is making anything better…’ She told herself, setting the glass back on the small table. She found Buffy again, still on the dance floor, grinding against her chosen escapade for the night. ‘I wish I could be like that – daring and flirty. Sexy – not senseless. Provocative and not pathetic.’
Oz had never made her feel sexy, she realized, as she pulled another gulp of her drink through the straw. ‘Beautiful, intelligent…loved…’ She sniffled, one of the tears that had been lurking at the corner of her eyes choosing that moment to cascade down her cheek. ‘But never sexy.’
“Having fun?” Buffy grinned, finally choosing to return to the table. The blonde took a swig of her water, never even looking hard enough at the red head to realize she was crying. She gave a little wave to her dance partner and told Willow. “Great. Keep it up! I’m gonna go dance with Marc some more.”
Willow watched her friend disappear back in the crowd, her mouth dropping open in shock. Not only had the blonde not realized how sad she was – Buffy hadn’t even noticed that she hadn’t answered her question and had just filled in the silence with ‘everything’s fine’? Waves of anger alternating with despair washed over her. Suddenly the room was too hot, too crowded. She needed to get away.
Picking up her jacket from the chair next to her, Willow stood slowly, testing her balance. She had drank much more than she usually would have and wasn’t quite sure the effects it would have on her. Once assured that she could stand and, apparently, walk as well, she made her way through the thin crowd in the back of the club and out into the crisp night air of the streets.
Once outside, Willow wasn’t exactly sure what to do. Reason and logic insisted that it wasn’t safe for her to be walking through Sunnydale at night, alone, and intoxicated. The more emotional part of her wailed that she needed to get as far away from the callousness of the blonde still dancing inside as possible before she did something drastic.
‘Like hit her…knock her off of her feet with a little magick blast.’ She smiled, beginning to walk down the street that would, eventually, set her on the path back to the dorms. The night wasn’t overly cold but she pulled her jacket on anyway. Her eyes glistened with tears of anger and sadness as she walked quickly through the streets. The stars above were twinkling and the moon was only a quarter full – making her instinctively think of Oz and how much longer he had until the full moon.
Would he remember to lock himself up? Would he find another female werewolf to play house with? Maybe one day have a litter of little baby werewolves? Or would he just run wild? Not lock himself up and end up on the wrong end of a hunter’s gun?
A sob broke from her lips, amazingly loud in the utter quietness of the streets. The thought of her former love dead or with someone else filled her with unending sadness. Stopping in her tracks, she let her tears fall, the wet drops falling in splatters onto her clothing. Her arms came up, wrapping around her chest as if she could provide comfort to herself. She stood there for what seemed like hours, just crying and hugging herself, trying to ease past the desolation in her heart to be able to walk again. When at last her eyes dried enough to see again, she resumed her trek to the dorms, finally reaching their safety without incident.
She crawled into bed, not bothering to change into night clothes, and shut her eyes, attempting to ignore the music blasting in the room next door. Hopefully Buffy wouldn’t wake her up when she came in later. ‘If she comes home at all. Maybe she’ll just go to Marc’s place and…’ She cut off her thoughts in mid-sentence. Belittling Buffy in her mind would do no one any good and would only irritate her even more. It was best to let it go for now and try to sleep. After all – the blonde probably would never realize what she did wrong anyway.
Cordelia tapped her nails on the edge of her desk, waiting for someone, anyone, to pick up the phone on the other end. When it finally rolled over to the answering machine message the brunette found herself listening in mild annoyance to Buffy’s voice.
“Me and Willow are out kicking butt and having fun – leave a message and we’ll get back to you when we can! BEEP!”
The receptionist for Angel Investigations rolled her eyes. “Willow? Are you there? Giles said you didn’t have class today… Willow? Call me.” Sighing, Cordelia hung up the phone, wondering where the red head could be. It had been two days since Oz had left. Two days since she had heard the story of what he did to Willow from his own mouth. Two days since she had started trying to find one of the few people back home that she truly cared about – and meeting with unimaginable bad luck. Neither Buffy nor Willow had answered their phone in days, as far as she could tell – she was sure Buffy would at least call her back, if for no other reason than to annoy her into telling *why* she would ever be calling to speak to Willow.
In fact, Cordelia mused, it would no doubt come as a complete shock to the Slayer that her red haired roommate was good friends with Angel’s secretary. The former cheerleader smirked. It was a little known secret that Cordelia and Willow had hit it off soon after the Doyle’s death, when Cordelia had called to ask for a ‘small research favor’. They had talked for an hour as Willow surfed the ‘net, finding what Cordelia needed. In the end they had agreed to put all past differences aside and start fresh – as friends.
‘And now my friend is somewhere and probably depressed out of her little mind. And I can’t find her.’ She thought angrily, frustration taking hold. Then, as if a light bulb went off in her mind, her entire face lit up with an idea. “ANGEL!!!!” She called out, filling the small offices with her voice.
“’Delia?” The vampire came rushing out of his office, worry marring his face. “Did you have a vision?”
“No, silly. I need a favor.” She stood, giving Angel a wide smile. “I need you to drive me to Sunnydale.”
“Y- You need what?”
“I. Need. You. To. Drive. Me. To. Sunnydale.” She repeated, rolling her eyes and trying to be patient with the person she needed a favor from.
“Sunnydale? Why?” Angel frowned, sitting on the edge of the desk and looking down at the brunette.
“I need to check on Willow.”
“Wow – you’re certainly a man of many questions. Yes, I need to check on Willow. You remember – Oz broke up with her? She’s my friend – and yours, too, I thought. I’ve been trying to call her for days but no one answers. I need to go make sure she’s okay.”
