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Best Laid Plans

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Best Laid Plans (Chapter One)

It’s not as if she was doing magic. She wasn’t. She was just looking at a book. Okay, so it was a spell book, but she wasn’t doing any spells, not even considering it, nosirree. She wasn’t even in a magick-y shop at all. Alright, yes, technically speaking, she was in the occult section of the local used bookstore, but hey, it was right next to the books on sport fishing and she’d always wanted to catch her own salmon or trout or whatever it was you could catch off the local pier. So really, the fact that she was looking at a spell book right now was an accident; she was reaching for a book on bass boats and there was this spell book instead.

Of course, that didn’t really explain why she was eagerly browsing through its pages, but Willow wasn’t looking for a good excuse, just one that was good enough. Good enough to take away the sick feeling of guilt that just kept on building despite her earnest rationalizations. And then...there it was...right there in front of her...it...and the guilt disappeared, replaced by a feeling of excitement she hadn’t felt since...since long before she had done her very last spell. Because here, in that bass-boat-guide-that-turned-into-a-spell-b

ook, was something that could make everything alright. Make Buffy and Dawn forgive her completely. Make amends to Buffy for tearing her out of heaven. Show everyone, even Tara, that Willow using magick didn’t have to be a bad thing. Just one perfect spell could do all that.

The spell to give Angel a permanent soul.


She made it back to the house with her precious bundle almost as fast as if she’d used magick to get there. The store clerk must have wondered at her behaviour - furtive glances around...stuffing the book into her purse even before she’d been given her change - but Willow really couldn’t be bothered about it. This was it! The golden ticket back to her friends’ trust, her lover’s arms...maybe even being allowed to practice magick on a regular basis again. Add in winning the lottery and...hmmm, maybe there was a spell for that... No! Bad Willow! Scratch that. Only do-gooding from here on in. No selfish spells. She could handle that. Starting with that soul anchoring.

Now, all she had to do was find her address book and call Angel.


“Angel Investigations. We help the helpless.”

For a moment, Willow’s courage faltered, but she regrouped quickly. This was the most important phone call she might ever make; it would take more than Cordelia Chase to stop her from completing it.

“Cordelia? I need to talk to Angel. It’s urgent.”

Willow could almost hear the wheels turning in Cordelia’s head. Her curiosity, her dislike of Willow, or her memory of the fact that Willow had only ever called with important news. Which would win out? Thankfully, it was the latter.

“Just a minute.”

She heard Cordelia’s voice, a bit muffled this time, as if she had her hand over the receiver..

“Angel? It’s Willow. She says it’s urgent.”

She heard another receiver pick up.

“Willow? Is Buffy...?”

“She’s fine, Angel.” Willow waited ‘til she heard Cordelia hang up before continuing. “This isn’t about Buffy. It’s...I need a favour. Well, it’s not so much a favour for me as it is...well, I can’t really tell you over the phone. So, here’s what I need you to do: Call the Magic Box, say you’re looking for me, and tell them that you want me to come to L.A. because you need some computer help really badly. Only don’t tell them I called you first, okay? Oh, and don’t say you need me for anything magick-related either, make sure and say that it’s a computer thing. You got that?”

Willow waited. It seemed like an eternity before Angel spoke and when he did, well, it wasn’t what Willow wanted to hear.

“Willow, I don’t know what this is about, but I’m not going to lie to Buffy. Why don’t you just tell me what’s going on?”

Damn that stupid, ungrateful vampire! Here she was, ready to hand him a permanent soul on a silver platter and this was the thanks she got. Okay, he didn’t know about the soul spell yet, but still. After all, hadn’t she lied to Buffy for him in the past? Oh yeah, and there was also the little matter of...

“Gee, Angel. I guess it was pretty silly of me to expect you to do me a favour. I mean, it’s not like I’ve ever done anything for you. I only almost died giving you back your soul. You’re right. You don’t owe me anything. Forget I even called you.”

There were tears in her eyes and a tightness in her chest as she spoke and she wanted nothing more than to have never found that stupid spell book at all. First thing tomorrow, she would be back at the bookstore, exchanging it for the bass boat book she should have bought in the first place. That would teach her. There was no hope for her at all. She would never be loved or trusted again. She might as well just prepare herself for a lifetime of loneliness and pain. Taking up fishing would be a good first step.

Then a voice broke through her anguish.

“Willow, I’m sorry. I...I’ll make the call.”

A part of her rejoiced in the obvious guilt that dripped from his every word and she immediately hated herself for that. Still, the pleasure was real and there was no making it go away. Besides, he should feel guilty. So really, why was it so wrong of her to experience some joy that he was feeling exactly as he ought?

“But Willow?”

“Yes, Angel?’

“When you get here, I want a full explanation. Okay?”

“Absolutely, Angel. I’ll tell you everything, I promise. Just make the call, okay? And remember what I said: nothing to do with magick.”

She could hear Angel mentally filing her emphasis away and knew she was going to be grilled about that later. She just had to make sure that she could explain it in some way that didn’t make Angel say “no thanks” to her offer to attach his soul to him forever. He had to let her do the spell, he just had to.

For a moment, she almost forgot that the spell was for Angel at all, so caught up was she in how it was going to fix what was wrong in her own life. Then an image of Buffy and Angel, the way they had been before they’d known about the happiness clause, came into her mind; she suddenly felt very small and selfish. She remembered why she had started doing magick to begin with: to do good, to make things better, to help Buffy fight against evil, to help save the world. When and how had it all gone wrong? When had it stopped being all about using her power to do what was right and started being all about power for its own sake? How had she gotten here?

The ringing of the phone cut off her reverie. Probably fortuitous, since she was this close to talking herself out of doing the spell at all now. She knew who was calling and she swallowed the lump in her throat before answering.

“Willow?”

“Yeah, Buffy.”

“Can you come down to the Magic Box? Angel called and... we need to talk to you about it.”

“Sure thing. I’ll be right over.”

Buffy hung up before Willow had a chance to ask any questions. Definitely a blessing from Willow’s point of view as she had no idea what she would have said. In her current state, any sort of verbal mishap could occur.

Ten minutes earlier, she would have been struggling to suppress her glee. Now...now she didn’t know what she was feeling. The fact that Buffy had been so cryptic over the phone bothered her a bit and she wondered if Angel had been as bad at lying to Buffy as she had once been.

With a heavy heart and an unsettled mind, she made her way downstairs and out the front door, hoping she could school herself to seem surprised by the topic to be discussed. She wasn’t sure what Angel had said or what Buffy might have told Angel herself, but she knew that the only way to find out was by going to the Magic Box as requested. It was an indication of just how distraught her recent introspection had left her that she almost hoped they would tell her she couldn’t go to Los Angeles at all.


Tbc...

Chapter Text

Best Laid Plans (Chapter Two)


Was the Magic Box always this close to the house? It seemed as if she’d started the walk only a moment ago and now - here she was, a foot from the door. Okay, Willow, breathe. And try not to look so guilty.

Willow didn’t have a mirror, but she was pretty sure that right now she looked like a chicken thief with a hen in each pocket. Boy, those would have to be pretty big pockets. Where would you get a coat like that? Did they make coats just for chicken thieves, or would you have to make one yourself? Okay, stop. Focus, Tangent Girl.

She walked through the door, her expression schooled into what she hoped was a very convincing blend of curiosity, remorse for past misdeeds, and innocence. Actually, she’d settle for mildly convincing, just so long as she didn’t give the game away the moment her friends saw her face.

“Hi, guys.”

Stony silence was the reply she got. Oh great. Weeks without actually doing any magic and she still didn’t get a break, not even from Xander. For a moment, she wondered if it was worth it - all the sacrifice, the effort. Maybe she wouldn’t even bother making Angel’s soul permanent. If this was the way Buffy was going to be...

She shook it off. After all, she had done some pretty bad things and just because Buffy had too, in fact had even run off without a word leaving them all alone to guard the Hellmouth before Willow could even really float a pencil, it didn’t make her own misdeeds okay. Her friends had a right to be upset. Okay, Xander had summoned that singing demon and someone had died but...no. Thinking like that was all wrong. Trying to minimize her magick addiction was one of those things she’d been warned about and it was sure to lead to badness.

Finally, Buffy spoke. “Angel called. He wants you to help him in Los Angeles. They need you to hack into some bad guy’s computer or something. He says he doesn’t think it will take more than a day or two, but he wants you to come as soon as possible” She looked upset, but Willow was pretty sure it was from talking to Angel and not at the thought of Willow being gone for awhile. She felt a pang.

“Yeah, and you’d better not do any magick while you’re there.”

“An...,” Xander halfheartedly admonished his girlfriend.

“What? It’s not like you didn’t want to say the same thing. I don’t see why I’m not allowed to say that after she almost killed Dawn and stole things from my store.” Anya’s expression and emphasis made it clear which she considered the greater offense.

Leave it to Anya to have the right sense of proportion about things. She’d spent centuries killing and torturing and maiming, but she couldn’t forgive Willow for borrowing a few herbs and roots. Once again, Willow started to get distracted by a burgeoning sense of ill treatment and unfairness. And once again, she admonished herself not to be like that. Now was not the time to think about these things. Besides, once she got back from L.A., they would all love her again and everything would be okay. What she was feeling right now would all be moot. Breathe. Focus.

She decided to ignore Anya’s crass remark and addressed Buffy. “I think this will be good. You know, getting away from the Hellmouth for a little while, doing computer-y things, you know, like the old days. I’ll be Willow, the Net Girl again. That’s got to be healthy, right?”

At Willow’s mention of ‘the old days’ Buffy’s eyes got that far-away ‘Angel’ look and Willow was irritated all over again. Everything was all about her; she couldn’t think about Willow for longer than ten seconds without turning things around to be about Buffy again. Okay, maybe, really, this was about Buffy, but Buffy had no way of knowing that and the least she could do was just spare a moment for a tiny bit of thinking and worrying about someone who was supposed to be her best friend.

Reining in her thoughts was getting annoying and difficult, but Willow did it once again. Still, she wondered for a moment why it was so much easier to see her friends’ side of things and to believe that they really cared about her and wanted to forgive her someday when she was alone.

“After all, guys,” she spoke to Xander and Anya this time as Buffy seemed lost in ‘Angel-land,’ “I’ll be busy fighting the forces of evil in cyberspace. What better way to take distract myself from thinking about all the bad stuff I’m not supposed to be doing? I mean they always say that you need to develop new interests and healthy activities when you’re dealing with addiction, right? I think computer do-gooding qualifies, don’t you?”

Xander looked convinced, at least slightly, but he still looked at Willow with suspicion and distrust and it hurt.

“I guess we can count on Deadboy to keep an eye on you for a few days.”

Great. He didn’t trust her, he trusted...Angel? How bad had things gotten between the two of them that he trusted a vampire he’d just as soon stake before his own best friend? The unwelcome realization that Xander hadn’t truly been her best friend in a very long time hit her and she wondered just how many more painful thoughts she was going to have today. Maybe she needed to do that Tabula Rasa spell on herself. No, bad Willow, no - more - spells...well, except for the one she was going to do for Angel. Wait, she meant for Angel and Buffy...right?

Her head was starting to hurt from editing herself. She was starting to think that Xander might have had a point all those years ago about her having too many thoughts.

“So, I guess I need to go home and pack a few things and get the bus schedule, right?”

“No, Anya’s going to drive you and Angel said he’d bring you home.”

“Yes, and I’d better not lose any money because of having to drive you to Los Angeles.”

“An, I said I’d watch the store for you tonight.”

“Anya, I’m sure you won’t lose any money, and I’m sure Willow will be more than happy to pay for gas. We appreciate you doing this. Xander and I will keep an eye on the store. You’ll be back in a few hours and you’ll see: everything will be just fine.” Buffy pacified Anya with a treacly smile.

Great, even in a conversation about her no one could ever stay focused on Willow. Somewhere in her mind, an understanding of just what might have led her down the garden path to dark magick began to coalesce and, once again, it was something Willow knew she wasn’t going to enjoy thinking about.

Why hadn’t she just put down that darn spell book and bought the bass boat guide instead? If she was on a boat right now with a fishing rod in her hand, she wouldn’t be thinking about anything remotely meaningful, let alone having doubts about every single important person in her life. After all, Herbert Hoover loved fishing so much that he had even written a book about it and Willow was pretty sure he’d never thought about anything at all. He may have done a good deal to cause the Great Depression, but he somehow seemed to have been much happier than she was. He had to be on to something.

“I guess I’d better go pack so we can leave right away, huh?”

Everyone suddenly turned towards her as if they’d forgotten she was there. Fishing...think about fishing, Willow.

A grumbling, cranky Anya grabbed her purse and followed her out the door, continuing to grumble as they drove to Buffy’s house and for the few moments she begrudged Willow to pack a few necessities for the trip. Willow had a feeling the grousing wasn’t going to stop the whole way to Los Angeles. Angel and Buffy were so going to owe her when this was done.

Tbc...

Chapter Text

Best Laid Plans (Chapter Three)

By the time she could see the lights of Los Angeles, Willow had pretty much decided to just tell Angel how horrible she was and make sure he wouldn’t even want to hear why she had come to L.A. in the first place. If being afflicted with Anya for these few-but-seemingly-endless hours on the road wasn’t enough to convince her that the goddess was punishing her for buying that spell book, then nothing was. It seemed that no amount of high-priced premium gas or any number of extra purchases of fancy coffee and overpriced snack food by Willow to pacify the greedy woman could stop the tide of self-centered spitefulness.

“...because really, I think buying me premium gasoline is the least you can do. I just know I am losing money. Buffy’s a Slayer. What does she know about capitalism? She saves the world and doesn’t even get paid for it. And Xander? He was living in his parent’s basement before I got hold of him.”

She should have known better than to expect a thank you, but couldn’t Anya at least have managed not to talk with her mouth full? No, she couldn’t. In fact, her ability to blather away nonstop put Willow’s long-time ownership of the Babble Queen title in serious jeopardy.

“And I’d better not have to put up with Buffy whining about Angel when I get back. It was bad enough when you were moping around because you weren’t pretty enough or good enough in bed to keep Oz . I’m so glad that Xander lets me avoid you most of the time now so I don’t have to put up with your misery over losing your girlfriend, which is all your own fault, by the way, because you’re a magick-junkie, and I don’t want all the joy I feel at not having to deal with you taken away because I’m forced to listen to Buffy, who I’m not allowed to avoid, going on and on about her vampire soulmate and how horrible it is that they can’t be together and not even have permission to tell her to just get over it.”

Yeah, that’s right, because Anya had put up with so much more of Buffy’s Angel-missage than Willow had.

Stop that, she chided herself - a habit she was getting tired of having had to cultivate. This tendency towards self-pity and annoyance with her friends was almost more of a burden than Anya’s company, and one that didn’t come with the ending brought by the slam of a car door and one last snarky admonition to “not cast anymore stupid spells, because I’m not going to put up with everyone blaming me for you going all magick-junkie again.” Despite the woman’s obnoxious attitude, Willow was almost sorry to see Anya speeding away. Now she would have to deal with Angel hating her for making him lie to Buffy in order to bring her to Los Angeles for no reason. Yeah, that self-pity thing was not going to be over with any time soon.

But wait, maybe there was a way out of the worst case scenario yet, one that would let her off the hook without having to confess her sins to Angel. After all, Cordelia would be waiting inside. And Willow was sure that there was a good chance her old enemy could be manipulated into being mean enough to her to give her an excuse to storm out and get a bus home. Because, no matter how much she was reputed to have changed, Willow knew that the same old Cordelia just had to be there, right below the surface, and itching for a chance to unload on her high school whipping boy...well...whipping girl, really, but semantics weren’t the point here. Getting out of more anger and chastisement was.

Somehow, the joyous prospect of tricking Cordelia into being her saviour almost made the purgatorial car trip with Anya worthwhile. Not that Willow was still bitter or anything. She was a grown woman now and well past carrying juvenile grudges like resenting Cordelia for all of those “softer side of Sears” remarks - not that she remembered every single snotty, demeaning wisecrack Cordelia had ever made to her...okay, she did, but that was just because she had a good memory, not because she was bitter. And it wasn’t malice that made it hard for her to suppress a grin as she hefted her overnight bag and prepared to enter the Hyperion. It wasn’t. It was just the sense of peace and contentment resulting from the idea of serving as an agent of karma, that was all. Balancing the scales was a good way to help atone, and that was all there was to it.

But once again, it seemed that the goddess was not on Willow’s side.

The hotel was darkened and felt deserted and Willow’s heart sank - until it occurred to her that this, too, would be an excellent excuse to leave. Yeah! She could just leave a note saying no one had been here so she’d gone home. Saved! Okay, it wasn’t the same as Cordelia being her unwitting cavalry riding to the rescue, but it would work just as well. Still, the “do right girl” within insisted she at least pay lip service to making sure the hotel really was deserted before decamping to the bus station, so she called out (as softly as she could force herself), “Angel?”

“Willow.”

She heard his voice before she saw him descend the stairs. Darn vampire hearing. Darn conscience. Darn everything. Now that she was hoist by her own petard, she was in for both barrels of lofty vampire castigation. Oh goody.

Well, heck. There was nothing to do but to throw it all out there and take her lumps. But where to begin? Okay, Willow, just open your mouth and see what happens.

“Angel, I am so sorry I made you lie to Buffy and laid a guilt trip on you about the soul thing. It seems like all I do is bad stuff lately. Maybe it’s the magick. I mean, magick addiction has to affect the rest of me, right? So maybe it’s not my fault. I mean, I didn’t use to be like this, but ever since I brought Buffy back and then de-ratted Amy it seems like everything I do is just...well...evil. And I don’t mean it to be. I mean, inside I’m still the same old Willow, only that’s not how I act anymore. I mean, I almost killed Dawn and I made Buffy think her name was Joan and Spike thought he was Randy Giles and he forgot he was a vampire and even wore a bow tie.”

Willow thought she caught Angel suppressing a smirk at that last bit even as he looked like a deer caught in the headlights trying to figure out what she was talking about, but she wasn’t sure and she filed it away for later reflection so as not lose her nerve. She kept on talking; she’d think (and breathe) later.

“And that was even worse than the time I made them think they were engaged because at least then Buffy knew who she was even though she thought she was in love with Spike.”

Ignoring the growl she heard - oops, maybe she shouldn’t have mentioned the Will Be Done spell - she continued, her momentum carrying her along despite her not even being totally aware of everything she was saying. On and on she went: a disjointed hodgepodge of ramblings and self-recriminations about magick and Rack and Buffy and Dawn and Tara, until:

“I know you must hate me for making you bring me here for no reason, even though I thought there was a reason because I thought the goddess wanted me to find the anchoring spell so I could make your soul permanent and make everyone forgive me and win Tara back. But now I’m sure you’d never want me to do the spell because I’m a screw-up and a loser and a junkie and I’d probably just make everything worse and...”

“Willow.”

One word again, but it worked. Angel’s voice cut her off and that was a good thing; she was almost panting for air. She couldn’t remember ever getting this winded while babbling before. Age had to be taking a toll on her or something.

Then something happened that surprised her. In fact, she might have fainted if she had enough presence of mind to figure out how to lose consciousness, but she didn’t - she just went into a near state of shock. Because Angel was hugging her.

“I’m sorry.”

Okay...huh?

She was confused and lightheaded and rather fuzzy, but the hug - awkward as it was coming from a guy who was obviously not so big on the “physical displays of affection” thing - yeah, that was happening, she was sure. And a few words were actually getting through the cotton surrounding her brain. Still, they didn’t make a whole lot more sense than the hug.

“...if you hadn’t exposed your soul to my demon when you did the restoration.”

“...someone should have been training you...”

“...never should have let this happen to you...”

“...owe you my soul...”

“...I never even thanked you.”

Okay, that last part did register and it was true. He never had thanked her. Heck, he hadn’t even been civil to her most of the time - always brushing her off and acting like she was wasn’t important enough to bother about. Well, except for when he saved her from Gwendolyn Post. But that didn’t count, because he would have saved whoever was closest to him. He probably would have even saved Xander. And now, after all this time, he finally gets a clue? Okay, maybe that was harsh. After all, he was being understanding, even apologizing, which was pretty cool and felt even better now, she was sure, than it would have at any other time in her life.

No, for some reason. she just couldn’t get any resentment stirred up. Maybe it was the fact that she really didn’t want to be angry and irritated right now, because Angel was still hugging her - which was weird, yeah, but also...nice. Touching wasn’t a daily event anymore and any kind of warmth was something worth celebrating, even if it came from a guy who was closer to room temperature than she was used to cuddling with. Not that she and Angel were cuddling, and not that she cuddled with guys because eww, happy lesbian here, no trips back to boystown for this girl, especially not with Angel. Still, the “being held” thing? Definitely of the good. And the “not being the one taking all the blame for once” thing...yeah, that was registering a definite yay on the old happy-meter. Guess she was going to be taking back all that discontent (okay, anger) she had felt towards the goddess at winding up alone with Angel instead of having a convenient excuse to hightail it back home to the Hellmouth. Maybe she wasn’t so despised by the powers she’d once served after all.

“I’m going to go make a phone call, Willow. Wait here.”

And then again, maybe she was.

Tbc...

Chapter Text

Best Laid Plans (Chapter Four)


Awkward silence. Willow’s least favorite thing. Well, one of her least favorite things, anyway.

Angel had made his phone call, come back out, and now was being all “cryptic-silent-no-words-guy” again, telling her only that his “friend” would be there soon and saying nothing more. Great.

You’d think she’d be used to the whole terse and laconic thing after Oz, but at least he had told her stuff. Well, except about wanting some skanky slut of a werewolf bitch more than he wanted her, but before that, yeah, he had usually told her stuff. Not that Angel was Oz or anything - Oz was her boyfriend and Angel wasn’t, that was for sure. So maybe it wasn’t so weird that he didn’t really talk to her, but c’mon, they were friends. Okay, maybe not actually friends but...hey, she’d given him back his soul. Didn’t that mean they were...something? Not soulmates, of course (she couldn’t believe that word had even popped into her head), but...soul buddies, maybe?

Just when the quiet was about to make her head explode, she heard a voice, shortly followed by a man - well, demon - she vaguely remembered suddenly making a rather flamboyant, yet seemingly casual, entrance.

“Got here as soon as I could, Angel cakes, what’s the...? Whoa.”

The green demon guy in the disturbingly loud suit took a step back, as if taken aback by her, and Willow thought he had quite a lot of nerve. After all, maybe she wasn’t the best dressed Wicca in the world, but she didn’t clash nearly as badly as he did.

“Sorry. I’d forgotten how powerful you were, sweet thing. My word, the magical energy’s just pouring off you. I’m Lorne, by the way, I’m sure you remember me. We met when...” His voice trailed off, obviously not wanting to bring up the circumstances of their last meeting - when Willow had come to give them the news of Buffy’s death, the death she herself had later undone.

He held out his hand and Willow tentatively shook it. “Willow.”

He nodded.

“Yeah, I remember. Well, now that we have the re-introductions out of the way... I can sure see why the big guy over there wanted me to stop by. You, my dear, need a reading.”

A reading? Alright. That actually seemed like a good idea at this juncture. She could use some spiritual guidance as to what in the heck she was supposed to do about that spell. But from this guy? Still, she figured he had to know his stuff or Angel wouldn’t have called him, and she felt a bit guilty for judging him based on his sartorial taste considering everything she’d been through in her life due to her own, so she decided to relax and see what he wanted from her.

He paused for a moment and looked as if he were concentrating on her very deeply - reading, she assumed. As hard as she tried to keep her mind clear to help him out, though, it didn’t seem to work. Once again, as was happening way too often lately, her thoughts got tangled up in non sequiturs as she stood there.

What on Earth had his mother been thinking, naming him Lorne? Didn’t she realize he was in for a lifetime of teasing? Of course, maybe demons didn’t watch Bonanza. And come to think of it, she seemed to remember him telling her on that last visit that he was from someplace called Pylea, where she was pretty sure they didn’t get cable... Focus, Willow. With effort, she steered her mind back into the moment here and just waited to see what he had found out.

There was a hint of sadness, she thought, in his eyes when he finally spoke. “Everything’s pretty much of a mess to me right now, hon. I’m afraid I am going to have to ask you to sing. Sorry. I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t necessary.”

Willow was shocked by his words. They seemed to imply...he knew about...? She guessed he really did have the psychic mojo.

Angel looked at both of them quizzically. Willow was about to try to explain when Lorne held up his hand to forestall her and said simply, “Long story.” He turned back to her. “Just sing whatever pops into your head, okay?”

Of course now Willow was paralyzed with stage fright. That, coupled with memories of the last time she sang - in the park, with Tara, the last time things had been good between them, and then when she’d ruined everything - made her mind go blank and she couldn’t think of a single song. Well, just opening her mouth and hoping for the best had worked with talking to Angel; she had to cross her fingers and hope it would be just as successful now.

“Rock-a-bye baby, on the tree top. When the wind blows, the cradle will rock...”

Okay, lullabies weren’t exactly the Beatles greatest hits, and she’d never claimed to be Tori Amos, but did Angel have to look quite so stricken? She’d never heard him sing, of course, but he couldn’t be that much better than she was, could he? And after all, she hadn’t asked for this gig. If her voice was so terrible to listen to, he could just leave the darn room.

“And down will come baby, cradle, and all.”

Lorne smiled, an expression Willow found odd, given his horns and all, but nonetheless rather warm and endearing.

He turned to Angel. “Congratulations, big guy. This little lady is...” He paused as he spoke, though only so briefly that Willow almost didn’t notice, before continuing, “going to make you the proud owner of a permanent soul. And my advice to you is not to go throwing this gift back in the Powers’ teeth. They want you to be happy, oh broody one, so take them up on it, no matter where that happiness lies. Don’t let that annoying tendency of yours towards questioning and self-sacrifice stand in the way of what’s meant to be.

“And you, my dear.” He turned to Willow. “Don’t be afraid of yourself. The Powers brought you here for a reason. It’s time to start listening to them, okay?”

