Title: Take Me Walking In The Rain
Pairing: Willow/Angel, some W/T to start
Summary: When the Hellmouth becomes too much for Willow, Angel offers an escape.
Disclaimer: I claim no ownership over these characters. I am merely borrowing them from Joss et al.
Distribution: My site, the usual lists, anyone with previous permission. Anyone else - please ask.
Feedback: Yes please! I'm a greedy little writer.
A/N: This story was inspired by the song "Take Me Walking In The Rain" by Janis Ian.
Dedication: For Gabrielle – for all of your support and Leslie – for being such a patient beta.
See Awards this story has won.
To listen to the song click here
THIS TOWN ISN'T BIG ENOUGH FOR MY DREAMS
THIS PLACE IS JUST ABOUT TO BREAK AT THE SEAMS
BABY BABY, YOU AND I
NEED JUST A LITTLE BIGGER PIECE OF THE SKY
BIG HOPES, BIG DREAMS
BABY CAN YOU SET ME FREE
TAKE ME WALKING IN THE RAIN
TAKE ME DANCING IN THE WAVES, BABY
LET 'EM WIPE AWAY THE TEARS
WASH AWAY THE YEARS
TAKE ME WALKING IN THE RAIN
TAKE ME RIGHT HERE WHERE I STAND
LET ME FEEL YOUR HEART ON MINE
LIFE'LL NEVER BE THE SAME
WE'VE GOT EVERYTHING TO GAIN
TAKE ME WALKING IN THE RAIN
THIS LIFE MAY BE GOOD ENOUGH FOR THE REST
BUT THIS HEART IS JUST ABOUT TO BREAK THROUGH MY CHEST
I REMEMBER EVERY RULE I'VE HEARD
AND I'M STRANGLING ON EVERY WORD
I CAN'T SAY THEY'RE WRONG
BUT BABY HOW CAN I GO ON?
TAKE ME WALKING IN THE RAIN
TAKE ME DANCING IN THE WAVES, BABY
LET 'EM WIPE AWAY THE TEARS
WASH AWAY THE YEARS
TAKE ME WALKING IN THE RAIN
TAKE ME RIGHT HERE WHERE I STAND
LET ME FEEL YOUR HEART ON MINE
I DON'T WANT SOMEBODY NEW
I JUST WANT THE REST OF YOU
TAKE ME WALKING IN THE RAIN
(Lyrics by Janis Ian/Jenny Yates)
Take Me Walking In The Rain
Willow sat devotedly next to the starch white hospital bed. All she could do as she stroked her girlfriend's uninjured hand was replay the events that had led to Tara lying in a hospital bed with a broken arm and several bruised ribs.
Buffy had stumbled upon a Kranoch demon preparing for a sacrifice during her patrol the night before. After many hours of research late into the night the gang finally figured out what the demon was and how to destroy it. Apparently its thick red skin acted as full body armor, making it extremely difficult to kill with a weapon. Although, as luck would have it, it was susceptible to magickal attacks.
The amount of power that would be needed was great, more than Willow could do alone. Tara reluctantly agreed to join her power with Willow's. As much as she hated fighting demons, she would do anything for the girl she loved.
The girls sat down with Giles and devised a way to send a bolt of magick that would essentially strip the demon of its protective skin, allowing Buffy to kill it with a sword.
Earlier tonight the three girls headed to the cemetery that Buffy had seen the Kranoch in the night before. He was there, adding his newest acquisitions to the body parts already acquired. Buffy rushed in, attacking him with sword, legs and fists while Willow and Tara took their positions in the corner, gathering their magick.
Realizing that the real threat was the girls in the corner, the Kranoch lashed out, knocking Buffy to the ground, stunning her, as he rushed the witches. Buffy recovered quickly and leapt on its back, trying to get it away. It worked, but not before he had lifted Tara effortlessly into the air and thrown her across the room.
"Tara," Willow cried out, dodging the demon in order to rush to her girlfriend's side.
Tara lay in a heap, whimpering, from the impact against the concrete. Her arm was in excruciating pain and it hurt to breathe.
