Title: A Chance Meeting
Author: Jinni (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Author’s Note: Takes place in the BtVS universe after the events of
“Wrecked”. In the “AtS” universe all is the same except that Gunn and Fred
did not hook up, Wesley and Fred did, though.
Summary: Willow moves to LA to try to get her life straight. A chance
meeting one night changes her life…for the better.
“Hey Red! Get over here!”
Willow glanced over her shoulder at the man calling to her, rolling her eyes when he turned back to the food in front of him. She picked up the coffee pot from the counter and walked over to him, plastering a smile on her face. This was the worst part about working the late night shift – the truckers. They would breeze in; sit their fat asses on the stools and order around every waitress in the diner. But they tipped well – and that was really all that mattered at the end of the night.
“More coffee?” Willow asked helpfully, the fake smile never leaving her lips. She thought vengefully. He grunted his assent and she filled the cup almost to the top, leaving only enough room for the three creamers she knew he would dump into it. “Anything else I can get for you tonight?” Again the sweet smile, wasted on the oblivious trucker.
“Nah, that’s it for me, sugar.”
The red head nodded to herself, pleased. This was her last customer for the night. Once he was gone she could leave, too. She placed his check on the table. “I’ll take that whenever you’re ready.” Before he could say another word she had left, retreating to the safety of the kitchens.
One of the cooks waved at her, holding up the small bag of food she had ordered for herself. That was one of the extremely few perks of working here – free food. She could order just about anything on the lunch menu at anytime as long as she had worked a shift that day. Not that her savings amounted to very much once she was done paying rent, utilities and buying herself needed items such as clothes and other necessities.
The remaining twenty minutes of her night flew by and soon she was stepping out into the cool air of Los Angeles. She looked around, alert for anyone suspicious hanging around the diner, before setting off towards her apartment. She pulled her thin jacket tighter around her body, hands in the pockets.
She let her mind wander as her feet took the path that would lead her to home. It was dangerous, she knew, to meander back into the past when the present could become dangerous at any moment – but daydreams were all she had left to remind her of the happy times she had once shared with friends. Stubbornly, she refused to let herself cry as her memories inevitably came to that day. She hadn’t meant to place Dawn in danger – the mere thought of it made her sick to her stomach. But, caught up in the thrall of magic so dark and addicting it made her head spin, she hadn’t had much control over what had happened That Night. It was only pure good fortune on Dawn’s part that she had made it through everything with the demon and the car wreck in one piece.
And yet she didn’t hate Willow for putting her in that situation.
So, rather than face the anger and pity of her friends, she’d left town. Sure, Buffy had been comforting about it all, but how long would that have lasted? A strong sense of self-preservation had kept her from going any further away than Los Angeles, though, when she left the next morning, before anyone got out of bed. At least here, if absolutely necessary, she could get help from Angel or the Sunnydale crew in relatively little time. “Not that I want to ask them for help.” She whispered to herself. Not since The Night had she spoken to any of them. Logic insisted that even if they were mad at her, they would not have wanted her to leave. “But I needed to get away and deal with it all.” She persisted, finally reaching the door to the apartments.
Creaking loudly in the quietness of the night, the door swung open into the barely lit hallway. Stopping only briefly at her mailbox, the red head made her way up to the second floor, the stairs almost as loud as the door had been. A single, bare overhead bulb illuminated the short hallway that connected the apartments of the second floor. She put her key in the lock and turned the knob. “Home at last…”
When the overhead light turned on she did her best to ignore the dismal appearance of the place she called ‘home’. Certainly, if her friends could see her apartment, they would be shocked and altogether dismayed. The scant pieces of furniture she had were mismatched and shabby – items she had purchased from second hand stores. The apartment itself was laid out in a studio fashion – one large main room with an alcove of a kitchen and a separate bathroom. The couch creaked as she sat down, placing her dinner on the coffee table in front of her. The table wobbled slightly as she pulled the sandwich and fries from the bag.
Willow ate quickly, the taste of the food bland and unappealing despite her level of hunger. Placing her trash on the kitchen counter she resolved silently to take it out to the dumpster in the morning – it was just too dangerous to do so at night. Outside, in the distance, she could hear sirens. It was nothing new to her – not now. She collapsed on the rickety old couch, pulling a warm blanket over her body. The heat was off in the apartment, not entirely at her will either. It had been broken for weeks and the apartment manager showed absolutely no signs of knowing when it would be fixed. She refused to look at it in a negative way, however,
Too tired to even change clothes, the former witch drifted off into sleep, praying with her last thought to somehow make her life better.
KNOCK * KNOCK * KNOCK
Willow rolled over, burrowing her head deeper into the thick cushions of the couch. She squeezed her eyes shut, trying to block out the incessant noise coming from outside her door.
“Uh?” The red head groaned, sitting up. Her sleep clouded eyes looked around the sunlit room. She licked her lips and cleared her throat, waiting to see if the noise would go away. Glancing at the clock, she sighed loudly. Who could possibly be annoying her this early in the day? It was barely noon. Didn’t these people know she had worked until three in the morning?
KNOCK * KNOCK * KNOCK
“Who’s there?” Willow called, swinging her legs over the side of the couch.
“Maintenance – heard your heat was out.”
“Great.” She muttered, extricating herself from beneath the blankets on the couch. “Figures they’d finally come by the day after I worked late.” She looked through the peephole and only began to unlatch the door’s locks after she had comforted herself that it was, in fact, the building’s maintenance man.
“It’ll only take a few minutes.” The ill kempt man muttered, pushing past her and into the apartment. His toolbox jangled loudly in the otherwise silent room. Within moments he had removed the control panel from the heating unit and was fiddling with the inner controls.
Willow sighed; resigning herself to the fact that she had gotten all the sleep she was going to get for the day. She pulled a fresh pair of sweats from the dresser in one corner of the room and headed for the bathroom. She slipped the clothing on quickly, not wanting to leave the maintenance man alone for too long of a time. ‘Not that I have much worth taking…’ She thought sadly. She brushed out her hair, debating for the hundredth time on taking a more high-tech job. A job that could not only pay the rent and provide for basic necessities, but also give her some money to play with. ‘If I do that it makes it that much easier for anyone who is looking for me to find me. They would never think to look for me where I am now at the diner.’
She sighed, checking her appearance in the mirror. Her face had thinned out slightly, accentuating her cheekbones. In her opinion she looked better. Opening the door, Willow braced herself for the one thing she took pleasure in doing since she gave up magick.
Stepping out into the short hallway that led back to the main room of the studio, the red head dropped to her knees. She placed her hands on the floor, palms down, and laid her body out, toes on the floor. She allowed her mind to drift into a higher state, her thoughts as clear as crystal. With pure force of mind she did the thirty push up regime she had started soon after moving into the apartment. With the clarity of mind she attained through this self-induced meditation, she hardly noticed the heat of pain in her upper arms. After the push-ups came a hundred sit-ups.