Angel nodded slowly. It seemed like a good idea. He remembered the red haired witch with fondness, though he hadn’t spoken to her since he had left Sunnydale. And had spoken to her very little before then, even. He felt the same guilt that always surfaced with that thought invade his heart. She had been good to him – had given him back his soul, and he hadn’t even tried to become better friends with her. ‘Well, no time like the present to fix that.’ If Willow was still anything like she had been when he still lived there, she would need someone to comfort her during this time. Somehow he doubted that was going to be Buffy or even the ever-dense Xander. They could go there, bring cheer, and hopefully be out of town before Buffy even realized they had been there.
“Be ready in an hour.” He said finally.
Cordelia watched him go, smiling to herself. Things would be okay. Maybe she could even convince Willow to come hang out for a few days and have some fun. Getting away from Sunnydale would cheer anyone up, after all.
Cordelia knocked lightly on the door of the dorm room, listening intently for any sounds from within. When no one answered she looked to the vampire, raising an eyebrow in question.
“There’s someone in there, ‘Delia. I can hear the heartbeat.” He shrugged, looking again at the closed door. Though he could hear a heartbeat, he could not hear any movement. It was as though the person within the room was trying ever so hard to ignore the people on the other side of the door.
“Huh.” Thoughts of Willow or Buffy laying on the floor, hurt, raced through her head. She reached into her purse, fumbling around for a moment before she extricated what she was searching for.
Angel watched in growing admiration as the young brunette looked up and down the hall before kneeling in front of the door. Within a matter of moments she had picked the lock on the door and placed the small, credit card thin, kit back in her purse.
Cordelia twisted the handle and smiled when it turned easily. She turned back to Angel to see him staring at her, open-mouthed. “What? I learned it on the internet, practiced on some of the locks around the office.” She smiled smugly and walked in the room. “Willow? Honey?”
The concern in Cordelia’s voice snapped Angel out of his stupor and he entered the room. The room was dim, the only light coming from a small bedside lamp Cordelia had evidently just turned on. He could see his secretary sitting on the edge of the bed, holding the hand of the girl lying there. “Willow?” He stepped closer, worried immediately by what he saw. Willow had never been the type to neglect herself physically – but what was laying on the bed was a different story altogether.
The dazzling red locks of hair he had always admired were limp and obviously in bad need of a good cleaning. Her clothes looked as though she had been sleeping in them for days – and her face was streaked with tears. He kneeled next to the bed, looking in growing horror at her. Had Buffy and Xander not even checked on her to make sure she was okay? Had they honestly just left here there by herself? She looked like she had barely moved in days and he was guessing that any moving she had done had been merely to use the bathroom. He doubted seriously that she had eaten anything.
“Willow?” He reached out, touching her arm. “Can you hear me Willow?”
The red head sighed, opening her eyes. “Of course I can, Angel.”
He started, nearly falling backwards onto the paper-strewn floor of the dorm room. “Good. You had me worried.” He smirked, rising off of his knees to sit on the corner of the bed. “Why didn’t you answer the door? We knocked?”
“Didn’t want to be bothered…” Her voice was quiet.
“Well I think you need someone to bother you, Wills.” Cordelia grimaced, glancing around the room. “You didn’t answer any of my messages.” A well manicured nail pointed towards the answering machine. “We were worried…and rightly so by the looks of things. Where had Buffy been?”
“Buffy?” The red head laughed softly, rolling onto her back and throwing an arm over her eyes. “You mean my supposed best friend? The person I should be able to count on no matter what?” She lifted her arm to look up at Cordelia. “She came in long enough to grab some clothes the other night and then left again for a few days at some guy’s parent’s cabin. She…” Her voice broke, tears spilling down her cheeks. “She didn’t even care enough to walk me home the other night. She acts like my pain is an inconvenience… Like I can really go on without….”
Angel sighed, dismayed at what he was hearing. In the time he had spent without Buffy in his life he had come to realize exactly how shallow the blonde really was. But this? This was an all time low for her. Leaving someone as delicate as Willow to fend for herself when she so obviously needed someone to help her through this mess. “Get up and get some things together for a few days.”
“Wha?” Willow murmured, sitting up enough to look at him fully.
“I said get some things together for a few days – you’re coming back to LA with me and Cordy.”
Willow shook her head. “No, Angel. I couldn’t do that…be an imposition. I’m already enough trouble to my friends without making a nuisance of myself.” Her voice was sad, filled with a need to be held and cared for.
“You could never be a nuisance.” A wordless exchange passed between Cordelia and himself and he nodded ever so slightly. “How about you go with Cordelia, change clothes and all that. I’ll pack some things for you. One way or another you are leaving with us today.”
Willow winced, horribly away for the first time in days of how she must look to others. She nodded slowly, raising up from the pillow and coming to a sitting position.
“This your dresser, Wills?” Cordelia asked, pointing at the one that looked most like something Willow would own. When the red head nodded she began opening drawers, pulling out possible things for the other girl to wear. She made another pile on top of the dresser, indicating to Angel that this was what he should pack while they got Willow ready to go. She grabbed up the clothes she had chosen for the red head. “C’mon girlie, lets go get you all cleaned up and ready to go so we can be back here before Buffy decides to put in an appearance.”
Too full of sadness to argue, the red head rose from the bed, following Cordelia to the dormitory’s shared bathroom. “You guys don’t have to do this… I’ll be okay… “
Cordelia snorted. “Yeah, sure you will. Like you’ve been okay for the past few days?” She shook her head before Willow could argue. “I’m not going to take no for an answer. You’re coming with us – to get away from things and all. It will do you good.” She gestured towards one of the stalls, handing the young witch the clothes she had chosen for her.