"Tara, baby, are you okay?" Tara shook her head, wishing she hadn't moved. "Where does it hurt?"
"I-I th-think," the pain was making her stutter, "my arm's broken. And it hurts when I breathe, or talk, or move."
"Don't move," Willow insisted, lightly running her hands an inch above Tara's body, afraid to touch her, bringing her more pain. In the background she could vaguely make out the sounds of Buffy fighting the Kranoch demon.
Tara lifted her eyes and saw the demon easily deflect Buffy's blows. "Buffy," she whimpered.
Willow turned to look over her shoulder and saw the sword get knocked out of Buffy's hand, again. She dropped and rolled to retrieve it, missing the blow aimed at her back at the same time. Willow looked back at Tara.
"We-we have to fi-finish," Tara insisted.
"Honey, no." Willow protested. "You're hurt, you can't afford the energy."
Tara slowly, painfully, moved to a sitting position, leaning against the wall. "No. You can do it. You focus the energy, take what you need."
"Tara," Willow tried to protest again, only to be met with a fairly good impression of her 'resolve' face. "Okay," she agreed with a sigh.
Willow stood and gingerly took Tara's uninjured hand in hers. Looking down at her girlfriend she asked, "You okay, babe?"
"Mm-hmm," Tara answered, trying not to wince at the pain wracking her body.
Willow returned her attention to the scene before her. Buffy was getting a little sloppy in her frustration at not being able to harm the demon. Willow began to chant softly, gathering the energy to her once again. Her eyes darkened to black as she finished the incantation. Raising her free hand she sent a bolt of energy at the demon, hitting it squarely on its back.
The Kranoch howled in pain as the magick began to eat away at its skin, like acid. The leathery red flesh began to crackle and dissolve, leaving its tender muscle vulnerable. Buffy found her sword, which she had lost again during the fight, and swung in an arc, separating its torso. With a final wail of pain the Kranoch fell to the ground in two halves, both twitching as the life drained out of it.
Buffy let the sword tip drag along the ground as she made her way to the witches. Tara was lying slumped against the wall, unconscious. Willow was murmuring comforting words, begging her girlfriend to wake up, telling her it would be okay, the demon was dead.
Buffy handed Willow the sword and gently lifted Tara in her arms. Quickly the girls headed straight for the hospital, each praying that Tara would make it through this.
She was still unconscious. It had been four hours and eighteen minutes since they had arrived at the hospital and Tara had yet to wake. Buffy had called the gang while Willow waited for the doctor to finish running tests on Tara. Xander and Anya were the first to arrive, with Giles running in a few minutes later.
"Ms. Rosenberg?" a woman in a white doctor's coat asked, placing a stethoscope around her neck as she entered the waiting room.
Willow raised her hand, her legs too weak and nervous to stand. Buffy and Xander each took one of her hands as Giles placed his on her shoulders.
With a sympathetic smile the doctor said, "Tara is going to be just fine." She paused to allow the assembled group of friends sigh with relief. "Her right arm is broken and has been set in a cast. She also had several bruised ribs, which have been taped."
"Can I see her now?" Willow desperately asked.
"She's still unconscious," at the despondent look on the redhead's face she added, "but you can sit with her if you'd like."
"Yes, please," Willow responded as she got to her feet. She gave her friends' hands a final squeeze as she followed the doctor to Tara's room.
The gang had finally gone home about an hour ago when they realized that Willow wasn't going to leave Tara's side. They all promised they'd be by the next day and left Willow alone with her girlfriend.
"Tara, baby, please wake up," she pleaded again, a couple of tears trailing down her cheeks. "I'm so sorry this happened. It's all over, you're gonna be okay. You just need to wake up now."
Tara's fingers flinched under hers. Willow's eyes shot back to her face, anxiously looking for signs of awakening. Tara's eyeballs fluttered under her eyelids rapidly before they cracked open.
"Tara?" Willow asked hopefully.
"Willow," she whispered, her throat dry. "Water."
Willow immediately stood to pour a cup of water. She held the cup to Tara's lips, tipping it back just enough to dribble some water down her parched throat.