Willow opened her eyes and allowed her thoughts to come back to reality. “Perfect timing,” She muttered, easing out of the last of the sit-ups. She sat up, watching the maintenance man as he packed up his tools. “Thank you!” Her voice was cut off as the door shut behind him. “Or not…”
Standing slowly, the red head made her way to the small alcove that served as a kitchen. She opened the first cabinet she came to, pulling a box of cereal out. She smiled softly at the grinning cartoon captain on the front. Fond childhood memories of Saturday mornings, curled on the floor with Xander and big bowls of peanut butter Cap’n Crunch, watching cartoons filled her mind. Almost as if on cue, the tears started, falling heavily onto the counter.
“He’s married by now…” She whispered, allowing herself to realize for the first time that her best friend’s wedding would have already passed. “I hope
you’re happy, Xander.” She poured milk over the crunchy bits in her bowl, wiping the tears from her cheeks with her free hand. If only…
“If only I hadn’t been so stupid.” Her voice was harsh in the silence of the apartment. She took a clean spoon from the drainer near the sink and slid it into the bowl. Lifting a spoonful to her mouth, she allowed her tears to keep flowing. ‘I brought this on myself. I had a choice to start using those magicks. I *made* a choice by taking Dawn with me… Nothing has happened to me that I didn’t bring on myself. She could have died and it would have been all my fault…’
The food was tasteless – the act of chewing automatic. She finished her meal and placed the bowl in the sink. Washing it could wait until later…after work… when maybe she wasn’t quite so depressed.
~*~ Part Three~*~
"This night can’t possibly get any worse.’ Willow growled silently, pushing open the diner’s door with what she hoped wasn’t too much obvious annoyance. It had taken all of her self-control not to walk out less than two hours into her eight-hour shift. But she had managed to stay – barely.
‘Despite the guy who yelled at me for giving him ranch dressing and not Italian. Despite my boss bitching at me for every little thing.’ The red head walked quickly through the darkened streets, her eyes blazing with anger. ‘For what that old bat pays me she doesn’t *deserve* to be so picky.’
The first scathing remark of the night from her boss had come in the form of why Willow was two minutes late for her shift. The red head had forced herself to bite her tongue before pointing out, in argument form, that she was normally fifteen minutes early and that it had only been two minutes! The next biting comment had been on the state of Willow’s uniform – the coffee smudge on the front just wasn’t “up to standards”, according to the owner.
‘Never mind the fact that I got that smudge only ten minutes after getting there because a customer knocked my tray out of my hand!’ She was seething with pure anger. The customers themselves had been more annoying than usual, as well. She had spent the better part of her shift running from the kitchen to the tables, kitchen to the tables – just to retrieve little items that her customers ‘forgot’ the first time. It had been enough to give her a headache and make her want to scream!
She rounded a corner, her mind totally focused on the events of the night. The soft, yet hard, surface that blocked her way came as a momentary shock. “Oh. I’m *so* sorry.” She murmured, backing up a step to get a look at who she had nearly run over.
“Don’t be.” The demonic visage on his face told the red head all she needed to know.
“Goddess!” She proclaimed, irritated. “Just what I needed tonight – a vampire.” She snorted, dropping her bag to the ground. Despite her brave words she was more than a little nervous. For the most part Buffy had been with her every time she had gotten attacked – or she had used her magick. She wouldn’t do that tonight though. The stake she usually carried had been carelessly left in her other jacket, lying across the back of her couch at this very moment. It would do her little good there. Her hand clutched at the bottle of holy water nestled in her pocket, her thumb flipping open the lid.
The vampire stared at her for the briefest of moments, dumbfounded by her sarcasm and apparent lack of fear. That moment was all Willow needed, with a flick of her wrist the holy water was out of her pocket, splashing across the vampire’s face. His screams of pain and surprise echoed through the quiet night as she grabbed up her bag, racing down the streets. She had no stakes, nothing that could even possibly be used to kill him. The only chance she really had was reaching the safety of her apartment.
And she almost did.
Less than a block from the shabby building she called home she heard the sound she had been dreading – footsteps. They were getting closer, fast. A strong hand grabbed her shoulder, turning her around in one swift, violent movement. She screamed, the melted mess of the vampire’s face only inches from her own.
Charles Gunn had been on his way back from visiting his people when the red head had come running past him, nearly knocking him over in her haste. He snorted, shaking his head in irritation. If there was just one thing he couldn’t stand it was rude people.
So the second person to nearly run him over in one night came as quite a shock.
It took all of ten seconds for the young man to put two and two together. He hadn’t gotten a good glimpse of either of the two people, but it was obvious that the second one had been chasing the first one. ‘She could have been a shoplifter being chased by security…’ He mused to himself. That thought was banished the second he heard the woman’s scream pierce the air. The noise was full of fear and surprise. Whoever she was, she needed help.
‘Might as well be me, I s’pose.’ Gunn thought, heading towards the scream. He rounded the corner in time to see the man lift the red head from her feet. Even from where he was standing Gunn could see that the fingers around the woman’s throat were getting tighter as the seconds passed, her white face beginning to turn pink. He couldn’t see the man’s face and could only imagine what kind of sick psychopath would strangle such a cute girl at two in the morning. “Hey! Let her go!”
As soon as the ‘man’ turned Gunn knew for sure what kind of person he was dealing with. A vampire. He sighed, grabbing a stake from his pocket.
“You should have minded your own business.” The vampire growled. Tossing Willow against the side of the building without a second thought, he launched himself at Gunn. Pain, annoyance, and hunger were written in every line of the vampire’s face. In the end, there wasn’t even a fight. The vampire exploded in a shower of dust the second he stumbled into the stake Gunn held ready in his hand. Smirking at his luck, the urban youth made his way to the red head’s side. A slight smile crossed his lips as he watched her slowly make her way to a sitting position. There was just something about her that radiated innocence and fragility. “You okay?”
“Yeah…” Willow whispered quietly. She sat still for a moment, taking an internal assessment of her injuries. Other than the dull ache on the back of her head from where she had hit the building and some soreness around her throat, she had managed to escape with no other bruises or bumps. She shook her head slightly, trying to clear the fuzziness from her mind, and looked over at her rescuer, still kneeling on the street. She gave him a weak smile. “Thanks for the rescue.”
“No problem.” He stood, offering her his hand. Her utter lack of curiosity or surprise at the vampire gave him no few questions. He took another long look at her and rethought his earlier impression of fragility. She was anything but that. The little of her body he could see outside of her work uniform was well built and her eyes held that same hardness he saw every time he looked in the mirror. She was, in one word, hot. Red hair, sparkling green eyes, and a body that was toned yet still curvy. “That guy…” He began, trying to make conversation.
“Vampire.” She said candidly. “It’s ok, you can use that word around me. I won’t think you’re odd or anything.” Willow smiled sadly. It felt strange to speak about vampires with someone outside of her normal group of friends.