Willow wasn’t totally sure what he was talking about, but she smiled and nodded and that seemed to make Lorne happy. For the second time today, she found herself enveloped in a comforting hug.

“Don’t be afraid of love, sweetheart. No matter what anyone might say, just reach out and grab it, no matter who it is. Don’t worry about what anyone else says or feels about it. You have the right to be happy, too. Don’t think for one minute that just because you’ve made a few mistakes you don’t deserve to be loved.”

Okay. That was sweet, and very encouraging, but the oh-so-obviously-euphemistic “no matter who it is” spiel was kind of unnecessary. After all, she had been comfortable with the whole “I’m a lesbian” thing for quite awhile. She even had an Out and Proud t-shirt. And she’d worn it. In public. More than once. But it would have been rude to point that out to Lorne after he’d given her this reading, and with it the green light (she cringed inwardly at her mind’s choice of metaphor) to make Angel’s soul permanent. And hey, what he said, non-specific and fortune cookie-esque as some of it was, seemed to mean that she’d been right and would be getting Tara back as a result of all this so yay, Lorne.

“Thanks,” Willow said as she hugged him back and kissed him on the cheek. He seemed pleased by that, so Willow was glad she’d gone the extra mile in the affectionate gesture department. After being so supportive and all, he was a-okay in her book and she figured she could even get used to the suit. She was kind of sorry when the hug ended and he made to leave.

“Well, you two will want to get down to business, so I’ll just head on upstairs and check on...”

“Fred,” Angel interjected.

“Fred. Yeah, I’ll do that. But Angel, you might want to...” He quirked an eyebrow at Angel, who seemed rather anxious to end the discussion right now.

“I’ll get to that later.”

“Okay. Well, guess I’ll see you when your soul’s all fixed up then, Angel cakes. Nice seeing you again, Willow. Think about what I said.” With that rather stilted and uncomfortable exchange concluded, Lorne went upstairs, leaving Willow and Angel alone again.

Along with awkward silences, Willow really hated conversations that went over her head, that were about what wasn’t being said. She could tell this had been one of those and she really didn’t like it. But getting Angel to tell her what he and Lorne had actually been talking about was about as likely to happen as Buffy suddenly deciding she was in love with Spike, so Willow decided not to bother trying.

“Okey-dokey, Angel, why don’t you show me where Wesley keeps his magick-y stuff and I can see if we have everything we need.”

Angel seemed a bit lost in thought and after a long moment, Willow wasn’t sure he’d even heard what she had said. She decided not to get offended by that. It happened to her way too often and with people she was closer to than Angel for her to take umbrage now.

When more time passed and he still didn’t reply, her resolve on that issue faltered, especially when he started to walk away. She was about to repeat her suggestion, and rather less than sweetly, when Angel turned back and said, “This way.” She followed him, holding her tongue. Getting a permanent soul was a big deal, she realized. He was being handed his heart’s desire on a silver platter: the chance to be with the woman he loved without any fear of turning evil. That had to be quite discombobulating after finally having resigned himself to an eternity of loneliness. Really, now that she considered it, it was no wonder he was distracted. Yeah, she thought as they headed towards Wesley’s office, that must be the reason he was being less than polite to her. No matter. She had more important things to think about than manners right now anyway. For some reason, she had absolute faith in Lorne and what he’d told her. It was true. She was going to fix Angel’s soul and everything was going to be alright. That was more than worth giving precedence to in her thoughts. Now to see about finding those ingredients...


Tbc...

Chapter Text

Best Laid Plans (Chapter Five)

Wesley’s office was almost more temptation than Willow could stand. She felt like a dieting woman in the middle of a Godiva chocolate emporium. All the things he had were so...they made Anya’s stock look so...ooh, she hadn’t ever seen one of those up close and personal before... Stop it. Back on track, Willow. Take just what you need for the spell and leave the rest of the goodies alone. Repeat: Take - only - what - you -need - for - the - spell. Atta-girl. And hey, maybe Wesley will be so happy about Angel’s soul that he’ll want to give you... Stop. Focus. Stay with the here and now. No drooling over Wesley’s stuff. Not even that...

By the time they left the office and its array of magickal delights, she’d taken so many steadying breaths and heaved so many longing sighs that she was pretty sure Angel thought she had asthma. It didn’t really matter how much breathing she’d done there, though, because now they were on their way to Angel’s bedroom to do the spell and Willow couldn’t breathe at all. That was not a good thing. She was pretty sure she needed to be conscious to anchor Angel’s soul. There, that’s it: inhale, exhale, remember? It’s just like riding a bike.

At the door to his room, Angel turned and spoke to her for the first time since before they’d reached Wesley’s office

“Are you sure this is safe, Willow?”

Great, even after the reading, he still didn’t have faith in her. What was it with everybody? No matter what, no one ever believed in her. She was about to give Angel a super-sized piece of her mind when he spoke again.

“If there’s any chance you’ll get hurt, I don’t want you to do this.”

Tears started forming in the corners of her eyes. She tried to remember the last time anyone had been concerned with her safety, first and foremost. Sadly, her recall failed her on that score. No one but Tara, who wasn’t so worried about Willow's safety anymore, after the whole addiction thing, had ever really thought of her before anyone else. At least not since Oz. And frankly, the way Oz had abandoned her and the way he’d just assumed she’d be happy to take him back when he returned out of the blue had her doubting she’d ever really been first in his thoughts after all. So that left Tara. And now...Angel?

“Don’t worry, Angel. I’ll be okay.” She fought to keep the little quaver out of her voice. “Now let’s get that soul of yours glued on, shall we?”

Resolve face firmly in place, she stared down any further objections as she and Angel entered his room. She cased it briefly, not terribly surprised at the impersonal decor and lack of style. Angel wasn’t one for self-indulgence, even in his home environment. Too much of an impediment to his monastic self-abnegation. Maybe once his soul was anchored, though, he’d brighten the place up a bit. Or not. It really wasn’t any of her business what his bedroom looked like anyway. If Buffy could live with his taste, that was all that mattered.

Preparations for the anchoring were easy, in fact Willow was stunned by the simplicity of the spell. It was so easy any novice could do it. Well, any novice with enough natural power to return a vampire’s soul to begin with and then help hold back his demon as it was permanently anchored. But yeah, okay, easy enough for a novice.

“Would it make you feel safer if I were in chains or something?”

Suddenly, an image that really shouldn’t be as appealing as it was entered Willow’s head and she mentally shook it off, shuddering in self-loathing as she did. Naughty Angel thoughts?!?! Hello...lesbian here! Happily-in-love-with-Tara-lesbian, even, here. And love-of-her-best-friend’s-life-who-she’d-n

ever-so-much-as-looked-over-even-once-before over there. It had been a while since Willow had gotten any..., had any...well...sex, but that shouldn’t mean that her hormones now fired on all the wrong cylinders. And why was she suddenly thinking in automotive metaphors? What the heck was happening to her? Were her leather shoes causing her to channel Vamp Willow or something? And did Vamp Willow think in engine metaphors?

Oh great. Angel was giving her the oddest look right now, as if he was seeing her in a very different way. Why was he looking at her like that? Cripes! Darn wacky hormones and darn vamp senses. Okay, Willow, plaster an innocent look on your face and pretend you’ve never had a naughty thought in your entire life. After all, it’s his word against yours and...yeah, that so would work given your current credibility. Wait. You’re alone. There’s no one here for him to tell. And anyway, he won’t even remember this after all the excitement of getting his very own un-lose-able soul. Just relax. After tomorrow, you’ll be getting all you want from Tara and you’ll never have another naughty thought about the wrong gender ever again.

“No, Angel, no bondage required.” She cringed as she said it and immediately did her level best to make that unfortunate choice of words seem completely innocent by channeling her high school self into her facial expression with all her might. “You need to be sitting across from me holding my hands.” Her efforts seemed to have paid off. Angel had his “strong, silent, and broody” face back on and was looking at her in that “you have no gender and are nothing but Buffy’s best friend” way she was accustomed to from him. What a relief. “Besides, Lorne said this was going to work. I know you might not trust me, but...”

And once again, Angel surprised her.

“Willow, I don’t doubt for a minute that you can do this. I brought Lorne here for you. You’re the most powerful witch I’ve ever known, and the most good-hearted, but you need to believe in that...the way that I do.” He looked at her with so much trust that Willow’s heart almost burst. And there was something else flickering in his gaze...something she didn’t want to think about too much. So she did the first thing she could think of to get away from her thoughts.

For the second time today, Willow was in Angel’s arms, though this time she was doing the hugging, and she didn’t once think of how good it felt to be there. She allowed herself only gratitude for Angel’s support and for his belief in her.

“Thank you,” she choked out, on the verge of tears. She needed to soften the intensity of the moment. “Even if you don’t mean it, thank you.” She could tell he was going to argue with her, so she broke the embrace and put her resolve face back on. “C’mon, let’s get this show on the road, okay? Time waits for no vamp.”

He smiled and Willow couldn’t help but smile back. Then she turned inward and began to ready her mind. Calming herself...steadying herself...centering herself. As she did so, she felt an amazing sense of peace and determination. All the doubt that had been rekindled was gone, replaced by a certainty unlike anything she’d ever felt before. She could do this. She would do this. The goddess had blessed her and would guide her. This was good. She was good.

She prepared the circle and set up everything she needed.

Angel sat across from her inside the circle.

“Are you ready?”

He surprised her by breathing, then he nodded, taking her hands as she held them out to him. Willow began the spell. As the magick built, the energy flowed through her to Angel and back. That was a bit odd and different from the way things had been when she’d done the original restoration spell, but hey, who was she to say what an anchoring spell should feel like. She did her best to clear her mind as she kept chanting the words and holding fast to Angel as the power flowing between them increased.

There was no time for her to get distracted by her thoughts, anyway. Because all of a sudden something she’d never foreseen came at her full force.

The Rom. Oh goddess, she thought, as a wave of oppositional energy hit her. She hadn’t even considered this. They were so not happy about what she was doing. She could feel their hate and their anger as they stood fast against her. What was she in for now? Had she been arrogant, thinking she was important enough, pure enough, worthy enough to do this? Was this the way the universe was punishing her for her hubris in bringing back Buffy? If so, why did Angel have to suffer, too? Why had so many elements combined to bring her to this moment, why had she been given so many signs that this was what the goddess truly wanted her to do, if she was only to be punished for believing in the word of the powers she served?

Then...just as she was about to lose her nerve, when it seemed she would fail...she felt...she was rescued by...something. Something strong and wise and powerful and sustaining. Something that poured hope and vigor and courage into her very being. Something that lifted her from within and focused her magick. Something that somehow surrounded her even as it filled her and which gave her back that same conviction she’d had when this began. She would prevail and Angel’s soul would be secured. And that was the last thing she knew before everything went black.


Tbc...

Chapter Text

Best Laid Plans (Chapter Six)

The next thing Willow remembered was wondering why she was lying down. Oh yeah - the whole “passing out during the soul anchoring spell thing.” Okay. This must be Angel’s bed and he’d probably laid her on it after...oh gosh! Did it work? It must have. She’d be dead if it hadn’t. Or turned. Either way, she wouldn’t be awake right now. Or if she were, she would be wearing leather and licking him. Oh no. Don’t go there, Willow. It would be much better to think about more important, less naughty things...like: why was her cheek wet?

She opened her eyes. “Mmff...uhh...Angel?

The next thing she knew, she was caught up in a vamp-strength embrace and she figured out why her cheek had been wet: Angel was crying.

“Don’t ever scare me like that again...” He paused. “Thank you.”

“I guess it worked then, huh,” Willow managed to gasp out as all the air was squeezed out of her by Angel’s rather comforting but too strong arms. She could feel him nod against her head, but he made no move to let her go. As much as she hated to rain on the affection parade, she simply had to...kind of a physiological imperative. “Uh, Angel...oxygen?”

As soon as he heard her choke out her plea for breath, Angel let her go and Willow put down her strange, bereft feeling to lightheadedness from her restricted breathing. She decided to ignore the fact that he seemed a bit lost as well.

“Sorry.”

“No, don’t be, really. It’s okay. I mean, hey, I’d be pretty excited too if my soul had just been anchored. Not that mine needs to be, ‘cause I’m not a vampire, but if I were - and I had a soul - I’d be ecstatic to have it anchored.”

He wasn’t crying anymore; he was smiling. She didn’t think she’d ever seen him smile like that, so relaxed and un-broody. It was...neat. Even neater was that this smile was directed at her.

“So, does it feel different? The whole 'anchored' soul as opposed to 'it can go bye-bye any time I have a really good day' soul?”

This time he laughed. Not just the quiet chuckle she’d heard from him in the past, but a full-blown, honest-to-goodness laugh. It was neat, too.

“I forgot how much I missed you and the way you say things, Willow.”

Okay, now she was going to cry.

“You missed me?”

He looked surprised at her question, but then seemed to consider it. His expression grew more thoughtful. “Yeah, I did.”

“Gosh, Angel, that’s so...it’s nice to know that.”

They sat there for a moment, just awkwardly looking at each other. Willow tried desperately to think of what to say next, something to lighten the mood. Something ...anything...

“But to answer your question, my soul, yeah, it feels different.”

Yay, Angel. Thanks for saving the day. Willow was so grateful to him right now. She decided to return the favour.

“How? How is it different? How does it feel to know the difference between having a soul and not having a soul and then having it anchored? I mean, I’ve never thought about what having my soul feels like. I’ve always had a soul and as far as I know, it’s permanent, although maybe not...hmmm...I wonder if that’s why...but this is about you and your soul, so...what makes it feel anchored now? Is the demon gone? Is it blended with you more? Can you still feel it? What’s it like?”

And once again, babbling had left her slightly short of breath. This was getting worrying. Were there exercises she could do? Vitamins she could take? How could you be too out of shape to babble?

There was more laughter and then there was that smile again. Willow was really starting to like that smile. Really, really starting to like that smile. He reached out and ruffled her hair. That was nice. He glanced away for a moment and got that contemplative look.

“It’s hard to explain. It’s just...it doesn’t feel as...maybe once it’s been like this a little longer, I’ll be able to put it into words, but...it’s...more there. But at the same time, it’s less...I don’t know...” He chuckled, a bit embarrassed. “I think you’re starting to rub off on me. I’m babbling here.”

Despite his slight discomfiture, Angel looked...happy. Willow felt so good about that. It meant that, even though he didn’t fully understand his soul, he knew it was there, he knew it was there...and he knew it would stay. She had done that, she had given him that. It was an amazing feeling. It didn’t give her a sense of arrogance, though - it gave her pride, the good kind of pride. The kind of pride you get from doing something truly worthwhile, like helping build a house for a needy family or something. She’d given Angel the chance for a real life, the kind of life he deserved. A life he could share with the woman he loved. Who was Buffy, of course.

In fact, she was about to say something to Angel about leaving for Sunnydale the moment the sun set again when she heard a strange sound.

“Angel, is this place haunted?”

He looked like a deer caught in the headlights and Willow didn’t quite understand. Then she heard the same noise.

“That sounded an awful lot like...”

“It’s my son,” Angel blurted out.

“Your what? Huh?” Willow could not have heard him correctly. Angel was a vampire, even with a soul they couldn’t have children...could they?

“My son.”

O-kay, she had heard him correctly, but it made a lot less sense than the theory she’d hastily cobbled together about Angel having an alarm that sounded exactly like a squalling infant built to alert him to the sun’s imminent rising or something. How had this happened? Angel had a son? Who was the mother? How had he had s - e - x without losing that soul she’d just anchored? Unless of course, vampires had some other way of making babies. Oh yeah, they did. Only those babies were usually grown-ups themselves and...had Angel turned an infant for some reason?

Willow was so, so confused. Apparently it showed. Without her even asking a single one of her questions, Angel began to answer them.

While the story that emerged was fantastic, to say the least, it was also pretty believable fare for a witch who had dated a werewolf and whose high school was destroyed while she, along with the Slayer and the souled vampire she was sitting here with right now, battled a giant demon snake who also happened to be the town mayor. In short, there was a prophecy (wasn’t there always?), an evil law firm (paging the department of redundancy department), Angel’s resurrected-from-the-dust sire (sheesh, was everyone raising the dead nowadays?), and a spell or two. Put them all together and “hey presto” - you’ve got an absolutely human child with two vampires for parents. Once again: O-kay. At least his name was something normal. Connor wasn’t likely to get teased nearly as much as a kid with a gothic, vampy name like Gervais or Angel Junior or something like that.

“Would you like to see him?”

That last question was spoken so softly that Willow almost didn’t hear it through the noise of the wheels turning in her head as she struggled to get a grip on all she’d been told and figure out how she was going to help Angel break the news to Buffy. But when it registered, she felt awfully honoured. He wanted her to see his son.

“Sure, I would love to meet Connor.”

Angel got up from the bed before her and then helped her to her feet. Neither of them spoke as they made their way to Willow’s first meeting with Angel’s son. Angel’s son. Wow, what a shock. A good shock, but still... No wonder she was so uncharacteristically quiet. What, if anything, should she say to Angel anyway? She just hoped he didn’t think she was disapproving or judgmental about Connor or anything like that. Because, oddly, she wasn’t. After all, it wasn’t like Buffy hadn’t had another boyfriend since she and Angel had been forced to part. Heck, she’d even had a one-night stand with Parker the Poophead. So really, what was so wrong with Angel having found a little solace? Yeah, a son was a little bit surprising, but unintended pregnancies happened all the time. Maybe not to vampires, but still... Buffy would just have to deal with this. If she really loved Angel, she’d love his son, too.

Before she knew it, they were in the nursery, the silence still unbroken. Which was good, because right now Willow would have lost her ability to speak anyway. There he was - Connor - cradled in Lorne’s arms while he sang to the baby, and at that very moment Willow knew that she’d be begging Buffy to let her babysit...every night...without pay.

What was going on? She had never really been that fond of babies before. Oh sure, she’d had vague, hypothetical conversations about having children “someday” with Oz, and even with Tara, but it was always a very fictional and unreal concept, at least to her. But now...now...it was all she could do to keep from snatching Connor right out of Lorne’s arms as he stood and beamed at them.

“There you are, Angel food. Congratulations, you two. Looks like...,” Lorne paused - just like in the lobby - and got the strangest look, even for a demon with his taste in clothes, on his face before finishing his sentence. “Someone has a spiffy, permanent soul courtesy of one very good witch.”

Willow was never going to understand Lorne. She got the feeling he had been about to say something else, but she could not for the life of her figure out what it might have been. Demons. Sheesh.

For a moment, she and Angel stood, looking at Lorne, who was holding the now quiet Connor. He seemed to notice that things had gotten a little uncomfortable.

“Where are my manners? Here, sweet thing, why don’t you hold him? I’m sure he’d love to meet the girl who has done so much for his Daddy.”

Willow looked at Angel, practically begging for permission with her eyes, and was nearly ecstatic when he smiled and said, “I agree. I think he’d love to meet you, too.”

Willow sighed at that and held out her arms. She took the baby from Lorne, gingerly at first, almost afraid she might do him injury with her inexperience. Yet, even though she hadn’t held hardly any babies ever, somehow holding little Connor felt right, natural even. She wondered if he really was all human after all. There had to be some sort of mojo to make her love a baby like this...wait a minute...love?!?! Well, that was okay, she should love him...because...she was his Tante Willow. And hey, if Tante Willow loved him this much at first sight, just think how Mama Buffy was going to feel.

If she squinted her mind’s eye very hard and painted everything in its line of sight a nice, rosy pink, she could almost see Buffy handling this as well as she should and loving Connor with all her being. And since she was, at heart, always and forever an optimist, Willow refused to believe that it would be any other way.

Moments passed in happy silence, perhaps the first silence Willow had ever found contentment in during her entire life. She noticed Angel gazing fondly at...Connor (not her, definitely not her) and she smiled at him. Connor was lucky to have a Dad who loved him so much. She tried very hard not to feel like Connor’s mom when Angel put his arm around her as she began to coo at the little boy.

Unfortunately, or perhaps, for Willow’s peace of mind, fortunately...but no, actually unfortunately, another moment was broken by a strange noise: the sound of Cordelia’s, Wesley’s, and Gunn’s voices in the lobby below.

“Sheesh, don’t they worry about waking the baby?” Great - now Cordelia makes an appearance? Just what Willow wanted most in the world. The goddess sure had a strange sense of humour.

Angel chuckled, though slightly grimly, more like the old Angel. “I guess they had quite a time of it. They’re probably also anxious for me to get down there and tell them what was such a big deal that they had to stay out all night.”

“I’ll send Fred down and hold the fort with Connor, Angel cakes. You and the little woman better get down there with the good news before Cordelia raises the roof. Connor needs his rest.”

Willow handed the baby over - rather reluctantly, she had to admit to herself - and pondered Lorne’s choice of words. Did Angel think it was as weird as she did that Lorne was now calling her “the little woman”? If he did, it didn’t show, so maybe that was just Lorne’s way. He did have a rather exotic conversational style. So caught up was she in considering the riddle of semantics that she didn’t pay much notice as Angel took her hand when they were halfway to the lobby. She just stayed mired in unwelcome confusion while they made the trek downstairs to tell the others what had happened tonight.


Tbc...

Chapter Text

Best Laid Plans (Chapter Seven)

Willow could see Cordelia, Wesley and Gunn as she and Angel descended the stairs. Why was she suddenly put in mind of a firing squad?

We who are about to die salute you.

Okay, maybe that wasn’t such a great line to recall since now her mind was awash in images of Angel in gladiatorial gear. For a lesbian, she was sure having way too many naughty thoughts about guys. Well “a” guy, anyway. She just hoped it was the goddess’s way of keeping her faithful to her beloved Tara by distracting her wayward, hormonal brain away from thoughts that might lead to actual badness, because the idea that she might really be lusting after Buffy’s one true love was so not a good thing.

“Angel.” Cordelia’s shrill, commanding tone cut through the fog of Willow’s guilty thoughts and she was suddenly sure beyond all doubt that everything she’d heard about becoming a seer having transformed Cordelia into a far finer human being had to be an absolute load of hooey. That voice was the voice of a girl who made lives hell; it was the same voice Willow remembered slightly (okay, maybe more than slightly) from high school. And yes, maybe she wasn’t being fair, but she simply could not accept the idea that a good-hearted woman - noble, brave, and devoted to helping others - could possibly speak with that voice.

She kind of expected Angel to say something. He didn’t. So Willow figured she’d better not either. They simply stood silent, facing the others, as Willow waited for a cue as to what she should do or say. Her hand was still in Angel’s and she wondered about that, but she didn’t feel like offending him, so she left it where it was.

“So, are we ever going to find out what was such a big deal with you and Willow that we weren’t even be allowed to be here for the fireworks?” There was that voice again.

“Cordelia...” Wesley seemed curiously un-entranced by the girl he used to drool over back in Sunnydale and it suddenly occurred to Willow that maybe the hair gel he’d once used had been at fault way back when. Now that his hair was becomingly tousled, his brain seemed to function much better. Not that Willow was insinuating that being attracted to Cordelia was an indication of some kind of brain damage or anything.

“What? It’s not like you don’t want to know, Mr. Can’t-talk-about-anything-else-for-hours-a

nd-hours.”

Wesley had the grace to blush a bit at that and Willow felt for him. Cordelia certainly still had the cutting tongue Willow didn’t actually remember well at all.

Gunn was as silent as she and Angel were and Willow wondered what he was thinking. She’d barely met him when she’d been here before. How much did he know about Angel? About his soul? About Angelus or Sunnydale or...anything? And how the heck had he wound up as part of Angel’s crew anyway?

“Willow anchored my soul tonight.”

Well, that was one way to announce things: no muss, no fuss. It made sense in a way; Angel was a pretty no-frills kind of vamp. Still, Willow thought maybe some sort of build-up or scene-setting might have helped...or maybe not. Because she was finding it highly entertaining to watch Cordelia’s mouth open and close without, for once, any sharp remarks coming out of it. That fishing book would come in handy right about now since her old nemesis bore a striking resemblance to a bass, at least like the kind of battery operated bass which hung on the wall and sang corny songs that she used to see advertised on television.

Fred had come downstairs as Angel was delivering the news and it was obvious she’d heard. She had a stunned but happy look on her face that was really quite becoming. Willow looked her over and tried very hard to muster up a naughty thought or two to bolster her theory that the inappropriate Angel-lusting was simply a result of sex-deprivation. It didn’t work and Willow was profoundly disturbed. Fred was pretty and shy and everyone said she was scarily smart - that was so her type. It didn’t make sense that she couldn’t picture the two of them naked and sweaty together. What kind of lesbian was she anyway?

Alright, Willow, focus on what’s going on around you and stop worrying about your wonky sex drive for a moment. Angel’s talking here...and still holding your hand. Maybe that’s why... Focus

Unfortunately, giving her undivided attention to what Angel was saying was a bit difficult right now. It seemed that Willow wasn’t the only one who had noticed Angel was holding her hand. Cordelia’s eyes were pointing like lasers at their entwined fingers. Oh my...oh my. Cordelia was...she must be...oh no! Cordelia was in love with Angel. And she was jealous...of...Willow?

It was deja vu all over again and Willow hated herself for how much she was enjoying it this time around. The first time she’d felt horrible, skanky, and evil. But then again, back then, she really had made with the smoochies with Cordelia’s boyfriend. This time, hey, she’d done absolutely nothing (the naughty thoughts so did not count) and after all, Angel had never said a word about being involved with Cordelia, so Willow was completely blameless and thus free to bask in the glow of Cordelia’s envy...until she realized that Cordelia wasn’t the only one who was hurt by seeing this small bit of innocent intimacy.

Fred. Oh no. Now Willow felt absolutely awful. Was everyone lusting after Angel? And why did it have to be Fred? The poor girl had already been through so much what with being a cow in another dimension and all and now here she was, in love with Angel and having to watch the man she wanted holding hands with another girl. A girl who hadn’t even been able to have naughty thoughts about her, to boot. Willow felt like she was breaking some sort of unwritten but inviolate geek girl code...and she wasn’t even actually having any kind of romance with Angel.

