Angel needed time to heal. His injuries weren't physical, but they might as well have been. All of us were still scarred. Buffy hadn't come home. Angel confessed to me that he and Spike had gone looking for her, wanted to make sure her new boyfriend was up to snuff or something. Not that it really mattered. I don't think she cared about the guy. He was just someone who could understand what she was without freaking out or even caring much. Even those of us who know her best still feel it every time we look at her: Slayer. Being away gives her a chance to be Buffy and the slayer without all the pressure. She may love us, but we still add to the weight on her shoulders. She carries enough.
With everybody scattered everywhere, I kind of liked the idea of being centralized for awhile. In the end, it was just me and Angel and Spike, who seemed less than interested in hanging out with us, particularly me. It took all of three days to figure out that he desperately wanted the company too but didn't want to ask for it. He's still too busy trying to be Mr. Cool sometimes, and I imagine the admitting he wanted to spend any time in my immediate vicinity would have come as a particularly hard blow to his ego.
About a week in, Angel finally started talking about something other than the weather. He told me about Wesley. I told him about Anya. We'd both known, but it was different hearing it that way, more personal. In the end, I cried. It didn't really embarrass me as much as I might've thought. Besides, we both ended up laughing by the end of the night. I suspect the two bottles of wine we'd finished between the two of us fed into that. We needed a reason to let go and the alcohol seemed like a good excuse.
We could play anything off on that. "We were just a little drunk," we could always say later if we revealed something particularly stupid or made a wrong move somewhere. With all the history between us, all the animosity, albeit mostly on my part, and the stupid macho posturing, it felt damn good to really talk.
It should have surprised me more when we ended up closer than was entirely natural for buddies hanging out and drinking. At some point my hand ended up on Angel's thigh and his hand brushed my cheek. The funny thing is that despite how almost-sweet the whole thing was, it wasn't romantic. The first brush of his cold lips against mine didn't rock my world or change my perception of reality or make me go, "Oh my god! I'm gay!" Still pretty sure I'm not. I also know how much I needed someone, though. He needed it too. It made sense for us to need each other for a little while. Kissing doesn't differ much based on gender, anyway, at least when you're kissing someone who isn't interested in a battle for dominance. I can't help thinking it would have been a whole different story with some other guy at some other time.
For all the weirdness of the moment and the even more awkward moments that came the next morning, I enjoyed it. The whole thing lacked the passion and fire of anything I'd done before sexually, and that ended up being a nice thing. We just kissed, got off on being close to somebody else. He didn't want me anymore than I wanted him. I think that made it more intimate. We needed, we shared, but nobody felt the need to take anything. A couple of ridiculously painful hangovers later, we laughed it off and managed to talk again. I told him I appreciated it. He smiled and agreed. I made a sandwich. Nothing's changed, I guess, but it feels good not facing the world alone.