Tara winced slightly at the effort it took to swallow. Willow's back was momentarily turned, returning the cup to the table next to the bed, so she missed Tara's pain-filled motion. When she turned back around, Willow placed a soft kiss on Tara's lips.
Smoothing her hair away from her face, Willow asked, "How you feeling, baby?"
"It hurts," she gritted. "I want to go back to sleep."
"Okay. Just let me get a nurse first. They wanted to know when you woke up."
Tara nodded slightly, trying to restrict the movement and not make her head throb any more than it already was. As Willow left to find a nurse, Tara relaxed against the thin pillow. A tear escaped her left eye when she closed them again. She hated what she was going to do, but she couldn't live like this anymore.
She silently debated her planned actions until Willow returned with a woman dressed in scrubs carrying a clipboard.
"Welcome back, Ms. Maclay," the nurse cheerily greeted her as Willow returned to her chair next to Tara, weaving her fingers with the other girl's. "My name is Caroline Hamilton. You were out for quite a while there, how are you feeling?"
"Hurts," she whimpered.
"Yes, dear," Caroline said in that annoying placating tone of medical professionals. "Where does it hurt?"
"My arm, my head, when I breathe or talk," Tara slowly said.
"That's all perfectly normal. Willow tells me you are going to go back to sleep. Would you like a sedative?"
"Yes, please," Tara sighed, a slight smile gracing her lips for the first time.
"You're very lucky to have such a devoted friend," Caroline commented as she prepared the syringe. "Willow hasn't left your side since you were brought to the room." She noted the way Willow was clasping Tara's uninjured hand and wondered if there was more than friendship between the two.
"Yes, lucky," Tara agreed, looking at Willow as the nurse added the sedative to her IV drip. Willow smiled affectionately at her in return.
"Willow," Caroline interrupted the silent exchange. "I'm afraid that visiting hours are almost over."
"I'm just going to wait until Tara falls asleep first, okay?"
"That's fine." Caroline picked up her clipboard from the foot of the bed and recorded the medication that Tara had just been given as she left the girls alone.
"I've gotta go soon, baby," Willow sadly said, caressing Tara's face.
"That's okay, I'll be asleep anyway."
"I don't know how well I'll be able to sleep tonight without my girl," Willow commented.
Tara felt a stab of guilt that Willow would always be sleeping alone now. She'd wait until the next day to tell her. "I know," she whispered.
Willow gently kissed Tara again before settling into the chair. "I'll wait until you're asleep before leaving. That way we both won't have to fall asleep alone."
"G'night," Tara mumbled, already feeling the effects of the drug.
Tara woke up the next morning alone in her hospital room. It took her a moment to remember where she was. Then it hit her - hospital, broken arm, bruised ribs, Kranoch demon, Willow. She remembered now. She was in the hospital after being hurt by a demon, again. She hated hospitals, always had; yet she seemed to see quite a few of them since she started dating Willow.
She had been drawn to Willow immediately in that so-called Wicca group. Her power and beauty called to her like a siren. Tara had blossomed under Willow's love. She was no longer so self-conscious and shy. She was also more confident with her magickal abilities. She owed this to Willow. Which is why it was going to break her heart to leave her.
Tara was pulled from her musings by the door to her room opening.
"Ah, good, you're awake," a new nurse commented. "My name is Shirley and I'll be your nurse today. How are you feeling?"
"A little better," Tara admitted. "My head doesn't hurt today, and I'm a little hungry."
"That's a good sign. I'll have an orderly bring you up some breakfast. Are you up for visitors yet? There's a redhead who's been dying to get in here."
Tara sadly smiled. "That's Willow. You can send her in."
"I'll do that," Shirley agreed. She finished taking Tara's vitals before leaving.
"May as well get this over with," Tara said to herself.
"Good morning sleepy head," Willow greeted her girlfriend. She kissed Tara before sitting on the bed and handing her a black stuffed cat.
Tara took the stuffed animal, looking at her girlfriend. "What's this?"
"It's for you silly. For when I can't be here with you, so you won't have to be alone."