Gunn grinned. “Yeah, vampire. How do you…”
“I don’t want to talk about that.” Willow cut him off, the vehemence of her words brooking no disagreement. She stared up the street, her apartment in clear view. A tiny smile flitted across her lips, trying to soften her harsh words a moment before. “Sorry about that. I don’t like to talk about that part of my life. Thank you, again, for saving me, but I’d better get home. It’s been a long night.”
“I’ll walk you.” Gunn offered, intrigued by the woman standing before him. He offered her his arm.
The red head smiled, taking the proffered arm and guiding him in the direction of her apartment complex. She knew it was not good to trust someone so completely after only knowing them for a few minutes but something about him prompted her to do just that. “Saves my life and walks me to my door. What a gentleman.”
Gunn laughed. He liked this girl. “So would you give a gentleman your phone number and the promise of a date?”
Willow hesitated then, her steps becoming slower as she pondered the request. It had been nearly two months since she and Tara had called it quits. ‘Well…since Tara called it quits, anyway…’ She thought sullenly. The ache she had once felt for the blonde haired witch had faded over time to the point where she still missed her, but didn’t miss being with her. She gave the man next to her a sidelong glance. He wasn’t bad to look at, even if he was, well, a *he*. ‘It’s not like a swore off men entirely, either.’ She reiterated to herself silently. “I think I can arrange that.”
Exhaling, Gunn grinned. “Took you a minute – was starting to think I’d offended you or something.” They stopped outside the doorway of an apartment complex Gunn new all too well. Some of his friends stayed here from time to time. From the way she held herself he would never have imagined her to actually be living in this kind of place. ‘She seems like she was raised in a better place – much better.’ He thought quietly, as she scribbled her phone number on a slip of paper from her purse. ‘Just more of the mystery, I guess.’
“Here you go…” She paused, the paper with her number on it still in her hand. “You know, I don’t think we’ve even introduced ourselves yet.” She laughed. “My name is Willow.”
“Gunn.” He grinned, grabbing the paper from her. He looked at it briefly before shoving it in his pocket. “I’ll call you tomorrow and we can arrange for that date, k?”
“Sure thing.” For the first time since she had come to LA Willow found herself actually looking forward to the next day. She waved a goodbye to Gunn and opened the door of the apartment building. “Was nice meeting you. Talk to you tomorrow.”
“Definitely.” Gunn whispered, watching her disappear into the building.
Gunn swung open the door of the Hyperion, glancing about to see who was still there. He waved at Wesley, noticing that Fred was curled up on the small couch in the ex-Watcher’s office. He had been happy to see the two of them hook up. They were cute together. Both of them were quiet and a little odd in their own ways. ‘Now if only I could get the boss to make some moves on Delia.’ He smirked, his eyes finding said boss sitting behind the reception desk. The vampire’s face was showing color, a sure sign of anger and he was speaking above his normal muted tones. ‘Wonder what’s up.’
“Why did it take you so long to call?” Angel paused, listening to the person on the other end of the phone. “Yes, well she’s my friend too. Didn’t you think I’d care enough to help her?” He shut his eyes, trying to forgive the idiot on the other end of the line and failing miserably. “Buffy. Just stop. I will do whatever is in my power to find her. I’m just upset that you didn’t call me when she first went missing.” Again he paused, listening to the Slayer ramble on. After a few more moments of her babbling he interrupted, cutting the conversation short. “Fine. I’ll call you if I find anything.”
Gunn arched an eyebrow as the phone was slammed back into its holder. “’Sup, dawg?”
The vampire looked up at Gunn, his face blank. He couldn’t go into too much detail about what Willow’s disappearance without telling his associates the reason *why* the red head had run away. That was personal information, though, and he just didn’t feel comfortable being the one to tell them. ‘If I can’t find her on my own I will bring them into it. But not yet. Willow wouldn’t want the entire world to know her problems. She wouldn’t want anyone to pity her.’ He thought. Aloud, he murmured. “A friend of mine is missing from Sunnydale. I’m going to do some looking around, try to find her.”
The young man nodded. “You want some help?”
“This is my problem.” Angel sighed, realizing he had snapped at one of the few people who called him a friend and for no truly good reason. “Thanks for the offer. I may take you up on it later. Not just yet, though. It’s a delicate situation…” He rambled, trying to make excuses for the reason he was turning down the help.
“Its cool, man. No worries.” Gunn grinned. Usually when his boss got this flustered it was best to just play it down like nothing had happened. Angel would have a good reason for not wanting help. It wasn’t his job to pry. “In fact, I didn’t overhear anything – so whether or not you tell Delia, Wes and Fred is up to you.”
Angel nodded, smiling ever so slightly. He liked Gunn for just that reason – the ability to catch on and adapt quickly. “Sounds good to me. How did your visit go?”
Gunn shrugged. “Fine. They’re doing good. Real good. It’s nice to see things finally working out for some of them.” ‘They’ were his people – the ones he had left behind when he came to work with Angel. He still kept in contact with them, occasionally going out for raids or hunting parties to rid the neighborhood of vamps. “On the way back I saved this hot little number from some vamp who was trying to get fresh with her. Got her this is return.” He held up the slip of paper with Willow’s phone number on it, a smug smile on his face.
“Who’s number?” Cordelia asked, entering the room with a yawn.
“Some girl I saved on the way back.” He shrugged, playing it off.
“Way to go, Gunn!” Again she yawned. “Can someone give me a ride home, please? It’s late and Wesley is getting no where with his research.”
Angel looked opened his mouth to ask Gunn to do it…
Only to be cut off by Gunn volunteering him to do it himself.
“Angel can take you, right?” The streetwise man queried, turning an innocent face to the vampire next to him. Inside he was laughing. He loved setting the two of them up to be alone together. Maybe one day it would make for a happy ending. ‘Though not so happy that I have to stake Angel the next morning.’ He smirked mentally, his face displaying none of his innermost thoughts.
“Um…sure.” The vampire conceded, wondering why Gunn was always so quick to volunteer him for things involving Cordelia. ‘He couldn’t be trying to set the two of us up, could he?’ The vampire asked himself silently, ushering Cordelia towards the door. ‘Nah. Gunn wouldn’t do that to me…would he?’ He shook off the nagging thought, shutting the door of the hotel behind him.
Gunn watched them go, fingering the slip of paper in his pocket. ‘It probably wouldn’t be the best thing to call her first thing in the morning either since it’s obvious she works at night.’ He thought, remembering the cute little waitress outfit she had been wearing. His eyes clouded over as he remembered the girl he had only just met. The girl who had worked his way into his thoughts from the very first time she opened her mouth. She was a mystery, though. Her knowledge of vampires and the way she reacted when he had tried to ask about it hinted at something in her past that had hurt her in some way or was continuing to hurt her. He smiled, looking forward to figuring out the mystery of the little red head. ‘I’ll call her tomorrow afternoon. Don’t want to seem too eager. Give her enough time to wonder if I
’m calling at all and then…call and invite her to a movie or a club. If she’s not working’
“Night Wes!” He called, heading up the stairs two at a time. It was late and he was feeling tired. Best to rest now just in case a certain red head was
free to light up the town with him the next night.