Willow took the clothes without another word, stepping into the narrow bathroom stall. She began to remove the clothes she had been wearing for days, grimacing in disgust at how pathetic she had become. She vowed silently to beg use of Cordelia’s shower when they reached LA. Even with that disgust surfing through her brain she could barely bring herself to have enough willpower to get dressed again. The urge to just sit down and cry was powerful. How could her life have gotten so messed up so quickly? Things had seemed like they were going perfectly when Oz had been there…
The reason she was depressed. The reason she felt like hiding from the world. The small sliver of her mind that harbored evil thoughts secretly wished that he was somewhere feeling just as awful as she was – maybe worse. Clinging to that thought for no other reason than the fact that anger was easier to deal with than sadness, Willow dressed and rejoined her waiting friend. She would go to LA, have a little fun, and hopefully get over this horrible ache in her soul.
And then she’d come back and give Buffy a piece of her mind on abandoning her friends in their time of need.
Willow looked around the offices of Angel Investigations, a small smile playing across her lips. Despite the fact that she had remained in contact with Cordelia after the aspiring actress had moved to LA, the young witch was still surprised by the look of the office. It just wasn’t the type of place she would have imagined Cordelia working in. The front room itself was small, barely large enough for a small, dusty couch, a desk, and a filing cabinet. A door on the far wall was closed – leading to what she could only assume was Angel’s office. The red head could tell by the stack of papers on Cordelia’s desk that the filing cabinet wasn’t used often, if at all.
“This is it – work.” Cordelia smiled wryly, setting her purse on her desk. She turned to the coffee machine, dumping fresh grounds into a small paper filter and shoving it in to begin brewing. They had been up late the night before, bringing Willow back to LA, and the girls had barely gotten any sleep before it was time to be up again. Cordelia knew Angel would have told them to just rest if she had mentioned anything to him. But she didn’t want to. Someone needed to be in the office just in case clients came in. They had bills to pay, after all.
“Mmmm…coffee….” Willow murmured, watching as the first brownish drops began to drip into the pot. She yawned, covering her mouth with her hand, and looked around the office in a daze. Sure, it was almost ten in the morning, but she hadn’t gotten to sleep until nearly four. There didn’t seem to be terribly much to keep them busy during the day and she began to wonder if she’d be able to sneak in a nap. “So…what do we do all day?”
“Oh – not *all* day,” Cordelia assured her with a smile. “Wesley will drag his butt in here eventually and then you and I are free to go off and do girlie things.”
“Like what?” Willow asked, sinking into the battered-looking old couch. She could only imagine what Cordelia would have in mind for a day of fun. The coffee brewing on the small table next to the couch was nearly ready, the smell tantalizing to her senses.
“I was thinking manicures, hair cut, shopping… The usual ‘feel good’ type stuff.”
That reminded Willow immediately why she was here in the first place. Oz had left her. Buffy had seemingly abandoned her. So had Xander – her supposed best friend in the entire world – the one she had thought would be there for her no matter what. They both had more important things to do than to help her through her troubles. Her life had effectively gone to hell in only a few days. She felt tear spring up in her eyes and she turned her head, hoping Cordelia wouldn’t see. It had been so easy, on the car ride to LA, with Cordelia chattering almost endlessly and Angel’s quiet soothing presence filling the car, to forget about her problems for at least a few moments. She had slept better that night than she had in days, waking feeling at least a little rested.
“Oh…wait. Don’t cry.” Cordelia’s face fell the second she saw the tears in Willow’s eyes. “I didn’t mean to…”
“I know. I know.” Willow sniffled, trying to smile at her friend despite the pain she was feeling. The brunette hadn’t meant to remind her of the hurt she was trying to escape from. She shook her head softly, forcing herself to suck up the pain she was feeling. What had feeling sorry for herself brought to her lately? Nothing. And why had she come to LA? To be with friends and deal with what had happened. To try to get over it all. How could she get over it if she started crying every time someone mentioned it in any way? Cordelia was only trying to help her through it.
Cordelia opened her mouth to speak, surprised when the door to Angel’s office opened. She looked over at the open archway, shocked to see her boss standing there, conveniently keeping away from the little light that came in from the blinds of the room’s only window. “Angel…you’re here. Already?”
“I thought you two would need to sleep.” He murmured, smirking. He crossed his arms, leaning against the doorframe. “I see I was wrong?”
“No…sleep would have been good.” Cordelia rolled her eyes, hands on her hips. “But telling us we could have slept in would have been even better.”
Willow snickered softly, standing and busying herself with making a cup of coffee so that Angel wouldn’t see her face. She didn’t want him to see her all red and splotchy from crying. He would just get worried and comforting – he was good at that. Sort of like a best-friend, older brother type. It was endearing and touching to have someone care for her that much.
“Oh. Yeah. Knew I forgot something.” Angel ran a hand through his hair. He glanced at Willow, unable to see her face because of her hair, hanging down as she bent over the coffee machine. He could smell the salty odor of tears in the air. He felt an urge to go to her, wrap her in his arms and let her cry it all out. But that wasn’t what *she* wanted, judging by the way she was trying so hard to hide her face. He sighed, forcing the air through his lungs out of habit. “How about you two go do…things.”
“Things?” Cordelia asked, raising an eyebrow. A smile played at the corner of her lips at her boss’s apparent lack of connection to the normal world. His idea of doing ‘things’ was no doubt sitting in the dark and brooding with a good book – or maybe not even with the book.
“Yeah – things. Those things that women do when they get together.”
“Things.” Willow laughed, sipping at her coffee. There wasn’t any cream in the office as far as she could tell so she drank the strong brew straight up, enjoying the feel of the hot liquid on her tongue. She grimaced at the taste, swallowing it as quickly as she could. She didn’t need to enjoy it for it to have that refreshing jolt she needed to get her through the day.
“I think we can find some ‘things’ to do.” Cordelia chuckled, winking at Willow.