Tara pulled the toy to her chest, ignoring the stab of pain from pressing against her bruised ribs as she choked back a sob.
"Tara, baby, what's wrong?" Willow asked, concern coloring her voice. "Do you need me to get a nurse?"
Tara shook her head, "No. Thank you, for the cat."
Willow smiled with relief. "You're welcome. Don't scare me like that, I thought something was wrong."
"It is," Tara whispered.
"What's wrong, babe?" Willow asked sympathetically, rubbing Tara's arm.
"I-I'm sorry," Tara whispered. "I can't do this anymore."
"Can't do what?" Willow asked, praying that it wasn't what she feared.
"I can't be with you, not anymore."
"What?" Willow asked, tears forming in her eyes.
"Look at me, Will." Tara insisted, gesturing to the hospital room. "I thought I could look past all of the demons and fighting evil, that our love was strong enough for it not to matter. But it does. I know there is evil out there, and someone has to fight it, but I can't do it anymore. And I know you can't stop, you've been fighting for too long to stop now. And I'm not asking you to. So I'm going to leave."
"Tara, no," Willow pleaded. "I love you. We can find a way to stay together. You don't have to help fight monsters anymore. I'll do all the magick when the group needs a witch. Please don't leave."
"What happens the next time a spell requires more magick that you can do alone? You'll ask me for help. You'll say it's just this one time, and I'll do it because I love you. Then you'll ask me again. I don't want to end up resenting you for disregarding my wishes. It's better this way. When they release me I'll go visit my family for the rest of the summer."
The tears were now flowing unchecked down Willow's cheeks. "Please, don't go. I don't have to keep fighting demons. Just don't leave me."
Tara gingerly wiped a tear off Willow cheek, trying to hold back her own tears. "Please don't ask me to stay. I know you; you won't be able to sit by on the sidelines while the rest of your friends are out there saving the lives of the innocent from vampires and other demons. I can't live like that anymore, even for you."
Willow embraced Tara as gently as possible, crying on her girlfriend's shoulder. Tara took a moment to enjoy the feeling of having Willow in her arms one last time before pushing her away.
"I-I think you should go now," Tara said quietly, not looking at Willow.
"There's nothing I can say that will change your mind, is there?" Willow asked in defeat, wiping at her tears.
"No. I've given this a lot of thought and it's what I need to do."
"I love you. You know where to find me if you change your mind," Willow said as she took one last look at her lover.
"I know," Tara confirmed. Once the door was closed she added, "I love you too," before breaking down into tears of her own.
Meanwhile in LA…
Angel walked out of the kitchen, wincing at the smell that assaulted his sensitive nose.
"Cordelia, must you do that now?" he asked his secretary/seer.
Cordelia looked up at her boss, nail polish brush half way to her hand. "What? It is my apartment. Besides, I have an audition later this afternoon and I need to look perfect."
"You couldn't do that before I got here? Or waited until after I left? That smell…"
"Look Mr. I-have-nothing-better-to-do-now-that-my-home/office-blew-up, you're the one who insisted we have our business meetings here."
"All right, all right," Angel acceded, knowing better than to go up against Queen C on an audition day. "Speaking of business… Where's Wesley?"
"Checking out some new occult bookstore," she said dismissively. "How's the apartment search coming anyway?" Cordy asked as she painted her last nail.
"Slowly," Angel said, dropping into a chair. In truth, he hadn't been looking very hard. "It's not easy finding an apartment with only a few windows but enough space to run a business out of."
"Plus the whole only able to look at property at night thing."
"Exactly. Don't worry, I'll find something eventually, then you'll have me out of your hair."
"Hey, maybe I could put you in touch with Doyle's guy who found me this place."
"Another ghost infested building?" Angel chuckled. "No thank you."
"It wasn't that baaaaad…" Cordelia fell back on the couch before sliding to the floor as she was assaulted with a vision.
Angel was instantly at her side. "Cordelia? Cordy? What do you see?"