Willow woke early the next afternoon feeling more refreshed than she had in weeks. She smiled to herself, leisurely getting out from under her blankets and walking towards the bathroom. The apartment was warm thanks to the efforts of the maintenance man the day before and she allowed herself the luxury of a bath, filling the tub almost to the top with warm, soapy water. The heat and bath combined to relax the aching muscles in her back, a problem she had gained after lifting heavy trays day after day.
‘None of that for me today, though…’ She thought happily. It was her day off – the only one she was likely to get for the rest of the week. It had come about at the last minute, when another of the girls came in needing to work a few more hours to pay her rent. Willow had been more than happy to let her take the shift. The red head herself was okay on money for the time being. She even had a little extra saved up and the idea of ordering a nice pepperoni and cheese pizza to eat for lunch and dinner was sounding more and more appealing by the moment.
‘Unless I get a call asking me to go elsewhere…’ Her thoughts turned to the man she had met the night before. He had been nice enough, rather charming in a unique way. He was definitely the type of guy she wouldn’t mind getting to know more. It had surprised her that the idea of dating a man again didn’t disagree with her. She would never admit that Tara had been perfect for her at the time simply because she represented something far different from Oz. But, that’s what her heart whispered. She had come to rely on the blonde haired witch to always be there after a time and the pain she had felt when they broke up had been more because of that than because of anything else. Sometimes, she conceded, it was better to have someone who made your heart halfway mushy, than to have no one at all.
She slid deeper into the bubbly water, letting the heat of the bath work its way into her muscles. Her neck was sore from the night before, and a glance in the mirror as the tub had filled had confirmed the fact that there were small bruises on her pale skin. ‘No big deal. A little makeup and good as new.’ She refused to let even that get her down. The gentle slosh of the water against her skin and the heat of the small room all came together to set her further into relaxation.
So relaxed that she hardly heard the phone ringing.
Gunn held the phone to his ear, listening as it rang once, twice. He sighed, preparing to hang up. ‘Must not be home.’ Suddenly, halfway through the third ring, the phone was answered.
He smiled at the breathless sound of her voice. It was definitely cute. “Willow? This is Gunn.”
There was a pause on the other end of the line and then, “Gunn? I don’t know anyone named Gunn…”
The young man smacked his hand to his forehead. “Charles, I mean. Sorry, my friends call me Gunn.”
“Oh yeah…” She drawled, and again he had to smile. Was there anything this girl did that wasn’t adorable? “I think I remember you saying your name was
Charles Gunn. Cute.” She gave a little laugh. He could tell she was nervous. For that matter, so was he. Hard to say whether or not she realized it.
“I was wondering…about that date…” He paused. This was the moment. Would she say yes or no? Had she just been grateful to him for saving her life last
night when she gave him her number? Or was she genuinely interested in going out with him? “Want to maybe get some dinner tonight and catch a movie?”
“Sure.” He could hear her surprise. “Lucky you. Its my night off.”
Gunn chuckled. “Right, lucky me. I’ll pick you up around six, that sound good?”
It had been a good night.
‘Definitely a good night.’ She grinned, chuckling softly. It was amazing how special Charles…no, Gunn, she corrected herself….had made her feel in only
the span of three hours. ‘It feels good to feel again.’
“What’re you laughing about?”
The red head smiled up at her date. “Just thinking how much fun this was. Reminds me of back home when…” Her mouth shut with a snap, sadness clouding
over her face. ‘When the gang and I used to go out together.’ She finished silently, tears filling the corners of her eyes. She sniffled softly, hoping
he wouldn’t notice her slip.
Gunn kept his mouth shut. If there was one thing he knew about – it was pain. Obviously something bad had happened back home to make the poor little
thing next to him clam up and practically break down in tears whenever she thought about it. If she wanted to talk to him about it, she would. Until then he could be there for her – quiet and comforting. ‘At least the comforting part I’m good at.’ He stopped, grabbing onto her hand and looking into the wet greenness of her eyes. “Hey…no crying. I don’t know what happened to you – but it’ll be ok.”
Willow nodded, giving him a weak smile. She didn’t want to tell him about Sunnydale, about the friends she left behind and the problem that had driven her to it. What would he think if he knew she was no better than a junkie? ‘Probably never ask you out on a date again, that’s for sure.’ The cynical part of her brain chimed. “Yeah, you’re right.” She agreed softly, trying to stifle the sadness she felt inside. They were only a few dozen yards from her apartment and this wasn’t how she wanted to end the night. She looked up into his brown eyes and remembered the laughter they had shared at the movie theater, trying to push unhappiness that had crept into her heart.
And then he was kissing her.
The gesture was soft, tender, and it took Willow completely by surprise. She gasped at first, deepening the kiss without meaning to. When finally they parted, she gave him a measuring look. It took a lot of nerve to kiss someone on the first date. Not that she minded. It had been a long time since someone had kissed her so gently. “What was that for?”
Gunn shrugged, not really realizing himself how he had come to be kissing the red head. “You looked like you needed it.” He grinned. “Sorry if it was too forward.”
“No…no…no….” Willow shook her head emphatically. “Its not that. It was just…unexpected.”
“But not un-enjoyable?” He asked, licking his lips.
“I’d definitely say I enjoyed it…” Her words were cut off as his mouth again descended on hers, giving her something to take her mind off of the sadness she had been sure would ruin her night.
~*~ Part Six ~*~
Willow practically floated into work the next night, hardly noticing the stares of her fellow employees who knew her as a more resigned, sad-faced person. Not even the mean-spirited nature of her boss or the sexually harassing comments of the truckers during her shift could bring her down. The night before had been just too perfect.
‘And it ended perfectly, too,’ She thought with a grin, placing the stack of dishes in her arms into one of the back sinks. The dishwasher that worked the graveyard shift was no where in sight, though the back door was open. She hoped fervently that he got back to the sinks before the owner noticed – the man was nice, a little slow, but still a nice guy. He had a family and didn’t need to get fired by that mean old bat. Her smile faltered momentarily as she thought of the owner’s wrath coming down on the poor guy. He chose that moment to poke his head through the door, however, ending her brief foray into worry and bringing a smile back to her face.
As she strolled back into the nearly deserted dining room, washrag in hand, her thoughts again turned to Gunn. He had been wonderful to her the previous night, taking her to dinner and then a movie. The movie had been lame, one of those stupid comedies that men found so amusing. The dialogue had been stupid, the plot even more so – but it had been wonderful just the same, with Gunn sitting next to her. His little whispers and jibes at the obviously bad movie had made the entire thing so much more pleasant.
