The world had been about to end, and I stopped it.
Not by myself. Not by a long shot. No, Buffy was the real hero, and Willow with her kickass magic. All I did was stop Angel from pulling the sword from the stone. And even that didn't really make me a hero- all I did was drop Giles, dive across the room, and knock Angel aside with a full-body blow.
It got me a concussion, a cut on my temple from where my head hit the floor, and further damage to my already broken wrist. Turns out those plaster casts only protect a fracture as long as you aren't doing swan dives onto a stone floor. Who knew?
But it was enough. I got up, got Giles out of there, and didn't see the rest of the fight, but I heard the story later. I'd stopped Angel from awakening Acathla at the critical moment, and Buffy proceeded to kick his ass until Willow was able to come through with the Gypsy mojo. I didn't do much, but I did enough.
It took Angel a while to recover from his evildoing. The soul was intended as a curse, after all, and he suffered. I wanted to hate him for everything that he'd done- hell, I had hated him for as long as I'd known him just because guys like Angel always got the girl- but all I had to do was take one look at Angel's anguished face to understand that guys like Angel might get the girl, but they didn't have it easy, not by a long shot.
And they way things were between Buffy and Angel... well, it was starting to look like Angel wasn't getting the girl. Which made sense, either way you looked at it. When Angel and Buffy got too close, bad things happened. Like the world almost ending.
So Angel isolated himself in the old mansion on Crawford street, only straying outside to buy another few day's worth of blood, and Buffy walked around looking like someone had run over her cat. It was all very depressing, and I couldn't even ignore it, because my own personal Cordy-shaped distraction had walked away from me with a pat on the shoulder and a kiss on the cheek, saying that we could still be friends when people weren't looking, but she was tired of her personal downward mobility and was ready to start dating college boys now.
I would have turned to Willow, per usual, but she was all snuggled up with Oz. Apparently watching your best friend's relationship die a fiery death made her appreciate what she had, and while I honestly couldn't blame her, I was getting a little lonely, living with all the depression-vibes.
And so I ended up becoming friends with the last person on Earth I would ever have thought I'd willingly spend time with. Angel.
In my defense, I didn't just up and decide this one day. The thought never even entered my mind. Sure, I felt kinda sorry for the guy some of the time, but friends with him? You gotta be kidding.
And then one day I was walking home, minding my own business, when I bumped into Angel. Literally. Angel was running down the street, not watching where he was going, looking like the hounds of hell were at his heels. When I looked behind him and saw the pack of grinning vampires running after him, I made the only wise choice I could and ran like hell, right on Angel's heels.
We managed to make it safely to the mansion, and with a sturdy door between them and their dinner, the vampire pack gave up and wandered off in search of easier prey. I nodded at Angel, said some sort of thanks, and started to leave.
And promptly fell on my ass. Apparently I'd twisted my ankle sometime during the wild flight down the street, and I was only noticing now because the adrenaline was wearing off. Angel helped me over to the couch, then carefully bound up the rapidly swelling ankle with some of the bandages he kept. He offered to walk me home, and when I refused, Angel pointed out that my only other choice was to sleep on his couch, because it would take someone suicidal to walk injured through Sunnydale after dark. Which I knew, but hey, nobody likes to have someone they don't even really like telling them that they're behaving like a moron.
But he was right, so I gave in, and we ended up making our way slowly back to my house a few miles across town, and by some miracle or friendship-fairy or something, we talked the whole way there. About what, I never can remember, but we talked, and parted ways with a sense of vague comradeship, if nothing else. I assumed that would be the end of it, and we'd go back to ignoring each other.
Fate kept throwing us together, though, one way or another. We kept running into each other when out at night, or both of us would get involved in the latest Hellmouth crisis. Buffy said that it was "too hard" for her to talk to Angel, so she always sent me to talk to him about the monster of the week, and if she needed his help fighting the thing, she always sent me out on patrol with him. After a while we just sort of got used to each other's company, and I was spending more and more time in the old mansion on Crawford street, just sort of hanging out. Turns out that for a centuries-old vampire, Angel wasn't a bad guy, so we got along well enough.
Things stayed pretty much the same for a couple of weeks or so. We hung out, talked about the meaning of life and why hot dogs are disturbing on many levels, and it was good. Nice. Uncomplicated. Simple.
And then Spike showed up.
In retrospect, going along with Angel and Spike to get the supplies for the love spell probably wasn't the brightest idea, but it made sense at the time. I'm not sure why, but it did.
Of course, Spike was just as obnoxious as I remembered him, his personality not significantly improved by the truly staggering amount of alcohol he must have consumed. He was well and truly drunk, which didn't stop him from being disturbingly insightful. Of all the things I was expecting, I was not expecting insightfulness from Spike. I most especially wasn't expecting what his insight had to tell him about us.
That's right. Us. As in, me and Angel. How's that for a stumper? According to Spike, we were lusting after each other so bad he couldn't even think past the pheromones we were putting off, and he had a few good laughs over it, too. That was before we got attacked by a few old friends of his, of course, a fight which I, as usual, barely survived.
After we'd rescued Willow from his evil clutches (drunken evil, but evil nonetheless) Angel and I could barely look at each other. Didn't matter that both of us were vehemently denying that anything Spike said had even a grain of truth in it- we still couldn't meet each other's eyes. Embarrassment that more closely resembles stark raving terror can do that to you.