“Why do I get the feeling I am being made fun of?” Angel asked, mock-glaring at the females in the room with him. He was relieved to see a smile dance across Willow’s face, even if it was only for a moment.
“Because you are – being made fun of that is.” Willow joked. “Don’t worry, we still love you.”
“Uh huh. Love you.” Cordelia grinned. “C’mon Wills. It’s not every day that he gives me time off to go do ‘things’.” She laughed again.
“See what you’ve gotten me into?” Willow rebuked Angel jokingly, giving him a small smile and a murmured thanks before darting out of the door to catch up with Cordelia. The day was already off to a good start.
That night Angel surprised both of them by taking them out for a nice dinner. The restaurant was beautiful, exactly the type of place she had seen in magazines and on TV. Someplace where she could imagine the rich and famous came on occasion. She was happy that she had allowed Cordelia to convince her to purchase the little black dress she was currently wearing – she certainly hadn’t brought anything with her that was suitable for this little venture. It felt good, she decided, to sit among friends who cared for her and wanted to be with her – instead of the ones who felt like she was a nuisance or didn’t have time for her.
The weekend ended too soon, Willow felt, and she was back in her dorm before she knew it, faced with the realization that Buffy probably hadn’t even realized she had left. The red head placed her bag on the floor, slowly moving about her side of the room and straightening the disorder that she had allowed to occur while she had been acting so pathetic. She could admit that now, that she hadn’t coped with the loss of Oz in the best way. But she hadn’t had anyone there to help her work through things, either. Not like Cordelia and Angel had. They had been so good to her and had helped her work through her pain. It seemed so long ago that she had laid in the bed with no energy, trying to will herself into a state of non-feeling.
Willow turned, surprised that she had been so caught up in her own thoughts that she hadn’t even heard the door opening. She arched an eyebrow at Buffy, trying to contain the anger she felt towards her ‘best friend’. “Wow. You remember my name. How touching.”
“Huh?” Buffy countered, placing her own overnight bag on her bed. “What’s the matter with you?”
Willow laughed outright. “What’s the matter with me? Let’s see. The last time I saw you was about four or five days ago – you took me to the Bronze to ‘cheer me up’ – remember? Remember the part where you left me to dance with that guy for an hour? How about this one – remember the part where I left and came back here to lay in bed for days without you ever noticing that I was depressed?”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “I don’t know what your problem is. I came back that night and you were already in bed. I got my stuff and left. I didn’t want to disturb you.”
“Since when is it disturbing someone to simply make sure they were okay?”
That caught the blonde off-guard for a short moment before she shrugged. “What was I supposed to do? Hold your hand and listen to you whine and cry some more? Its not like you were even *trying* to get over Oz.”
“You were supposed to be my friend, Buff. But, thank you for not being there for me. It showed me a lot about our friendship and gave some of my other friends a chance to truly shine their brightest.”
Buffy snorted. “What other friends? You made Xander just as miserable as you made me so I doubt he came over to keep you company.”
At that moment Willow truly could have slapped the Slayer across her face. She took a deep breath, counting to ten in her mind, trying to calm her rising anger with Buffy. Luckily for both of them, the phone rang. Without a second glance at Buffy Willow grabbed for the phone, answering it through clenched teeth. She felt her anger melt away when she heard the voice on the other end. “Angel? Yeah – I got back okay. Cordy’s driving isn’t *that* bad.” She heard a gasp behind her and grinned, her back still to Buffy. “What am I doing? Just dealing with some unfinished business.” She laughed aloud, the comment Angel made hitting close to home. He knew she had some words to say to Buffy when they finally were face to face again, but however had he known it was happening already? “Yeah – I’ll email you later when I’m all settled. Get some rest – I know you must be tired after being up late last night.” Again there was a gasp behind her and she wondered what Buffy could have possibly made of her last comment. Hopefully she had took it for the worst instead of what it had been – an innocent comment about how her, Angel and Cordelia had stayed up late talking. “Ok. Talk to you later. Bye.”
The sound of the phone clicking back into its receiver was loud in the silence of the room. Willow could almost hear the sounds of gears clicking in Buffy’s head as the blonde tried to make sense of what she had just heard. Finally Buffy voiced aloud what the red head had known she was thinking the entire time. “You … Went to Angel’s?”
Willow shrugged, turning to face the Slayer. She could hear the jealousy in Buffy’s voice and it irked her. How dare she get jealous over this? Over a friend comforting a friend? Of course Buffy wouldn’t see it that way. How could she when she was so caught up in her own life that she hadn’t even realized how much pain Willow was in in the first place? “Yeah. He and Cordelia decided I needed to be with *friends* while I was trying to deal with everything. I was there for the entire weekend.”
“Oh.” Buffy said, the one word containing all the venom of a thousand snakes. She stared hard at Willow, unable to fathom the fact that the little red head had spent the weekend with Angel when the vampire himself had made it clear that he didn’t want anything to do with anyone from Sunnydale. ‘I guess he meant he didn’t want anything to do with *me*,’ she thought waspishly.
“Well – as endearing as this conversation is, I really must be taking a shower.” Willow smiled thinly, gathering up a change of clothes and a towel. She managed to make it into the hall without having to hear another word from the blonde still in the room, and it made her smile even brighter. By nature she wasn’t terribly vindictive, but this situation had warranted it. After all – the world did not revolve around Buffy Summers no matter how much said Slayer thought it did. She would have to be sure to call Cordelia later and tell her how everything had went. The brunette had shown remarkable patience when she had told Willow not to be too terribly hard on Buffy. After all, the brunette had laughed, in Buffy’s mind everything centered on her. How would she possibly cope if someone finally told her she was wrong?