Well, there was no way to get her hand out of Angel’s without drawing even more attention to the fact that they were holding hands in the first place and making her look incredibly guilty. So she just looked at Angel in what she hoped was the very model of a platonic way and tried to catch up with what he was telling the others.

“... Lorne did a reading before Willow did the spell, and has seen me since the spell was cast. It worked. He could see it. My soul is...” Angel paused for a moment, overcome with emotion, and looked at her in a way that Willow was so afraid would only hurt Fred all the more. She didn’t worry about Cordelia; that girl could take care of her own wounded pride. “One hundred percent secure.” He squeezed her hand and beamed at her. Willow forgot all about Fred as she basked in the warmth of Angel’s gaze. She was so going to hell.

“That’s wonderful news, Angel.” Wesley’s voice had an odd undercurrent as he spoke and he looked at Angel rather appraisingly. Willow wondered...oh goddess! Was he in love with Angel, too? Well at least now there was a good chance that none of her weird fantasies were her fault. Angel must have acquired some sort of love mojo since Sunnydale (and he’d obviously passed it on to Connor, she thought as she remembered her encounter with the baby). Yay! That meant all of this would go away with a simple clarification spell and she would live happily ever after with Tara and never think bad guy-centered thoughts again. She only hoped Angel’s new-found mojo didn’t work on Xander...that would be way too disturbing. Maybe she should do a clarification spell on Sunnydale just to be safe.

Angel finally dropped her hand as Gunn came forward and embraced him in a blamelessly comradely fashion with nary a trace of UST. Oh no. Her mojo theory was sinking like a leaky bass boat now. Couldn’t he just grab Angel’s butt or something? Was that so much to ask?

“Congratulations, man, that’s great.”

“Thank you, Charles.”

“So, now that you’ve got this permanent soul, what are you gonna do with it?”

Oh great, Gunn’s tone was pure buddy-buddy and he wasn’t even close to hinting that he’d like to take Angel’s newly-anchored soul for a test drive. Darn, darn, darn! Oh well, at least Cordelia was still silent. Of course, she had the sort of dangerous look on her face that Willow vaguely, oh heck, vividly remembered as presaging something spiteful being done...usually to her. Still, this time Angel would get between her and the wrath of Cordy...wouldn’t he?

Perhaps now she ought to take what looked like a good opportunity to step in and destroy any illusions the gang might have about her relationship with Angel. For one thing, Fred was certainly going to feel better finding out that he was going back to his one true love. That had to hurt less than thinking he’d simply picked out a different model geek. And then there was the matter of Cordelia, who would have to be at least slightly mollified by discovering that Angel wasn’t romantically inclined toward Willow after all. Not that Willow was scared of Cordelia or anything.

“He’s going to Sunnydale to give Buffy the good news.” Willow plastered a thousand watt grin on her face as she answered Gunn’s question on Angel’s behalf. She turned to Angel and was a bit taken aback by his expression. He didn’t seem to be on the same page with her at first. Momentarily, however, his expression matched hers, or at least approximated it kind of closely, and he nodded his agreement.

“Yeah, I’m going to Sunnydale.”

“Won’t it be great? You and Buffy can finally be together.”

She had thought that at least Wesley would chime in (Darn Stuffy-Watcher-Guy...he probably still thought that vampires and slayers should never mix...or maybe he just did have a thing for Angel after all), and she was disappointed that Gunn didn’t seem to be terribly enthusiastic about his partner-in-evil-fighting’s long overdue chance at complete happiness with the woman he loved. But at least Angel was smiling. And hey: Fred looked significantly less crest-fallen and Cordelia, while still pissed, had a far-away look that suggested her jealousy was now directed at Buffy, who Willow was pretty sure could take care of herself. So, all in all, she’d achieved her desired objective.

She’d underestimated Cordelia.

“So you go back to Sunnyhell to play house with Buffy, and what? Wesley and Gunn and Fred and I do all the work, I have the visions, which are supposed to be for you, and in the meantime you just have a merry old time burning up the sheets with Little Miss Can’t-Stay-Dead? Hello? And what about Connor? You’re going to just whisk him off to the Hellmouth where anything could happen to him?”

As much as Willow hated to admit it, Cordelia did have the barest fraction of a point. Angel had kind of a sacred duty here in Los Angeles, just like Buffy had a pretty permanent gig in Sunnydale. And maybe Sunnydale wasn’t the safest place for Connor, what with him being sort of a mystical baby and all. Gosh...she really hadn’t thought this through, had she? Oh heck. But Buffy and Angel were destined (weren’t they?) and there would be some way to work this all out. Willow was absolutely sure of it. She was. Really. After all, if it wasn’t so Buffy and Angel could be brought back together, what was the point of Willow finding the spell at all? Okay, maybe that was a really stupid thought because it was a good thing for Angel to have his soul anchored no matter what but...how would she get everyone to forgive her if she didn’t give Buffy her happily ever after?

“Cordelia,” Angel sounded a bit impatient and Willow’s inner bitch let out a bit of a cheer...for which she immediately felt guilty. Her inner bitch, sadly, wasn’t actually all that bitchy. “I will be back in a day or two. I’m not moving to Sunnydale, no matter what. Okay?”

“Good, because in case you’ve forgotten, this is about your redemption and it’s not like we can do it for you.”

Willow was a little uncertain about the whole “need for redemption” thing what with Angel now having a super glued soul, but arguing with Cordelia would be a bad thing, so she kept her mouth shut. The fact that Angel followed the same course only confirmed for Willow the prudence of her silence.

After a moment of extremely tense quiet, Angel spoke. “Look, we’re all tired. Willow and I both need sleep and I am sure you guys do, too. Why don’t we all just go to bed? Willow, head upstairs and I’ll be up in a minute to show you to one of the empty rooms. Wes, I need to talk to you for a minute. The rest of you? I’ll see you before I leave.”

Cordelia humphed and grumbled under her breath but didn’t argue, at least not audibly. Gunn and Fred looked like they thought Angel’s idea might be the most brilliant ever, though perhaps for different reasons. As for Willow, she was mostly impressed that Angel was able to get Cordelia to back down. She should have gotten some pointers from him back in tenth grade.

Angel and Wesley headed for “Wesley’s Magickal Wonderland” (known to everyone but Willow as his office) while Willow and the others trudged upstairs. Angel was right, she really needed to get some sleep. Magick and babbling and old high school enemies could really take it out of a girl.

As she entered Angel’s bedroom, Willow thought that if looks could stake, that last glare from Cordelia would have left her as dead as any vampire, but at this juncture she was too tired to worry about it. It had been one heck of a day. She yawned as she took off her shoes and sat down on the edge of the bed. She was exhausted and sitting upright was suddenly very taxing. Angel had let her lie down on his bed before, he’d even put her here, so she knew he wouldn’t mind now if she just stretched out for a minute and... Before Angel had finished his chat with Wesley, Willow was lying across the bed, fast asleep.


Tbc...

Chapter Text

Best Laid Plans (Chapter Eight)


As worn out as she was, Willow wouldn’t have thought that any noise could wake her up, let alone a very soft one. But astonishingly, she was indeed woken up by a very faint scratching sound.

She opened her eyes slowly and sat up, groggy and a bit disoriented, and was surprised to see Angel sitting across from her in a chair - sketching.

“Angel?” Her voice was fuzzy with sleep and she wasn’t sure he heard her. But in a moment, he stopped what he was doing and quirked an eyebrow at her. It was way too attractive a look for him. Being all sexy with a girl whose thoughts were at odds with her sexual preference right now was just not fair.

“I didn’t mean to wake you. I’m sorry. You looked so peaceful lying there that... I just wanted to capture the moment.”

“You’re drawing me?” Why? She wanted to ask. She would have thought he’d be sketching Buffy or Connor - someone he loved. Well actually, she would have thought he’d be sleeping. “Didn’t you say you wanted to go to bed?”

“I could tell that you were tired and that you were pretty anxious to get away from the others. I figured that telling them I needed some sleep would be a good way to stop the Inquisition.”

“It was that obvious?”

“You have a very expressive face.”

Was her face really that expressive? Hmmm...maybe it was picking up the slack now that her babbling skills were fading.

He put the sketch pad and charcoal aside, got up from the chair, and came towards the bed. His shirt was untucked and partially unbuttoned. Once again: way - too - sexy. Why was she being punished like this? Was this about the whole doubting-Cordelia thing? Because hey, if the powers decreed that she was a lofty and noble seer now, Willow could get on board with that. Three cheers for Cordelia! Now could they please stop with the sending of the naughty thoughts?

She leaned back against the pillows as he sat down on the edge of the bed; he reached out and ruffled her hair. Think about fishing, Willow, think about fishing.

“How long was I asleep?”

“About two hours or so.”

“Really? That’s all?” She felt like she’d slept for longer than that. She was actually feeling pretty well-rested. Maybe the naughty thoughts had made her more alert. That almost made them a positive thing and at least meant they were good for something besides massive amounts of guilt.

“Yeah. I thought you’d be asleep for a lot longer, but I guess my drawing woke you up. I didn’t think I was being that noisy. Sorry.”

“No...I mean thanks...I mean...you weren’t all that noisy. I don’t know why I woke up.”

He smiled as she babbled. There really needed to be a law against that smile. It was warm and filled with humour and it was...sexy, okay? Sexy! There - she admitted it. Could she please be daydreaming about Tara now?

“Thanks, by the way, for getting me, I mean us, out of that whole awkward thing downstairs. Cordelia and I are still...I guess we’ll always be un-mixy. I mean, I’m sure she’s really nice and all now, it’s just...”

“You two have a history.”

Well, that was one way of putting it. Willow could think of others, but she decided not to share them. “Yeah, I guess you could say that.”

Okay, there was never going to be a good time to ask the nosy and so-not-really-her-business-except-that-i

t-kind-of-was question she was most dying to know the answer to, so she might as well just open her mouth and stick her foot in it right now. After all, one of those women she’d just seen claiming Angel with their eyes in the lobby was likely a roadblock in the path of him getting back together with Buffy and, men being men, even when they were vampires, Willow was pretty sure which one it was. “Speaking of history, or maybe it’s really current events, what’s up with you and Cordelia anyway? If you two are - you know - involved, then I’m sorry I put you on the spot about going back to Sunnydale with me. But I didn’t know. I mean, it’s not like you said anything and there really wasn’t any reason for me to assume that she was your girlfriend and...”

Angel put his finger to her lips, cutting her off in mid-sentence. Sadly, that was a good thing as she was already slightly winded. This was the last straw; Willow was going to see a doctor when she got home. She was too young to have lost her ability to babble.

“She’s not my girlfriend, Willow. We’re not together like that, not really, anyway. She’s...I’m...it’s kind of complicated. Well, no, actually it’s not. We work together, and with her being my seer now, saving the world together, the whole thing with Darla and finding her in Pylea and then Buffy dying and Connor - it kind of created a heightened emotional bond, you know? Plus there’s the fact that...well...”

He stopped for a long moment and Willow finally decided to say something. “What, Angel?”

“I get lonely. It didn’t used to be this difficult. But now, after Buffy...it’s hard to be so alone, without anyone to care about, without anyone to care about me. I tried, I still try, but...yeah, I guess I just wanted to feel something for someone.” He looked so lost, turning his eyes on her with all this emotion in them, as if her were expecting her to make sense of it, and to forgive him. “Plus, she’s not that hard to look at, is she?”

Now that Willow understood - both the earlier sentiment and Angel’s need to diffuse the frightening intensity that had suddenly built up between them. Okay, maybe she couldn’t understand turning to Cordelia, but she could sure understand turning to someone. And in truth, sometimes, when she was alone in bed, missing Tara so badly that she thought she might die, she probably would have welcomed even Cordelia’s arms around her to take away even a shred of the pain of that loneliness.

She and Angel, she was starting to realize, were scarily alike. Two people who weren’t very good at being alone but who for some reason seemed to wind up that way more often than not. Two people sometimes desperate enough to be wanted and needed that they made stupid, even terrible mistakes. Not that Willow was calling Cordelia a terrible mistake.

“I understand, Angel. I do.”

“I know.”

And now it was Willow’s turn to try and lighten the mood. “You seem to be pretty good at figuring me out. It’s a good thing you’re not a girl, mister, or...”

“Or what?” Angel’s eyes sparkled with mischief. A little too much mischief. And the wrong kind (or right kind, if Willow’s hormones had a say in the matter), at that.

“I was just kidding, Angel. And anyway, you’re not a girl, so...”

“So you’d never find me attractive.”

“Yes, I mean no, I wouldn’t. I mean, not that you’re not nice looking and all. But I just don’t find you attractive. Because I don’t find any guys attractive. Because I don’t like guys. At all. Not any.” Maybe you could just be a little more defensive and overcompensate just a touch more excessively next time, Willow. Sheesh.

“That’s new, isn’t it? Or were you always that way and Oz was just a closet thing?”

“No!” How dare he say that! “I loved Oz. It had nothing to do with being in the closet or anything.”

“So what, you just woke up one morning and you were suddenly gay?”

What kind of question was that? “No. It wasn’t like that. I mean, after Oz, I did look at guys and all, but then I met Tara and...well...that was that.” There! That should end this rather awkward conversation. It explained everything.

“Maybe you’re bisexual, Willow. Did that ever occur to you?” He smirked slightly and it was very irritating. Okay, sexy, too, but still irritating.

He was laughing at her and Willow didn’t like it all. As if she hadn’t thought about...okay, actually, no, she hadn’t thought she might be bisexual. After Tara, she hadn’t looked at guys anymore so she’d just assumed...All right, all right, so she had sort of thought that she’d just woken up one morning completely and totally gay. So sue her. And no, she had never really thought about the fact that once she became involved with Tara, she hadn’t seriously looked at anybody else, not even girls. Nor had she thought about the role Tara’s expressed fear of her “heading back to Boystown” might have played in her own perception of herself and in what actions and thoughts she allowed herself.

“You know, it’s okay. Being bisexual is perfectly natural, Willow.”

“Oh, I know. It’s not like I’m narrow-minded or judgmental or anything. I mean, how could I be? It’s just that I’m an either/or kind of girl, you know? Pick a team and play? Not that I ever played on a team or anything like that, but...you know what I mean.”

“Being bisexual doesn’t mean you’re undecided. It just means that you don’t see love or lust as a matter of gender. Believe me, being bisexual is just as definite, just as real, as being gay or straight.”

And suddenly a light bulb went on over Willow’s head as she finally figured something out. Something she probably should have already known, but that she just now realized. Much to her shame, she was actually shocked. Although, in her defense, it had been left out of the Watchers Diaries - at least the parts she’d been able to read. “You mean - you? But I’ve only ever seen you with women. And that sounded so much stupider than it did in my head. I’m sorry.” Willow felt like the biggest idiot in the world right now. Couldn’t a sinkhole open up right now for her to fall into? Unfortunately none did and she couldn’t stop herself from opening her big mouth and saying the next thing that came to mind. “Oh my gosh! You and Spike were...oh my gosh!”

And the naughty thought avalanche came tumbling down the mountain of Willow’s mind. In all fairness, however, she was positive there could not be a woman so gay that she wouldn’t find the image of those two men together unbelievably stimulating. Spike, slim and blond and chiseled, being pounded into by Angel, so dark, so handsome...was it hot in here?

Angel was smirking at her. Darn hormones giving her away. Maybe she should try to think about something else.

Unfortunately her only alternative was just as distressing in its own way. What if Angel was right? What if she wasn’t gay, but bisexual? Would she have to tell Tara? What would that mean? Would Tara even take her back if she wasn’t one hundred percent pure lesbian? And what would Buffy think about Angel being bisexual? Not that Willow would tell her or anything, because it really was none of her business, but still - this was turning into one big mess.

Truthfully, though, now that she thought about it, she wasn’t the least bit surprised about Angel and Spike. All the tension between them suddenly reminded her of Xander and Cordelia. But oh gosh was this ever going to make it awkward when Angel and Buffy got back together, what with Spike being one of them now.

“What has you so deep in thought, Willow?” At least he had stopped smirking.

“Just - this whole situation could get kind of complicated. You know Spike’s around all the time now. After all, he’s chipped and he’s kind of stuck with us. The whole 'you guys being exe’s' thing and the whole 'you’ve got the girl Spike wants too' thing could get a little messy. Maybe you ought to sort of tell Buffy about your past and all, I mean, before Spike does or something.”

Angel appeared rather pensive himself for a moment. She’d scared him. Oh no. Considering how defeatist he often was, he might not even want to come back to Sunnydale with her now. He was going to ruin everything! For himself, of course. Because Willow wasn’t thinking for a moment about her friends forgiving her or getting back together with Tara - at least not much.

“I’ll help. I mean, I can explain to Buffy about me being bi and how I’ve never even looked at another guy, or even another girl, the whole time I’ve been with Tara and...oh gosh, what if she says something to Tara. Not that I wasn’t going to say anything to her myself - except that I kind of wasn’t. But never mind, if it will help you and Buffy, I’ll figure out how to deal with Tara and the whole 'not exactly entirely gay' issue and she’ll still take me back. I know she will. Because she knows how much I love her and how much she means to me. I even gave up magick for her. Until today, that is, but that’s different and she’ll realize that, even if she was pretty insistent that I had to go absolutely cold turkey, right?”

Willow was hopelessly tangled up in her own words and this time it wasn’t even the fact that she was almost panting for breath that made her stop. She was less than a sentence away from talking herself out of believing in the certainty of her own happily-ever-after and it terrified her. She refused to let the words be spoken. If she never said them, they wouldn’t be true. Angel to the rescue.

“She’ll understand, Willow. I’ll make sure of that. I just hope she also understands that...she’s lucky to have you. You’re a very special lady.”

Angel’s hand was on her cheek now and Willow felt strange - good strange, which was just plain bad. The kind of strange where you feel like someone is about to kiss you for the very first time. That would be wrong - so, so wrong. How had they gotten here from talking about getting back together with the people they loved? This could really ruin everything. Well, now it was Willow to the rescue.

“You, too. I mean that you’re special, not that you’re a lady, ‘cause you’re not.” Phew. The moment was lost. And she was so not sorry about that. Angel smiled at her and did that hair-ruffling thing that she was really starting to like, but his eyes were sad. She didn’t understand that, or maybe she did. Either way, she didn’t want to think about it.

Luckily, there was an interruption. Those seemed to happen in a creepily timely fashion of late and on this occasion the interruption was from a welcome source. Connor was crying. Willow practically bounced out of bed, eager to hold and comfort the little boy she’d bonded with so shockingly quickly.

“We better go check on Connor, don’t you think?”

Angel chuckled at her eagerness, but the shadowed look in his eyes stayed. “It’s great that you like my son so much. I just hope Buffy feels the same way.”

He stood and Willow patted his arm in a comforting and entirely chummy fashion. “She’ll love him. Why wouldn’t she? He’s your son and he’s adorable. What’s not to love? Let’s go, Mr. Worrywart. I have a feeling that a diaper needs changing and you’re just the one to teach me how to do it. Tante Willow needs to know these things or she won’t be a very good babysitter.”

“Tante Willow?” Angel seemed a bit confused.

“It means aunt in Yiddish. I’m Jewish, or at least I used to be, remember?”

The look on his face told her he was still confused and Willow decided to just let it go. Today had given her lots and lots of things she didn’t want to think about - what was one more?

“C’mon, let’s go take care of your son.”


Tbc...

Chapter Text

Best Laid Plans (Chapter Nine)

There was something really neat about riding in a convertible with the top down, Willow had to admit that. It almost made up for Angel’s decision to leave Connor behind in Los Angeles in the care of Lorne and Cordelia and Fred. Almost - but not quite. Willow had wanted badly to protest that taking the cute little tyke with them would be a sure fire way to get Buffy to accept and adore him right off the bat, but the fact that no one else seemed to be inclined to believe that Angel would be coming straight back did make leaving the boy behind seem like a good idea, seeing as how they all knew Angel would never agree to be away from his son for longer than a day or two. That and... well...bringing a prophesied child to the Hellmouth really was an invitation to all sorts of disaster. So okay, Willow was amenable to being mollified by the sight of the twinkling stars whizzing by overhead and by the feeling of the wind blowing through her hair, things she undoubtedly would not be experiencing with a baby in the car. Still, she would have happily been crammed into an old Volkswagen Beetle if it meant Connor was with them.

Never mind that. She was just going to have to get used to the life she actually was already used to: a carefree (well, not really, but it sounded good), child-free life. (Unless Dawn counted as a child...not that Dawn was really in her life these days...)

Somehow she had a feeling that it was going to be tougher than it should be. She had an irrational but persistent sense that at this point fate or the powers or whoever was in charge of this stuff really owed her for all the angst she was being put through. Between the inappropriate and misdirected naughty thoughts and the sudden and unexpected warm-fuzzy feelings for a baby she might never see again (at least not for a long time), she had been put through one heck of an emotional whirlwind over the past twenty-four hours and she really didn’t feel that she deserved it. This couldn’t all be because of the Cordelia thing, could it? How much seer-cred had her old nemesis racked up, anyway?

Willow’s head was starting to ache and she longed for a distraction. Angel hadn’t said much since they’d started this drive, but then again, that wasn’t really all that surprising. He had never been big on the whole chatting thing and she was pretty sure he was currently thinking deep thoughts of his own (and was far more content that way than she was). Still, it would be nice to have someone to talk to right now - anything would be better than the depressing morass of her own inner turmoil. At the same time, she didn’t want to be a bother or a nuisance and she worried that if she started a conversation, she might be annoying Angel, who would feel compelled to talk to her even if he’d really prefer silence. What was she going to do?

“What are you thinking about?” Angel to the rescue...again. He was really starting to give her the wiggins with this whole “knowing what she needed when she needed it” thing - really, really starting to give her the wiggins.

“Oh, you know: life, the universe, and everything.”

He quirked an eyebrow at her and Willow strove manfully - well, womanfully - to forestall any naughty thoughts before they began. Thank the goddess for convertible tops and that lovely breeze right now.

“Okay. I was kind of wishing we could have brought Connor with us.”

He smiled, but it was a wistful smile and Willow could tell that he already missed his son. She wondered if there had ever been a time when her own parents had loved her the way Angel loved Connor. Add that to the long list of things Willow really didn’t need to think about.

“Yeah, I wish we could have, too.”

“Well, at least you’ll get to see him soon. And hey, you’ll be bringing Buffy to meet him, I’m sure.”

“Yeah.” He didn’t sound too enthusiastic. Hmm. At this point he also changed the subject. Well, not so much changed it as steered it right off the Buffy track. Again with the hmm. “You sure got along well with him. I never knew you loved kids so much.”

“I don’t.” She was a little too emphatic and Angel looked a bit crestfallen. Willow hastened to clarify. “Oh, I love Connor. I’m just not normally a baby person, you know? But how can you not love Connor? He’s. . .well. . .he’s special. Not only because he’s your son, either, he’s just...”

“Special,” Angel interrupted. The twinkle in his eyes was back and Willow was glad to have put it there - sort of, anyway.

“Yes, he is. And I know that Buffy’s going to feel the same as I do. She’ll love him even more than I do. I’m sure of it.” She beamed at Angel, or at least something pretty darn close, hoping to infect him with her optimism. Because she was sure...she was...really and truly - she was one hundred percent positive that...okay, maybe one hundred percent was stretching it, but she absolutely was eighty-five percent sure that Buffy was going to adore Connor and deal with the knowledge that Angel’s supposedly departed sire was his mother in a mature and rational manner. Positively seventy-five percent certain and that was a fact.

It hadn’t worked. Angel didn’t look at all optimistic. Darn. Maybe if she had been one hundred percent sure, she’d have managed to get him on board the “everything’s gonna be great” train.

“Tell me about Tara.”

Gosh but that sure came out of left field. Okay, she could take a hint. Buffy was off-topic. “What do you want to know?”

“How did you two meet?”

A wave of memories washed over Willow. She waited for the hurting feeling she normally experienced these days when she strolled down memory lane and was surprised when it didn’t come. Was that good or bad?

“I joined this Wicca group at UC Sunnydale. Pfft! They were complete poseurs, you know? A bunch of losers who thought that calling themselves witches would make them cool. They didn’t even really believe in magick. But there was this one girl who was different, I noticed her from the beginning. She noticed me, too, and...well...it was Tara.”

Angel was listening, actually listening, and it was giving Willow the oddest feeling. No one had ever wanted to hear her talk about Tara, not really. Well, except for Xander - but all he’d wanted were the details of their sex life.

“Was it love at first sight?”

“No, I mean, I don’t think so. At first we were just good friends. We’d do spells together and Tara would teach me about Wicca and the goddess. She was born a witch, so she knew a lot more than me. We started spending more and more time together and things just kind of blossomed. I began seeing all these beautiful things in her - her shyness, the way she stuttered, her laugh, her smile, how caring and sweet she was - and I found myself becoming attracted to her more and more.”

Angel looked at her expectantly, genuinely interested in hearing about their relationship; Willow kept talking - story after story waiting at the tip of her tongue to be told - and Angel encouraged her, even asking questions from time to time.

“So Oz came back and you chose Tara, huh?”

“Yeah. It’s weird. I don’t think I knew how much I loved Tara until Oz wanted me back. It was like I had fallen out of love with him and hadn’t noticed. I mean, I still loved him, still do, I mean he was my first love and everything, but I wasn’t in love with him anymore, I was in love with Tara. I am in love with Tara.” What on Earth had made her use the past tense? Don’t think, Willow, just keep talking, keep remembering.

And keep talking she did, the history of her relationship with Tara unfolding with surprising lucidity and chronologically to boot. Shouldn’t she be more choked up at this point? The rush of weepy nostalgia still hadn’t come, even after reliving all these memories. Maybe she truly was assured of getting Tara back and thus she no longer felt the same pain she would have experienced a few days ago. Yeah, that was it, that had to be it.

“...And then it turned out that she wasn’t half demon after all. Her father just lied to her to control her and make her hate her abilities.”

