The keys on Willows computer clicked furiously as she typed away, finishing the last of her notes for the next day's exam. With that out of the way, she turned to something she found a bit more pleasant as of late - e-mailing Angel. A twinge of guilt racked her briefly as she contemplated what to say to him, realizing there was nothing of importance. It'd only been four days since her last e-mail and, if she were honest, nothing spectacular had happened lately. Pretty much the same old stuff, different day. Not even a new baddie to write him about. What little there was, well, that was better left to herself. Certainly he didn't need to know about the sixth guy Buffy had tried to hook Willow up with in as many days. Shaking her head, Willow opened the e-mail program and brought up a new window.
Angel never seemed to mind the topic of her e-mails, even when she had been depressed, he'd been sweet, and understanding. He listened to her drone on and on about how Oz had hurt her, about how she felt inadequate because of it. Everything she'd been feeling, Willow had poured to Angel in one e-mail that probably had read more like a book than a quick overview. But, he'd read it and responded to nearly everything in that e-mail with seemingly painstaking care. That was the only time she'd gone into such emotional detail, but Willow knew, if she needed to, Angel would be there for her. Again. Unlike some of her friends who told her constantly to "get over it" or "get back on the horse". Willow swore if she met one more guy, she would punch Buffy herself.
Smiling, Willow thought about how these e-mails were bridging the gap between acquaintance and friendship with Angel. Even though this e-mail was short, inconsequential, and mostly to remind him about the Instant Message Program she'd given him, Willow still felt as though she was finally getting to know Angel as Angel, and not as Buffy's Angel - his previous incarnation.
E-mail sent, Willow got ready for bed, wondering how long it would take Angel to answer his e-mail this time. He was ever prompt on them. Not only that, but their friendship had just recently bridged beyond e-mail. Angel had called her earlier this week to wish her luck on her exams. Even now, if she closed her eyes, Willow could hear Angel's voice as if he was right there with her. Shaking her head, she wondered where that thought was going, but decided not to pursue it. Angel was Angel, still attached to Buffy in some ways, and, well, in Los Angeles.
Just as Willow was about to give up on a return e-mail for the night, her computer beeped, and she bounded over to open the new e-mail.
Smiling, she read it quickly, scanning to see if he had the Instant Messenger installed. He did. Barely able to refrain from doing a little jig in her chair, Willow wrote down the name and pulled up her own program.
Instantly, they were chatting.
"Angel?" Willow checked. One never knew who was on the other end.
"Yes, hello Little One," Angel wrote back.
"This is so much better, don't you think?"
"Very ... instant," he typed.
"Yes, it is." Catching on, Willow laughed. "Oh, you made a joke! Ha, ha. Smarty pants. So, Wesley found a new book store huh? Great! Maybe I could get him to pick up a few books for me." Willow's list was nearly a mile long of all the things she wanted, but bit by bit she was whittling it down.
"Why don't you come down here and check the store out for yourself?" Angel suggested.
Chewing on her lip, Willow slowly typed out the words that were in complete contradiction to what she wanted to do. "I don't know, Giles wanted to look up and past occurrences of a lull in activity like we're having now. Nothing on the Hellmouth comes without a price."
"Perhaps this book store might have some texts that would be beneficial to that research," Angel hedged. Willow was oblivious to the way he was maneuvering her into accepting.
"Well, you have a point. Maybe I could come down for a day or two this weekend," Willow said, writing down a few notes to herself as to what type of books she would search for at the store.
"Isn't the end of the school year coming up?"
"Oh, yeah! That would be a great idea."
"Great, so when do you want Cordelia or me to pick you up?"
"Oh no, I can take the bus. Besides, you have a business to run," she said, not wanting to inconvenience him any further.
"No, Willow. One of us will pick you up. Now, what time and day?"
Sighing, Willow typed back, "You're not going to let this go, are you?"
"No," he typed, simply.
"Fine," she gave in. "Have Cordelia pick me up at my parents' house around 7pm on Friday."
"Maybe after your trip to the book store, we could all go out for a night on the town. See the sights and such."
"That sounds like fun," Willow said, warming up to the idea of going to L.A. much quicker than she'd expected herself to. "It will be great to get away from here for the weekend and relax."
"What's wrong?" Angel asked intuitively. He seemed to be doing that a lot lately, Willow noted, knowing when she wasn't feeling herself, or when something was bothering her. It was nice that at least someone was able to know her like that.
"Oh, just a little of everything. Buffy keeps trying to hook me up with random guys, explaining it all away with a silly horse analogy. I keep asking her to stop, but she doesn't. I'm still not completely over Oz either, I guess. I hardly see Xander anymore, since Anya has him wrapped around her finger, sometimes literally if you pay attention to her crude remarks. And then there are the Hellmouth's usual delights."
"Sounds like a vacation is in order," Angel typed. "I'll talk to you later, Little One. It's getting late. Goodnight."