Despite her hopes that her little conversation with Buffy would somehow trigger some sort of remorse in the blonde, Willow found just the opposite. The atmosphere within their room when they were both in there was so cold that, at times, Willow wondered if it were possible to get frostbite simply from attitude alone.
But then there were her phone calls with Cordelia and Angel. She found herself talking to both of them equally at first, then, as the weeks went on, more so with Angel than with her former childhood enemy. The enjoyment she derived from those calls was more than enough to make up for the ice cold attitude coming off of Buffy. She even found it in herself to try to be nice to the blonde, as bad as that turned out. She found herself counting down the days until the end of the semester just so she had an excuse to move out of the dorm completely and back into her parents’ home. At least there she wouldn’t have to put up with living with someone that wouldn’t talk to her – her parents were never home *to* talk in the first place.
On the last day of classes, with her finals behind her, Willow found herself in the dorm room, packing the last of her things. She had no intention of ever returning to the dorms again. Not to stay with Buffy or anyone else. Living in the empty house her parents called ‘theirs’ was so much easier, and much more inexpensive. She sat down at her desk, emptying the drawers of her school supplies and random pieces of junk that she had thrown in there during the past year. There wasn’t time to go through it all now, not if she wanted to be back home and in bed by a decent hour. Her last final had been at the outrageous time of six at night, leaving her not getting back to the dorm until almost eight despite her best attempts to hurry through the questions.
Of course, that had meant Buffy was there when she got back. Not a word had been spoken between the two in the thirty minutes since Willow’s return. The blonde had, in fact, put on her headphones and done her best to thoroughly make sure Willow had *known* she was being ignored. ‘Like I really care at this point.’ Willow thought smugly, happy that she had come so far in the past few months. At first it had hurt that Buffy couldn’t take responsibility for her own actions and just apologize for what she had done. But then, as time passed, the red head had realized that maybe she just didn’t need friends that were that much involved in themselves after all.
A knocking on the door of the room brought the young witch back to the present. She looked over at Buffy to see if the blonde showed any signs of getting up to answer it, and when it was obvious she wasn’t going to, stood up to do it herself. “ANGEL!”
*That* got a reaction from Buffy, the Slayer discreetly slipping off her headphones so that she could listen in on the conversation happening at the door. Her face turned into a bitter frown when she realized Angel was definitely there to see Willow and not herself.
“Come in, Angel. I was just finishing with my packing. Is something wrong in LA? Do you need some research done?” Willow babbled on, leading the vampire into the room. She could feel the daggers coming from Buffy’s eyes and smiled secretly.
“No, nothing’s wrong.” He smiled, watching as the red head resumed her packing with a vengeance. He, too, could feel the animosity coming from the blonde across the room and didn’t blame Willow for one second for wanting to get out of there. “I knew today was your last final and thought you might want to go out for a late night dinner celebration type thing.”
“Celebration?” Willow snickered. “I haven’t gotten my grades back yet, Angel.”
“Ah, Little One, but we both know you aced them all anyway.” He smirked. The box she was packing was closed a minute later and he nodded at it in question. “You done here?”
Willow looked around the room, her eyes finally settling on Buffy. She nodded slightly, the gesture meant for Angel, though her next words were for both of them. “Yeah. I’m done.”
“Good.” It was all he said, but it was enough. As if a benediction for the final break in her friendship with Buffy, Willow felt the last of the weight on her heart float away. Buffy could have made things better at any time, but she chose not to. Enough was enough. Time to move on with her life – and she had a feeling that the vampire at her side would be a large part of that moving on process. She relinquished the box in her arms to him, giving him a bright smile.
“How about we toss this in my trunk and go get something for you to eat? You can always put this stuff away later, right?”
Willow nodded, absently slipping the key to her dorm room off of her key chain. She would need to drop that off in the office on her way out of the building. She followed Angel out of the room, silently wishing the blonde still left in there the best of luck in life despite the differences they now shared.
Cordelia looked up as Angel entered the offices, a smile on his face. He was almost radiant, glowing. It was a sight she didn’t see very often from her boss and one she wished she could just capture on film. Was truly a shame the whole vampirism thing screwed up photographs. She chuckled softly, calling attention to herself. “Well, if you aren’t just Mister Oh-So-Happy. What’s up?”
The vampire gave her a look and shook his head, the smile never leaving his face. “Nothing’s ‘up’.” He smirked. “I’m just happy. I *can* be happy, can’t I?”
The receptionist shrugged. There was no obvious reason anymore for him not to be happy, not since the whole coming back from Hell with a permanent soul thing had happened. As one of the few people who knew about that little side effect of his hot vacation she wasn’t in the least bit worried about him getting *too* happy. Not like she would have been once, anyway. “Was just wondering why you were so happy. Wait.” She eyed him carefully, a smile breaking out over her face. “You just got back from visiting Willow. Willow made you this happy.” Her eyes widened with surprise.
“No.” He shook his head, trying to deny what she had so quickly picked up on. Was he really that obvious? He didn’t think so – but how else could Cordelia have figured things out so quickly. He looked across the room, unable to meet her eyes. “Wasn’t Willow…”
“Well what was it then, hmmm?” She blinked at him innocently, waiting for his response. She began to smile as he looked anywhere but her, his eyes finding the ceiling of the room extremely interesting for reasons unknown. When no other reason was forthcoming she grinned even wider. “It *was* Willow, wasn’t it?” She clapped, laughing happily. “How perfect. You like Willow.”
He sighed, mock glaring at his receptionist before giving her a hesitant smile. At least she seemed to find the idea an okay one. “Yes, fine. I like Willow. More than like, even.”