“Didn’t she know she could tell you? She knew you had been in love with a werewolf. I’m surprised she didn’t trust you enough to share the fact that she was part demon, even though it turned out to be a lie.”

Willow fought back the urge to glare at him because...he sort of had a point. Loath as she was to believe any ill of her beloved Tara and to scrape any of the gilt off the golden memories of their earlier days together, Angel was right. Sort of, anyway. Okay, not sort of at all. It really had been wrong of Tara not to believe in her or trust her and with something so important, something she had to know Willow, of all people, would understand. Why hadn’t she trusted her? Memories of the spell Tara had cast, the spell to mask her supposed demonic identity, the spell that had almost gotten them all killed, suddenly rose up, parallelling in an unwelcome and incredibly discomfiting way the memories of her own tabula rasa spell. This was not good. This was so not good. If Tara wasn’t more pure, more perfect than Willow was, then... Shake it off. Back to the walk down memory lane.

She decided that Angel deserved a little bit of a glare after all, so she shot one at him before continuing. She was giving him his happily ever after all gift-wrapped with a shiny bow, the least he could do was not try to take hers away.

The stories kept coming. Little anecdotes about Tara and Willow and their as-close-to-perfect-as-you-can-get-on-the-Hellmouth life together. She smiled as she recounted the tale of a particularly happy day, the memory warm and fond. Why did it suddenly feel like it had happened so long ago? Why did it feel uncomfortably like her memories of Oz?


The next segment in “The Story of Willow and Tara” wasn’t nearly so cheerful, though, and Willow’s worries about her feelings were soon buried under the pain of too-fresh trauma: Glory. Angel’s hand found it’s way to her shoulder, squeezing it comfortingly as she went through the anguish of Tara’s ordeal all over again, her narrative broken by frequent pauses as she struggled to put her despair and guilt into words, to talk about days spent nursing her girl and nights spent missing the love whose body was still there but whose mind was gone. The nights when all she could see before her was a lifetime of taking care of a full-grown child, a girl she would always love but who might never love her again. That last recollected emotional pain was disquieting, too close to what she’d been going through for so many, many weeks, though Tara was whole once more.

She stopped talking when she got to the tower and Buffy’s death, the death she still felt she could have, should have, prevented. The death that was her fault, just as so many other horrible things had been.

“You’re an incredible woman, Willow.” Angel’s voice was soft but full of feeling and Willow turned and looked into his eyes. He meant it, he really did, and Willow was wondering just what story he’d been listening to all this time. She was pretty sure she had mentioned the fact that Glory had only been able to hurt Tara because Willow had upset her and she’d gone out in a vulnerable state. And didn’t Angel remember all the stuff she’d told him before about Rack and the magick and nearly killing Dawn (okay, he didn’t really know Dawn, but he had memories of her, didn’t he?) and ripping Buffy out of Heaven?

“Yeah, an incredible screw-up, anyway.” She did her best to manage a flip and lighthearted tone. Angel was making her uncomfortable. He was serious, he really was, and she didn’t understand it. All those years back in Sunnydale, when she’d been so good, he’d ignored her, brushed her off. Now, here she sat, damaged and broken and just plain bad and he was telling her how wonderful she was. Okay, there was the soul stuff, but still...that hadn’t meant a thing to him the first time around, so his current attitude towards her didn’t make any sense at all. Her head was starting to hurt again and this time she needed a distraction from what had been supposed to distract her in the first place.

Angel seemed to realize that she needed a break. For once, silence was her choice and he respected it. Again she was both grateful to and upset with him. Why did he have to be so darn intuitive? This, like Connor, was something she was going to miss so very much once Angel and Buffy got back together and Willow went back to being invisible. Oh well, she would have Tara and that would make up for anything and everything. And as the car finally made it’s way past the long-awaited Welcome to Sunnydale sign, Willow tried very hard to believe that she was going to be just as happy as Angel.


Tbc...

Chapter Text

Best Laid Plans (Chapter Ten)

They pulled into an alley a few blocks from the Magic Box and parked. Willow figured it would be a good idea to have a minute or two to talk before they faced the others.

“Are you sure you shouldn’t call first and tell them you’re back? I have a cell phone.”

“Are you kidding? If Tara’s there and she finds out I’m on the way, she’ll leave and I want her to be there. Anyway, I want this to be a surprise. Who knows what I might give away if I talk to them first? You know what a terrible liar I am.”

There he went with the quirking of the eyebrow thing that did - not - affect - her - at - all. Stupid, way-too-attractive vampire that she was so not ever having naughty thoughts about ever, ever, ever again. And she was too a lousy liar. Alright, maybe not so much lately, but still...

“Now, what I need to do is figure out how I’m going to tell them that I’ve used magick again without making them go ballistic before they hear the good news.”

Angel cleared his throat and Willow looked at him. “You don’t have to tell them, you know.”

Now that was a silly thing to say. “What are we going to do, say that while I was in L.A. helping you guys, you found a magic lamp and the genie inside anchored your soul?” And that probably sounded meaner than she had intended.

“No, we just tell them that you found the spell, but Wesley performed it.”

“And then when they get suspicious - which they will - and they call Wesley?”

“I already talked to him.”

That’s what they had been talking about last night? Okay, this intuitive thing was getting way, way, way, way out of hand.

“You did?”

“You told me they were all against you using magick. And I figured you didn’t deserve to suffer just because you gave me the greatest gift anyone’s ever given me.”

His hand was on her cheek...just like earlier that day. And darn it, it was that so-good-but-actually-so-very-very-bad feeling again, too. She really needed to think of a way to break the mood - because any second now there was going to be lips-on-lips stuff happening and she’d never be able to look at herself in the mirror again. Still...she rarely wore makeup, so that might not be such an inconvenience, it might even be okay... No! No, Willow, it would not be okay. Say something - anything - immediately!

“I guess we should head over to the Magic Box now, huh?” She tried hard to sound upbeat as Angel drew back and cleared his throat, trying to act like nothing had been about to happen, just as she was.

It was good that she had put the kibosh on this - really. Because after all, kissing each other would have been something they would both have regretted. They would have. Absolutely. Because Angel loved Buffy, and Willow loved Tara, and this weird sort-of-kind-of-chemistry thing was even more of a fluke than her high school dalliance with Xander, and it would lead to even worse badness.

Thank the goddess she had sense and was no longer a hormone-crazed teenage girl but a mature, intelligent woman who knew enough to think before she acted and understood the difference between real emotion and lust. Not that she was lusting after Angel or that he was lusting after her. This was a fluke: a spell fluke. Yeah! A spell fluke. That’s what it was. And okay, there was that “moment” in the lobby before she did the spell, but that could be explained. After all, she had done the soul restoration, so hey, this weird connection-y thing probably had already been there and it just had never come up before for some weird reason she didn’t have time to figure out right now.

“Let’s get this show on the road, shall we?” Willow did her best to give him one of her patented, thousand watt Willow-smiles. Sadly, she had a feeling she’d succeeded in looking more deranged than delighted. Were there brownie points for effort at least? “Are you ready to win back the love of your life?”

Okay, maybe she’d never been a cheerleader, but she figured her pep talk hadn’t been that bad. Why did Angel look more like he was about to face a room full of Fyarl demons and Cordelia on the day she found her first wrinkle than like a man (well, vampire with a soul, but same difference) about to make his fondest dream come true?

“I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.” Angel finally smiled but it looked even worse than hers and Willow was starting to question her own judgement. “Are you ready to win back the love of your life?” And now she felt even worse, though goddess knew why.

“Yup.” She amped up the wattage on the derange-o-smile and hoped it passed for a perky grin. It had better, because it was the best she could do.

She opened her door and got out, waiting while Angel put the top up, emerged from the driver’s side, and locked the car. Without thinking, she muttered a protection spell under her breath. After all, even in Sunnydale, Angel’s car was a tempting target for thieves or even demons and here it was in an alley and... Oh no! What had she done? Had the anchoring spell been a slippery slope? How could she have gone from doing no magick for weeks and weeks to doing spells at the drop of a hat? She really was a junkie. She couldn’t help herself; she started to cry.

“Willow, what is it?” Angel sounded so worried and it just made Willow cry even harder, especially after he pulled her into his arms and held her close. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s...it’s...I did a spell.” Her words were a bit muffled, what with her face being against his chest and all, but he heard her.

“You did a spell? Just now?”

“Yes. It was...I didn’t think...it was a protection spell - for your car. Because I didn’t want anybody to steal it or vandalize it or anything, but...I did a spell. Look at me! I do one little soul anchoring and I’m right back to bad-old-magick-junkie-Willow. They’ve been right all along. I’m a terrible person and an addict and...”

Angel shushed her and Willow looked up, seeing a surprising combination of mirth and sympathy in the expression on his face.

“You did a protection spell for my car?” The sympathy lost out to the mirth as Angel began to chuckle, then laugh out loud. Willow had a hard time seeing what was so hilarious.

“It’s just...you did a protection spell for my car.” Angel was nearly doubled over with laughter and Willow figured it was a darn good thing he didn’t need to breathe.

Suddenly, she started to get the joke. It was kind of funny, now wasn’t it? And okay, maybe it was also something to worry about, but for now she was going to see the humourous side of her trip back to the dark side and laugh along with Angel.

So laugh she did. In no time at all, in fact, she was as hysterical as he was, her sides hurting and her lungs in sore need of oxygen. She’d really better get herself under control. She pictured Cordelia’s face...the look on it when she’d been about to walk back into Angel’s bedroom...now that was chilling. With that visage in her mind, Willow had her merriment down to a few stray giggles in nothing flat. She quickly tamped down the image though, because she was dangerously close to spiraling down into depression.

Sue her. She couldn’t seem to find the station, let alone get on board the “Cordelia is wonderful” train. And no, her renewed animosity towards her long-ago enemy had nothing to do with the so-called seer and Angel sort of having a “thing.” After all, Willow was handing him over to Buffy, now wasn’t she? So there. And by “handing over” she didn’t actually mean that Angel was hers to bestow or anything and...why was she explaining herself to herself? This was getting extremely disconcerting.

“Shh.” Angel’s voice broke through her uncomfortable reverie. Willow was going to ask why when Angel put his finger to his lips, reminding her that - duh - he had just asked her to be quiet.

“It’s Buffy, she’s right nearby,” he whispered. They both moved as quietly as they could to the mouth of the alley. Angel wanted to get a glimpse of his love. It was touching. It was.

Pressed up against the alley wall and well out of view, Willow peeked around Angel and saw her best friend walk past, lost in thought. Weird. How come she didn’t sense Angel? Oh yeah, Buffy always seemed to have a hard time sensing him. So it wasn’t so weird after all. What happened next though? Yeah, that was weird.

The moment Buffy was out of sight - and earshot - Angel turned to her, his mouth a tight line and something very closely resembling anger in his eyes. He walked back to his car, unlocking the doors before speaking to her.

“Get in the car.”

“But, Angel...”

“Do it, Willow. Get in the car...right now.”

There was no arguing with that voice, or that face. He was this close to vamping out, so she did exactly as he asked. He got in the car without another word. No sooner had she shut her door when Angel threw the car into reverse and zoomed out of the alley. Willow was suddenly very glad she had done that protection spell. The way Angel was driving, she was going to need all the help she could get to survive the evening.

A few terrifying moments passed, moments during which she prayed to nearly every god and goddess she’d ever heard of, before Angel finally spoke again.

“Where can we go to talk?”

“M-my parent’s house. They’re gone. We can talk there.”

Angel hadn’t slowed down and Willow just hoped he remembered how to get to her former home. She was far too rattled at present to give him coherent directions. Suddenly, she was afraid to be alone with him and she wished she had told him to head to a coffee shop or something instead. Oh well, too late now, especially since Angel was currently parking his car in the driveway of the Rosenberg’s dark, deserted house and there was no way he would believe her if she said she didn’t have a key.

He got out, not even looking at her as he did, and he started up the path to her door in silence. She extricated herself from her seat belt and jumped out of the car as fast as she could, almost running to keep up with him. Didn’t he recall that he kind of needed her in order to get in? What with her having the key and him being a vampire who required an invitation to enter and all?

He stood aside and she opened the front door, a softly worded invitation spoken despite her extreme trepidation. After all, Angel wouldn’t hurt her...would he? She’d just anchored his soul. Oh my gosh! Had she screwed up? Was his soul gone or something? Had she just invited Angelus into her house? Oh no!

He was pacing the living room as she shut the door and watched, waiting for him to tell her what the heck was wrong - or try to kill her.

“Is there something you want to tell me, Willow? Something you forgot to tell me in Los Angeles, or on the road, or when we were stopped in the alley?”

Okay...huh? Was she missing something? Was there something she’d forgotten to tell him? No - at least, not anything she remembered she had forgotten to tell him. If there was anything she was supposed to have told him and hadn’t, she couldn’t for the life of her figure out what it was. First the babbling, now her memory...was she just completely on the fritz?

“No. I don’t think so, at least...I don’t know, Angel.” Her eyes were tearing up and she wished he’d give her some sort of hint. This was like playing charades blindfolded.

“Oh, c’mon, Willow. Did you really think I wasn’t going to find out? You had to know I’d smell it on them, so why didn’t you just tell me.”

“Tell you what, Angel?” Willow almost shouted. She was tired of Angel’s cryptic nonsense. Spell it out already.

“Buffy and Spike, Willow. Why didn’t you tell me about Buffy and Spike?”

Okay, she wasn’t the only one with memory trouble, it seemed, because she distinctly remembered telling Angel all about Spike’s crush on Buffy. She’d even told him about the time she’d made them believe they were engaged. So why was he going on as if she’d never said a word? And why was it all of a sudden this big issue now, anyway?

“Angel, I’m sorry, but I don’t see what your problem is.”

“You don’t see what my problem is?” He was looking at her like she’d grown an extra head.

“Yeah, I told you all about Spike’s crush on Buffy back in L.A. I mean, I’m sorry if you don’t remember, but...”

“Willow, it’s a lot more than a crush. They’re sleeping together.”

Her jaw went slack. She couldn’t have finished a sentence if she’d been ordered to at gunpoint. Buffy was...with Spike? But she’d never said a word. It was true they hadn’t been close lately, but something like that...Xander would have accused her of doing that Will be Done spell again, so at the very least she would have found out that way. There was no chance that Buffy was doing that with Spike. Angel had to be wrong...didn’t he?

“It can’t be,” she choked out as she nearly collapsed onto the couch. Was it possible after all? No, it couldn’t be true. Things between her and her best friend could not have gotten that bad. “Buffy would have told me...she would have.”

“You didn’t know?”

“No! I...Are you even sure? I mean, they spend a lot of time together, slaying and stuff and...maybe she borrowed his jacket and that’s how his scent got all over her or something.”

Angel calmed down, calmed down a great deal in what seemed like an instant. He sat down next to her.

“It’s not just casual contact, Willow. I could smell...she was with him tonight. Probably right before we saw her.”

Her eyes filled with tears as she struggled to process what Angel was telling her. There were no words sufficient to apologize to Angel with, she was sure of that. She might have anchored his soul, but she’d also hurt him grievously. If she hadn’t insisted on bringing him back to Sunnydale, he could be testing out that happiness-ready soul with Cordelia right now. And okay, yeah, it was Cordelia, but who was she to tell Angel who to be attracted to anyway? From the beginning, Angel had been reluctant, but she’d forced him to return with her and now look what had happened. She was a terrible, horrible, awful person. It was no wonder no one loved her anymore.

She started to sob so loudly that she was nearly wailing and for a moment she almost didn’t notice that Angel had his arms around her. It was hard to miss the sensation of being held against that strong, muscular chest, though, and soon Willow allowed herself to be soothed by his embrace. It felt like he was at least willing to think about forgiving her. That was good.

After a few moments of gradually lessening tears, Willow looked up at Angel. He had the most beautiful eyes. Why hadn’t she noticed that before? Oh yeah, she had, it just felt like the first time right now. But either way, they were beautiful eyes. Willow could get lost in those eyes, especially when they appeared to be so full of tenderness and... Of all the inappropriate times to have bad-wrong thoughts, this had to be one of the very worst. Okay, Willow-babble to the rescue.

“What are you going to do? I mean, about Buffy? Because she can’t be in love with Spike or she’d have said something and hey, you had the thing with Darla and the sort-of thing with Cordelia, so it’s not like you’ve waited around all alone either. Buffy had no way of knowing that I was ever going to be able to anchor your soul any more than you did, so really you can’t actually blame her for being with someone else, even if it’s Spike. But you guys are soulmates so you should be able to get past this and...”

“I don’t know, Willow. I’m wondering right now.” Okay, one more time...huh? Of course they were soulmates. What was he talking about?

“Because she’s with Spike?”

“No, because of how I feel about her being with Spike.”

Willow wasn’t quite sure she understood, but she pretended she did and nodded, hoping that as he continued, she’d figure out what he meant.

“I’m not sure if I was upset because I want her back or because I just don’t want her to be with him. Do you understand?” Angel looked into her eyes and it was as if she could see his thoughts forming as he tried to make sense of his feelings. Willow was mesmerized.

“Maybe I’ve been carrying this torch for so long that I stopped looking at it. Maybe it went out ages ago and I just didn’t notice. I...it hurts, you know. Because loving Buffy is so much a part of me and it feels so wrong to think that I might not love her anymore. Back there, in the alley, I wanted so much to be consumed...by jealousy, by pain, by anything, and all I really felt was resentment and some juvenile fear that maybe she thought Spike was better than me. That’s what made me angry. And I don’t know what to do now.”

The anguish in his eyes - it hurt Willow to see and she just had to look away. This was her fault, this was all her fault. How on Earth was she ever going to fix the damage she’d done?

Lost in thought and focusing her gaze everywhere but on Angel, she didn’t notice when he leaned in, didn’t have a clue what he intended until it was far too late. Because by the time she noticed anything, what she noticed was the feeling of Angel’s lips on hers. He was kissing her...oh heck, they were kissing. And, much to Willow's astonishment, it didn’t feel wrong. It didn’t feel wrong at all.


Tbc...

Chapter Text

Best Laid Plans (Chapter Eleven)


Angel lips. Lips of Angel. Cool, delicious, skillful lips of Angel.

Willow wasn’t really sure why this was happening, but hey, she could say that about half the stuff that had ever happened in her entire life - at least half the stuff that had ever happened in her entire life. And unlike most things she couldn’t find a good reason for, she was enjoying this - quite a lot, actually. Angel could kiss. Of course, he’d had lots of time to practice, but she still had to give him a big round of applause for technique. Maybe she only had three people to compare him to, but she had the feeling that even if she had three hundred, she’d still think he was tops.

Oh gosh. She’d only kissed three people before. What if she was such an amateur that Angel was disgusted? But wait, if he was disgusted he wouldn’t be pulling her closer and making those neat little moans that were making her pull him closer. And oooh! Hands! Hands in new places! And not just his...

Oh god. Oh goddess. Whatever. She’d never had any complaints about Oz in the size department, but Angel, from what she could feel, definitely outranked him. She was thinking porn star right about now...especially since she couldn’t seem to stop stroking it and it just kept getting bigger. Was that a vampire thing or was Angel greatly endowed as a human? And why was she thinking about this? She and Angel were so not going to have sex...were they? Making out was one thing; sex would definitely be bad. Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad.

Then Angel’s hand started doing this really amazing thing and there were fingers in surprising places and...would sex really honestly be such a terrible idea? After all, it wouldn’t technically be cheating on Tara because they were sort of broken up and hey - she was bisexual! Shouldn’t that mean she was allowed to have one of each?

Wait a minute. She and Angel barely knew each other. Okay, they had in fact known each other for a long time but still, they hadn’t really had an in-depth conversation that wasn’t about Buffy until yesterday and...

Buffy. That was a bracing shower of cold water and Willow found herself actually able to think rationally again. She did not want to be a consolation prize, the girl Angel used to soothe his wounded ego because the girl he really wanted was off getting spanked by his ex-lover, and she didn’t want to use Angel either (though the fact that thinking of Tara had not caused her nearly the distress that thinking about Buffy had was extremely worrying).

“Angel,” she panted as his mouth moved in this really distracting way down her neck. “Angel. We need to stop.”

She wasn’t sure whether she was happy or sad or maybe even a little insulted (and okay, yeah, there was a frustration thing happening too since he’d been getting her into a pretty turned on state) that he stopped immediately. But then, he could be feeling the exact same way since she was the one who initially slammed on the brakes. And what was up with the car metaphors lately?

“Willow...”

“No, Angel, we really do need to stop. I mean, not that it wasn’t neat and all. Because you’re a really great kisser and I was...well...I was really big with the liking of what you were doing and I’m sorry about my hand and everything and letting you...you know...with your hand, because you probably got the idea that this was gonna go a lot further, but...”

“It’s okay.”

“It is?” And did she just sound more offended than relieved? Oh no.

Angel chuckled, and while it was still darn sexy, it was not good for Willow’s ego at this moment. “I want you, Willow. I want you badly. But you’re right. We should slow down, figure out what’s happening between us. And there’s Tara. I don’t want to do anything that will ruin your relationship with her.”

Huh? No mention of Buffy? That was a bit confusing. Of course, he had said that he wasn’t sure he was in love with her anymore, but she hadn’t really believed he meant it. Maybe he did. As for Tara...

“There isn’t a relationship with Tara. Not now, anyway.” This was the point at which Willow’s mouth and mind started moving at the same speed, thus her words were as new to her as they were to Angel. Even she wasn’t totally ready for them. “I don’t know how I feel anymore. I mean, when I found the spell book, to be honest, all I could think about was how doing that spell was going to make Buffy forgive me and get Tara to want me back because she wouldn’t see me as a bad witch who could never be around magick anymore. But then when I got to L.A. and I saw you and we started having these kind of weird moments and feelings and... It’s so confusing. I mean, just a few days ago I could have sworn I was gay and that Tara was all I wanted, but then you...and the thing just now with the kissing...and...”

She stopped. First off, she needed air. Second, she couldn’t form the words to say what came next. Her brain had sort of shorted out what with the shock of realizing she might not be in love with Tara anymore. She still loved her, but it was a fondness now, and it was...exactly like what she felt for Oz.

When had this happened? Where had she been when it did? How had it happened? And why? Tara was her girl - they were a forever kind of couple and...this was precisely what Angel was going through right now. What were the odds that two people could have this exact angst at the exact same time? Why was she even asking that question? They were on a Hellmouth. The odds were great.

“I understand, Willow. Before you came to L.A., I thought I still loved Buffy; I thought I might be falling for Cordelia.” Willow tried to stifle a snort, but obviously didn’t succeed completely. Angel gave her a smirk before continuing.

“Then you showed up and...I feel like there’s something special between us. Like you know me. Like I know you. It might not seem like I paid much attention to you before, but I did. I just didn’t know...I didn’t...I didn’t really know how to talk to you. But now, now it’s different. And I’m sure you think it’s because of the spell and I know you think this has something to do with Buffy and Spike but...” Angel held up his hand to forestall her protest at the exact second Willow opened her mouth. Damn he was good. And really, he was right, so she needed to just keep her mouth shut. “But it doesn’t, Willow. It doesn’t. I wasn’t thinking about Buffy at all when I was kissing you. And believe me, I was attracted to you long before you ever did that spell.”

Now that was new. Okay, the other stuff Angel had said was technically more important, but what was this about being attracted to her before?

“Yeah, I was.”

Okay, she knew for a fact she hadn’t said a thing out loud. Once again, the intuition thing was getting to be a bit too much. And there’d been the chuckle too, which was way too heavy a strain to put on her poor, beleaguered hormones.

“When?” She might as well just go with the flow and ask her questions.

There was that chuckle again. She needed to remind herself that it would be a bad idea to rip off her clothes and jump him right this minute.

“That night when I came to your room? You remember? To ask you about Ford?”

“You were attracted to me then?”

“Oh yeah.” Angel seemed lost in the memory for a moment and Willow felt a pang of jealousy...of herself? “You had the longest legs...peeking out from under that thin white shirt...the cute way you hid that bra. Innocent and sexy - quite a combination. Mmmm.”

“But you were in love with Buffy then. Really in love with her.”

“Yes, I was, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t a man, Willow, a man with a good pair of eyes.” Willow snorted again, her mind going back to the days when no one even thought she was female, let alone attractive. She had just been a walking, talking brain.

“Believe me, I had to change the sheets more than one day after the dreams I had about you.”

There were dreams? Really? About her? Oh gosh. And how pathetically shallow was she? Because this frivolous revelation served like sandpaper on her memories, smoothing the rough, painful edges of those moments that were still so fresh, moments that still hurt her to recall. But not now, not knowing that while Cordelia was mocking her and Xander was ignoring her and every boy in school treated her like a sexless geek, Angel was having naughty thoughts about her. As much as she should feel guilty about him lusting after her, even if it was only slightly, when he was Buffy’s boyfriend, she couldn’t make it happen. It was too much of a blessing to have this - this glorious redefinition of her identity.

Her eyes welled up with tears and she started to turn away. Angel’s hand under her chin stopped her. “Don’t cry, Willow. You’re a beautiful woman, you always were. Xander...those other boys? They were idiots.”

“I know, it’s just...”

“It’s just that you don’t believe it. Not really. I wish you could see yourself the way I do, Willow.”

They sat, staring into each other’s eyes, for what seemed like an eternity but was probably only a few seconds. Then Angel spoke again.

“I guess this feels pretty sudden, doesn’t it?”

Okay, kind of a non sequitur, but apropos, certainly.

“Yeah, I mean...yeah.” And what her reply lacked in eloquence, it more than made up for in lame. Sheesh, Willow. Try and come up with something a little more in keeping with the intellectual you’re supposed to be. “It’s just...I’m not used to sudden. With Oz...with Tara...it grew over time and it was kind of a slow, steady, building up kind of thing. I’m not used to things that I haven’t had a chance to get used to, you know?”