Cordelia panted for breath as the vision ended, rubbing her temples. "Aspirin." A bottle floated towards the couch along with a glass of water. "Thanks Dennis," she said, popping a couple of pills in her mouth, swallowing them with the water.
"What did you see Cordy?"
"Demon – big and red – in a crypt. Girl… blond… she's unconscious. Willow – Willow is standing over her crying."
"Oh God," Angel breathed, silently adding, 'Not Willow.' Out loud he asked, "Did it happen yet?"
"No, I don't think so."
"I'll call Buffy," Angel said. He took the floating phone. "Thanks Dennis." He dialed the memorized number, scowling when the machine picked up. "Buffy, it's Angel. Cordelia had a vision, involving Willow and a blond girl being attacked by a red demon. Please be careful and let me know if I can help."
"That's it?" Cordy asked.
"What else can I do? Go running off to Sunnydale to try to help this girl?"
"Yes!" Cordy said emphatically. "Why else do you think I get these mind-shattering visions?"
"Cordelia, you know how Buffy feels about me just dropping in."
"Yeah, but that was just because you kept your presence a secret last time you went for a vision," she pointed out. "Besides, you already called and told her about the vision. This way when you show up it won't be a surprise."
"No buts mister. You go and help the needy."
"Alright, fine, I'll go. Do you mind if I wait until the sun sets first?"
With an exaggerated sigh, Cordy said, "If you must. But I'd go to Willow's house when you get there, since she was the one I saw in the vision, not your precious Buffy."
"Agreed," Angel consented, in no big rush to see his ex with her new boyfriend.
Back in Sunnydale…
Willow returned to her parents' house in a daze. She had the passing thought that it was a good thing it was daytime otherwise she would have been easy vampire bait. She made her way up to her bedroom and flopped down on her bed.
Two nights ago she had shared this bed with Tara. She'd felt a little guilty making love to her girlfriend in her parents' house, but they weren't there. They were never there. She pulled Tara's pillow under her head, inhaling the scent of her shampoo. She thought about how she'd never have Tara in her bed again and made no efforts to stop the tears from coming.
She sobbed into the pillow, gut wrenching tears that made her entire body ache with her sense of loss. Alone in her bedroom she let years worth of pain flow out of her. Pain that her parents were never around and ignored her when they were. Pain over Oz's quick departure after cheating on her. And now she had a new pain to add to the list – Tara leaving her.
"Why does everyone I love leave?" she sobbed. When she received no answer from the empty house she curled herself into a fetal position, hugging Tara's pillow close to her chest and fell into an exhausted, uneasy sleep.
Angel pulled up in front of the Rosenberg home two hours after sunset. The house appeared to be mostly dark, but according to Cordelia Willow was living at home for the summer. He only hoped that he wasn't too late.
Angel paced as he waited for Willow to answer the doorbell. After several minutes he thought she might have just left the lights on when she went out. He was about to leave to check at Buffy's when the door opened.
"Angel?" he heard from a quiet, tired voice.
"Oh Willow, I'm too late, aren't I?" he asked, taking in her red, puffy eyes and tear-streaked, pale cheeks.
"Uh huh," she nodded, choking back a sob. "Come on in Angel." She turned and headed back into the house, not waiting to see if Angel followed.
Angel hesitated before entering the girl's home. He hadn't been here since Willow had cast the uninvitation spell when he'd become Angelus. He followed Willow up to her bedroom, where she lay back down on her stomach, burying her face in a pillow, clutching it tightly to her face.
Standing nervously by the bedroom door, Angel said, "I'm so sorry Willow. I hoped that I had called Buffy in time, but I guess it wasn't enough warning."
Willow looked up at the vampire, confusion crinkling her brow. "What are you talking about? What did you warn Buffy about?"
"Didn't she get my message about Cordelia's vision?" he asked in shock.
Willow tried to think back, but she didn't think Buffy'd mentioned anything about a call from Angel. She would have mentioned that. She shook her head. "No, we were pretty much in research mode a couple of days ago. Then last night…" Willow got choked up again.
"Last night?" Angel repeated. "Then I was too late. Cordy just had the vision today. That's strange. I wonder why the Powers would send her a vision after the fact." He mused.