I didn't want Angel. I couldn't want Angel. It just didn't make sense. I mean, for one thing, I didn't like guys. Hello, world! Remember that little fact? I wasn't gay! I liked the ladies. The ladies might not have liked me all that much, but I definitely liked them.
And even if I was gay, I wouldn't want Angel. He was totally Buffy's One True Love, even if they didn't even speak to each other anymore, and besides, vampire? Hello? Total ick factor with the fangs. And what did Buffy see in him anyway? Who could possibly be attracted to the dark, brooding good looks, the soulful (heh heh) eyes, the pale, smooth skin, the broad shoulders and the narrow hips with those abs and...
And okay, I was possibly attracted to Angel. Maybe. Just a little bit. But it didn't mean anything. Angel wasn't really attracted to me, anyway. Spike was just full of shit, as usual. Since when was Spike right about anything?
After a couple days I swung by the mansion, determined to deal with this thing that was between us, thanks to Spike-the-evil-creep, and found Angel just as eager as I was to pretend that it had never happened. We fell right back into the comfortable friendship we'd had before, and I figured that it would stay that way this time.
And then there was the band candy. I was desperate to get rid of my box in case Snyder was being more psychotic than usual, and I admit to putting a more than fair amount of pressure on Angel to buy as many as possible, because my parents sure as hell weren't gonna pay for the things, and it was a safe bet that Buffy had already gotten to Giles. Who else was I going to sell them to?
So really, the whole thing could be seen as my fault, without much of a stretch. But I prefer to place the blame on Ethan Rayne, who enchanted the candy in the first place, because it's much easier than accepting the blame for having sex with my best friend's One True Love.
It happened like this:
Angel ate the candy, and soon after reverted to his teenage self. I wouldn't have thought that it would be such a problem, but then all I'd ever known was the very serious brooding Angel that we all knew and loved, so I couldn't have possibly imagined that he'd been a drunken and lusty layabout when he was sixteen.
When we realized that trouble had once again hit the town, I went straight to Angel. I didn't expect to find anyone but the Grim Brooder there, because I hadn't thought that Angel would actually eat the chocolate I had browbeaten him into buying.
Oh, how wrong I was.
When I got to the mansion I found Angel, already rip-roaring drunk and very cheerful about it. I would have just turned around and gone back to help Buffy when I realized that Angel clearly wasn't going to be of any help, but instead I found myself snagged by Angel, who was much stronger than I was and apparently determined to have a little fun while in his new, sex-crazed version. There was only so much I could make myself protest- this was pretty much a realization of more than a few wet dreams, and I wasn't so egotistical as to think that I was anybody's perfect happiness, much less Angel's.
Needless to say, I didn't make it back to Buffy that night.
Once again I went by the mansion, after he'd gone back to his usual brooding self. But this time it was a bit harder to pretend that nothing had happened, and though we made a valiant attempt, it was only another couple of days before we ended up falling into bed again.
I wasn't his perfect happiness. We both knew that. I was his acceptable happiness. We were friends, of a sort, but beyond that I was just a warm body that he could lose himself in. I didn't mind some of the more extreme stuff that he wanted to try, since it turned out that I had a bit of a kink for pain. That would explain why I was ever attracted to Cordelia Chase, anyway.
You know the old saying? The one that goes, "If you can't have the one you love, love the one you're with?" That was Angel. He loved Buffy so much but he could never be with her, so he settled for the next best thing, which for some reason was me. We fucked each other senseless for months, and nobody ever had a single, solitary clue. Through all of the various Hellmouthy disasters, including Faith, zombies, and telepathic demons, we both had each other to get lost in. The thing about getting lost, though, is that you're never sure which way you're supposed to turn, and the further you go, the harder it is to find your way home.
And eventually I couldn't stand it anymore. Lying to Buffy, to Willow, to everyone. Being nothing but a convenient fuck to Angel, and even to myself. We weren't even friends anymore- we'd lost the ease of each other's company in exchange for the lust and the heat. That wasn't what I wanted, and even though I wasn't sure what it was that I did want, I knew that that wasn't it.
So I broke it off. So to speak. The phrase "breaking it off" somehow implies that we had a relationship, which we really didn't. But I ended it, and we parted on good enough terms, as things went. Then again, we didn't really have much of ourselves invested in whatever it was we did have, so neither of us was exactly brokenhearted when it ended.
He left town not too long after that. He stuck around for graduation, then left without saying goodbye to me or Buffy or anyone. Not that I'd expected him to- I knew that it had to be hard for him, to walk away from a place that had seen so many of the most important events of his life, without anything in front of him to walk towards, and goodbyes would have just made it harder. I didn't expected goodbyes, and I wasn't disappointed when I didn't get any.
We all survived Graduation. Well, not all the students, but all of us, the Scooby gang us. We made it. And to celebrate my continuing life, I took off on a tour of America, just like I'd always wanted to do.
Broke down in Oxnard and ended up washing dishes, with the exception of that one night I had to strip. Think I did a pretty good job of it, judging from the cheers I was getting, and the look on the face of one English watcher named Wesley Wyndham-Pryce when I ran into him in the alley afterwards was worth it.
We talked for a couple hours, and away from the Hellmouth and Slayers and vampires, we managed to find a few things in common. My car is still broke, but that's no reason I can't see America- tomorrow I'm heading out on the back of his motorcycle, and we're gonna drive till the summer's over. We're supposed to be heading for LA first, and I can't help but wonder:
Will I see Angel when I'm there?