Cordelia stopped chuckling and gave him a look. “You love her?” She eyed him carefully. “Wow, Angel. When did that happen?” She had known, of course, that her boss and Willow talked on a regular basis, that the vampire had even learned to be comfortable with a computer enough to email her almost daily. But love? How? When? Why?
“Because…” His voice trailed off, a small smile coming to his lips. “Because she’s wonderful? Perfect? She’s smart and funny. Kind and generous. Pretty and adorable. Shy and unassuming –“
“Okay, okay.” Cordelia smirked. “I get the point. She’s your dream girl apparently.” She shook her head in disbelief. “All of this from phone calls and emails? You amaze me, Angel. So – what’re you going to do about it?”
“Nothing.” The vampire stated simply, his eyes wide and honest.
“You heard me. I’m not going to do anything about *it*. She is my friend and a friend is all she needs right now. How can I try to turn that into something more when she just recently got over Oz?”
“But…she makes you happy. A happy Angel is a good thing.” She pouted. From her experience a happy Angel meant more time off, a lighter atmosphere in the office, and just a general more pleasant work environment.
“No, Cordelia. Promise me you won’t say anything to her.”
The brunette sighed, looking everywhere except Angel, trying to ignore the imploring look she knew he was giving her. He wouldn’t let it go until she promised him. He’d sit there and stare at her, follow her home. He was a very private person and she could understand that he didn’t want Willow to know what he felt for her. But, it wasn’t fair to Willow. She deserved to know and to be able to make the choice as to whether or not she wanted to explore something more than just friendship with Angel. But who was to say knowing Angel loved her would bring her any happiness? It may just screw up their entire friendship.
“Please, Cordy?” Angel asked again, almost begging. She *had* to agree to keep in a secret. He could trust her not to give it away if she would just promise.
“Fine.” Cordelia frowned, meeting his eyes. “But I’m not happy about this. I think you should tell her. Pamper her. Spoil her. Like she needs someone to do.”
Angel shook his head. “Not now. Maybe not ever.” He stood up, giving Cordelia a small smile, his mood undampened despite the receptionist’s clever guess about his feelings. “Thank you, Cordy.”
Cordelia watched him leave the room, his step light. Oh well. She couldn’t really blame him for not wanting to risk messing up a situation he already considered to be ideal. It was, after all, in her best interest for Angel to stay happy. And if he was happy hiding his feelings from Willow – so be it.
Not only was it lonely with all of your friends currently either not speaking to you or living in a different city – it was boring too. Or so Willow thought. She stared around the living room of her parents’ house, wondering just what she was going to do that night for fun. There was nothing good on television and she didn’t really want to go anywhere alone. She thought for a moment about calling Xander and seeing if he wanted to do anything but, no, he was too busy with Anya to want to do anything with her.
She looked at the clock. It was only a little past seven. Still quite early by the standards of a girl who had lived most of her teenage years fighting the creatures of the night. An idea struck her like lightning. She picked up the handset of the phone near the tacky flowered couch her parents had bought only god knows how many years before, dialing the offices of Angel Investigations. “Hey Cordy.”
“Willow! How are you?”
“Fine. Fine. Bored. Want some company?” The red head waited with baited breath for the other woman’s response. What if Cordelia didn’t want to spend time with her either? Where would she be then? There was always Angel but somehow she couldn’t see herself calling him up and asking if she could come stay at his place for a few days.
“As in right now? Sure!”
Though Willow thought it was odd that Cordelia seemed so incredibly happy to have her come visit, Willow brushed it aside, attributing it to the fact that maybe the brunette was just as bored as she was. “Ok. I’ll be there in a few hours. Just gotta pack a bag and leave a note just in case mom and dad come home. As if.”
“Great. See you then. I’ll still be at the office. We’re working on a case.”
“Cool. Bye.” Willow hung up, feeling at least a little better that someone wanted to be around her. And they had work to do, too. Maybe she could help out some, feel useful again. Unlike here, where she felt oh so useless. Getting out of town for a little while would be nice. And she hadn’t seen Angel in a few weeks, either. This would be the perfect time to catch up with him. It was sign that her feelings for him had progressed much farther than simple friendship that she wanted to spend time with him on a more regular basis.
‘And sometimes… it seems like he just might return those feelings.’ She grinned, throwing open her closet and grabbing a duffel bag. She shoved in enough clothes for a few days, adding an extra set just for good measure. You never knew when you’d need a fresh change of clothes, after all. And maybe she’d stay a day longer than she had planned. There was certainly no reason to rush back here for anything. She scribbled a note to her parents, knowing they wouldn’t be home but doing it just the same. Out of habit she left her nitelight burning, shutting the door to her room and walking down the stairs with a light heart. If she drove fast enough she could be in LA before ten.
Cordelia was watching the clock.
Oh, she was trying not to be too obvious about it, but she was still doing it. Willow would be there at any minute, something she was looking forward to for more than one reason. But the biggest reason of all was currently sitting in his office, oblivious to the fact that the red head was even on her way. He would be in for a surprise when Willow walked through the door, that was for sure. This would be the perfect opportunity to find out what, if any, feelings Willow had for the dark haired vampire.
And if she felt the same way he did?
Well, Cordelia *had* promised not to tell Willow how Angel felt and she had no doubt Willow would make her promise not to tell the vampire if the red head revealed anything to her. But that didn’t mean she couldn’t put the pair into a situation where they had to tell each other how they felt. Like a romantic dinner? A locked closet? She hadn’t decided just how she was going to accomplish everything yet. The possibilities were endless. As long as Willow felt the same way Angel did she would get the two of them together by the end of Willow’s stay or she wasn’t Cordelia Chase.