"Maybe there was a time delay," Willow suggested.
"So then the girl, she's dead?" Angel softly asked.
"No, she's not dead. Tara's got a broken arm and some bruised ribs, but other than that," she began to softly cry, "she's fine."
Angel sat beside Willow, taking the crying girl into his arms, rubbing her back soothingly. "Then you knew her?"
"She was my girlfriend," Willow confirmed.
Angel's eyes went wide at that admission. Girlfriend? Willow's gay? Why hadn't anyone told him that? Along with shock, he found himself surprisingly disappointed that she was no longer interested in men. Then his brain caught up with his ears.
"Was?" he asked.
Willow nodded against his chest, tightening her embrace. "She… she dumped me. In the hospital. Said she couldn't fight demons anymore. And she couldn't be with me if I still wanted to fight the good fight and she wouldn't let me stop fighting because it's so much of who I am now."
"At least she's not making you choose," Angel offered.
"But she didn't even ask what I wanted," Willow sobbed. "She just made up her mind that I wouldn't be able to be with her and not include her in Scooby gang stuff. Or maybe I'm tired of fighting demons too and would quit so that I could be with her."
"Do you really think you could do that?" Angel asked, stroking Willow's soft red hair. "You've been fighting demons for four years now. Do you honestly think you could just stop?"
"I don't know." Willow paused and sighed. "No, I guess not." She pulled out of Angel's comforting arms to look into his soft brown eyes. "And Tara knew that."
Angel brushed her hair off her face, stroking her cheek with his thumb. "There's nothing wrong with wanting to 'fight the good fight'. Some of my best friends are deeply involved in that fight," he smiled.
"Yeah, mine too," Willow agreed with a shy smile. "Thank you Angel."
"You're welcome Little One."
Several moments passed as they lost themselves in the other's eyes. Willow was the first to blink, breaking the spell.
"So how long are you in town for?" she asked.
"I don't know," Angel admitted. "I came to see if I could help fight the red demon. How did you defeat him by the way?"
"Oh, I blasted him, with Tara's added energy, with a bolt magick that disintegrated its impenetrable skin so that Buffy could slice it in half. But not before it threw Tara into a concrete wall.
"Angel, what am I going to do? How can I keep fighting demons when every time I think about it, it reminds me of why Tara left? I mean, she left so that I wouldn't have to stop fighting, but now I don't even want to."
"I wish I knew what to tell you, but it's something you're going to have to figure out on your own."
"How can I when everything reminds me of her? We practiced magick together. We met at Giles' and the Bronze. She was even going to live here with me for the summer."
"What if you weren't here, surrounded by all of those reminders?" Angel tentatively asked.
"What do you mean? You want me to run away? Where would I go?"
"You can come to LA, with me."
Willow's face lit up with the possibility, making Angel happy to have been the cause of the light now shining from her eyes.
"Really?" she asked.
"Of course. I'm looking for a new apartment right now. Since my old one was blown up I've been staying at a cheap motel. Cordelia's been nagging me to finally find a new apartment. I'll just find one with a spare bedroom. It'll be great, we'll be roommates." His enthusiasm paused with a nervous thought. "That is, if you think you could live with a vampire."
Willow threw her arms around Angel. "Of course I'd live with you. You're one of the best people I know."
Angel returned the hug, smiling into her hair. "Wonderful. I'd better get back to LA tonight then. I've got an apartment to find."
Willow released Angel and walked him to the door.
"I'll give you a call when I find a place, okay?"
"Okay. I'll talk to you then, roomie."
Willow closed the door feeling better than she had all day.
After Angel left, Willow called Giles and asked him to call the gang together the following day. He was concerned, of course, and asked why she was calling the meeting. Willow said that everything would be explained when they were all together. After he agreed to call the others, Willow hung up and went about mentally preparing how to tell her friends she was leaving.
Angel sped along the highway towards LA, mentally forming the perfect home for him and Willow.
"A home with Willow," he thought aloud. The idea had him grinning all the way home.