‘Wonder what he’s doing tonight..’ She thought idly, wiping off the tables in her section slowly. She had learned a lot about the young man the night before over dinner and what she had learned had just made her like him more. He apparently worked for some sort of detective agency, doing things he hadn’t wanted to talk about. The secretiveness had bothered her at first until she realized that there were parts of her life she wasn’t ready to let him in on yet, either. ‘Like Sunnydale…’ He had raised his sister after the death of their parents and then had been forced to stake her when she was turned. His knowledge of vampires had made so much sense at that moment and she had told him, omitting certain parts, about Jesse and how he had been turned and then staked by another of her friends. She hadn’t mentioned Xander’s name or Buffy’s, preferring to not dredge up questions about her ‘friends’ and why she was here. He would find out everything about her, one
day. ‘If things make it to that point, anyway.’ She smiled at her own silliness. ‘If we get serious he’ll have to know about Sunnydale…about my friends … about magick.”
A sharp voice behind the red head snapped her out of her thoughts and she whirled, dirty rag in hand.
“Finish cleaning those tables and then clock out.” The owner snapped, rolling her eyes in annoyance at the young woman before walking away.
“Sure thing, boss lady.” Willow muttered under her breath, grinning ever so slightly. She turned back to the tables with new fervor, anxious to go home and get some rest. Maybe there would even be a message from Gunn to brighten her night even more.
Gunn rolled his eyes, ignoring Cordelia as much as was possible.
“No…really.” Her eyes were wide with feigned shock. “You look almost radiantly happy, even. What’s gotten into you?”
“Nothin’” The dark-skinned man smirked, his eyes never leaving the book in front of him. It was true that he felt great – wonderful even, after his date the night before. But he wouldn’t tell Cordelia about it. He’d never hear the end of it if she found out he had gone on a date.
“How was your date, Gunn?”
The young man groaned, glaring up at the vampire that had just entered theroom.
“What?” Angel asked, his eyebrows arching in innocence at the look his associate gave him.
“You had a date?” Cordelia grinned, latching onto the information like it was water in the desert. “She leaned closer to him, smiling conspiratorily. “How was it? What’s she like? Where’d you meet her?”
He shook his head. “No thanks, Delia. I don’t kiss and tell.” He threw another glare at Angel, frustrated for being put in the situation. He was sure Willow wasn’t the type of girl who would want him to be blabbing to all of his friends about their good time together. “It was a nice date and that’s all I’m going to say.”
The brunette sighed loudly, leaning back into her own chair. She crossed her arms and then, as though only hearing what he said for the first time, asked, “There was kissing?”
“I didn’t say that.” Gunn looked at her, startled.
“You said you don’t kiss and tell.” She smirked. “So that means there must have been kissing to *not* tell about.” Her smile said it all. “You might as well just tell me about it now. I’m not going to let it go until you do.”
Gunn leaned in, motioning for her to come closer. He hid a smile as she grinned in triumph, edging her chair over to him. “How ‘bout you worry yourself about how to get Angel over there in your bed and a little less about who I’m dating.” He jumped up before he could get slapped, waving at Angel. “I’m gonna head up to my room. See you tomorrow.”
As he took the stairs two at a time he could hear Cordelia sputtering. That was the first time he had ever said anything so open to the either of them about their little game of attraction. Maybe it would jump start her into making a move. ‘And give her something to worry about other than my love life.’ He smirked. ‘Speaking of which…Willow should be home soon and I could really use someone with a full brain to talk to.’
The next few weeks flew by in Willow's eyes. She would work and then come home. Sometimes Gunn would call her, and sometimes he'd be waiting on her doorstep. She had been startled the first time that had happened, and worried for him, sitting around in that neighborhood in the middle of the night. It wasn't safe. Through kisses and hugs he had reassured her that this, being the exact neighborhood he had grown up in, held little threat for him. He was always there when she needed him, too, not just when it was convenient for him, even to the extent of coming over late at night if he called and found out she had had a rough time at work.
There were nights where he took her to movies and nights where they just stayed at her apartment and talked until they were both sleepy. The presents he brought her, flowers and cards, were enough to make her blush with happiness, while still small enough that she didn't feel like he was spending too much money on her. On rare nights she would cook dinner for them, on even rarer nights he had been known to cook dinner for her.
It was little things like that that had endeared him to her after such a short amount of time.
'Kisses and hugs.' The red head smiled sleepily, rolling over on the couch to stare at the ceiling. So far that was as far as their relationship had gone. Kisses and hugs - hours of them even. That was as far as she could let it go, knowing that she had held back important information about herself.
And now she was ready for him to know.
Slowly, through weeks of companionship and gentle romance, she had fallen in love with the dark skinned young man who had saved her life. It hadn't been intentional. She had certainly never planned to form such a strong attachment to him so soon. But, as she had learned with Tara, that's how things went sometimes. You fall in love quickly and completely. One day you wake up and you realize you want to have that someone lying next to you first thing in the morning.
She smiled, the thought of waking up next to Gunn a pleasant one and one she wanted to experience first hand and not just in her dreams. 'I just have to tell him about everything.' The idea of what she had to do chilled her to the bone. What if what she had to say about why she left disgusted him or scared him? Did he care enough about her to see past it all to who she had become? Would he see her as someone that took the easy road until it led to ruin? Deep in her heart she knew that she was a totally different person than the one that had left Sunnydale. She had learned the power of hard work - and she had done it all without a scrap of magick. She wasn't ready to dive back into using magick yet, and maybe never would be - but it didn't scare her anymore.
Her eyes burned under the weight of unshed tears - fear bringing them to the fore. There was no guarantee that Gunn felt the same way she did. No guarantee that he wouldn't run away when she told him about her life, about her problems. But she hoped he wouldn't. He was different, special, someone she felt a bond with and trusted implicitly. That had to count for something in the eyes of Fate and Love. She closed her eyes, taking a deep breath to center her off-balance emotions. Tonight they were supposed to stay in and just talk and cuddle. No movies, no television, no dancing - just them. There would never be a more perfect time to 'come clean'.
"I'll tell him tonight." She whispered to herself, placing a pillow over her eyes and trying to fall back asleep. It was only ten in the morning; no decent time to be awake when one had worked until two the night before. ' 'Sides,' She thought sadly. 'I'll need all of my strength for tonight.' Hopefully she wouldn't lose the best thing that had happened to her in a long time by telling him about past and the things she had tried so hard to put behind her.
Angel looked around the lobby of the hotel, his face worried as he hung up the phone. It had been the first time he had spoken to Buffy since she had initially called him for help and the news hadn't been reassuring. The Sunnydale group had turned up no trace of her - not a single phone call or letter had been placed to them. They were getting frantic and he felt guilty. He had tried to find her on his own but that hadn't worked and he had spent too much time arguing with himself over asking the others for help. "I'm just as bad as Buffy." He had to laugh at that thought, bringing the attention of everyone in the room to him. He sobered up under their startled glances.
'Well at least I have their attention.' He sighed, walking out from behind the front desk and towards the table where they were researching their latest case. He held the only photograph he had of Willow carefully, knowing Gunn and Fred would need to know what she looked like to begin to search for her. "I need to talk to you guys." He looked around, seeing Gunn and Cordelia. A quick glance at Wesley's office showed the location of his other two staff members. "Wes! Fred! Come here, please!"