She heard the door open before she was even aware that someone had come up the stairs, her eyes darting over, smile on her face just in case it was a client coming in, even at this unholy hour. It wasn’t. It was just Willow. “Wills!” The receptionist cried, louder than normal so that Angel could hear her. She had the pleasure of hearing his chair scrape across the floor and then a dull thud and could only imagine that he had either tripped over his own feet trying to get out there or had knocked his chair over in his haste. Either thought was amusing.
“Willow?” Angel asked, poking his head out of his office. He smiled when he saw the young woman standing just inside the office, her bag slung over her shoulder. “Is something wrong?”
Willow’s forehead wrinkled in confusion. “No – I’m here for a visit. Didn’t Cordy tell you?”
“Oops!” Cordelia smirked. “I was so busy working on that case it must have just slipped my mind.” She gave Angel her most innocent smile, fully aware that the look he was giving her in turn indicated that he didn’t buy what she was saying for a minute.
“Uh huh.” Angel murmured, glaring at Cordelia before turning to Willow with a smile. “It’s good to see you, Will.”
Cordelia didn’t miss the look the red head gave Angel and it was enough to confirm her suspicions that the witch found him just as appealing as he found her. Good. Now all she had to do was set her plan into motion. Once she decided on one, that is. “Mind if I go ahead and go? So Willow can get some rest?”
“That’s ok-“ Willow started to say, getting cut off immediately by Angel’s hurried response.
“Go ahead. You’ll be in tomorrow? To help with the case?”
“We both will.” Willow assured him, giving him a brief hug before walking to the door. She would have liked to have caught up some more with him but Cordelia was waiting, clearly feeling as tired as she herself did. There’d be time to talk to him tomorrow, after a good night of sleep. “Night, Angel.”
“Sleep tight, Willow.” Angel smiled, the goofy look plastered on his face long after the door had shut behind them.
“You know. The two of you look cute together.” Cordelia smiled innocently, ignoring the pointed look Angel was giving her. If looks could kill she would certainly be dead soon the way he was glaring. In the end, her attempt at matchmaking had been inspired by something she saw driving Willow back to her apartment the night before. A billboard advertising an opera she was sure Angel would enjoy. And guess who happened to have two tickets to it?
Or – guess who had two tickets to it after she bought them earlier today? Of course, she hadn’t told Angel or Willow that. In fact, she had told the two of them that she had won the tickets on a radio contest.
“Thanks, Cordy.” Willow blushed. It hadn’t taken the brunette very long at all to pry out how she felt about Angel. Once she had admitted to it, the red head had made her swear not to tell the vampire. It would be embarrassing for him to find out – especially since she was pretty sure he would never return those feelings. If Cordelia was hoping that tonight was going to be some sort of revelation between the two of them, she’d better think again. There was no way that Willow would be baring her soul to Angel and telling him how she felt about him
Just wasn’t going to happen.
“Thanks again for the tickets, Delia.” Angel murmured appreciatively, squeezing her shoulder as he walked past her and to the door. “Ready, Will? We don’t want to be late.”
Willow nodded, taking a deep breath and hoping for the best. It was just a night out with a good friend, after all. No reason to be nervous *or* excited. Certainly no reason to get butterflies in her stomach – though telling those pesky critters that was probably pointless. She smiled shyly as Angel offered her his arm, slipping her own arm through it. Though she didn’t want to admit it – this just felt right. They fit together like two pieces from the same puzzle – two halves of a whole.
Cordelia watched the two leave the office, her eyes glowing with happiness. Hopefully they would use this chance she had given them to come clean about how they felt. Her bank account couldn’t take much more of this matchmaking stuff.
The play, while not exciting, was still riveting. Willow found herself staring enraptured at the tale being told on the stage. It was a story of love and heartbreak – the kind of thing she expected from an opera of this kind. It was completely in Italian, but she understood every gesture, every scene. The story was simple, yet enthralling. By the end of the first half she was so caught up that she hardly noticed the theater lights coming up for intermission.
“Hmmm?” Willow asked, finally tearing her eyes away from the stage. Would the hero and heroine find love in each other? Would they see through the trials and tribulations that had been set before them to take a stab at happiness? She wished fervently that intermission would end quickly so she could find out. She heard Angel repeat his question and blushed. Here she was, so caught up in her own thoughts that she was being a bad date.
Not that this was a date.
“No. I’m fine. Did you need to go out for some fresh air?”
Angel shook his head, content to just sit here with her in the partially empty theater. The look on her face during the first half of the opera had been beautiful – the perfect mixture of wonder and intrigue. There had been times, when her teeth had been worrying her lower lip in nervousness, that he had wanted to reach over and kiss her. Not that he didn’t want to kiss her at other times. Like now. He groaned softly, shrinking down in his seat and trying to calm the urge within him to just tell her what he felt. Friendship be damned.
“Are you okay?” Willow asked, laying a hand on Angel’s arm. Her eyes were wide with alarm. One second Angel had been practically smiling and the next he was just hunkering down, eyes closed. Was he in pain? She leaned a little closer, her hand rubbing his arm soothingly. “Angel? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing.” He sighed, losing the battle with himself. “Nothing except – I need to tell you something.”
”What is it?” The red head asked, sitting back a little so that she could see him better. The look on his face was unreadable. Her heart lurched with the fear she had somehow done something wrong. Was he going to tell her he didn’t want her to come visit anymore? Or that he wouldn’t be able to come visit *her* anymore?
“I’ve been keeping something from you for a few weeks now.” He said slowly, his eyes looking into hers as though they were his anchor to reality. He couldn’t believe he was about to admit all of this to her. At least he wouldn’t have to worry anymore about Cordelia letting things slip. No – he was about to do that all on his own. “I’ve met the most wonderful person. She’s so special. Everything I ever wanted.”