Instead of returning to the dumpy motel he'd been living in, Angel detoured to see if he could track down Gunn. He found the young demon fighter, along with some of his friends, mid-battle with a few vampires. Angel stepped out of his car and leaned against the side, watching the fight, prepared to join the fray if need be.
Gunn dusted the last vamp and turning saw Angel observing him. "Enjoy the show?" he greeted his ally.
"Very much so," Angel replied.
"Were you just planning on watching us get beat on?" he countered.
"I would have stepped in if you needed the help," Angel bantered.
"So what's up?" Gunn asked, still smiling. "I doubt you just felt the need to slum it."
"You're right. I need a favor."
"Got some demon you need help dispatching?" he asked excitedly.
"It's not that kind of favor." Gunn looked at him curiously. "Do any of your guys know about real estate?"
"Oh yeah," Gunn said sarcastically. "We know all the prime real estate properties – abandoned warehouses, demon lairs, boarded up buildings. Why you asking?"
"I need to find a new place of operation. My friend's going to come spend the summer in LA and I can't exactly have her living out of the motel with me."
"Her? You got a new girl?" Gunn teased.
"It's not like that. Willow's just a friend and she needs a change of scenery. Besides, it's about time I got the business going again."
"So what exactly are we looking for?"
"An old store with an apartment attached would be ideal. The apartment should have two bedrooms, one without a lot of windows, preferably. And near sewer access if possible."
"Not asking for much are we?"
"Do you know of anything like that or not?" Angel asked testily.
"Chill, man. I can't think of anything off the top of my head, but I'll ask around. I'm guessing you want this in a nice neighborhood too."
"Yes. I want Willow to feel safe in her own home."
"I hear ya." Gunn held his hand out for Angel to shake.
Angel took his hand. "Thanks. I'll be in touch."
"See ya 'round."
Angel hopped back in his car, feeling more hopeful than he had in a long time. When he returned to the motel he grabbed a newspaper out of the lobby and began to look through the realty section in earnest.
Willow woke up early the next morning. In that blessed moment between sleep and wakefulness she had happy thoughts of snuggling up to Tara. She rolled over and opened her eyes, only to be reminded that she was the only woman in her bed. She sighed as she remembered that she'd never wake up next to Tara again. Then she remembered Angel's visit… she'd soon be moving to LA for the summer to share an apartment with him. That thought brought a smile to her face and gave her the energy she needed to roll out of bed and stumble to the shower.
By the time she finished her leisurely shower, she had two messages on her answering machine. One from Buffy and the other from Xander, both wanting to know if she knew what the emergency meeting at Giles' was about. Willow called them back, keeping the calls short and simply saying that they'd all find out what was going on when they got to Giles' apartment.
As she walked over to Giles', Willow gave herself a pep talk. "Okay, so first we tell them that Tara is going to be okay after the fight with the Kranoch. Then we tell them that she dumped you. Try not to cry. Then you tell them that you're going to be okay and you're going to spend the rest of the summer in LA… living with Angel." Willow groaned. "Buffy and Xander are going to go ballistic."
Before she knew it, Willow was descending the steps to the courtyard outside Giles' apartment. She took a deep breath and walked into the apartment.
She entered an empty room. She called out, "Giles? Anyone here?"
Giles stepped out of the hallway, "Ah, Willow, you're the first to arrive." He looked around the room. "Tara didn't come with you?"
Willow steeled herself, knowing he'd ask. "No, she not coming," she quietly confirmed.
Giles noted the pained look on her face, but knew better than to comment on it. Instead he offered, "Can I get you anything? Tea, water, soda?"
"I can get it," she offered, needing to keep busy until the others arrived. As she filled a glass with water she heard the door open and Xander's energetic voice announce his presence, along with Anya, who was complaining about being there.
When she returned to the living room Xander was sprawled on the couch with Anya flipping through a magazine next to him.
"Hey guys," she greeted her friends, moving to stand near the fireplace.
"Wills, not looking so hot there," he commented.
"Xander," Anya chided him, not looking up from the magazine. "You should never tell a woman she doesn't look good." She looked up at Willow. "But he's right. You look like crap."