Way to go, Willow. There sure wasn’t anything lame about that...except for every single word of it. Did sexual frustration make women as stupid as it did men? Or was it that deep down she was basically an idiot and was just now finding that out?

Angel smiled. “I know. This is kind of weird for me, too. But it’s a good kind of weird. And it’s a weird I’d like to explore some more. That is, if you want to, I mean.”

Those last words gave Willow a little bit of a shock. Angel was...insecure? Uncertain? Angel? There was something about that which made Willow find him all the more attractive. Or maybe attractive wasn’t quite the word. It made her find him more...she couldn’t really find the right word. She just knew that she felt closer to him somehow, and her heart felt safer.

Whoa! Hold on one minute there...her heart? When had they gotten to the heart place? And where had she been during the trip? Oh goddess. Sudden didn’t even begin to describe the way this was going.

“Yeah, I want to, Angel.”

What was she saying? She didn’t even know if Angel was really interested in anything serious. What if he figured out that she was kind of, sort of, maybe having deep type feelings for him and freaked out?

“I’m not looking for a casual fling, Willow. If you’re not sure...”

Oh my. He’d been thinking the same sort of things that she had been? Once again with the “how weird was that?” and with the wondering about this intuition thing and how deep it went.

“I’m not really a casual kind of girl. I don’t even think I’d know how...to be casual, I mean. You know? Because I’ve never even been on a date with somebody who I wasn’t in a serious relationship with or who I ended up being that way with. Not that there have been that many, just Oz and Tara. And okay, yeah, there was the fluking with Xander, but that doesn’t really count because we never dated and there was only kissing and...oh my gosh! Cordelia’s going to kill me!”

Angel looked extremely perplexed and for a moment, Willow wasn’t sure why. Then she realized that she had kind of gone off on a tangent at the end there and maybe Angel wasn’t as hyper-aware of her shared past with Cordelia as she was.

“This makes the second time I’ve sort of stolen a guy from her.”

Angel still looked perplexed.

“Xander? Remember? They were together back in high school?”

“Oh yeah.”

“Well, the fluking thing was what broke them up. She walked in on us kissing when Spike was holding us captive in that warehouse.”

“I remember that now.”

“Yeah, well, Cordelia’s not going to like that it’s happened again. I mean, if we’re together. Because maybe I misunderstood you, but I kind of thought you meant we were sort of a couple now and I just don’t think it’s going to be pretty when we break the news...if there’s any news to break that is. And did I just make a gigantic fool out of myself?”

Angel laughed, his hand going around the back of her neck to pull her close. He kissed...the top of her head. Darn.

“She’s changed, Willow, she’s changed a lot. Besides, we weren’t actually together. It was pretty much some tension and a little flirting. Loneliness more than anything. Believe me, it wasn’t serious and she won’t hate you.”

Sure thing, Angel. Cordelia absolutely had changed that much. And Willow was going to walk into the Magic Box and find out that Anya had become a nun and given all her money to the poor.

Was Angel delusional? Oh no. Was he? Was that why he suddenly found her attractive? Was this like that time he’d mistaken her for Buffy? Looking into his eyes, though...he looked sane. He also looked a bit doubtful. Okay, this was good. He had a solid enough grip on reality to at least know inside that Cordelia probably wasn’t going to help plan their wedding...not that they were going to get married. After all, she figured vampires probably weren’t so big on the whole “‘til death do us part” thing, what with already being dead and all.

This was all getting very serious and complicated and worrying. She needed to clear her head. Plus, she figured it might be a good idea for them to do something other than sit there in an empty house all alone. As much as she wanted him (and her body was cursing her in eight dead languages and five demonic ones right now), she knew that sex would probably be a big mistake so soon after first discovering they were even attracted to each other.

“Wanna take a walk with me? I mean, I might as well take advantage of having a really great bodyguard to go for a walk and get a breath of that clear, Hellmouth-y night air.”

“Yeah, sure. I’ve kind of missed the charms of moonlit walks in Sunnydale.” That intuition thing suddenly seemed like one heck of a blessing to Willow. He understood. And he was okay with it.

She’d left her bags in Angel’s car, so she ran upstairs to her old room, grabbed a jacket from her closet, thanked the goddess that it still fit, and bounded down the stairs. He was smiling as she took his hand and led him out the door.

For a moment as they strode down the path to the sidewalk, she was a bit unsure of her idea, but she knew Buffy’s patrol routes and hey, she was probably otherwise occupied with Spike right now anyway. And it wasn’t like any of the rest of the gang would be out and about at this hour. She and Angel would have a nice walk and no one would be the wiser. There would be one night of calm before they’d both have to figure out how to do a whole lot of explaining...and live through it.

Thinking of Cordelia (and Buffy, if she was honest to herself about her best friend), she resolved that it might actually be wise to just enjoy being alive while she could. She wasn’t at all sure that she could come up with any spin to put on the news of her new couple-y status with Angel that would safeguard her continued ability to breathe. Huh. Maybe she should have just ripped off her clothes and jumped him after all.

Tbc...

Chapter Text

Best Laid Plans (Chapter Twelve)


It really was a lovely night out. The sky was clear and bright and Willow could even see the stars. It was a night beautiful enough to tempt the unwary from their homes and for a moment she actually felt a pang of fear for the less cautious and prudent of Sunnydale’s residents. Not for more than a moment, though, because, frankly...she had other things to think about. Like how nice it felt to hold Angel’s hand. Like how gloriously handsome he looked in the moonlight. Like...how the heck was she going to break the news that she had somehow grabbed the brass ring right out of Buffy’s hand?

This was going to be so much worse than Cordelia and the fluking. Willow stood a good chance of getting staked. Somehow, she didn’t think Buffy was going to pay much mind to the niceties, like Willow being human and not a vampire. Because, really, she didn’t know what Angel’s take was, but Willow remembered the way Buffy’s eyes got that far-away “Angel” look in them when she was talking about Willow going to L.A. and she would bet dollars to doughnuts that poor, besotted Spike came in (again) a distant second to his ex-lover. Buffy was not over her first love no matter what she was doing with Spike.

Angel noticed her shift in mood immediately.”What are you thinking about?” His eyes told her he already knew, but she figured she’d bluff anyway. She hated to be a downer on a beautiful night like this.

“Oh nothing, just...you know...nothing.” And it was Attack of the Lame all over again.

They stopped walking and he pulled her close and chuckled, his mouth against her hair, making it rustle slightly. It felt oddly intimate and Willow was suddenly kind of distracted by a renewed assault by the hormone brigade.

“What am I going to do with you?”

Hmm. Now that was an interesting question. Willow had a couple of ideas actually, none of which, sadly, were germane. Darn.

“What do you mean?” Smooth, Willow. Sure thing he buys the innocent act.

“I know you were thinking about something, Willow. Buffy?”

Curses, foiled again. “Well, kinda, I mean...okay, yeah, I was thinking about Buffy.” She turned serious in a hurry. If they were going to talk about this, she wanted to make sure Angel understood the gravity of the situation right from the get-go. “Look, I know she’s involved with Spike now and all - I believe you about that, ‘cause hey, you’ve got the super vamp senses and all - but I see her face every time anything to do with you comes up and, Angel, she’s still in love with you.”

They stayed where they were standing and Angel seemed lost in thought. For a heart-stopping moment, Willow was terrified that he was having second thoughts - that he wanted to get back together with Buffy after all.

“I guess that will make things a little trickier then, won’t it. But, Willow, that doesn’t change how I feel about her...or about you. We’ll find the words to make her understand, or we won’t, but either way, you’re the one I want and we’ll come up with some way to make things all right.”

Tears were swimming in her eyes as he spoke. Happy tears. Joyful tears. Angel had a choice...and he was choosing Willow. She felt like she could fly. This must have been what Tara felt like when...oh no. Tara. What was she going to tell Tara?

Once again, Angel could sense her spirits falling and knew full well the reason why. This time he didn’t bother with arch pretense. “We’ll figure out the right way for you to tell her, to let her down gently. You still care about her, I know that, and I’ll do my best to help you make sure she doesn’t get hurt by this...by us.”

She wished that could be, that there really was a way to keep Tara from being hurt. Willow would give anything for that kind of magick, but it didn’t exist. Tara loved her, was still in love with her, Willow could see it in the pain-filled glances Tara shot her on those once too-rare occasions when they saw each other lately. And she’d know, no matter what excuse Willow made, Tara would know that something wasn’t there anymore - something that used to be hers but was now someone else’s. Tara was wise like that.

Angel took her hand and they started walking again, silent - each knowing that this was far from an easily-attained happily-ever-after.

“You think this is what Lorne was talking about?” Okay, it was kind of a tangent, but not really. Maybe a little bit, but still...oh sue her. It hurt too much to talk about inflicting more pain on poor Tara after everything she’d been through. First Glory, then Willow’s magick, and now that trip back to boystown that Tara had once feared - the trip Willow had assured her she would never take.

Angel smiled. He seemed glad to leave aside the topic of their respective ex-lovers as well. “Yeah, I think this is exactly what he was talking about.”

“Me, too, because if it is, then all those long pauses and awkward not-saying-what-it-seemed-like-he-was-ab

out-to-say moments make so much more sense than they did before.”

“That they do.”

“So you noticed them, too? Because you seemed so nonchalant and I thought maybe I was imagining the whole stilted-and-secretive thing.”

“No, I noticed. I just don’t have as expressive a face as you do.” His tone was light and teasing and Willow was entranced by the almost carefree quality his features displayed. Maybe his face wasn’t as expressive as hers all the time, but it was expressive right now. In fact, it was beautiful.

He seemed to feel the same way about her. The way he was looking at her set the butterflies in her stomach to fluttering madly.

Suddenly it was his turn to look worried and upset. What happened? Had she done something wrong?

He put his finger to his lips. Gosh but he sure was telling her to be quiet a lot lately. This was just like back in the alley when...oh! Was it Buffy? Her luck could not be that bad, could it?

“Willow, we have to get out of here,” Angel whispered. Unfortunately, they were out in the open with nowhere to easily hide and...

“Well, Angelus, fancy meeting you here.”

Apparently, not only could her luck be that bad, it could be much, much worse.

“Red, what brings you out for a moonlit walk with the souled avenger?” He then made a show of sniffing the air extravagantly. Not for the first time in the last few days was Willow left wondering how much torture the goddess and the Powers intended to put her through. This was very bad. Apocalypse bad.

“Taking a bit of a risk, aren’t you, Peaches. I don’t have any firsthand experience, but I’m guessing Red here has got the goods to make you happy, perfectly happy, in fact.” Spike leered and gave Willow a once over that had her wondering if maybe her body wash had been spelled or something. Were all vampires attracted to her now? And hey, wasn’t Spike madly in love with Buffy? Pay attention, Willow; he’s still talking.

“What’s the matter? Get tired of being a do-gooder and feel like being a real vampire again?”

Angel was about to say something but Willow’s hand on his arm, squeezing rather tightly in warning, kept him quiet. Thank whatever powers were actually on their side for that.

But now Willow was going to have to exercise restraint because Spike was currently addressing her.

“And you...for shame, pet. I know you’ve gone to the dark side a bit lately, but I can’t believe you could be stupid enough to risk bringing Angelus back. He’d torture you in a heartbeat. And anyway, haven’t you switched teams? If I’d known you were driving stick again, I’d have been more than happy to show you what a vampire can do.”

Angel growled possessively and Willow got a bit testy herself. How dare Spike assume she was evil. She’d never even lost her soul once. And anyway, who was he to accuse her of going over to the dark side? Plus, the inappropriate flirting was just...well, patronizing and condescending, because he really was currently in love with her best friend - well, soon-to-be former best friend, anyway.

She was about to try and come up with some sort of credible, if entirely fallacious, cover story when Angel pretty much changed her plans entirely by coming out with...the truth?

“Willow anchored my soul, Spike. It’s permanent.”

What was he doing?

Spike’s expression fell faster than Willow could have ever imagined. She felt an overwhelming rush of pity for him. She knew what he was afraid of and she hoped Angel wasn’t going to taunt him. Concentrating, she sent out “maturity” vibes and hoped they worked.

“So you figured you’d come back to Sunnydale and pick right up where you left off with your ‘true love’? Only what? You decided you’d take the soul for a test drive with the witch first?”

Angel nearly vamped and Willow clung to his arm for dear life. Please, goddess, don’t let them fight.

“Willow’s not a ‘test drive’ or second best, Spike. She’s...she’s the woman who has my heart - all of it - if she wants it.” Angel turned to Willow, who was gazing up at him with what she knew had to be the sappiest look ever to adorn a human face. She didn’t care. Angel was giving her his heart. She’d take it.

She nodded vigorously and Spike acted nauseated. Underneath his seeming disdain, though, even Willow could sense the envy. Poor Spike.

“That should set your mind at ease. Whatever you have going with Buffy, I’m not a threat to it.”

“So you know.”

Angel snorted. Spike couldn’t possibly believe that Angel hadn’t picked up on it. Then again, Spike’s opinion of Angel as a vampire was pretty low.

“Is that it then, Peaches? Can’t handle the competition?” Spike sneered.

“Not at all, William.” Willow saw Spike stiffen at the use of his human name. She knew he hated it...maturity, maturity, maturity. “Trust me, you’ve never been competition.”

Gosh darn it! What part of “mature” did these testosterone-choked vampires not understand? Girl power to the rescue.

“Angel! Spike! Stop it. Now we all want the same thing, don’t we?”

The two of them looked at her as if she was speaking Pylean or something and she sighed. Men.

“We all want to be happy and not to have anyone reveal our secrets at an inopportune time or in an inopportune way and also for none of us to get staked, am I right?”

Even Spike had to nod his head at that one, confirming Willow’s ‘til-now-only-a-suspicion that Buffy wanted her affair with Spike kept under wraps.

“So okay. Let’s just shake hands.” Angel and Spike looked at her in almost-horror and Willow quickly amended her statement. “Well, in the metaphoric sense, anyway, part on good terms, and pretend that this conversation never happened and that none of us knows what we know. Does that sound like a plan?”

Once again, she got the nodding heads. This was good. Well, better than continued snarking, at any rate.

“So, let’s recap, shall we? Angel and I will not say a word about knowing that you’re Buffy’s boyfriend.” Spike looked heartened by Willow’s choice of words and for a moment she wondered if she should have pursued a career in diplomacy. “And in return, Spike, you don’t mention anything about the soul anchoring or about Angel and I being...well...Angel and I. Got it?”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah.”

“Good!” Willow’s relief made her a bit excessive in her reaction, but hey, the possibility of living for at least another day or two was kind of delightful. Sue her. Breathing was neat.

She noticed, however, that they were still glaring at each other and Willow feared her fragile truce was already in jeopardy.

“You’d think you two would get along better seeing as how you used to be sex bunnies.” Willow muttered under her breath. Unfortunately, she had forgotten about vampire hearing.

“You told her?” Spike accused.

“She guessed!” Angel held his hands up in a defensive gesture.

“I guessed, honest! Angel was helping me deal with being bisexual and I just sort of figured it out. I swear!” She was really going to have to think before she spoke. Maybe her ability to babble had been compromised for a reason. Sadly, it did not seem to have been compromised enough. Her career in the supernatural U.N. was now in serious danger of ending before it began.

“I promise I won’t ever mention it again, okay?’

“See that you don’t, pet. Not something I care to remember.”

Angel snorted derisively. “You didn’t feel that way before, William. In fact, I seem to recall...”

Willow dammed up the naughty thought river and immediately put a stop to what looked to become something very bad. “Angel! I think we need to respect Spike’s feelings here, don’t you?”

Spike smirked at her. “This one’s got brains. So, Red, what on Earth is a smart girl like you doing with tall, dark, and deadly stupid?” He didn’t wait for an answer, walking off with a last “Ta” and leaving Angel fuming at not having gotten the last word. It was funny, but Willow realized with a start that she had actually missed this part of being with a man: the silly, macho posturing. Oddly, it was kind of hot.

Strange how the art of smoothing ruffled peacock feathers was just like riding a bike - you never really forgot how.

“C’mon, Angel. You know he’s just bitter. And insecure. I know he gets to you, but that’s what he wants. Let him think he won the battle, we both know he didn’t really. Besides, you know he’s jealous of me more than anyone. I think he wants you back.” Angel smiled at her. A real, full smile and Willow nearly did that fist-pumping-in-the-air thing. Damn, she was good.

“Let’s go home, okay? You can help me make the house vamp safe and we can get some rest. I think we’ve earned it.”

“Can we sleep in the same bed?”

“Yes.” Sheesh, the sacrifices she made for the male ego. Mmmm...yeah, big, big sacrifices (and she was so not thinking naughty thoughts). She let Angel practically drag her down the sidewalk as he made a beeline for her house. Gee, she giggled to herself, he must really need sleep.


Tbc...

Chapter Text

Best Laid Plans (Chapter Thirteen)

“Ow!”

Willow was really thankful that this barrier to the sunlight that would normally be pouring into her living room in a couple of hours was the last of the sheets she needed to tack up because this was the third time she had whacked her thumb with the hammer. Having a vampire for a boyfriend (at least she guessed Angel was her boyfriend now) was not really a low maintenance kind of arrangement.

He heard her cry immediately and rushed over to see what was wrong.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah. Just not so good at the home maintenance-y things, that’s all.” That was probably an understatement, she thought as her thumb throbbed in agreement.

“You should have let me do this.”

“Angel, you’re a guest.”

He raised an eyebrow at her.

“You are. And besides, I’m not helpless, you know. Even when I’m not using magick, I can actually do stuff. Maybe not always well, okay, but that’s not the point.”

For a moment, Angel smiled, but then his eyes got serious and, once again, he was doing the insightful thing and saying all the right words.

“Willow, I’ve never thought you were helpless. Even before you discovered magick, you were one of the bravest people I had ever known. I don’t think I’ve ever told you how impressed I was with how much courage you had, right from the beginning. And you are very, very good at doing ‘stuff.’ You don’t have to hammer nails to prove yourself to me, okay?”

It was kind of hard to talk through the lump in her throat, but Willow made the effort. “Okay.”

She let Angel lift her off the stepladder and put her back down on the ground.

“Well, at least you won’t go ‘poof’ when the sun comes up.”

Angel gave her the oddest look.

“What? Did I say something wrong? Oh gosh, I didn’t mean to sound so unconcerned about the possibility of you dying a horrible flame-y death. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

“That’s not it, Willow.” He pulled her into his arms and she could feel him smile against her head. “It’s just...that’s what Spike sometimes calls me.”

“Huh?” Okay, Willow was getting confused here.

“He’s been known to call me a ‘poof.’”

“Why?” She’d now gone from getting confused to being confused.

”It’s slang for...”

“Yeah, I know, but...isn’t he...I mean you guys were...I don’t get it.”

Angel let her go and began pacing a bit. “It’s complicated. Spike’s never been comfortable with our relationship. It’s not easy for him to be powerless." He stopped for a long moment. "I can’t imagine how hard the chip has been for him.”

There was so much history hiding in that pause and Willow knew that none of it was anything Angel wanted to relate. In that moment, Willow was the one with insight. Angel was afraid. Afraid that there were things about him that would drive her away. He was scared that if she really knew him, she wouldn’t love him. Willow knew that feeling so well.

She was too overwhelmed by this sudden sense of kinship and empathy to care that the word “love” had just occurred to her in connection with Angel. All she could think about was wanting him to know he had nothing to fear.

“You don’t have to tell me anything you don’t want to, Angel.” What seemed like a non sequitur let him know that she knew what was going on. He looked at her, really looked at her. “But I want you to know that there isn’t anything you can’t tell me. I’ve been up close and personal with your demon, after all, and I’m still right here...with you. We’ve both done things, you know? I’m okay with who you are, all of it, bad stuff included.”

Hugging was now happening again. And even though Willow kind of missed oxygen, she really didn’t want to ruin the moment by bringing up her need to breathe. Anyway, she figured Angel would let her go after she passed out and everything would be okay. So the hugging continued.

Just as she was about to do the very passing out thing she expected to, Angel loosened his hold on her and Willow’s instincts embarrassed her by making her take in huge gulps of air.

Angel’s face took on this odd colour that sort of looked like...Vampires could blush? Who knew? “Sorry. I forgot.”

“Not a problem, Angel, really. I didn’t mind.”

There went the eyebrow again. How did he do that anyway? Willow experimentally tried to move one eyebrow. Both moved at once. She kept trying and found herself frustrated as she could feel them refusing to work independently. This was so unfair. After a few moments, however, she was distracted from her efforts by Angel’s laughter.

“What?”

He was nearly doubled over. “What were you doing?”

Oh gosh. She must have looked so bizarre. “I was trying to do that eyebrow thing you do. Only mine don’t work separately the way yours do, I guess.”

Angel was laughing all the harder and Willow was mortified. She was about to leave the room and run upstairs when Angel’s hand on her arm stopped her. “You’re adorable, Willow. You’re like no one else in the world.”

Oh shoot. Was she the only person on the planet who couldn’t do that eyebrow thing? But wait, how would Angel even know that? He couldn’t possibly have seen every single person in the world, even in two hundred years.

She was about to start calculating exactly what it would take to visit every single city and town on Earth when something distracted her...or rather, someone. Angel. Because he was kissing her, and while that was happening it was pretty hard to think about anything else. Or to think at all for that matter.

Her arms went around him, pulling him closer and Willow no longer gave a gosh darn if she could move her eyebrows at all, let alone move one at a time. Heck, shave ‘em off for all she cared. Scratch that - Angel might think she looked funny with no eyebrows and that would be bad.

The kissing was going on and on and Willow was once again waiting to pass out, but Angel’s lips left hers just in time, though it wasn’t much easier to breathe when they did because he was doing this really - incredible - thing to her earlobe and...oh my, did he ever know what to do with his hands.

Suddenly, it occurred to her that, if things kept on like this, she and Angel would be having sex on her parents’ living room floor and that would really not be her first choice of romantic places to begin the next phase of their relationship.

“Angel...Angel.” She wasn’t having much luck at getting him to listen to her. “Angel!” She practically shouted and that did the trick. “I hate to do this to you again, but this is really kind of a bad place for this, you know?”

Angel blinked and looked a bit befuddled, but he stopped with the naughty touching and that was bad...no, good, it was good, that’s what she meant.

He looked a lot less delighted than he had the first time she’d pulled this same move and she really couldn’t blame him. Heck, she was ready to punch herself in the face right now. Darn, was she ever frustrated. She looked around the hopelessly dull and conservative room and it now looked like the love nest of her dreams. Sadly, she knew it was too late for her sudden change in aesthetic.

“Guess I kind of ruined the mood and all, huh?”

Silence from Angel.

“Okay. Well, if you wanna go get your things from the car, I’ll go upstairs and find something to wear ‘cause I’m so not expecting you to bring my bags in at this point and you can sleep in my parents’ room or down here or wherever you like, okay?”

Willow didn’t gave Angel a chance to answer as she bounded out of the room and up the stairs. She was ready to cry. Why did she even give a darn where she and Angel made love anyway? It would have been great no matter where it was. She might very well have ended this relationship before it began and over what? Location?

She was about to burst into tears, but something inside stopped her. What had she said earlier tonight? Something about not being helpless? Well it was true. She wasn’t helpless. She’d screwed this up, okay; now she was going to fix things. But how...how...?

Seduction. That was it! She’d seduce him! But again with the “how?”

She rooted through the dresser drawers in her bedroom like she was looking for the holy grail in their confines. She couldn’t find any nightwear that even looked like it should be worn by a grown-up, let alone by a woman looking to inspire lust.

But just when she was about to lose all hope, she found it - it - and it was just like finding that spell book - pure magic.

The sleep-shirt. The sleep-shirt. The one that Angel had seen her in that night so long ago when he’d had naughty thoughts about her for the first time. Yeah! This was just the ticket.

She scooped up her prize and hurried into the bathroom. She was pretty sure there was still some mouthwash in there, maybe even a toothbrush. She’d freshen up, put on her “seduction outfit” and then: Watch out, Angel!

A few moments later, ablutions finished, Willow cautiously emerged from the bathroom. Much to her surprise, Angel was in her room, staring at the sheet that hung over the french doors...practically naked! Okay, so really he was wearing a pair of pajama bottoms, but hey - no shirt! That had to qualify, especially since it was Angel who was shirtless. What a body! Yum. And that tattoo. Did she say yum already? Well, no matter, she’d just say it again. Yum.

“I’m not supposed to have boys in my room.”

Angel spun around and stared at her, eyes wide with lust...lust! In fact, he was looking at her like she was the sexiest woman he’d ever seen. Goody! Who needed black lace lingerie? Heck, if all guys were like Angel, Victoria’s Secret would go bankrupt in six months.

“I promise to behave myself.”

“What if I don’t want you to?”

Of course, being just like her, Angel picked this moment to break the mood, but only a little bit.

“About what happened downstairs...Willow, I’m sorry. I was a jerk. I acted like some immature sixteen year old boy and...”

She was touched that he was apologizing, but in actuality, the whole thing was her fault. She just couldn’t let him take the blame for her stupidity.

“No, Angel, really. It was me. I should have just gone with the flow, you know? Because really, it would have been great, even in my parents’ living room, I mean...”

“You were absolutely right. What kind of place would that have been for us to make love for the first time? I was selfish.”

“I was the selfish one. I had this silly, schoolgirl fantasy of where we should be for our first time and really, it’s not the ‘where’ that even matters and...”

Willow stopped in mid-sentence. Angel was laughing again. This time, however, Willow quickly joined in. Arguing over who was the bigger fool was pretty funny. Leave it to the two of them. They really did have way too much in common. Not that Willow minded. It felt good to be with someone who made her feel almost normal.

And amazingly enough, none of this hilarity was killing the lust factor for her at all; she was still getting more hot and bothered by the second staring at a half-dressed Angel in her old bedroom. He didn’t seem to have lost the plot either. They’d both gotten over their fit of hysterics and were now right back to exchanging passionate looks.