It was all Willow could do not to break down in tears. Angel had found someone. A special someone that he had been afraid to tell her about. Someone to spend his time with. Suddenly her fears that Angel wouldn’t be coming to visit her anymore seemed so much more real. He was going to need to free up time to be with his new, special ‘friend’, of course. “How – wonderful.” She managed to whisper, forcing a fragile smile onto her face. “I’m happy for you, Angel. Happy you found – happiness. Happy, happy, happy.” It sounded so stupid, the repetition of that one word, but it was all she could give him at that moment. Had Cordelia known about this? Willow tossed that idea aside immediately, sure that the former cheerleader would have let her know if Angel had someone else in his life. “I hope she makes you –“
“Happy?” Angel cut in, smiling softly. He couldn’t understand the sadness the red head was giving off, the waves of pain cutting him straight to his heart. “Yes. She is. *You* are.”
“Wh-What?” The young witch stammered, her eyes darting from where they had been staring a hole in the carpet up to him. Certainly he hadn’t just said what she thought he said.
“I said that *you* are special, Willow.” His hand reached for hers and he felt relief when she didn’t pull away. “I like you – a lot more than I probably should.”
“You do?” She asked, her voice a whisper, as though speaking too loud would wake her up from this wonderful dream that she was having. This dream where Angel was telling her he liked her – that she was special.
“Most definitely” He smiled softly. In his heart he knew that this could end so bad. It could ruin his entire friendship with her. But he couldn’t hold back any longer. It was too hard to just sit there, next to her, and restrain himself when all he wanted to do was hold her, touch her, and show her exactly how much he loved her. “I’d go as far as to say I fell in love with you at some point.”
Willow eyes grew even wider, her heart thudding almost painfully in her chest. She knew she sounded like an idiot, repeating everything he said as a question, but she couldn’t stop herself. She needed to be sure of what he was saying. “You love me?”
Angel nodded, wishing he could something more out of his friend than what he was getting. It was hard to tell how she felt when she was just sitting there with that stunned look on her face. “Yes. I love you, Willow.”
She nodded slowly, a smile creeping across her face until, finally, she lit up. “Good. Because I think I love you too, silly.” She squeezed the hand that was holding hers, feeling her heart slow down for the first time since he had begun his admission.
“Well. I’d say that’s definitely a good thing.” Angel murmured, exhaling a breath he not only didn’t need, but didn’t know he’d been holding either. “That means I can do this.” He leaned in, kissing her softly on this lips, his hand coming up behind her head, fingers threading through her hair. He felt her mouth move against his as she kissed him back and he knew, then, that he had done the right thing.
Neither one of them noticed, or cared, when the opera began again.
Her life had come full circle, it seemed. She had been loved, left, and now was loved again, though by a completely different man. A man who she had no doubt would never betray her in the way Oz had. Willow smiled, packing her things for the second time that summer. This time was much happier, though. This time she would be going to a place where she could live her life as she chose to instead of as others wanted her to. Angel would never –not- be there for her.
She folded her clothes neatly, placing the ones she would need immediately into a suitcase. The rest would be put on a van to be delivered at Angel’s apartment in the next couple days. The most important things, of course, were coming along with her. Pictures, letters, mementos of days gone by. Happier times that she wanted to remember even if she had no intention of every trying to be friends with certain people every again.
Buffy hadn’t called a single time since that day she had packed her things and left the dorm room. Willow supposed it was best that way. She doubted the blonde had found it within her to take responsibility for her own actions yet. And, until she did that, they would never even have a chance of being friends again.
The red head glanced at the clock on her nightstand. It was almost five o’clock. Time to leave if she wanted to be in LA before nightfall. She hoped this would be the last move she ever made on her own. It was hard to leave behind everything with no one around to help out. But there was no reason for Angel to be there with her and it was still daylight. He couldn’t have come even if he wanted to.
She turned to her laptop, glancing at the emails that were still open, waiting to be sent. She looked them over one last time, making sure they said everything she wanted to say. One was to Buffy saying all the things she had left unsaid over the past few months. It offered her reconciliation if and when she could own up to how her actions affected those around her. The other was to Xander, though it was being sent to Buffy’s email account. She knew the blonde would make sure Xander got the letter, despite the differences they shared now. That letter was longer, filled with more sadness than anything Willow had ever written in her entire life.
It told Xander how much she still loved and cared for him, in that sisterly way she had long ago given into. It gave him the forgiveness she already felt towards him despite the fact that he hadn’t spoken to her in months. She told him, in that letter, that she would always be his friend if and when he was ever ready to give her the same in return again. Her simple words explained eloquently enough the love and friendship she had found in Angel and why she was moving to be with him.
She sighed, clicking on the buttons to send the emails. Maybe she’d hear from one of them – or both – either way it didn’t matter. She wanted them in her life but they had been the ones to choose to cast her aside like she didn’t matter to them. If they made the first move to bring her back into their lives she wouldn’t push them away – but she wasn’t going to be the one trying for their ‘affections’ again. She was beyond that. She had Angel and Cordelia. Wesley, too. That would be enough for her for now.
Willow gathered her suitcase, more a large duffel bag than an actual piece of luggage, slinging the strap over her shoulder and hoisting it. She grabbed her laptop, wrapping the cords around it, and shoved it into its case, placing the strap for that bag over her other shoulder. She spared one more look around the room, making sure that all of the boxes had been picked up by the moving crew. Everything in order, she walked out of her parents’ home and out into the sunlight.
It wasn’t that she planned on never coming back to Sunnydale – she just didn’t think she’d be back for a while. UCLA had already accepted her application for fall semester so she wouldn’t be coming back to UC Sunnydale. Things were, all in all, looking up for her.
She turned, giving the house she had grown up in one last look. Then, without looking back again, she walked to her car, stowed her bags in the trunk, and was gone.
Gone to LA.
And back home.