Before Willow could type a response, he was signed off the Instant Messenger, leaving here there boggling at how quickly she'd accept to vacation in Los Angeles with Angel. Not that the idea displeased her. In fact, it had quite the opposite effect. She was rather giddy and excited to be going out to L.A.. Not to mention the tour of the city and being able to speak to Angel face to face for the first time in ... well, nearly a year.
That thought got her heart racing as she laid down in bed. Face to face with Angel. Idly she wondered if he had changed any, then giggled at that. Of course he hadn't. He was a vampire, eternally the same. Never changing. Though, that wasn't really true. His attitude, the way he spoke to her, that was changing. For the good she hoped. She really needed a friend right now. Xander's absence due to the much sex Anya craved (and didn't Willow just gag thinking about that) was starting to leave a gaping hole in her life where her best friend used to be. Buffy was constantly around Riley, training with him, fighting with him, and probably sleeping with him. Even Giles had Olivia over a few times, and no matter how innocent others thought Willow to be, she knew what was going on at the Watchers house when no one else was there. That left her the odd man out, the only single person in a room full of couples.
Willow tried to have a brave face about it all, keeping her head high and all that, though she felt like crying most times. She couldn't really be mad at the others. It wasn't their fault that Oz had cheated on her and left her. But that didn't stop her from wishing they weren't quite so happy all the time. Or, that she had someone of her own to hold on to and love the way they did.
With a sigh, Willow rolled on her side, willing herself to fall asleep. She knew it would be next to pointless. Already the idea of spending four days away from the Hellmouth and with Angel was making her restless to start the vacation.
The light from the computer screen flickered across the dark room, laying shadows across Angel's face. For the millionth time now he'd read over the words on the screen. It just didn't seem real, that Willow would be here in just two days time. Neither could he believe he'd actually invited her to Los Angeles. Certainly Cordelia had been playing with herbs in his blood again for him to get the crazy notion to do something like that.
No, if he was truthful with himself, he'd wanted this. For a long time now. Only recently had Angel been aware of his attraction to the soft-spoken red-head. The e-mails had started out incongruous enough. Innocently, really. He'd needed a bit of information and his current secretary had not deemed the research worth of her time (though not much seemed worth of Cordelia's time, Angel was finding out). So, he'd e-mailed Willow, and so it had started.
Now she was to come to L.A., to his city. Briefly Angel's eyes scanned his surroundings. His desk was a mess, papers, files, pens, note pads, and dirty coffee cups with drying blood in them covered the top. Opening a few drawers to his right, Angel found one that looked empty enough to hold the miscellaneous items and started shoving it all into that drawer. It was a temporary fix, but at least it would leave his desk looking tidy, if not down right clean and organized. The thought that he cared enough about Willow's impression of his office made him stop and shake his head. No he couldn't begin assuming she cared. Though he hoped she did.
He had to straighten himself out. Angel remembered the heart-rendering e-mail she'd written after Oz had left her, and the inherent sadness in every e-mail since then as she described her friend's love lives. There was nothing under the moon or sun that would make him act on his feelings right now. She'd mentioned time and time again how she'd wanted nothing more than to be left alone. Buffy's well meant, though irritating intentions had left Willow angry and upset. Angel would not push himself on her. He would simply show her a good time. Los Angeles would be her getaway ... from everything.
With that in mind, Angel turned again to his computer and started creating an itinerary. He would show her a no-pressure, no-lovey dove-y, all Los Angeles good time.
As the hour approached, Willow found herself humming softly as she checked, and double checked, her luggage to make sure she had everything. What had started out as two suitcases became one, after she'd argued with herself about the need of certain books. Light reading such as Diablo Del Fuego (which just so happened to contain more pages than the modern English dictionary) was not something she needed. Actually, the only book she planned on taking was a dog eared and very loved copy of Through the Looking Glass. Then there had been the ever embarrassing debate on whether or not to bring any type of formal wear. Angel had mentioned going out on the town, but she hadn't gotten any specifics. Certainly the requisite "little black dress" (of which she owned exactly zero) was not something she would be needing, however, she did place a nicer skirt and matching top into her suitcase, as well as a pair of sensible but dressy flats. Three pairs of jeans, five shirts with varying length sleeves, one cardigan, enough socks and underwear to clothe a battalion of soldiers, and an extra pair of sneakers rounded out her wardrobe for the weekend. Toiletries stashed away, Willow nodded, smiled, and hefted the suitcase to the front door.
It was nearly five till seven and Cordelia was due at any moment. Not wanting to seem overeager, Willow kept herself from looking out the window, deciding to make sure that her laptop was secure in it's case and all the cording was there.
The sound of the doorbell startled Willow, bringing a small "Eep" from her as she reached to open the door while trying to zip her laptop back up with the other hand.
"Cordelia, wow, you're on time I -" Willow said, stopping short when she finally looked up. "Angel, but I thought Cordelia was coming to get me. Not that I mind you coming yourself, but I just ... never mind. Hi, Angel!"