The looking part didn’t last too long. Before she knew it, Willow was in Angel’s arms and it looked like they were going to pick things up right where they’d left off, only now his kisses were even more intense. Angel seemed determined that, this time, even her parents walking in wouldn’t stop her from screwing him senseless. He was doing a pretty good job of making her feel just that hot. There were lips and hands and fingers and...ooh, yeah, right there - just like that.

Of course, Willow was hardly a passive object in all these goings-on. Her lips and hands and fingers were pretty busy themselves. She’d found this spot on Angel’s neck where if she teased it with her teeth just right, she’d hear this really neat moaning noise and he also seemed to approve of how good she was at wrapping her fingers around his silk covered cock and...

“Willow, your shirt...I don’t want to tear it.”

Oh gosh. No turning back now. Not that she wanted to, but oh my gosh...she was going to make love to Angel. To Angel. Breathe, Willow, breathe. You need to be conscious for this. You want to be conscious for this.

Over her head went the shirt and then it was thrown across the room. Good thing she’d decided to leave off her panties. She’d been optimistic and...surprise: For once she’d been right.

Angel picked her up and practically threw her onto the bed before shedding his pants. Oh.

She’d thought he was big, but now that she was seeing him...oh my gosh! Oh - my - gosh. He was really, really big. Not that it was going to be a problem, it was just...okay, maybe a problem considering she’d only ever been with one guy and that was quite a long time ago and...c’mon, Willow. Angel knows what he’s doing. This will be great. You’ll see.

Of course, he sensed her fear (well, no, it wasn’t really fear, it was just...kinda-sorta like fear - but not actually fear) and he was quick to reassure her. “It’s okay, Willow. It will be fine. I promise I won’t hurt you.”

“I trust you, Angel.” She meant it, too, and not just about the sex, either. She knew, knew, that when he said he wouldn’t hurt her, it meant more than just tonight in bed. It meant she was safe, and so was her heart.

He was staring at her, looking her over as if every inch of her was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. It made Willow blush and she wished the covers had been turned down so she could pull them over herself.

“You’re so lovely.”

“No, no, I’m not.”

“Yes, you are, Willow. You’re exquisite.”

She opened her mouth to protest again, but found her words swallowed in a passionate kiss. He started caressing her, his hands mapping her body, claiming it...claiming her. She did the same, marveling at the smoothness of his skin - the feel of the tattoo somehow different from the rest of his body - relishing the taut curve of his buttocks. He was the exquisite one. It was like being in bed with some marvelous sculpture or a Greek god. He just couldn’t be real.

But he was, and she soon felt it. Spreading her legs, he made sure she was ready before he entered her and...it hurt. But it didn’t. It was glorious, even the pain. It was like he was a part of her that should have been there all along. She felt complete and whole and...really, really wonderful. She even felt beautiful, more beautiful than she ever had before. And the look in Angel’s eyes as he moved inside her only made her feel even closer to ecstasy. She almost cried with the joy that she felt. Making love to Angel was perfect. No matter what happened, Willow knew this was right. They were meant to be.

That was the last thing she thought for a very long time.


Tbc...

Chapter Text

Best Laid Plans (Chapter Fourteen)

Willow awoke slowly, afraid that she was going to open her eyes and find herself alone in her bed at the Summers’ house, afraid that the last couple of days had been nothing more than a really weird (and ultimately really hot) dream.

But no, that couldn’t be, because she was wrapped in a pair of very cool, muscular arms...and she was naked. Plus, so was whoever was holding her and it was most certainly a he. So, yeah, the last few days had actually happened. Last night really had been filled with the sexiest sex ever and Angel was really there, really hers. She felt like shouting “Hooray!” Not wanting to disturb her bedmate, however, she kept the jubilation silent.

He, though, was already awake.

“‘Morning, sleepyhead.” Angel released his hold so she could stretch, then turn to face him.

“Good morning, yourself.” She gave him a light kiss and tried not to worry about what her morning breath might smell like.

“Did you sleep well?”

“Mmmm...yeah.” She stretched again, carefully, making sure she didn’t accidentally hit him in the face or anything.

“Me, too.” This time he kissed her; it was considerably more than a peck.

He stopped before they both got too carried away and Willow had to admit she was kind of glad of that. As much as a part of her would very much enjoy starting the morning off with a replay of last night’s festivities...well, the spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak. And sore. Very, very sore.

Willow wouldn’t change it for the world, though. As achy as her body felt, each twinge brought back memories of kisses and touches and...all kinds of neat, sweaty fun and...she was really getting into this whole pain thing, huh? Oh my. Who knew? First she finds out she’s bi and the next thing you know, she’s into S&M. Well, maybe not S&M exactly ‘cause the costuming looked way too Vamp Willow for her taste and besides, she wasn’t too sure she was into quite that level of pain...but she was definitely not sweet little Willow anymore.

Angel’s nostrils flared. “Do I need to ask what you’re thinking about?”

“Um...no, not really.” Her skin reddened as he looked into her eyes. Oh gosh. She hated having to shoot him down, so to speak, but she was really not capable of making love again so soon. Her body was not equipped to match vampire stamina.

“It’s okay, Willow.” Wait a minute. She hadn’t said anything yet. And again he makes with the freaky intuition. “I’m not pushing. You need more rest.”

“I’m sorry, Angel. I’m sure once I get used to...you know...with a guy again, with you, I mean, then I will be able to...It’s just, you know, it’s been awhile and...I’m pretty much human and all and...oh gosh, you must be really frustrated and disappointed.”

He smiled at her and pulled her into his arms, her head laying against his chest. It was strange not to hear a heartbeat, but she was surprised by how much it didn’t bother her.

“It’s fine, Willow. It’s not a problem. Believe me, last night was wonderful enough that I can wait for more. And besides, sex isn’t the only thing you have to offer.”

“Really?”

He tapped her nose gently. “Willow, you’re not the kind of girl a man uses for sex. You’re far too special for that.”

Willow felt a bit crestfallen. Okay, yes, technically, that was a compliment, but...

“Whatever am I going to do with you?” She looked up into Angel’s face as he spoke.

And that didn’t come out of nowhere at all. What the heck did he mean by that? And perhaps asking said question would be a better way of getting the answer than just silently wondering.

She didn’t get the chance.

“I want you, Willow. Badly.” He pulled her hand under the sheet that covered them and...oh my. He did want her...right now. “Don’t ever think that you’re not an incredibly sexy woman. It’s just that there’s so much more to you than that.”

Was it wrong that the feel of Angel’s cock, hard and ready, did more to reassure her than his words did? Sue her. She had issues.

However, as much as she wouldn’t have minded stroking her “ego” a little bit more, she really wasn’t sadistic. So she pulled her hand back out from under the covers and put it back on safer ground: Angel’s chest.

“I guess that’s a good thing, being more than just a sex object. I mean, you probably wouldn’t be risking as much as you are just to get laid, huh?”

Angel chuckled.

Her hormones really hated her body right about now.

“No, definitely not. And frankly, I’m not interested in just ‘getting laid.’ I’d much rather make love to you.”

Now Willow truly felt terrible. Here was Angel, all turned on, and...wait a minute. Just because she couldn’t get a happy, it didn’t mean she couldn’t give him one. For a girl who was supposed to have become so kinky, it had taken her a ludicrously long time to figure this out. Maybe she needed to wear more leather or something.

Time for that later, for now, she just wanted to give her man...er...vamp a good time.

She slipped under the covers before he could say a word and positioned herself between his thighs. Her lower body wasn’t too happy with her right now as it protested the sudden movement with some rather strong twinges, but Willow paid no heed. She’d suck it up, so to speak, and just deal with it.

“Willow, what are you...?”

She managed to stop him in his verbal tracks without going near his mouth. Because her own engulfed his cock. It had been a long time since she’d done this to a guy, but she’d gotten quite used to using her mouth with Tara and hey, even Oz had never had any complaints.

She stopped for a moment as Angel began moving back. Oh no. Had she completely lost her touch? No, Angel was just moving up the bed to allow them both to be in a more comfortable position. Once he was seated, his back against the headboard, Willow pushed the sheet completely off them and resumed her task with a will.

It was funny, she’d never really been that enthusiastic about going down on Oz. She didn’t mind, of course - she loved him. But it was something she did for him. Sucking Angel off, though...that was different. She was really getting into this. The texture of his skin, the temperature, the taste of his precum...it was arousing. Maybe she’d become more oral since Tara, or maybe Angel just had a better, sexier cock than Oz. Willow didn’t know and she didn’t care. It was just really neat to be enjoying this almost as much as Angel seemed to be.

She started using her hand along with her mouth and Angel really seemed to like that. Still - note to self: Learn how to deep throat. Though as big as Angel was, that was going to be a challenge.

Minus the ability to take him in completely, it still looked like she was giving Angel a pretty hot time of it. He was moaning and saying her name over and over. This was good. This was very good. Soon his hands found their way into her hair, guiding her in the rhythm he needed to finish and...

“Oh god! Willow!”

Her mouth was flooded with his release. She swallowed it down with no hesitation. It was cool and strange and it tasted like Angel. It was funny, it kind of seemed to her like she was doing something almost vampiric for him, drinking in his essence.

She smiled as she looked up at him. He looked sated and happy, blissful even. It was even better than when he was touching her. It made her feel...full, somehow. And womanly. She guessed that even her magick addiction hadn’t changed her much. She still loved to please.

She moved up the bed to lie next to him, her head pillowed on his chest once more.

“So, was this as good as any of those fantasies you used to have about me?”

“Mmm...hmm.” Angel didn’t seem too interested in using actual words right now. That made Willow feel even better about her skills. Still, words - okay, compliments - would be nice.

“Was it better?”

Angel smiled down at her. “You have nothing to be insecure about, Willow.”

Oh gosh. She’d been caught fishing. But really, it wasn’t her fault; after all, she’d used a spell book that had started life as a bass boat guide to anchor Angel’s soul.

It was so a bass boat guide.

“I’m not insecure, I’m just...”

“Insecure.”

“Okay, yeah, I guess I’m a little insecure. It’s just that...the women - and men - you’ve been with. They’re just so much more...more than me and...”

Angel wrapped his arm around her and held her close.

“Willow, there isn’t anyone - man or woman - that I would rather be with than you. I don’t understand why you can’t see how wonderful you are. You’re brilliant, caring, giving, warm-hearted, brave.”

Oh great. Just the kind of pillow talk she craved. This was just like when Buffy used to tell her she had a great personality and was so smart and someday guys would see her inner beauty. No one wants to hear those things.

“And you’re the sexiest woman I’ve ever known.”

Now that was more like it.

But what if he was only saying it because she’d just given him a blow job and he felt obligated?

“I know you don’t believe me, Willow, but it’s the truth.”

How...?

“You have a very expressive face.”

This should be a lot scarier than it was, the way Angel seemed to have telepathic powers when it came to Willow’s thoughts and feelings. Hmm. Maybe she was getting used to it or something. Still...

“Am I the only one who thinks it’s weird that you can read me so well?”

“I hadn’t really thought about it.”

“I guess it’s just me then. Maybe I do have too many thoughts or something.”

“What makes you say that?”

“Well, Xander told me that once. The night that we all went to that dumb goth club to check up on Ford. And sometimes I think maybe he’s right.”

Angel snorted. “Why on Earth would you put any stock in something Xander said? What would he know about thinking anyway? At least you know how.”

And suddenly Willow felt so much better about her Cordelia issues. She giggled, then quickly stifled it when Angel stared at her.

“What?”

“I’m just thinking about the fact that we have way too much in common.”

“What do you mean by that?” Angel’s brow furrowed in a far too serious way that had Willow fighting to suppress another fit of giggles.

“I mean that we each have an old rival who still gets under our skin.”

“Xander? He doesn’t get under my skin, he just...”

“Gets under your skin.”

This time, Angel smiled and tweaked her nose gently with his forefinger. “Did anyone ever tell you that you’re a smart aleck?”

“Note the word ‘smart’ in that phrase.”

Her words were greeted with a loud guffaw. “I tell you how beautiful you are and you won’t accept it, but you can take ‘smart aleck’ as a compliment. That’s what I love about you, you’re...”

Angel stopped. The deer in the headlights look was back. Willow was amazed she noticed it, though, because she herself was in shock. Did she just hear...did Angel say...?

“You love me?” Willow’s eyes were as big as saucers as she stared into his face, looking for the truth and hoping she’d know it if she saw it.

Angel breathed. Wow. He breathed. This must be big. But good big or bad big, Willow couldn’t say.

“Yes.”

“Oh goddess! Angel! You love me? I’m so glad! You have no idea how relieved I am because I thought the same thing last night - that I love you, I mean. And I was so worried, because I was sure it would scare you off, me feeling like that so fast and...”

Once again, her babbling was cut off with a kiss. Willow didn’t mind in the least. If Angel was going to make a habit of this, it was just fine by her.

When they finally stopped, both panting though only Willow actually needed the oxygen, Willow felt like she could fly. Well, at least after a shower and a massage or something. Angel loved her. She loved him and he loved her back. This was so neat. Really, really neat.

Except for the part that wasn’t. Oh goddess. Couldn’t she just have a few moments to enjoy this without being overcome by guilt? Why wasn’t she allowed to bask in the glow of her new love for a little while without being beset by thoughts of Tara? Darn it!

Angel knew the minute her mind left the happy place.

“Do you regret this? Being with me?”

What?

“No, Angel. I just...I just hate the thought of hurting her, you know?”

Angel knew exactly who she meant. “You don’t have to tell her.”

“Huh? What do you mean? Of course I have to tell her.”

“No, Willow, you don’t. You can just tell her that you’re moving to L.A. to work for me.”

And again...huh? Was he actually asking her to...?

“You want me to come back to L.A. with you?”

Now Angel was the one who looked surprised. “Well...yes. I just assumed that...”

His words were cut off by Willow’s delighted squeal, which was followed by a short, but very passionate kiss.

“I take it you like the idea?”

“Like it? I love it What’s not to love about moving in with the man I love and his adorable son?” But then, Willow got a reality check. “Oh goddess! Cordelia!”

“Willow, I told you before, we weren’t involved.”

“Does Cordelia know that? Because believe me, the looks she gave me when she saw us holding hands, and again upstairs, definitely said: hands off my man.”

“I think you’re reading too much into that, Willow. We’ve talked about this, remember? The visions really have changed her. She’s not the same girl she was back in high school. Trust me, everything will be fine.”

Did Angel really believe that? Because, sure, maybe she was biased, but the Cordelia she’d seen didn’t actually seem all that different. But she trusted Angel, so...

“Okay. So, we’re just going to tell everyone that I proved to be so useful in my old role of net girl that you absolutely have to have me come work for you, right?”

“That’s right.”

“And we’re not going to share the good news about...?”

“No.”

Angel sounded quite emphatic and Willow’s heart soared. Buffy really was out of the picture. Of course, she immediately felt guilty. She did love Buffy and it was hard to think she was taking the one thing Buffy wanted most in all the world. Still, he wasn’t in love with her anymore and anyway, Buffy had Spike, who was really not such a bad consolation prize when you thought about it, so Willow wasn’t exactly ruining Buffy’s life - at least not any more than she already had when she’d ripped her out of heaven and...was there a stop where she could get off the guilt train? Because she was starting to get motion sickness.

“Willow, it’s going to be okay. Really.”

“I know, it’s just...”

“You feel guilty.”

“Yeah.”

“Me, too.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

And for some reason that made Willow feel a great deal better. Maybe guilt was like misery or something. Which made sense, because guilt certainly made her feel miserable.

“So, I guess I better get up, take a shower, and call Tara, huh? I mean, I kinda figure I at least owe her the news first. Then tonight we can get everybody to meet us at the Magic Box and tell them all at once.”

Angel looked pensive. For a moment, Willow wondered why. Then she realized: he felt the same way about Tara that she had about Buffy. He still wasn’t sure that Willow was all his.

“Angel, you can be there when I talk to her. I mean, it kind of makes sense. I’ll ask her to meet me here and...”

“You don’t have to, Willow. You can see her alone if you want to.”

“I don’t want to. I think it will be sort of easier, you know, if you’re there. And maybe there won’t be any tears or anything. Because I really hate making her cry. I mean, I know she’s going to, but if I don’t see it, maybe I can believe she’s not actually crying at all and that she’s secretly relieved because she met some hot girl at the Espresso Pump and she’s actually been trying to figure out the right way to break the news to me and...”

Angel stopped her words with a kiss, a kiss that conveyed how much he understood what she was going through right now, how hard it was for her to cause Tara pain. A kiss that thanked her for loving him.

Willow thanked him right back.

As the kiss deepened, Willow decided that maybe that shower could wait. And maybe she was okay without a massage either. She wasn’t really all that sore after all.

Tbc...

Chapter Text

Best Laid Plans (Chapter Fifteen)

Willow couldn’t stop fidgeting. Or pacing. Or worrying.

Tara was on her way over. Tara, her Tara - or her once-and-not-so-much-future Tara, anyway - was on her way over. And Willow was going to hurt her; Willow was going to hurt her very badly.

Of course, it could be worse. Willow could always tell her the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but, instead of the still painful, but by no means as cruel, kind-of-a-partial-lie that Angel had gifted her with. So at least there was that. But still, no matter how much sugar was in the spoon, the medicine was not likely to taste very good. How could she do this to her girl?

She looked over to where Angel sat, stoic but worried and trying so hard to hide it from her. Oh yeah, that was how. Because Tara wasn’t her girl anymore, Angel was. Well, he wasn’t her girl, because he was a guy, but he was Willow’s and that was the salient point and...was there any reason why she kept explaining herself to herself all the time? Surely she, of all people, knew what she was thinking and what she meant, didn’t she?

Oh heck, at least it kept her slightly distracted, and anything that took her mind off the particulars of what she was about to do was a good thing. Because she was almost in tears and she badly wanted not to cry.

She decided to stop pacing aimlessly and instead pace to a destination: the chair where Angel was sitting.

“You okay?” Not, perhaps, the most eloquent words ever spoken, but hey, if they started a conversation...

“Yeah, you?” Well, at least she and her shiny new boyfriend had parity in the witty banter department.

“For someone who’s about to break someone’s heart, I guess I’m doing reasonably well.” Angel looked a bit stricken by her words and Willow quickly backpedaled. “I mean, yeah, I’m okay.”

Oops. The crestfallen look was still there. When was she ever going to get it right?

“Are you sure about this, Willow. Because, honestly, if you want, I can just leave and...”

Was he looking for a way out? Was that what this was? Was he sad because he felt trapped into being with her?

“And what? We pretend that last night - and this morning - never happened? Is that what you want?” Oh goddess, this was going to hurt so much. After falling so hard and so fast for him (and giving him an anchored soul and her best blow job ever, to boot), was she really going to have to let Angel go? Suddenly, she felt so much more empathy for what Buffy had gone through when...and that was so not the right thing to think about right now.

“No Of course not. Willow, how could you think...?”

“Well you were pretty quick to offer me a way out.”

“Because you seem like you’re unsure about breaking up with Tara and...”

This time it was Willow who broke into laughter. They really were a perfect pair. Who else could match them for insecurity and paranoid hypersensitivity?

Angel stared for a long moment before finally seeing the humour and joining her.

In a few moments, though, their amusement faded; Willow sat on the arm of Angel’s chair and looked down into his eyes.

“Do you think we’ll ever just be okay with this?”

“Give it a week or two, Willow. Once it’s become a long-term relationship, I think we’ll do better.” Angel made a joke? Okay, maybe it was kind of an obvious joke and his timing wasn’t exactly Chris Rock or anything, but still - Angel made a joke? Wow. Cool!

Unfortunately, as was becoming the leitmotif of her life with Angel, she didn’t get the chance to just enjoy the moment. The doorbell rang.

Tara.

Oh goddess, please let this go well.

Her familiar front door loomed before her, now seeming as ominous as the door to some dungeon or torture chamber. Was she dreading this? Oh yeah. But she decided to bite the bullet and open the door. It’s not like pretending she wasn’t there would work anyway. She was pretty sure Tara had seen the car in the driveway and knew someone was in the house.

“Tara. Hi. Um...come on in.”

Tara looked lovely, Willow noticed. It was obvious she’d primped a bit for this visit and the knife in Willow’s gut twisted just a little more. This already hurt - not that it shouldn’t, because Willow was of the firm belief that she really did deserve to suffer for what she was doing to the girl she’d loved so very much. She still loved Tara, in fact...she just wasn’t in love with her. One tiny word - two letters - yet it changed everything, changed Willow’s whole life...and Tara’s and Angel’s too.

“Hi.” Tara addressed Angel shyly as he rose when she entered the living room. It was obvious she was prepared for there to be someone else in the house, but that she was uncomfortable with not knowing who it was.

“Oh. Tara, this is Angel. Angel, this is Tara.” Her current and former lovers didn’t speak, but they nodded, acknowledging the introduction.

Well, at least that wasn’t awkward. Except for the fact that it was.

“So, umm...you’re probably wondering why I asked you to come over and...oh, silly me, would you like to sit down? Can I get you anything to drink? Eat? Anything?” Like a way to avoid having this entire conversation?

“I - I’m fine.” Tara sat on the sofa, looking very nervous and uncertain of what was going on, eyes downcast, as if they were waiting for the tears Willow was about to put in them.

Willow sat a few inches away from her, wanting to take her hand, but wondering how it would look to Angel. This was going to be so tricky.

“I...I guess there’s no really good way to say this, so I’ll just come out and tell you. I wanted you to know first, before Buffy or Xander or anybody...I’m moving to Los Angeles.”

Tara’s head shot up, her eyes wide with shock, those feared tears already glimmering beneath her lashes. “You’re leaving? Why?”

Oh goddess. Why, why, why couldn’t Tara really have met some Wiccan hottie at the Espresso Pump? She didn’t deserve this; she didn’t deserve to be hurt at all.

“You know what a hard time I’ve been having with the magick. And Angel - well Angel Investigations really - they have a place for me. A nice, safe, magick-free place, you know? They need my computer mojo and actually have stuff for me to do that will keep me busy and my mind occupied and...”

“You’re lying.”

Willow turned and looked at Angel. How did she know? What did she know? This was already going more badly than she had anticipated...and it’s not like she’d been optimistic or anything (except for the hoping that Tara had been having a secret fling...but it wasn’t like she had actually believed that would be true).

“I’m not, Tara. Why would you say that?” The best thing to do when caught in a lie? Keep right on lying. Right?

“Willow, I can feel the magick on you. Y-you’ve been doing it again and...I c-can’t believe you thought you could l-lie to me about it.” Tara got up to leave; Willow took hold of her arm to stop her.

“It’s not what you think, Tara. She anchored my soul.” Angel to the rescue. Willow just had to love him...and had to feel more guilt than ever for it. Shouldn’t she break up with Tara first before basking in all this affection for Angel?

Tara sat back down - well, collapsed would be more accurate - on the sofa, gazing at Willow as if she believed that maybe, just maybe, she’d see truth in her eyes. Willow did her best to let it shine through: hoping, however, that all of it that Tara would see would be about the magick.

“Why don’t I tell you the whole story?”

Tara nodded. Willow looked over at Angel, who also nodded, knowing that she was not, in fact, going to tell the whole whole story, and letting her know in his silent way that he was okay with that. Phew.

“I was at the bookstore the other day - you know, the place where we got that cool book on cats for only five dollars and where the clerk who eats string cheese all the time works. Anyway, I was there looking around - I mean, it’s not an occult-y type place or anything so you know I wasn’t looking for a spell book or anything like that - and I saw this book on bass boats - ‘cause, hey, I really do need to find a new hobby and all - and...well...when I went to pick it up, there was this spell book and I didn’t realize and I opened it and...there was the spell to anchor Angel’s soul.”

Willow was nearly gasping for air. Babble gods, wherefore art thou, oh babble gods? But at least Tara was still there, still listening, though Willow thought she’d seen her eyebrow go up when she mentioned the book on bass boats. Was everyone able to raise one eyebrow but her?

And it was so a bass boat guide.

Tara looked expectant so Willow kept going. “I was going to just show the spell to Buffy and have her tell Angel about it, but it could only be cast by the one who cast the soul restoration spell and...well...that’s me. So I called Angel and had him call Buffy and say he needed my computer skills on an emergency case in L.A. and...I guess the rest is kind of easy to figure out.”

It better be because Willow didn’t have enough oxygen to go on.

Unfortunately, Tara was no dummy and it didn’t take her long to realize that there were some huge holes in Willow’s new and improved story. Sometimes it sucked finding intelligence attractive. Why couldn’t she have been like Xander and gone for an airhead like Cordelia? Not that she had anything against Cordelia, seeing as how she was Angel’s seer and all.

“Okay. But why are you moving to L.A.? And why haven't you already told Buffy about Angel's soul?”

Oh. Why hadn’t she prepared for this contingency? Because she really needed a good reason right now - one that didn’t involve hot, naughty fun with a vampire of the opposite sex and being step-mom to his way-too-cute son. She looked back at Angel, hoping he could transmit some idea to her, or at least chime in.

Sadly, looking back at Angel did provide the answer. Tara, after all, really wasn’t the least bit slow on the uptake.

“Oh...oh. I h-have to leave.” She moved to get up again. Willow was quick to stop her.

“Tara, please. Don’t go. Not like this. Please let me explain.”

“Explain what?” Tara’s tears were falling freely now and she was looking at Willow as if she’d just been shot through the heart. Which was appropriate, because really, Willow had pretty much done that to her. “That you...a-and Angel...” She stood, pale as death, but at least staying put, her eyes never leaving Willow’s face. It was obvious she couldn’t bear to look at Angel.

“I never - we never - meant for this to happen. You have to believe me. It just...did. I never wanted anyone but you and I wasn’t looking for anyone else and Angel even had a thing for Cordelia before I showed up but...something happened and...oh goddess, Tara...I am so sorry. I know you must hate me and I don’t blame you, because I hate me. After everything I’ve done to you...this is just...but it just shows that I’m nowhere near good enough for you and obviously you’re going to find someone better and...” She looked into Tara’s eyes. “This is so not helping, is it?”

“I need...I n-need to go, Willow. Okay?”