"Yeah, guys!" Cordelia chimed in. "Stop with the smoochies and get out here - the boss is having a meeting."
"Really?" Wesley asked, choosing to ignore Cordelia's remark about 'smoochies' as he emerged from his office, Fred in tow. "New prophecy? Demon?" His eyes
sparkled, ready for something exciting. Work lately had been rather dull - lots of clients but none that wanted anything interesting from them.
"No - nothing so exciting. But still important." He took a deep breath, the gesture more habit than anything. "I got a call from Sunnydale a couple weeks ago. Willow's missing."
Angel winced at the shrill voice of his secretary, missing the shocked look that passed on Gunn's face.
'It can't be the same girl.' Gunn insisted silently, forcing himself to listen to what Angel and the others were saying. Though - how many others Willows could there possibly be in the world? Willows with a past they didn't like to talk about.
"Why didn't you tell us when you found out, Angel?" Wesley asked quietly, concerned. It wasn't like his boss to keep something so important from them. He and Cordelia knew Willow and would have wanted to help from the very outset of the problem.
"I didn't want to tell you guys because." He grimaced. "It seems so stupid now. I didn't want to tell you about her being missing because I didn't want to tell you the reason she left in the first place." He sat down heavily in a chair at the end of the table, avoiding the eyes. "Buffy says she got addicted to some pretty bad magick - started going to some sort of dealer for it and ended up taking Dawn with her one night. Dawn almost got killed. Willow left."
Cordelia sat back in her chair, her face pale. "She left - with all of those problems? She's out there somewhere by herself. What if.?" The question hung heavy in the air.
"I know." Angel whispered. "I thought I could find her without involving you guys - without letting anyone else know about her problems. I was wrong." The guilt he felt was immeasurable. "I need your help, guys. We've got to find her soon. The more time that goes by the less chance we have of finding her. I somehow don't think Willow would have gone very far from Sunnydale, though. So I want to concentrate our efforts on the local area first. He held out the picture in his hand to Fred. "Here - so you have an idea of who you are looking for."
Gunn held his breath, waiting for Fred to finish looking at the picture and pass it to him. When the small piece of glossy material finally found its way into his hands, he felt his heart skip a beat. There she was, the girl he had grown to love, staring up at him from the picture. She looked so carefree in it, surrounded by some others that he could only assume included the Slayer.
"Gunn? Is something wrong?" Angel asked, noticing that the young man seemed to have spaced out.
"Nah. Nothin' wrong." He stood up, handing the picture back to Angel. "I'm gonna go check around and see what I can find out on the streets. I'll spread the word for my people to keep an ear out for someone named 'Willow'." He left quickly, not waiting for a reply, and headed in the direction of Willow's apartment.
'No wonder she didn't want to tell me about her past.' His thoughts were filled with sadness. 'To think that she's had to deal with all of that - by herself.' He sighed, quickening his pace. 'Probably thinks I'd stop caring for her if I knew.'
"Boy is she in for a surprise." He whispered to the night, smiling.
Willow looked up at the first knock on her door, steeling herself for what she was about to do. She sent a final prayer to her goddess, begging for Gunn to understand. It wasn’t as though she had ever lied to him. She just hadn’t told him some of the more important things about herself. ‘Like magick and addiction and slaying…and Sunnydale…’ She sighed, standing up and moving to the door before she could lose her nerve. Taking a deep breath she opened the door, giving the man standing there her best smile. “Hey. Come in.”
Gunn smiled down at her, somehow finding it in his heart to love her more despite the things he had heard about her. She was special, that was for sure. And who in his life hadn’t had problems at one time or another? “Hey, beautiful.” He kissed her gently on the lips, still standing in the hallway.
“We’re going to make the neighbors stare…” Willow murmured when he finally released her lips. She tugged lightly on his arm, leading him into her small apartment. With her back turned to him she was allowed a brief moment to let the smile fall, her own misery coming out. The kissing only moments before had served only to make what she had to do even harder. “Gunn…” She began, her back still turned to him. “We need to talk. I have some…things…to tell you.” Her voice caught as the tears began to fall again.
“Baby…what’s wrong?” He turned her around, pulling her into his arms and holding her until she stopped crying. Thoughts of what he had come for flew out of his mind. What was so wrong that she was a crying wreck?
“I-I have some things to tell you.” She repeated, gathering strength. “One good thing…and some other things that are not so great… About me, about my past.” The red head grabbed a tissue from the box on the table, wiping off her face. “Do you want the happy news first? At least,” she faltered, frowning. “It’s good news to me…might not be to you. Especially if you don’t feel the same way…”
Gunn sat down on the couch, pulling the petite young woman into his lap. “Go ahead and give me the good stuff first, Willow.” He ran a hand down her back, trying to soothe her. A million things ran through his mind as he waited for her to speak, to tell him what was bothering her.
Willow took a deep breath, unconsciously leaning back into his touch. A small rueful smile flitted across her face as she began. “Its funny. When I first came here – I didn’t want to meet anyone. I didn’t want to make friends. I just wanted to be by myself. To make things right.” Again the smile came to her lips. “But then I met you and you were everything I was looking for despite the fact that I wasn’t ‘looking’ at all. You make me feel good even when I have no real reason to feel that way. The nights stopped being lonely because you were there for me. And somewhere along the way I fell in love with you, Charles Gunn.” She held her breath, eyes
locked firmly on her knees, not daring to meet his eyes.
“Well, that’s a fortune thing since I seem to have fallen in love with you too, Willow.” He tilted her head so that he could look into her eyes, making sure that she could see that he was smiling. He felt her body relax and wondered if she would possibly be more calm for the ‘bad news’ part of the night’s revelations. He had a sneaky suspicion that what she had to say would have something to do with what Angel had told them all earlier.
Willow leaned in, kissing him tenderly on the lips. “Well…that was the easy part. Now for the hard stuff.” She settled more firmly into his embrace, hoping that he wouldn’t throw her away from him once he heard what she had to say. “You know I haven’t talked about where I come from. I told you it was too hard – well there’s a good reason for that.” She turned enough to look at his face. “You know about vampires, so I will skip the part where I explain how they are real – and how things like demons and witches are real too. Okay?”
The young man nodded, rubbing her arms in reassurance. A part of him wanted to stop her now, tell her he already knew and that everything would be okay. The more logical side of him knew that she needed to tell him this for herself. It would be part of her healing process in a way.
”Well… I come from Sunnydale – just a little ways south of here. It’s a nice place except for one thing – its located on a Hellmouth, a place where the gateway to Hell itself can be opened. For that reason alone it draws a helluva lot of demons and supernatural activities. Its also where my best friend, Buffy, lives. She’s the Slayer. Have you heard of that?”
The hopeful look on her face begged for him to say he understood, to allow her not to have to explain, so he nodded, kissing her forehead.