Smiling, Angel waved sort of, before thinking better of it and crossed his hands in front of him. "Cordy had a sale to attend, so I came. May I?" he asked, pointing vaguely.
"Oh, sure, thanks!" She watched as he took her suitcase and moved back on to the porch. Willow hadn't realized how dark it had gotten since the last time she'd been out around six-thirty. Turning around to make sure all the lights were off in the house, she closed and locked the door, swinging her laptop case to a more comfortable position, and turned, beaming smile at Angel. "I am dying to get out of here!"
Angel laughed as Willow blushed at her statement, but started moving towards his car that was parked in the driveway. He opened the trunk and hefted her suitcase in there as well as her laptop. "Anything else?" he asked before closing the lid.
"Nope, I travel lighter than some of your other companions," Willow said winking.
Suddenly, Angel stood still. His whole body tensed, and if Willow hadn't been looking at him, she might have missed the twitch in his left eye. "Angel?" Willow asked, taking a step towards him. She wasn't scared, more upset that something would chose this moment to mess with her. She was about to go on vacation - certainly that had to mean something to the underbelly of the Hellmouth. Didn't they ever take vacations?
"Buffy," Angel said, nearly whispering. His stance relaxed, but not by much. He heard Willow gasp, and then close her eyes, shaking her head. "What is it?"
"I forgot to tell Buffy I was leaving," Willow said, practically groaning. "She's going to be so mad."
"Wills?" Buffy called, her voice loud in the silence of the night. "Hey, Wills, whatcha doin'-"
"Hey Buffy!" Willow said, cheeriness of full blast, hoping to assuage the onslaught of questions. "I wanted to talk to you before I left, but what with you and Riley being so busy training, and then going out hunting I haven't had a chance - "
"Tell me what?" Buffy asked, cutting Willow off. She wasn't even looking at the red-head, instead her eyes were fixed on Angel, as his were on her. "And what is he doing here? I thought I told you to get out of my town, Angel, and never come back."
"It's my fault," Willow said, cutting in before Angel could say anything. This wasn't what she'd wanted. She'd just wanted to go and have a good time in L.A. "I asked him to pick me up. I'm staying the weekend with Cordelia, and she would've picked me up, but there was this giant sale at Neiman Marcus. You know how Cordelia is, so Angel offered to pick me up and take me to Los Angeles." Taking a breath, Willow continued. "I would've told you sooner, actually I tried telling you sooner but you were busy and I'm sorry."
It took a moment, but finally Willow's babble sunk into Buffy's shocked brain. "Wait, what? Cordelia? But you hate her."
"Well, hate is such a strong word. Besides, she's different now that she's been working with Angel. She's not nearly as mean to me as she used to be. But, I really need to get away for a weekend Buffy, and Giles knows how to reach me, okay? So, uh, I'll see you in four days."
"Four days?!" the Slayer practically screeched. "Wills, this is just ... I mean, what's going on?"
"Nothing, really," Willow said, not wanting Buffy to be hurt by her need to get away.
"Wesley found a new mystical bookstore," Angel said. "He asked Willow if she would be interested and suggested she come for herself to check it out."
"Oh, well, why didn't you say so Willow. No problem," Buffy said, leaning in to give her friend a hug. "Be safe." Turning to Angel she took out her stake and said, "If she doesn't come back in one piece, you're dead. And stay out of my city Angel, I mean it."
Taking that as their dismissal, they both claimed in the car. Buffy stayed where she was, eying them until they were out of sight. The road stretched on, and finally, after they passed the "Now Leaving Sunnydale" sign, Willow let out the breath she'd been holding. She supposed that could've gone worse, but it certainly could've gone a whole lot better.
"Thanks, ya know, for bailing me out," Willow said, thinking of Angel's comment. It stung a little how quickly Buffy had bought it. Didn't she think that Willow deserved a vacation? Hadn't Willow done her time, her research, her fair share? Certainly she thought she had, and so had Giles. He'd actually ordered her not to visit that bookstore until her very last day in Los Angeles so that she would actually enjoy the city and worry about the books on the way home.
Angel nodded, but stayed silent. His own thoughts were in a turmoil over what had happened in Willow's front yard. Buffy had come, they'd stared at each other, and while he could smell her, nearly taste her on his tongue, the smell and taste was rotten, almost foul - whereas once it had been nearly sickly sweet. Something had changed there. But what? He couldn't come up with a viable answer, and soon, whilst lost in his own thoughts, he heard Willow's soft snores come from the seat next to him.
Mentally he berated himself over and over again. He hadn't meant for her vacation to start out that way. Already it was looking like a disaster and they hadn't even reached the city yet. But that would change, he would see to it. Willow had always been self-sacrificing almost to a fault. She stood by everyone, no matter what. She had even stood by Angel at his darkest, risking her own health to return his soul to him. The least he could do was to give her a relaxing, if not memorable, vacation.