“I love you.” She meant it. There was a place in her heart that would always be Tara’s. She just hoped that someday that would mean something to the one who would always be “her girl.”

“I won’t say anything.”

They didn’t deserve that. She didn’t deserve that. But she was grateful, and it made her feel worse than ever about hurting Tara.

“That’s not why I said it.”

Tara didn’t reply, and when she went to leave, this time Willow didn’t stand in her way. The click of the door closing sounded like thunder in the silent room.

It did not stay silent for long.

Within moments, Willow was sobbing in Angel’s arms. She was the worst, most evil, horrible person in the whole world. She wouldn’t be surprised if Angel dumped her after seeing what she did to sweet, wonderful Tara. Of course, logically, since this was all for Angel, he probably wouldn’t think she was so terrible, but logic wasn’t really ruling Willow’s head right now.

“What have I done?” she wailed.

“What you had to do.” He was rubbing circles on her back as he held her. “And for what it’s worth, I think it’s better that she knows the truth. She’ll be able to move on, knowing that you’re really out of her life.”

“Then why do I feel like I just set fire to an animal shelter or something?”

“Because you love her. I understand that. We don’t stop loving people...it just changes sometimes.”

“I know...it’s just...why can’t it change for both people at the same time?”

“I don’t know.”

Honesty really sucked. Couldn’t he have made up something wise and comforting? Maybe lied and said he’d seen something in Tara’s eyes that suggested she really didn’t love Willow anymore? Not that it wouldn’t have hurt, too, but still...

They stayed quiet for a short while, Willow’s tears gradually drying up as Angel held her and comforted her with his embrace.

Of course, given their chemistry, the embrace didn’t stay comforting for long - well, it was still comforting, just not in quite the same way. Because there was now kissing and tongues and hands in non-platonic places and...was it wrong that she was making out with Angel right after dumping Tara? She sort of thought that answer might be yes so she gently moved to stop things before they got X-rated.

“Angel, I...”

“Bad time?”

“Yeah, kind of...I mean, Tara just left and I think maybe I ought to observe some sort of mourning period or something. Like at least an hour or two.” She looked at him and hoped he was okay about this. “Are you mad?”

He kissed the top of her head. “No, I’m not mad. Besides, we have to be prepared to face Buffy and Xander later.” He grew thoughtful. “We’d better allow for the possibility that Tara is going to tell them what happened here today.”

“She won’t.”

“Willow...”

“Look, Angel, you want me to take your word about Cordelia? Fine. Then take mine when it comes to Tara. She said she wouldn’t say anything. That means she won’t. Simple as that.”

“Okay. I’m sorry, I just...”

“You don’t know Tara. I get that and it’s okay. Just trust me.”

“I do. With all my heart.”

If he kept looking at her like that, her one hour mourning period was going right out the window. And thinking about fishing didn’t seem to help. Her hormones needed to take a break.

“We’d better just hope that the ‘I’m moving to L.A. to be net girl again’ story goes over more successfully this time.”

“Somehow, I think it will. It’s not like Buffy or Xander can pick up on magick. And I seriously doubt that Spike will want to ruin his own thing with Buffy by sharing the news about my soul.”

Spike. Poor Spike. Willow only hoped that time, along with Angel’s absence and eternal unavailability, would help Spike finally win the heart of the girl he loved. Buffy could be happy with him; Willow was sure of that.

“I better go make the calls and get everyone to meet us at the Magick Box tonight.”

“Good idea.” He looked...worried.

“What’s wrong?”

“I just...I don’t want anything to go wrong. I don’t want...”

Oh no. He was worried about hurting Buffy. Did he want to back out? He’d said he wanted to be with her, but had seeing Tara’s heartbreak given him second thoughts?

“What is it, Angel?” She couldn’t ask the rest of her questions, she just couldn’t.

He hesitated and Willow’s terror continued to mount as she prepared for the words that would destroy her dreams. “I don’t want Xander and Buffy to talk you into staying here.”

Huh? That’s what he was worried about? Oh goddess. She could kiss him. Maybe slap him first for making her go through so much angst, but she would kiss him right after.

“Angel, you have nothing to worry about. They will not talk me out of leaving with you.”

“Willow, I’d understand. I mean, this is your home, you’ve lived here all your life, and they are your best friends.”

“My home is with you now, okay? I love you. And that means, where you go, I go. Got it?”

He looked somewhat convinced, but not entirely. Though Willow had a feeling he was playing the doubt up a bit.

“What can I do to convince you.” Angel’s eyebrow rose and Willow was pretty sure it wasn’t the only portion of his anatomy to move in that direction right now. Why on Earth had she said that? Because having made the offer...

To her surprise, though, he made no move to take her up on it. “You’re still in mourning, but I’ll take a rain check.”

Angel had to be the best, most understanding boyfriend ever.

“Besides, you have some phone calls to make.” Or maybe he was just a sadist.


Tbc...

Chapter Text

Best Laid Plans (Chapter Sixteen)


Breathing. It didn’t used to be this hard and Willow really wasn’t sure why it was so hard now. After all, it wasn’t like she was facing a horde of bloodthirsty demons or anything; all she was doing was telling the gang that she was moving to Los Angeles. And hopefully keeping them from figuring out that she was moving there because she and Angel were sex bunnies now.

Okay, maybe demons would be better.

Too late. She and Angel had reached the door of the Magic Box. Why had they driven? If they had walked...it would only have postponed the inevitable. And hey, at least with the car parked right outside, they had a chance of making a clean getaway if things went south.

She took his hand for a moment, gathering strength from the brief contact, before dropping it again and moving to open the door. Angel stopped her.

“Willow.”

“Yeah?’

“You need to breathe.”

Had she forgotten that again? Man, this inhaling/exhaling thing was much more challenging than she remembered it ever having been before she and Angel got together. Was it because she was dating a vampire now? Or was it because she’d sort of stolen the love of her best friend’s life?

Yeah, she kinda thought it was that second one.

She took a deep breath, then let it out. Let’s try that again, shall we? Good. The breathing thing was happening. Everything was going to be okay. Really. It was.

She reached for the door handle once again. This time Angel stood aside and Willow opened the door. Buffy and Xander and Anya had obviously been waiting for her. Dawn, she noted with a touch of regret, was not there.

“Hi, guys!”

The smile on her face felt unbelievably false and Willow didn’t think anyone who knew her well (or at all, really) would buy it. Sadly - or actually, happily, but still sadly - her best friends in the world seemed to think it was absolutely real.

“Hey, Will!” Xander looked so pleased to see her that Willow’s heart both rose and fell at the same time. Gosh it was going to be hard to leave him behind. But when a glare from Anya and a glance at the still noncommital expression on Buffy’s face caused his enthusiasm to immediately dim, Willow’s heart picked a direction and stuck with it - down.

Things didn’t get better when her companion joined them.

The look on Buffy’s face...Willow’s guilt level rose to uncharted new heights of awfulness. Because the love in Buffy’s eyes was a terrible thing to behold. She dared a glance back at Angel. His face was stone, not a bit warmed by the sight of his onetime one-and-only. Was she going to Hell if that made her smile so much closer to the real thing? Maybe Angel could give her some tips to make it more bearable when she got there.

“So, Angel, not that you’re not just super welcome. But why are you here?” The more things changed, the more they stayed the same. Yeah, Xander still hated Angel.

“Willow needed a ride back.”

“And once again I ask: why are you here? You couldn’t have just dropped her off?”

“Xander.” Buffy chided him. Her eyes never left Angel’s face as he moved to stand beside Willow, who wanted so badly to touch him but didn’t dare.

“No, Xander, I couldn’t.”

As Xander's mouth was opening to come back with what was sure to be an attempt to start an argument, Willow decided to head him off at the nastiness path and just out with it. She really couldn’t think of any better way to say what she had to say anyway. All the carefully-planned words in her carefully-planned speech had departed her mind at the door.

“Because he’s just taking me right back tonight.”

Spike suddenly appeared at the back of the room and Willow watched him carefully, hoping he’d keep to the terms of their treaty agreement. With Spike, you could never tell what he would do.

However, she didn’t have much time to worry about him as the reactions to her announcement started coming in.

“What?”

“What?”

“Good. That means you won’t be stealing from my store anymore.”

Well, at least there was one person who wouldn’t be hurt by her departure. Nice to know that being human was working out so well for Anya; she had the friendship and forgiveness aspects down pat. Yeah, sure thing. Willow felt very sorry for Xander right now.

“Why?”

And Spike joined the conversation. Luckily, he didn’t sound arch or sarcastic. But Willow was on her guard and Angel, she was sure, was too. He’d better not be trying to start something.

Buffy looked a bit discomfited by his presence and Willow found that she empathized with Spike. Really, what the heck was Buffy so ashamed of anyway? Spike wasn’t anything to be embarrassed about. Actually, she figured he was a cut or two above Riley and he was leagues ahead of Parker so... Okay, he wasn’t Angel, but that ship had sailed (straight into Willow’s harbour, in fact) and as far as moving on went, Spike seemed like a pretty good place to move to in her book. But then again, Buffy hadn’t really made much sense since she came back (okay, since Willow had ripped her out of Heaven) and Willow didn’t really understand her so-called “best girl friend” anymore. The thought made her sad.

Enough of that. She needed to stay focused on keeping her story straight and getting safely out of town. There’d be time for melancholy reflection later...at least if she made it through breaking the news of her new status in Angel’s life to Cordelia.

“Yeah, why?”

This time it was Xander asking the question, and he even seemed upset. Willow figured she’d better answer before someone figured out she was hiding something...well, hiding a lot actually.

“I know this seems like a really hasty decision...”

“That’s one word for it.” Spike actually looked a bit depressed and Willow decided that, for all his supercilious and condescending behaviour (especially the other night), she was going to miss him.

She caught the death glare Angel shot him and she only hoped no one read anything into it.

“Like you even care, Spike.” Buffy’s words were a bit of a surprise. This was her response to Willow’s news? Snarking at the idea that Spike might actually be sorry she was going away?

“What? Red’s the only one of you lot I can stand, so yeah, I care.” Spike was a darn good actor, because for a moment Willow almost believed that. Then the fact that he was sleeping with Buffy reemerged from her memory and she wondered if there was any way he could go on the stage without having to appear in matinees.

Buffy snorted and Willow was starting to truly be hurt. It seemed like Buffy was never going to forgive her. Of course, if she’d been ripped out of Heaven, maybe she wouldn’t be too forgiving herself. Some wrongs were just impossible to make right.

“Thanks, Spike. But really, this is the right thing to do. They need my computer skills in L.A. and it feels so much easier to stay away from magick away from the Hellmouth and all, plus...”

“There’s the fact that you obviously had orgasms there.”

Oh great. Anya wouldn’t care if Willow was torn limb from limb right in front of her, but she notices whether or not Willow had sex? This could not still be that Cordelia thing, could it? Once more Willow wanted to know: How much seer-cred could that girl possibly have racked up?

“Willow?”

“What about Tara?”

“Good on you, Red.”

What was she going to say? If the Powers were ever going to be on her side, the time was now. Please let them help her talk her way out of this.

“Umm...umm...well...I...I guess...gee...I mean...well, Fred’s pretty cute and really smart and...” Oh goddess. She only hoped Fred either never found out or didn’t have any issues that would make her really upset about being used as a lesbian beard.

“Fred? You’re back to being straight now?”

“No, Xander. Fred’s a girl. Her name is Winifred.” Angel oozed contempt, but at least he was backing up her story.

“Yeah, and she’s a physicist!” Willow hoped like the dickens that her enthusiasm would make the whole idea ring so true that everyone would stop asking questions. Everyone knew brains would turn a geek like her on more than anything, right? All she knew for a fact, though, was that she must be back on the good guy team, because she was finding lying tougher than she had in a long time.

“So just like that you’re dumping Tara? After everything you’ve put her through?” Buffy’s voice was cold and it sank Willow’s spirits like a stone.

Wow. That was surprisingly harsh. Since when was Buffy so concerned about Tara anyway?

Her meeting with Tara today flashed through her mind...how quick Tara was on the uptake. Suddenly it occurred to Willow that Tara might well have evidenced that same insight with others - like maybe with regards to Buffy and Spike? Oh.

She wasn’t the only one with secrets, now was she? She supposed she could, with reason, be angry at Tara about this, but really, she figured it was water under the bridge. Besides, there was something to be said for having the character to keep a confidence, even at the expense of the one you loved.

“I’ve already told her, Buffy. I saw her before I came here. I told her everything.” Which was true. She really had told Tara everything...the whole truth, in fact. Which was more than anyone else was going to get, at least if Willow had anything to say about it. “She’s okay. She knows I never meant for this to happen. But it did and...well...she and I were technically not a couple anymore, so...”

“I just don’t see how you can just run off like this.”

Okay, the frostiness from Buffy was getting tough to take. If her friend wanted her to stay, she was doing a darn poor job of giving Willow any reason to want to, that was for sure. Angel squeezed her shoulder reassuringly.

“Buffy, we need Willow. From what I understand, you don’t have nearly as much use for her skills as we do and she wants to make a difference. What’s wrong with that?”

“What’s wrong?” For the first time, Buffy sounded really animated. Willow clung to a small hope that it wasn’t only because Angel wasn’t fawning all over her. “What’s wrong is that this is her home. This is where the people who love her are. And here you are dragging her off to a strange city...and for what? Because you need her computer skills?”

Willow was torn between being touched that Buffy was concerned about the possibility she was just being used and being...angry that Buffy assumed she was probably just being used.

“Look, Buffy. It’s not like I’m going to the moon or to Pylea or anything. I’ll only be a short drive away. I’ll come back to visit and stuff. I just need to feel like I’m really doing something again, being a real part of the fight. You know? Plus, there’s Fred and...it’s something to be looked at like that again. Like I’m beautiful and special and not like I’m a screw-up and a junkie and something scary and awful.” She was pleading with her eyes now, hoping like anything that Buffy (and Xander...she could care less about Anya) would understand.

“Did you tell them everything?”

Buffy’s words were almost a slap in the face and Angel was obviously getting fed up. “Yes, she did. She told us all of it. About Rack, about Dawn, about everything. And you know what? We don’t hate her. People make mistakes, they stumble, they fall, they’re not perfect. We love Willow just the way she is.” Willow turned to Angel and smiled. Maybe he wasn’t perfect, but he was perfect for her.

Oops, the word “love” might have been a major gaffe, and they’d better tone down the affectionate gazing thing, too, because Anya was looking at them a bit strangely. Willow watched fearfully as her mouth opened. But she stopped, appeared to have an internal discussion (involving much furrowing of brow and a single raised eyebrow that commanded far too much of Willow’s thought processes), and closed her mouth again, looking puzzled but not inclined to talk about it. Phew. That was a close call.

“Thanks, Angel. I love you guys, too.” She injected as much chummy bonhomie as she possibly could into the words and hoped they carried the ring of platonic truth in their semi-fraudulent depths. Because she loved Angel, but she barely knew Gunn or Fred, and while she thought Lorne was pretty darn neat, she and Wesley had an odd history to overcome, and the idea of loving Cordelia made her vaguely nauseous.

We love you, too, Willow.” Xander’s voice was soft - he was obviously a bit cowed by his girlfriend - but he said it and Willow teared up a bit. “And we want you to stay here where you belong. With us.”

Then came a real surprise.

“Xander’s right, we do love you. I guess maybe we haven’t been so great about showing it lately, what with everything that’s happened, not that we didn’t have a right to be angry, but...” Buffy sounded so sincere and Willow was stunned at the sudden and dramatic turnaround in her attitude. “I just think we can get back to the way things used to be if you’d stay here where you belong. Okay, Will?”

She was touched; she really was. It had been so long since she’d truly felt that Buffy cared about her. If it wasn’t for...well if it wasn’t for...she would have been happy to stay. As it was, she knew she loved Angel with everything she was since she was still willing to walk away.

She extricated herself from Angel’s arms and immediately drew Buffy into a tight embrace. “I’m still going, Buffy. I have someone waiting for me and... But hey, you can visit me any time you want. L.A.’s got all the best shopping, so we can have some fun “girl time” together. And after all, you’ve got Spike to console you and...” And couldn’t she have been struck mute before those last words came out of her mouth?

Oh no. What had she just done?

Quite a bit, it seemed, since Buffy pushed her away like she was something diseased; Xander was suddenly reduced to making loud, incoherent vowel sounds; Spike looked like he was both proud and terrified; and Anya, well Anya simply crowed, “I knew it!”

“I can’t believe you think that...with Spike! I would never...!”

Willow was shocked at Buffy’s vehement denial. Angel looked at her and pointed to his nose.

Scarlet was not the most attractive colour on Buffy, but there it was. Was it fury, shame, or both, that cloaked her in that unbecoming shade? Willow moved imperceptibly to put Angel between her and danger. Not that she was afraid of Buffy or anything.

Okay, she was. Sue her. Buffy was a Slayer with a notable tendency to live in the moment and right now, at this moment, she was probably pretty pissed off at Willow.

Surprisingly, Buffy stayed fairly calm. Red-faced, but reasonably calm. Willow decided that cautious optimism was perfectly okay.

“How did you know? Did Tara...?”

“Tara knew?” Gosh, Willow hoped that was believable. “I didn’t know that. But I’ve known about you and Spike for awhile. I just figured you’d say something when you were ready. I’m sorry that I sort of made the announcement for you. But hey, at least now you know we’re okay with it so you don’t have to hide it anymore and...”

“Speak for yourself! Why am I always the last one to get the memo? Spike?!? You’re involved with Spike? What is it about the dead guys?”

“Xander! You’d think you’d be a little more understanding. I mean, hello? You are engaged to a demon.”

Ex-demon.” In stereo, no less. Maybe Xander and Anya were perfect for each other.

“There’s nothing to tell anyway. Spike and I, we’re just...it’s nothing. It doesn’t mean anything.” She was gazing at Angel, her eyes full of longing and a plea for him to still feel for her the way she still felt for him. It was heart-wrenching on many levels.

Angel's attention, however, was elsewhere. Willow saw him look at Spike and she was stunned. With all the bad blood (so to speak) between them, it seemed nothing short of miraculous to see so much compassion in her lover’s eyes. It made her love him all the more and she struggled to keep that love from shining forth in every aspect of her mien. For all the anger and distrust and enmity between them, Angel still cared about Spike, still felt for what he must be going through right now. Heck, so did Willow. It was too agonizing to see him struggle to keep his pride while the woman he loved dismissed him so contemptuously.

She wanted to say something, but she wasn’t sure what she could say. On the one hand, she felt for Buffy and didn’t want to burn the bridge that had been built just moments ago. Of course, chances are it was going to be burned in the near future anyway since she figured Cordelia would call Buffy and spill the beans the moment she learned about Willow and Angel, but still...was it so terrible to want at least a few more moments of Buffy being her friend? Yet, there was Spike, pain shining from those really-quite-nice blue eyes, and...

Willow leaned against Angel, forgetting herself for a moment, wanting to offer him comfort and get some, as well.

That was, unfortunately, a mistake. Because Anya’s attention span was pretty short and she’d already gotten over the revelation that Buffy was sleeping with Spike and had moved on (or rather back) to the sex life she’d correctly deduced that Willow now had... that was not a good thing.

The staring, brow furrowing, and open mouth were back as Willow could almost see a light bulb going on and off over Anya’s head. This time the internal discussion didn’t stay internal.“They’re...no...they can’t be. What about Angel’s soul?” Anya was talking to herself, but loudly enough for even the ones without super hearing to pick up on. “And Willow’s a lesbian, right? Didn’t she say there was a girl named Fred? But what kind of name is that for a girl? Maybe there is no Fred. Because it definitely looks like...”

“An, what are you talking about?” Oh no, Xander. Anya, please, please, please don’t answer that question. Willow tried as surreptitiously as she could to put some healthy, platonic distance between herself and Angel. Tragically, it appeared to be a bit too late.

“I’m trying to figure out how Willow and Angel could be having sex when Angel seems to still have his soul and Willow’s supposed to be gay and sleeping with someone named Fred.”

As chaos - and incoherent vowel sounds - erupted in the room, Willow decided that Cordelia was nothing compared to Anya. She squeezed Angel’s hand with all her might. How on Earth were they going to get out of this one?

Tbc...

Chapter Text

Best Laid Plans (Chapter Seventeen)

“I’m trying to figure out how Willow and Angel could be having sex when Angel seems to still have his soul and Willow’s supposed to be gay and sleeping with someone named Fred.”

Thanks, Anya. Really, what had Willow ever done to her? So yeah, she’d borrowed a few herbs and roots, but really, was that any reason to sentence her, and poor Angel, to death? Because if the look on Buffy’s face was any indication, Willow was going to be needing a crypt even more than Spike did, and pretty darn soon at that.

This was the worst case scenario - not the case Willow was hoping for. Gosh darn it! Was anything ever going to go right for her and Angel?

Then her mind drifted back to last night...and this morning...and this afternoon. Okay, so some things actually had gone right for her and Angel. But they were so not the things to be thinking of right now. They were actually the things to be forgetting, to be figuring out how to believably claim never happened. Go to the lesbian place, go to the virgin place, go to any place....just as long as it’s a place that gives you the right demeanour to convince everyone that Anya’s completely mistaken.

Yeah, like that was going to work. Being one of the good guys again meant she once more sucked at lying. Great.

She still had her optimism, though, so she gave denial the old college try (well, old college drop-out try, but...focus, Willow).

“How could you think that?” And that would so have come off better if she didn’t sound like Minnie Mouse on helium.

Of course, Anya being Anya, Willow should have known she would not only get an answer, but a detailed answer that seemed more than likely to ensure that the wrong side carried the day.

“Well for one thing, there’s the way Angel looks at you. Dead giveaway. Then there’s the way you try not to look at him but still do. Also a dead giveaway. And then there’s...”

“That’s enough, Anya. I think we get the point.” Buffy. Figured she’d be just as unhappy to have Anya dissect the reasoning behind her conclusion as Willow and Angel were.

“How could you? Have you somehow forgotten what happens when Angel gets a happy? Or are you so far over to the dark side that you want Angelus back?”

How dare Xander assume she was evil. After all, she wasn’t the one who summoned a murderous singing demon that ended up killing someone and ruining Willow’s life. And she had never dated Cordelia.

Not that she thought Xander was evil.

Okay, maybe she thought he was a little bit evil.

But not as evil as Angel turned out to be. Because he suddenly decided that making things worse was a great idea. He chose this moment to spill the rest of their secrets. What happened to "We’re not going to tell Buffy,” huh?

“My soul’s secure, Xander.” Angel’s tone very clearly conveyed the idea that he still thought Xander was an idiot and under normal circumstances, Willow would have hit him with an admonitory glance (among other things). But right now, she really didn’t disagree with him. After all, if Xander believed Anya, Willow and Angel had already slept together and it was pretty obvious that it wasn’t Angelus standing here in the Magic Box. Xander was still breathing.

Maybe he thought Willow hadn’t been good enough in bed to give Angel that much happiness? Oh man, that was even more insulting than him thinking she was evil. She really hated Xander right now. Suddenly, the idea of Angelus returning didn’t seem so gosh darn awful.

Back to the conversation at hand. Because Buffy was turning red again.

“What? When? And why didn’t you tell me?”

Willow was about to step in and confess her role in the re-souling and subsequent deception, when Angel spoke up once more.

“Why didn’t I tell you? Because it’s got nothing to do with you.”

“What do you mean it has nothing to do with me? Angel! This means we can be together. We can be happy.”

“No, Buffy, it doesn’t. It means I can be happy. With whoever I want. Just like you can.”

“But Angel, you and me...that’s what I want. That’s what we both want. You know you still love me. We can make this work. If this is about Spike...”

“No, Buffy. This has nothing to do with Spike. This has to do with me. With me and Willow. I love her and she’s the one who makes me happy.” He turned to her, and there was that great smile she loved so much. He meant what he said. He really did.

“I love you, too.”

If Willow was going to have to die tonight, this was a pretty great send-off. She looked into Angel’s eyes and let the love shining in them wash over her. For a moment, it almost seemed like they were the only two people in the whole world.

Sadly, they weren’t, and it didn’t take long before that fact was made abundantly clear by the clamour surrounding them.

“You love Willow?”

“You love Deadboy?”

“I knew it!”

Spike, strangely for a man who almost always had something to say, was silent. But the look on his face spoke volumes and Willow felt worse than ever for him. It was ripping his heart out to watch the woman he loved openly chase after another man. For someone so proud, this must be worse than even the chip in his head.

Unfortunately, there really wasn’t anything she could do about it. She could no more make Spike stop loving Buffy than she herself could stop loving Angel and besides, it didn’t look like she was going to live long enough to be much use to anyone.

Well, if she was going to die, she would meet her fate head on. Here goes the brave little toaster.

“Yes, I love Angel, Xander. I’m sorry if that offends you, but it’s really none of your business anyway. I mean, it’s not like you cared about how I felt when you were dating Cordelia, so...” And that suddenly seemed like a bad thing to say, what with that same Cordelia now being Angel’s seer and having supposedly changed so much and all and...okay, so she was scared of that seer cred. Sue her. It just seemed like the only reason for the wacky badness of late.

She looked back to Angel, hoping he wasn’t offended by her seeming lack of membership in the “We Think Cordelia’s the Neatest Thing Ever” club. He didn’t seem angry. Yay.

Of course, she might never live to see Cordelia again.

“You don’t love her, Angel. I know you. What we have...it’s forever. Our love is special. It didn’t just go away.”

He looked at Willow, letting her know that she was still his girl, before walking over to Buffy and putting a comforting hand on her shoulder. Maybe things would be okay after all. If anyone could handle Buffy, Angel could...right?

“I will always love you. But I’m not in love with you anymore. And I don’t think you’re in love with me anymore, either. Too much has happened. We’ve both changed. And that’s not a bad thing, Buffy. It’s not wrong to move on. To say goodbye to the past and embrace the future.”

Willow found Angel’s words incredibly moving. Gosh, why couldn’t she have said something that eloquent and heartfelt to Tara?