”Well – to shorten a story that I’m sure could take all night, and that I will be happy to tell you more of later on.” She took a deep breath, rushing the next part. “I’mAWitchandIGotAddictedtoMagickAndAlmostGotBuffy’sSisterKilled. And then I ran away.”
Grinning, Gunn shook his head ever so slightly. “You sure are cute when you’re flustered. Can you repeat that a little slower for me.”
“I am a Witch. I got addicted to using magick and almost got Buffy’s sister, Dawn, killed.” She began, tears leaking from her eyes. She picked absently at a scratch on one of her fingers, refusing to meet his eyes. “So I left. I couldn’t face my friends anymore knowing they must hate me. I gave up magick and moved here. I’ll understand if you never want to see me again. I wouldn’t blame you at all.”
Gunn listened as she continued to babble on, the sound endearing to him. Finally he held up a hand, placing a finger across her lips and effectively bringing her torrent of speech to an end. “I love you, Willow. Did you really think I’d stop caring about you because I found out you have some problems? Or that you’re a witch? Hell… I work for a vampire…” The second the words were out of his mouth he realized what he had done and groaned. This wasn’t the way he had wanted to break things to her.
Willow arched an eyebrow, relief pounding through her even as her legendary curiosity took over. “You work for a vampire… You work at an investigative agency…” Her eyes unfocused in thought as slowly the pieces came together. “Oh goddess… Angel. You work with Angel.” Green eyes widened in shock and she looked at his face, searching for the answer even as she waited for him to speak.
“Uh-huh.” Gunn murmured. “Still love me even though I work with the living dead?” He smirked, his lips inches from hers.
“If you can forgive me for all of my faults I certainly can forgive you for working with someone I’ve known for six years.” Her laughter was light, unforced and when their lips met it was with pure passion borne of relief. It was nice, to feel this way about someone and know that they accepted her for who she was. If only her friends… “Whoa!” She pulled away, eyes now startled. “Does this mean that Angel and the others know where I am?”
“No.” He shook his head. “I didn’t even know who you were until tonight, when Angel finally decided to ask all us lowly employees for help finding you. I didn’t want to tell them until I had talked with you first… Thanks for making it easy on me.”
”But…you can’t tell them.” Her eyes began to water. “They hate me. They have to. What I did was awful.”
Willow looked up at the hard tone, unused to hearing him speak to her in that way.
“Trust me, baby. They do not hate you. They have been worried sick. Angel looks like he’s gonna die all over again. Apparently your friends back home are worried too.” A new feeling settled into his heart as he mentioned her ‘home’. What would she do now that she knew her friends missed her? Would she move back to Sunnydale? True, it wasn’t that far away, but even at that distance their time together would be cut down greatly. Certainly he wouldn’t be able to see her most nights like now.
“Really? They’re worried?” She pondered the thought. “I guess I should let them know I’m okay, then, shouldn’t I?” At his quiet nod she smiled. “Well,
that’s a relief. Once they know where I am I don’t have to worry about hiding anymore. I can get a real job. Something where I don’t come home smelling like food.” She wrinkled her nose.
“Wait a minute.. Get a real job? Here? In LA?” He asked hopefully.
“Sure – you didn’t think I was just going to run back to Sunnydale now that I have you in my life, did you?” She laughed. “Silly boy. I intend to stay here with you, of course. If you want me to, that is. I assume that by loving me you mean you actually want me around.”
Gunn grinned, his cool exterior falling away from one moment. “Of course I do. We need to get you out of this neighborhood though – but we’ll talk about all that later.” He kissed her, letting the moment linger. As the minutes ticked by, their lips firmly locked together, he could feel something nagging at the back of him mind, as though he had forgotten something important. Then it hit him. “Angel!” He gasped, pulling away.
“Angel?” The red head frowned playfully. “I would hope you have a good reason for calling out his name instead of mine.”
He chuckled, pushing her gently to her feet. “Yes, baby. We need to go tell Angel you’re okay. Wesley, Delia, Fred – they’re all looking for you too.” He winked at her, noticing the disappointed look on her face. “Don’t worry. We’ll pick this up where we left off later.”
Willow sighed, knowing he was right. She grinned. “Well let’s not keep them looking, then. I want to get back to smoochies.”
Gunn kissed Willow’s forehead, looking into her eyes. “It’s going to be okay, I promise. They’ve been worried. Would I lie to you?”
The young woman shook her head. He had never lied to her. Why would he start now? She just had to take a deep breath, calm down, and trust him that everything would be okay. She watched, detached, as he swung open the door, instinctively moving to stand behind him and shield the view of herself from the others.
“Hey guys.” Gunn nodded at the group seated at the table. He could feel Willow hiding behind him and decided that he might as well use it to his advantage. “Know how you’ve been saying you wanted to meet that girl that has me all…”
“Goo-goo eyed?” Cordelia chimed in, standing. For a moment she forgot the book laying on the table and craned her neck to try to see who was standing in the open doorway, behind Gunn. A little distraction from the search for Willow would do all of them some good. There hadn’t been a more somber scene at the agency since Doyle died and the receptionist wanted to take her mind off of it. “Angel – get out here! Gunn brought his girlfriend over to meet us.” She flashed Gunn a smile as the vampire walked out of his office. “Well – we’re all here – where is this amazing woman?”
“Yeah, Gunn – I want to meet the woman who broke down your cool exterior.” Angel smirked, going along with Cordelia’s joking.
“Cool exterior? Goo-goo eyed? Do I really do all of that to you?”
“Sure do, baby.” He pulled her out from behind him. “Willow – I believe you already know these people – except for Fred over there.” He pointed to the dark haired young woman with a casual wave. “Lorne’s probably upstairs with Connor… you can meet both of them later.”
“Willow?” The word came simultaneously from the mouths of not only Angel, but Cordelia and Wesley as well.
“Hi guys…” She grinned sheepishly. “I..uh...heard you were doing some research and thought I’d come by and…” Anything further she could say was cut off as Angel grabbed her, hugging her tightly to him and momentarily cutting off her supply of oxygen.
“Need…air…” The red head gasped, grinning despite herself. She took a deep breath of air as Angel released her and gave him a smile. “Nice to see you too.”
“You….” Cordelia shook her head in confusion, moving to hug Willow even as she tried to form the question she wanted to ask in her mind. She turned to Gunn after releasing the red head. “You’ve been dating…Willow? This whole time?” She laughed, the sound filling the room. “That’s just like Fate and Destiny and all that – the one person everyone’s been frantic to find and here she’s been dating *you*!”
“Miss Rosenberg, glad to see you well.” Wesley stepped forward, offering his own brief, light hug. He looked into her face, her eyes, searching for any signs of someone who was still addicted to magick. All he could find was a healthy young woman, albeit a nervous one. “Would you like to sit? I’ll get you a glass of water.” He pushed her towards a chair.
“No thanks on the water, Wes. I’m fine.” She gave him a smile, noting that working with Angel seemed to have taken away at least a small amount of his stuffy exterior.
