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A/N: Song lyrics are in asterisks


*Ain't no sunshine when she's gone
Only darkness everyday
Ain't no sunshine when she's gone
And this house just ain't no home
Anytime she goes away*


*Ain't no sunshine when she's gone*

Angel sipped at his beer and grimaced. It tasted horrible but it was the only thing they had on tap. The place was a dump, really. Angel hated clubs. He asked himself again why he was there. Oh yeah, because of Willow. Because she had left him.

*It's not warm when she's away*

They hadn’t been together all that long. She had only shown up on his doorstep three months early, crashing back into his life with the news that Buffy had died saving the world, again. And while Angel was adjusting to that news, she dropped the other bombshell: his soul was permanent.

*Ain't no sunshine when she's gone*

It turned out the Romany were a little craftier than the Sunnydale crew had realized. The loophole in the curse was there on purpose. They wanted the curse to be broken. They figured that the soul would fall in love, experience true happiness, and let out the demon. The demon would be pissed off over having been caged, and would attack anything the soul had loved, especially whoever made him happy. And once that person, the person who broke the curse, was dead, the curse would finally be complete and Angelus’ soul would be permanently restored. He’d have eternity to wallow in guilt over killing the one person who made him truly happy. It was an inspired plan for vengeance.

*And she's always gone too long*

Of course, it didn’t work out quite as they had planned. They had figured that Angelus would kill the girl relatively quickly, turning him back into his guilty soulful version before the demon had the chance to do much damage. They hadn’t imagined that he’d fall for a slayer who could defend herself. They had thought Angelus would be loose for only a few hours, at most. They didn’t even bother to keep complete copies of the restoration ritual, assuming that he’d be permanently souled before it was needed. But when the ritual fell into the hands of sixteen-year-old Willow Rosenberg, she didn’t know about the original plan for the curse. She just knew that her friend had lost his soul and that everyone she loved was in danger. So the spirit of the constantly vengeful Kalderash took possession of her and set things straight. Angelus would regain his soul but its would stay in danger as long as the one who had made him happy lived. Only when she died would he be able to experience happiness without endangering his soul.

*Anytime she goes away*

Willow had figured out that loophole two years earlier, but had kept the secret to herself. How could she tell Buffy that the only way for Angel to be able to achieve happiness was if she died? She decided it didn’t make a difference, anyway, as long as Buffy was alive. But once Buffy died, Willow knew that Angel had the right to know, and it wasn’t the kind of news you could give over the phone. Anyway, she had been desperate to get out of Sunnydale. The reign of the Scooby gang was over. Dawn’s father had packed her up and taken her away, taking Spike along for the ride since the vampire refused to leave the girl. Giles was headed back to England. Anya and Xander were concentrating on comforting each other. And Tara had died, destroyed by the backlash of Glory’s power when Giles killed Ben. So Willow had packed a bag and headed to L.A.

*Wonder this time where she's gone*

In typical Willowy fashion, Willow had dealt with her pain by supporting Angel through his. After she told him the news, she refused to leave his side. It wasn’t long before she ended up in his bed. It wasn’t about love or even about passion. Angel needed a warm body to cling to, and Willow needed to be needed. The sex was desperate and violent and Angel often broke into tears as he came. Willow would wipe his tears away, and whisper in his ear that everything would be alright, and then hold him all night long.

*Wonder if she's gone to stay*

She had fit surprisingly well into the L.A. gang. She took Fred under her wing, helping the very confused girl make a life for herself again. She worked out her differences with Cordelia and the two Sunnydale girls became very close. She supported Wesley through his research, and even bonded with Gunn. Lorne adored her. She set up a computer system for the office, organized the files, took over coffee-making duties, and consistently worked to pull Angel out of his dark moods.

*Ain't no sunshine when she's gone*

Angel took everything she offered: her energy, her cheerfulness, her comfort, her affection, and her body, and gave her very little in return. He believed he was mourning his soulmate and took a perverse pleasure in being moody and depressed. He was so wrapped up in his own feelings that he didn’t notice the sweet, devoted redhead, warm and living in his arms, who was falling in love with him. It never occurred to him to appreciate the role she filled in his life. Of course, realization struck like a bolt of lightening when she left.