Unfortunately, Buffy was not moved. Uh oh.

“You mean embrace Willow, don’t you?” Then an idea obviously occurred to her, and once again it was back to the land of Willow as the fount of all evil and magickal badness. “She did something. Some magick thing...that’s why you think you love her. But it’s not real, Angel, it’s...”

Angel seemed even angrier than Willow was right now. “How can you say that? How could you think for one minute that Willow would do something like that? She’s been your friend, stood side by side with you for years...I can’t believe you would turn on her like this.”

“Turn on her? Look what she’s done! She stole you away from me!”

“I don’t belong to you, Buffy. I belong to me. I make my own choices and I choose to be with Willow. That’s it. Simple as that. She doesn’t need magick. All she needs is to be Willow. That’s more than enough reason for me to love her.”

The tears that had found their way into Willow’s eyes during Buffy’s tirade changed character now. Hearing Angel defend her like that - it was better than any magickal high she’d ever gotten from Rack, better than any feeling she’d ever had...even the sex, which had been pretty darn terrific, couldn’t hold a candle to hearing Angel proclaim that she was good enough, special enough, loveable enough.

Willow wasn’t the only one who was crying. Buffy was crying her eyes out right now and...darn it, Willow felt terrible and guilty and just plain rotten. For all the mean things her friend had just said about her, Willow couldn’t stop caring. Sometimes it sucked to not be evil.

“Buffy.” Willow’s voice was soft, but she hoped it conveyed the truth of her feelings. “I never meant for this to happen. I swear. I never, ever wanted to hurt you. And I know that hurting you is all I seem to do lately. I mean, first I pull you out of heaven and now... But you have to believe me - I love you and that hasn’t changed and...”

Suddenly, in a move that surprised even Willow, she had her arms around her best friend, the two of them both sobbing. Oh well, at least she’d made it easier for Buffy to kill her this way - less ground to cover and all. It was the least she could do.

But the embrace went on and Willow didn’t sense a weapon appearing or hands moving up to her throat or anything. Wow. Maybe she was going to live. Which would be pretty cool, especially if she and Buffy could be friends again. Oh, and as long as Willow could still ride off into the sunset (well, sunrise) with Angel.

“So, we’re all just supposed to be okay with this now? Because, hey, this is so not the same as my dating Cordelia.”

Great. Just great. Leave it to Xander to ruin the moment.

Willow was shocked when this time it wasn’t Angel who came riding to the rescue.

“Yeah, Xander, we are all supposed to be okay with this now. Or at least try to be.” Buffy gave Willow a watery attempt at a smile.

“Well excuse me if I am not dancing for joy at the idea of my best friend, my gay best friend, getting pelvic with the demon who still haunts my nightmares. Have we all just forgotten about Angelus? The murder, the mayhem, the dead fish?”

“Angel’s soul is anchored now, okay? Or have you just not been listening?” Willow was starting to get well past furious with her oldest friend. She could understand Buffy being upset by this, but Xander didn’t have any right to make such a big deal about Willow and Angel. If she could forgive him for dating...that really wonderful, kindhearted, caring seer, then he could put up with her vampire. And that was that.

“And it’s not like your girlfriend doesn’t have a past. Goddess, Anya was a vengeance demon long before Angel was even turned. She ruined more lives than Angelus ever dreamed of, and you know it. I can’t believe how juvenile and stupid and ridiculous you are when it comes to Angel.”

“I can.” Spike finally decided to contribute to the discussion. Was it wrong that Willow was almost glad he took the opportunity to insult Xander? At least it showed that good ol’ snarky Spike hadn’t been completely broken by Buffy’s actions. Now if only Buffy would just look at him or something. But she seemed to be making a concerted effort to look everywhere else instead.

Xander shot Spike what was supposed to be a death glare. It did not have the desired effect.

“What, moron? If you don’t want people to tell you what a twat you are, you should stop talking. Or go into hiding. That would work, too.”

And they’re off.

As entertaining as it looked to be, though, Willow decided she really didn’t want a fight to be her farewell memory of Sunnydale. Couldn’t they all just get along? At least for a little while? Willow had this Hallmark kind of fantasy forming, aided by the hug from Buffy, and she was gonna do her darnedest to at least get close to it.

“Look, guys. I know this is hard, this me and Angel thing, and that it’s been a shock, at least for most of you.” She glared at Anya, who so did not fit into her Hallmark fantasy right now. “But I’m leaving and we won’t be seeing each other tomorrow and I kinda want my last memories of Sunnydale...at least for awhile,” she amended after seeing the troubled look on Buffy’s face, “to be good ones, you know? The kind where we all hug and tell each other that we love each other and that, no matter what, we’re gonna be best buds forever and ever, at least until there’s an apocalypse we can’t actually stop.

“I know I didn’t start this off right and that trying to keep the truth from you guys was a bad thing and just made things worse. But it’s all out in the open now and you know that neither Angel nor I are evil or are ever going to be and...Buffy, you really do have Spike and it’s pretty obvious he loves you a whole lot or he would have left during the whole...well...you know and...I just think we should be thinking about the important things. Like that we’ve been friends for so long and faced so many dangers together and how we shouldn’t let anything ruin that.”

She stopped, waiting to see what the reaction would be. But not because she was out of breath. Because she wasn’t out of breath. How had she talked so long without stopping to breathe and not gotten winded? Oh goddess! She had her babble mojo back! She fought the urge to jump for joy. She also fought the urge to check and see if she could raise one eyebrow. She didn’t want to push it. After all, she was grateful for the babbling and it hardly behooved her to seem greedy.

Buffy looked thoughtful and, while she didn’t look at Spike, at least it appeared that she was thinking about Spike and that was a very good thing. Willow hoped they would find a way to make things work.

The next thing she knew, Spike was giving her an awkward, but heartfelt hug. “‘M gonna miss ya, Red. You know that ridiculous poof isn’t half good enough for you.” And what would a sentimental gesture from Spike be without a dig at Angel, who, to his credit, merely rolled his eyes. Xander could (and should) learn so much from him.

“Thanks, Spike.” She decided not to acknowledge the insult to the man she loved. “I’m going to miss you, too.”

Spike let her go and the next thing you know, she was being held again by a sobbing Buffy. “I can’t believe you’re leaving. I’m sorry I said...”

“It’s okay, Buffy. Really. I understand. We all say stuff sometimes and...well...”

“Yeah, Will, me, too.”

There was something about the kind of friends you didn’t even have to finish sentences with. Right now, she felt like all the coldness and the distance that had been there between her and Buffy since even before she’d died was gone and in its place was the warm, sisterly relationship they’d had years ago. And Willow was leaving. Oh, goddess - this really hurt.

They parted slowly, inch by inch, ‘til they were just standing there, looking at each other as if trying to commit it all to memory.

“I love you, Buffy.”

“I love you, too.”

She leaned back against Angel, drawing strength from him - the strength she would need to leave the nest and fly off to Los Angeles. Then she realized how that might affect Buffy and quickly inched away. She was touched to see Buffy putting a brave face on and acting as if she was fine with Willow touching her ex. Buffy was trying, and that meant the world to her.

Willow glanced meaningfully at Buffy, then over at Spike, and back, hinting broadly that her friend should see that the vamp in the hand was definitely worth more than a pipe dream in L.A. It would, of course, have worked better had she been able to do the one eyebrow thing, but she did the best she could and she hoped the metaphorical elbow to the ribs had the desired effect. If so, her work was finished.

There was awkward silence for a few moments. Xander was being a jerk and ignoring her, and Anya was yawning and sighing and looking at her watch, just this close to reminding everyone that she needed orgasms and she was ready to go home and get them. She couldn’t care less about anyone else. No change there.

It was time for Willow and Angel to leave.

“Well, we better hit the road if we wanna be back in L.A. before sunrise.” Angel took Willow’s hand and started to lead her towards the door.

Buffy grabbed her and hugged her again. “I’m gonna miss you so much. You’d better call me every day, okay?”

“Okay.” It was a good thing Willow never wore much makeup or she would have been a streaky mess with all the crying.

After a moment, Buffy let go and Willow and Angel set out for the door once again. She turned and looked back.

“Bye, Anya. I’ll send you a check for the stuff I borrowed.”

Anya snorted, but said nothing. Willow was grateful. It could have been much worse, and she had not expected the least bit of sentiment from Xander’s supposedly human fiancee.

“Bye, Xander.”

Nothing. Great. Well, at least there was one person she didn’t have to miss. Somehow, though, that thought did not make her heart hurt any less. It felt like she’d just discovered Xander had never been her friend at all.

She held onto Angel’s hand and they walked out the door.

Angel knew enough to be silent and Willow was so grateful. There was nothing he could say that wouldn’t make her collapse right now, and she really didn’t want to be a blubbering mess all the way back to her new home. She thought it would be better idea to have one big bout of hysterics after dealing with Cordelia. Sort of a misery combo platter.

“Willow.”

Xander?

She turned around, and there he was. She ran back to him and...more hugging and sobbing, just like with Buffy only it was Xander and it was special and it was her oldest friend forgiving her and saying he was going to learn to deal with Angel and that nothing could ever change the fact that they were best friends.

“I love you, Wills. I’m sorry I was...it’s just that...you know...it’s Deadboy and..”

“Xander.”

“Okay, yeah, maybe I should just quit while I’m ahead.”

“Yeah, I kinda think so.”

“I do love you, bud.”

“I love you, too, Xander. And hey, you’re always welcome to visit us, okay?” She could feel the look of horror on Angel’s face, but she knew he’d be okay with it. If not, she’d just have to make it up to him. Wonder how...?

And then it was over. Xander said goodbye and Willow said goodbye and Anya glared at them both from the doorway and the last thing Willow heard before she got into the car was Xander attempting to mollify his unsympathetic and demanding fiancee.

“An, she’s my best friend, okay?”

Willow giggled as she got into the car.

“I love you, Willow.”

“I love you, too.”

The car was started and they drove off. Willow smiled at Angel. Not only were they making it out of Sunnydale alive (well, one of them alive, the other undead), but she felt closer to her old friends than she had in so long.

Wow. She had the man she loved, the most adorable stepson ever, great friends...life was really wonderful.

And then she remembered...Cordelia. Oh, goddess. Couldn’t they have Wesley bring Connor to some love nest in Azusa or something?

“Angel? Are you absolutely sure we have to go to Los Angeles right now?”

“Willow, is this the Cordelia issue again? Because I think you’re really overreacting. Trust me, okay? She’s changed. And besides, Buffy accepted us, so Cordelia is bound to as well. I trusted you about Tara, and you were right. Do the same for me with Cordelia, because you’ll see...I’m right, too.”

“I guess you have a point there, it’s just...”

“You two have a history, I understand that. But everything’s going to be fine. I love you, you love me, that’s what matters. After all, Lorne says we’re destined, so...”

“Yeah I forgot about that. I mean, I think he would have warned us if there was a chance we’d wind up dead, or more dead, in your case. Right?”

Angel chuckled and Willow hated the fact that they were in a moving car right now. And there went the eyebrow. He reached over and ruffled her hair. “Why don’t you try and take a nap or something? I’ll wake you when we get there.”

Yeah, like she’d be able to sleep with the naughty thoughts she was having. But she closed her eyes and resolved to pretend, even though she wasn’t actually tired. Not really, anyway. It wasn’t like she’d really had that taxing a day, except that she had, and...

In no time at all, she was sound asleep, and there were x-rated dreams aplenty. At least this time she didn’t have to feel guilty.

Tbc...

Chapter Text

Best Laid Plans (Chapter Eighteen)


“Willow? We’re here.”

“Almost, Angel. I’m almost there.”

Laughter.

Uh oh. The dream was over and she suddenly realized that she wasn’t really in bed having sex with Angel, but in the front seat of his car, which was now parked at the hotel. Oops.

Slowly, and with a face burning red with embarrassment, Willow opened her eyes. Angel was grinning from ear to ear.

“Guess there’s no need to ask what you were dreaming about.”

“Um...no, I guess not.” Just when she thought her face couldn’t get any redder...

“I had a hard time staying on the road. I’m going to have to hear about those dreams, because the way you smelled...”

Willow buried her face in her hands. Why did vampires have to have such heightened senses?

Angel tilted her chin up and Willow dropped her hands, though her face was still scarlet. “There’s nothing to be embarrassed about, Willow.”

“It’s just...I think I still haven’t gotten used to us or something, you know? It still feels like naughty thoughts I shouldn’t be having.”

“I know. This is still new to me, too. But a good new. A very good new.”

How did he always know exactly the right thing to say? Was there a how-to book on this or something? Or maybe Angel would be willing to give her lessons. Hmm...

“We better get inside, huh?”

“There’s still lots of time before sunrise, don’t worry.”

“Yeah, but, you know, it’s been awhile since Connor’s seen his daddy and...”

“You wanna see my son.” He reached across and hugged her. Angel hug-gage was definitely of the good.

“Mm-hmm.”

“You don’t know...” For a moment Angel actually seemed at a loss for words. “I’m...it’s such a...I’m glad you like my son.” There were tears in his eyes as he let her go.

“Like him? Angel, I love your son. He’s...he’s adorable. And...I just love him.”

Angel didn’t answer, but the way he looked at her...well, that said everything Willow could ever have hoped to hear. She wondered if maybe she was still dreaming; it was hard to accept anyone loving her so much, as much as she loved them. But she’d try, because it was really very wonderful.

“Let’s go, shall we.” Angel had found his voice. And yeah, getting out of the car was a pretty good idea. After all, there was a cute little boy waiting upstairs for his daddy and his kinda-sorta-step-mom. Lorne and Fred had better have taken good care of him, that was all Willow had to say.

They exited the vehicle and Angel opened the trunk, hoisting both her bags and his before she could even try to grab them. The eyebrow went up again as she reached in vain to take one from him. She should have known that Angel was the old-fashioned gentleman type. She’d have to adjust to that. Being with Tara, she’d gotten used to opening her own doors and carrying in her own groceries and stuff. Yeah, guys were different. Not that it was a bad thing or anything - no, not at all.

Angel was quiet as they walked into the darkened building. Willow kind of expected there to be more activity or something, but she was actually grateful that it seemed nearly deserted. It meant no Cordelia for the time being and that suited her down to the ground. Unless Cordelia was hiding somewhere with a stake... Okay, maybe that was a bit melodramatic, especially since Cordelia had no way of knowing that Willow and Angel were now...well...Willow and Angel. Although, she was a seer...

Get a grip, girl. Anyone would think that you were terrified of a girl who thought that the “Del” button stood for “Deliver.”

Alright, so what if she was?

She followed Angel up the stairs, noticing that he was staying silent and his tread seemed almost deliberately light, almost as if...he was just as desirous of avoiding his ever-so-very-different not-actually-a-girlfriend as Willow was. Ha! She knew it!

And now she was channeling Anya. Oh no.

The door to his room was slightly ajar. Willow was surprised at that. Hadn’t Angel closed it before they left? Angel noticed too and he motioned for her not make a sound as he pushed it open, obviously reaching out with his senses for the presence of an intruder. A moment later he nodded to her. It was safe. That was a relief. Maybe Lorne or Wesley had gone in there for some reason and had just forgotten to close the door after they’d left or something. Or maybe the building was settling. There was no possible way Cordelia had gone in there and sprinkled holy water on the sheets or anything. And Willow really, really, really needed to stop being so paranoid and fixated on a girl who hadn’t been her enemy since high school. Of course, she and Willow had barely seen each other since high school.

Enough! Let Angel stow that gear and then they could go visit the most loveable baby in the history of infancy. Think happy, loving thoughts. After all, she’d read that babies could pick up on negativity and she hardly wanted to poison the little guy’s mind or traumatize him for life just because she had some residual issues from adolescence.

Angel seemed to be like-minded, setting down their bags with care and heading back for the door, taking her hand as he did so. Willow was near tears. The gesture showed her that he was seeing them as a couple, and her as (maybe?) a parent to his precious miracle of a son. Gosh.

She suddenly realized that Angel hadn’t even mentioned Connor to Buffy and the others and she wondered when and how they were going to break the news. But perhaps now was not the best time to bring that topic up. With a relationship as drama-laden as theirs, Willow figured she really needed to start learning how to just live in the moment. Worrying probably wasn’t going to be helpful, or particularly constructive. After all, if she fretted about every possible bump in their road, she would be nervous all the time and that wasn’t very sexy or alluring. Why would Angel stay with a worrywart and an alarmist?

And now here they were, at the door to the nursery. Willow made the effort to breathe (inhale-exhale-inhale-exhale, that’s it) and was relieved to find that she recalled how. Silly, perhaps, but the past few days had taught her not to take breathing (or babbling) for granted. She looked at Angel and smiled. He opened the door.

Three people were asleep inside: Lorne, Fred, and Connor. Lorne, slumped in a very uncomfortable posture in a chair in the corner, was the first to awaken. “Hey there, Angelcakes, you’re back awfully soon.” His voice was quiet, and Willow appreciated him not wanting to wake Connor, who looked like a cherub curled up in his crib. Willow couldn’t resist tip-toeing over to peek at the child.

Fred stirred in the rocking chair and the motion that caused woke her up next. “Mmph, hi.” She, too, spoke softly and her drawl was prominent. It was an adorable drawl and Willow suddenly remembered that she wasn’t the only woman in this room in love with Angel. Guilt reared its ugly and incredibly pushy head again. The geek girl code had been bent, folded, spindled, and mutilated, Willow was positive about that. Oh goddess.

But amazingly, Fred only smiled at them. Okay. Not that she was ungrateful or anything, but there was a “why?” in all of this and she’d kind of like it addressed.

“I see you two actually saw the light, and even quicker than I’d hoped for.” Lorne was addressing them once more. Was it that obvious? Willow looked back at Angel, who was staring at her as she gazed into Connor’s crib. Alright, yeah, it actually was that obvious. Fred was okay with this? Gosh. Then it occurred to her that based on Lorne’s easy manner while mentioning it, he had clued Fred in ahead of time. Thank you, Lorne.

“Yeah, we did.” Angel joined Willow by the crib, his arm around her shoulders as they gazed down at Connor, oblivious to everything going on around him as he slept.

“Well, the fact that she sang me a lullaby should have been your first clue.”

Oh gosh. Willow had forgotten about that. Wow. That was pretty freaksome, now that she thought about it, and darn near reeked of predestination and all. If her song choice hadn’t been an omen, then she hadn’t been born and raised on the Hellmouth.

“Maybe it was.” Angel smiled fondly at Willow, who cheated a glance over at Fred. Angel was totally clueless that the girl he rescued had feelings for him. Figured. But Willow wasn’t and she cared enough to worry that the PDA’s might break the girl’s resolute acceptance and calm.

They didn’t and Willow was deeply impressed by Fred. You know, she’d be a really great girl for Tara, now that she thought about it and... Forget it, Willow. Fred seemed to be straight and anyway, Tara probably wouldn’t take too kindly at this point to Willow’s attempts at matchmaking. Oh well.

Back to the baby. As much as she wanted to hold him (and as much as she could feel that Angel wanted to as well) she didn’t want to disturb him. He looked so peaceful and content. She wondered if he was dreaming. Did babies dream? Willow would have to look that up. Come to think of it, there was quite a lot of reading in her future if she was going to be the kind of mom Connor deserved. First thing tomorrow, she was off to the nearest bookstore to bolster any gaps in the research she was going to do online. After all, she didn’t even know if babies dreamed, for pity’s sake. She had a long way to go before she was fit to call herself a mom, or even a tante, for that matter.

“You both look like you need to follow the little guy’s example and get some rest.”

Lorne had a point. She was still pretty tired, maybe even more tired than she had been before her nap. Her dreams had not made her rest all that restful. Angel seemed to feel Lorne’s idea had merit so, after she blew a little kiss to Connor, she let Angel lead her out of the room. She could hear the faintest murmur of voices as they walked away. Lorne must have been bolstering Fred’s spirits and congratulating her on her unselfishness. At least she hoped that was the case. Because Fred deserved loads of bolstering and pats on the back and maybe even a cake and a gold watch or something. Hmm. Maybe she should buy Fred a gift at that...she’d think about it after she got some sleep.

It appeared, however, that once again there was no rest for the weary, because the moment they got back to Angel’s room and shut the door, Willow found herself being pulled into a very passionate kiss - the kind of kiss that led inevitably to naughty, x-rated fun.

“Have I ever told you how much you turn me on?”

Oh goddess, she was definitely going to need to start taking vitamins or something to keep up with her new boyfriend. Not that she minded or anything.

He kissed her again, even more deeply, though Willow was surprised that was even possible considering how intense that first one was, and she found herself feeling ever more awake. Hmm...maybe vitamins wouldn’t be needed after all. The need to breathe made itself known, but once again Angel seemed to sense it and moved his adept attentions to her neck. Oh yeah, that was really - really - really nice.

Not long after Angel started doing some really arousing things to her earlobe and her throat, Willow realized that her hands had, entirely of their own accord, begun unbuttoning his shirt. Gosh, how had that happened? Oh well, maybe she should just enjoy now, worry about body parts with independent thinking later. After all, men had appendages with separate brains and it didn’t seem to bother them too much. Oh for heaven’s sake; stop thinking, and just keep stripping Angel, okay? That’s just what Willow did.

Angel followed her lead and began to untuck her t-shirt from her jeans. Their kissing became a bit more frantic, as did their attempts to undress each other. Willow almost fell over trying to get out of her jeans and it took several strong shakes of her leg to finish extricating herself from them. How come Angel was so much more graceful when being disrobed? Was it related to the eyebrow thing? Or were guys just better at this stuff?

Never mind. Because there were much more interesting things to think about (or rather, not think about) going on right now. Like the fact that she and Angel were now on his bed, naked and...oh. Angel was inside her again. Still a bit on the “gosh is he ever big” side, but Willow’s body was adjusting and it felt nice sooner than it had before. Goody. Because she really wanted to be on top this time.

With one swift roll, largely achieved because she took Angel completely by surprise, Willow was astride him, a bit astonished at her daring and at the fact that she didn’t have too hard a time finding a rhythm. Boy, this really was like riding a bike. A lot more fun, even, because riding a bike never felt like...ooh! Angel thrust up as she was moving down and...ow! But wow at the same time.

It kept getting better. Willow looked down into Angel’s eyes and delighted in what she saw there. He was excited by the way she’d taken the initiative and it made her happy that he accepted her need to have some control in their sexual relationship. Ugh, stop thinking, Willow. Because you’re so close...so close...almost there...

“Oh my God!”

Oh goddess. Not again. But yes, indeed, it was deja vu all over again.

Willow covered her breasts with her hands, looked over her shoulder, and there it was...like something out of a nightmare: the figure of Cordelia Chase, open-mouthed and shaking with fury, standing in the doorway.

What to do? Her first thought was to get off of Angel, but his hands were still on her hips and she figured maybe he didn’t want to be completely exposed to Cordelia’s gaze. A second or two later, however, he let go and she scrambled off the bed, desperately trying to cover herself. She tossed Angel his pants while she was at it and he threw them over his lap.

“Is there a reason you just had to barge into my bedroom, Cordelia?”

Come to think of it, why had Cordelia just waltzed into Angel’s bedroom? Willow was interested in the answer to that one herself.

“I...I was just...don’t change the subject, mister.” She turned her death glare on Willow, who decided maybe some questions really didn’t need answers after all. “And you! How could you do this to me? Again! Is this a jealousy thing? Have you decided to spend your whole life getting even with me for being more beautiful and popular than you? Because I think it’s long past time you got over it and just accepted the fact that you’re...”

“The woman I love. And you’re the one who’s going to have to face facts. Now could you please leave the room while Willow and I get dressed?”

There was a faint glimmer of tears in Cordelia’s eyes and, gosh darn it, Willow found herself feeling just the barest (okay, more than just the barest) trace of sympathy for her longtime foe. For the first time, she thought maybe she understood why Cordelia acted the way she did and said the things she did. And why, oh why, did she have to have these insights now? She’d done just fine hating Cordelia’s guts all these years and now...presto! Understanding. This empathy stuff ruined everything.

Not for the first time, Willow wished she really was evil. But in the absence of that, she was just going to have to deal with giving a darn about a girl who right now wanted her dead. Great.

The echo of the door slamming in the wake of Cordelia’s departure still rang in her ears. She could only imagine what it must sound like to Angel, with his super vamp hearing and all. Figuring it was better not to add any more noise to the mix, she silently finished getting dressed. What were they going to do now? She sat on the edge of the bed and stared at the floor. What a mess.

“You can say it, you know.” Angel’s voice broke through the fog in Willow’s head and she looked up. He was fully clothed once more. Darn. “I know what you’re thinking.”

“Huh?” What was he talking about?

“‘I told you so’? You know you want to say it.” His tone was light and teasing and it made Willow love him all the more.

“No. I mean, not that I’m not thinking it, but...nah. I won’t say it.” She tried to match him in the lighthearted banter department.

“I guess I underestimated how much she still resents you.”

“And how much she feels for you. Not that it surprises me. You’re a pretty loveable guy.”

“You might be slightly prejudiced there.” He sat down next to her and put his hand over hers.

“No way. I’m a completely objective and unbiased observer. You, my dear Angel, have major love mojo.”

He chuckled, but this time Willow managed to keep her hormones safely in check. After all, they were going to have to go smooth some extremely ruffled feathers and do a whole lot of explaining in the next few minutes.

“Just as long as you love me, that’s all I care about.”

“I do.”

“Then that’s all I need. Because I love you, too, Willow.”

“We better go downstairs and try to calm things down. I can hear Cordelia screaming from here.” She could, too. She just hoped the seer hadn’t visited the weapons cabinet.

“Yeah, sounds like a good idea.”

Her hand stayed in Angel’s as they got up and marched toward what looked to be one heck of a brouhaha. Just as they closed the door behind them, and with all the near-catastrophes of the past few days fresh in her mind, Willow turned to Angel and asked, “Is it always going to be like this?”

Angel just laughed.

That was so not an answer.


The End.