For his part Gunn just looked smug. He pulled a chair next to Willow and sat down, grabbing her hand and giving it a squeeze. “See…I told you everything would be okay.” He brought her hand to his lips, gently kissing the back of it. The delicate patterns his fingers traced on her skin reminded her that they needed to get this wrapped up and get back to what they had started earlier.
“We .. Buffy, Xander…hell, even Spike…. We’ve all been worried about you, Willow.” Angel kneeled down in front of the woman, ignoring the secret smile she kept giving Gunn. He would have to have a talk with his associate later and warn him about exactly all the bad things that would happen to him if he ever even thought of hurting Willow.
“I didn’t think anyone would care.” Willow admitted quietly, tears threatening to spill down her face. “I thought it would be better if I just disappeared after what I did… So I left.”
“Magick addiction isn’t unheard of, you know.” Wesley smiled at her kindly. “It happens to a good many people who do spells of the nature you got accustomed to.” His face got serious. “You are doing better now, though, right? I can’t see any signs or anything…”
”I haven’t used any magick in months. Not since that night.” She affirmed, squeezing Gunn’s hand. “I don’t even crave it like I used to. I’ve found other things that are important.” She gave the man sitting next to her a meaningful look and then a sly wink.
“Oh this is too good… I can’t wait to hear Buffy’s reaction to the fact you’ve been living it up in LA, dating one of Angel’s employees for months.” Cordelia snickered.
“I wouldn’t say I’ve been living it up, exactly.” Willow smiled sadly, describing her apartment and what she did for a living.
“Wow…” The former cheerleader murmured when Willow was finished. “I guess you haven’t had an easy time… I bet you can’t wait to get back to Sunnydale…
Your home, your school… “
Willow shook her head. “I’m not going back. They don’t really need me. I’m going to stay here…get a real job…and make a new life for myself.”
“Sounds like a great plan to me.” Gunn whispered, leaning in and kissing her on the lips before she could open her mouth again.
“Well why don’t you work for Angel…” Fred said quietly. Her dark eyes lit up suddenly as she realized she had said it out loud. She could feel the stares of everyone in the room and blushed. “I mean … You were just saying the other day, Angel, that you could use someone else to help out with the research and… didn’t you say she’s good with computers…?”
Angel smiled. “Calm down, Fred. It’s a good idea.” He could understand completely why Willow may not want to go back to Sunnydale – and Gunn wasn’t even most of it. It was obvious that she didn’t want to face her friends, still – and that was her choice. He was sure that Buffy and the others would be happy to just know she was safe and happy. As far as he was concerned, Willow could stay and help out as long as she liked. Having her around was bound to keep Gunn in a good mood, at least. “Want a job as a computer research type person? You can even have your choice of rooms – the hotel’s full of them…”
Willow nodded, feeling as if everything was coming together. Despite horrible things she had done, her friends – at least those in LA – seemed like they were still there for her.
“Great – now that that’s settled. How about I go show you my room and help you find one of your own?” Gunn grinned, giving Willow a wink no one else could see as he turned to pull her to her feet.
“Wait – Willow.” Angel called out, watching as the two moved quickly towards the stairs. “Shouldn’t you call Buffy and let her know..?”
“But…Willow…” The vampire frowned, starting to follow the pair.
“Uh-uh, Mister.” Cordelia grinned, grabbing onto the sleeve of his shirt and stopping him in mid-step. She laughed softly, noticing that Fred and Wesley were doing the same. “Let them go find a room.”
Angel looked at his receptionist, thoughts of finding a room with her filling his mind. Only then did he realize what Willow and Gunn had run off for. He groaned.
If he was lucky they wouldn’t wake Connor.
"Being so cute."
Willow grinned, leaning in close enough to her boyfriend to give him a quick kiss on the lips. She let the moment linger, enjoying the taste of his mouth. The night before had been wonderful, spending the entire night in his arms. Even the waking up part, as early as it had come, was spectacular. Angel had insisted she get up and call her friends, all before noon, with the admonition that either she did it or he would. Because of that she had been forced out of bed long before she was used to it.
'At least all that turned out well.' She thought, remembering the hour-long conversation she had engaged in with not only Buffy, but Dawn, Xander, Spike and Anya as well. Her lips curved up in a smile, the English-accented voice of the blond haired vampire echoing through her mind - "And if you ever run away like that and worry all of us again I swear I will rip your bloody head off chip or no chip." At least he cared in his own way.
Xander had been the worst. She could hear him crying and yearned to reach out to him, to wipe away the tears. It was one thing to hear Buffy cry - she was too emotional anyway. But Xander? He was another story - though the red head was sure that Anya would make him feel all better. The hardest part had been telling them she wasn't coming home - at least not yet, if ever. In the end, they had understood - she had grown up, gone off, and made a life for herself despite the problems she had left with.
"You're doing it again?" Gunn grinned, tapping her on the shoulder.
"No - smiling at nothing." He smirked, tilting her face back towards him for yet another kiss. When his eyes opened moments later he could see Cordelia and Angel across the lobby, staring at them. A soft chuckle escaped his lips. "Don't look now, but we're being watched."
"Again?" The red head snickered lightly. "They really should spend less time watching us and more time making with the smoochies themselves." When Gunn had
first told her his suspicions about Cordelia and Angel she had been skeptical, after all - hadn't Angel and Buffy been soulmates? Lovers for all of time? Romeo and Juliet? After only one morning, however, she had to admit that he was right. The way the two acted around each other was just too.cute. The little glances, the quick touches. Did they even realize that they were exuding so much sexual tension that it was noticeable to everyone around them? She could remember a point in her life where she wouldn't have thought twice about casting a simple spell to at least set them up to reveal their feelings. Those times were gone, though, and she knew that if anything was going to happen it would have to be done the old-fashioned way.
'Angel and Cordy don't stand a chance now that my baby's on the case.' Gunn thought, turning back to the book he was *supposed* to be looking through. "Have you called your boss yet and told the old bat to . "
"Not yet." Willow cut him off before he could take the statement any farther. "I was thinking about just not showing up for work and leaving her hanging. She certainly doesn't deserve anything more than that." She shrugged. Whatever she decided to do it didn't really matter. She had a good job, a nice room in Angel's hotel, and a man that loved her very much - a far cry from only a few weeks before when she had been working in Hell, living in Hell, and alone.
'It's amazing how much life can change from one little, random, completely out of the ordinary meeting.' Her hand trailed up and down Gunn's arm. She cast
another glance at Cordelia and Angel, noting that the two were now deep in conversation, standing close enough to each other that anyone watching would
only naturally assume they were lovers. It would take so little to get the two of them together - something she could easily accomplish. 'But that's for another day.'
"What's up?" Gunn looked up, startled, when Willow slid out of her seat, her hand outstretched to him. A sly grin spread across his face when she winked, licked her lips, and nodded towards the upstairs, never once saying a word.
'Oh yeah.' Willow laughed to herself, racing Gunn up the stairs to the confusion of both Angel and Cordelia. 'Life is good.'