*And this house just ain't a home*

He had called out Buffy’s name while making love to Willow. It was such a horrible cliche but that didn’t make it any less painful for Willow. Willow knew he didn’t love her but she had held on to her hope that he might learn to, eventually. When he yelled out Buffy’s name in her arms, she decided that she was a fool to hope any longer. Cordelia helped her find a new place. Gunn and Wesley helped her move. They all refused to tell Angel where she had gone. In fact, they barely spoke to Angel at all. They made it very clear to him that he had screwed up the best thing he had when he let her leave.

*Anytime she goes away*

It only took him a few hours to start missing her. Within a day, he was craving her, lost and disoriented in his own house without her to make everything make sense. He ached for her touch, her smile, the simple knowledge that she was nearby and that he could look at her and touch her whenever he wanted. After two and a half centuries in the dark, she had become his light. His love for Buffy had been based in desire and admiration for the admittedly beautiful girl mixed in with a desperate need for approval and a hidden yearning for forbidden fruit. His love for Willow was warmth, passion, affection, and real understanding. With Willow, he could truly be himself. He could talk to her about anything and show her any side of his character and she was never disgusted or upset or confused. She had loved him with no holds barred, accepting every part of him in a way that no one had before. And Angel loved her completely, as well. He loved her nervous habits, her sharp mind, her constant enthusiasm, her passion for cookie dough ice cream, her endless kindness, her obsession with John Cusack, and her absolute loyalty to the people she loved. He loved every inch of her body and every nuance of how she felt in his arms. And he loved how he was a better person, a kinder, warmer, happier person, just being near her.

*And I know, I know, I know, I know, I know
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know
I know, I know I know, I know, I know*

He was wretched without her. She had permeated his life so completely that everything he saw reminded him of her. That’s why he was at that miserable club. He had killed a demon about a block away and had come in to have a drink before going home. He knew that drowning his sorrows wouldn’t solve his problems, but he couldn’t bear to go back to the hotel where even the sheets he slept in still smelled like her. He wondered if this was another obscure clause in his curse: he’d find happiness, lose his soul, regain his soul, lose the woman who gave him happiness, and then be so galactically stupid that he’d be so busy mourning his lost love that he’d miss his chance for happiness with his true soulmate. Nah, not even the Rom were that cruel. It was no one’s fault but his own. He knew he didn’t deserve Willow or the sweet ecstasy of her love, but God in heaven, how he wanted it.

*Hey I'll leave the young thing alone
But ain't no sunshine when she's gone*

His chance was gone now. She had left him. Even if he could find her (which was a big “if” considering that Willow’s computer skills made her exceptionally adept at covering her tracks) she’d never want to see him again. He hadn’t just broken his own heart, he’d broken hers, as well. In all his years as a vampire, he had never felt so cold and so alone.

*Ain't no sunshine when she's gone*
Only darkness everyday*

And then he saw her. She was on the dance floor, pressed against some idiot in a leather jacket. Angel instinctively vamped out when he saw the man wrap his arms around *his* Willow. She looked so beautiful. Beautiful, and entrancing, and damnably sexy (he wanted to rush over and throw his coat over her revealing dress and then rip out the eyes of every man that was staring at her) and heartbreakingly sad.

She was dancing with her back to the man’s chest, grinding against him and curving her body around his as she moved to the seductive rhythms of the music. Her eyes were closed. Despite her constant contact with the man behind her, she hardly seemed aware of him as she danced, absorbed in the song. For the first time since he had entered the club, Angel actually listened to the music.

*Ain't no sunshine when she's gone
And this house just ain't no home
Anytime she goes away
Anytime she goes away
Anytime she goes away
Anytime she goes away*

Angel watched as a single tear slid down Willow’s cheek.
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The authors own nothing. Joss, UPN, WB, etc. own Buffy, the show, the characters, the places, and the backstory. The authors own any original plots.