Angel slowly eased open the door to her room and slipped inside. He knew he shouldn't be there, but he couldn't stop himself from seeing her. Although, he knew he didn't have the right he consoled himself with the fact that at least she would never know he had ever been there.
As he sank into the chair beside her bed, he leaned over and gently brushed back the hair from her eyes. For a brief moment, he stared as a strand of her red hair slid through his fingers like silk before he sat back and began to draw the sleeping girl. His fingers flew across the page of his sketchbook as he captured her likeness on the page. He couldn’t have her; he couldn’t even let himself love her. At least not openly but this way he would be able to carry some part of her with him.
He quickly stared as sound came from the bed. A tiny smile curled her lips upward and he couldn’t help but wonder what she was dreaming of. He wanted to be the reason she smiled. Hell, if he was honest, at least with himself, he wanted to be the reason she did everything.
Another sound came from Willow and Angel knew he would give anything he had to be able to drop the sketchbook onto the floor, crawl into the bed and pull her into his arms. But he knew it wasn’t meant to be. She didn’t know what he was and he had to keep it that way. There was no way in hell he would allow the darkness that was always inside of him to taint the innocence of the young woman lying before him. Even now he could feel it clamoring inside of him, urging him to ignore his conscience and rip into the girl asleep in her bed.
Angel shook his head to clear it. He shouldn’t have come. He told himself this would be the last time but he knew he was only lying to himself. No matter how hard he tried not to give in, tomorrow night he would be right back beside her bed drawing her once more. At this rate he would have a book full of sketches of Willow. With a quiet sigh he stood and walked to the door. But as he opened it, he couldn’t resist one last look at Willow before turning to leave.
“Aren’t you even going to say goodbye?”
He jumped. “Willow?”
“Yes, it’s me. Were you expecting someone else?”
“I didn’t know... I mean I didn’t mean to... I should...” Angel couldn’t seem to stop stammering as he stared at the vision before him. He didn’t quite know what to say. Or how to explain why he was standing in her room in the middle of the night.
Her laughter echoed through the room. “It’s a little late to be getting all stammery don’t you think, Angel?” She waited until Angel nodded his head before she continued, “What are you doing here?” She quickly glanced at the clock on her beside table. “My father would never forgive me if he found a boy in my room this late. Can you imagine what he would do if he found a vampire in it?” Willow couldn’t quite stop the shiver that ran up her spine at the thought. She didn’t mind bending the rules or stepping a toe over the line ever so often but she really wanted to draw a line at giving her father a heart attack.
Out of everything she had just said only one word stood out. “Vampire?”
She quickly covered her mouth with her hand. “Oops, I was going to wait until you told me. If you ever....” Willow glared at Angel. “You didn’t have any intention of telling me did you?”
Angel shook his head but before he could speak Willow interrupted.
“Why weren’t you going to tell me? Unless you thought it was none of my.... But I thought you liked me. I mean every night for the last month you have been sneaking into my room. I thought....”
It was Angel’s turn to interrupt. “You knew?”
“Of course I knew. Why did you think it was so easy for you to get inside?”
Now that he thought about it, Willow did make a great point. How had he been able to get inside her room? “What are you saying, Willow?”
Suddenly shy, Willow ducked her head. “I wanted you to come. Although, I thought you would come by when I was still awake but I waited for you that first night and you didn’t show up. Or at least I though you hadn’t.”
“What gave me away?”
“There was a smudge of charcoal on my cheek. And I knew I hadn’t been the one to put it there. I can’t draw.”
“I didn’t mean... I shouldn’t have come. I don’t know what I was thinking. No matter what my feelings... This could never work. I’m sorry, Willow. I didn’t want to ever...”
“What taint me with your dark side?” At the thunderstruck look on Angel’s face she knew she had hit on the exact problem. “You’re kidding me, right?”
Angel shook his head. “I’m a vampire. I’m too dangerous to be around.”
As she got out of bed she wished, and not for the first time, she owned some pretty bit of lace to tempt Angel. But it wouldn’t do for Ira Rosenberg’s daughter to own something slutty. With a grimace on her face, she smoothed her hands down her flannel gown. “Oh, you mean dangerous as in coming into my room every night and the only thing you do is.... What exactly are you doing?”
He gripped the sketchpad to his chest. “It’s nothing. Since I couldn’t have... I just wanted to have...”
“Let me see.” Willow held out her hand. As he placed the book in her hands she gently began to flip through the pages. The woman on each page was, well there was no other word for it, stunning! She couldn’t believe it was her. “This is me? Are you sure?”
Angel nodded his head before he took the book out of her hands. “But it doesn’t change anything. We can’t... I can’t...” He cleared his throat and tried again. “I shouldn’t be here. I should never have been allowed inside. I can’t do this. I won’t risk you. Not ever.”
Tears welled up in Willow’s eyes as she realized she had lost Angel before she had actually ever had him. “It’s okay, Angel. I understand.” But she couldn’t resist adding, “After all there is this boy in school. I think his name is Oz. Yeah, funny name huh?” She mistook Angel’s grimace as agreement and continued, “Anyway, I think he likes me and I’m positive he’s not dangerous. Maybe I should just give him a call.”
Silence followed her declaration. Angel’s hands curled into fists at his sides at the thought of another man, no boy, being with Willow. His Willow. Jealousy, cold and hard ran through his body. He would kill him. Break every bone in the boy’s body if he so much as looked at her sideways again.
“I didn’t want this to happen.” Angel’s voice trembled with suppressed anger and some other emotion she was too afraid to hope for to name as he spoke. But he couldn’t lose her and every moment he wasn’t honest with her he knew he risked that very thing.
“I didn’t want to taint you with my darkness. But I fear it’s too late. I can’t let anyone else touch you, Willow. I feel physical pain at the thought. This isn’t the life for you, I know that but I won’t let you go.” He wasn’t asking her, he couldn’t give her the option of saying no even if he felt it was only a slim chance of that happening. Now that he had made up his mind to keep her, he wasn’t taking any chances.
A thrill of excitement surged through her body at his words as a huge smile appeared on her face. “Really?” But there was one thing she was still waiting for. Something he hadn’t said. “Do you love me?”
A tiny smile curved the corners of Angel’s mouth. “I have loved you from the very first moment I saw you. But I wanted to protect you... From me.”
He had barely finished speaking before Willow had thrown herself into his arms. “I love you too, Angel.”
As his arms went around her he couldn’t stop himself from murmuring, “I’m sorry, Willow. I can’t protect you anymore.”
Willow raised her head and stared into his eyes. “So? Who asked you to?” She whispered softly as her lips met his in a passionate kiss.