"Geez, thanks guys." Willow took a sip of her water, knowing that she must look like she felt. Before she could come up with an appropriate rejoinder, the door opened again to admit Buffy and Riley.
'Just great, everyone brought along their others,' Willow thought.
Buffy greeted the gang and led Riley over to a chair, sitting him down and then sat on the arm of the chair herself. Giles took this as his cue to sit in his chair as well.
Xander turned to Giles, "So what's the up G-man?"
Cringing at the hated nickname, Giles said, "Actually, Willow called this meeting."
All eyes turned to the nervous redhead. Xander broke the silence. "What's up Wills? Where's Tara?"
"She's probably still in the hospital," Buffy guessed.
"Yes," Willow began, "but that's not why she's not here." At their confused looks she added, "I mean she wouldn't be here even if she wasn't in the hospital. Tara… Tara broke up with me."
"What?" Xander exclaimed.
"When did this happen?" Buffy asked.
"Are you alright?" Giles queried.
"I'm dealing. It happened yesterday." When Buffy was going to interrupt, Willow held up her hand. "Please, let me finish this and if you have any questions you can ask then." Buffy silently settled back against Riley, who'd wrapped an arm around his girlfriend's waist. "When I went to the hospital yesterday morning, Tara told me that she couldn't live this life any more. She was tired of putting her life in danger all of the time fighting demons." Willow's eyes filled with tears as she spoke. "I tried to convince not to do this. I said that we could stay together and just not include her in the demony stuff, but she said no. She's… she's leaving. She's going to go back to her family for the summer."
Before she knew it, she was enveloped in Buffy's strong arms. Unable to hold back any longer, Willow began to weep on Buffy's shoulder. Xander stood and wrapped his arms around the girls, knowing how hard this had to be for Willow.
Annoyed that her boyfriend has his arms around another woman, Anya grumbled, "Oh great, now she's going to be all mopey and depressed again, just like after Oz left her. You better not be planning on doing any more spells."
Shocked at his girlfriend's callous attitude, Xander turned, "Anya, how can you say that?"
"What?" she asked, looking around. "It's true. You remember what happened the last time she was dumped."
Pulling away from her friends and wiping her tear-streaked cheeks, Willow said, "Don't worry, it won't happen again. At least not here."
"What do you mean?" Giles asked, his heart going out to the girl.
"I mean, I'm going to go away for the summer, too."
"No, Wills, don't go," Xander pleaded.
"Where would you go?" Buffy asked.
"Thank goodness," Anya commented.
"I can't stay here with so many reminders of Tara. She said she was leaving so that I wouldn't have to stop fighting the battle against evil. But right now that's the last thing I want to do. So I'm going to go stay in LA… with Angel." Willow scrunched her eyes closed, preparing for her friends' outrage. She wasn't disappointed.
Everyone, except Anya, was instantly on their feet, all yelling reasons for why this was a bad idea, including Riley.
Willow opened her eyes and held up her hands. "One at a time, please." She pointed to Buffy.
"Why Angel?" she simply asked, a hint of pain in her voice. "He doesn't even have an apartment right now."
"How do you know that?" Riley asked his girlfriend. Buffy shushed him.
"Would you prefer I stay with Cordelia?" Willow countered.
Buffy answered, "Yes," as Xander answered, "No."
Without answering her question, Willow asked the slayer, "Why didn't you tell me about Angel's message?"
Buffy blanched, she didn't know Willow knew about that. "How did you…? I-it came too late. I didn't think you'd want to know about Cordelia's vision since it had already happened."
"What are you talking about?" Giles asked. Buffy hadn't mentioned Angel's phone call to him either.
Buffy opened her mouth, but Willow answered for her. "Cordelia had a vision yesterday morning. She saw the Kranoch throw Tara into the wall and me standing over her crying. Angel called Buffy to warn her about the demon attack, but since no one was home he left a message on the machine. Last night Angel came down to check on me, to see if we were able to stop the demon. Of course he was too late. I told him about Tara, and how hard it was going to be to be here with so many reminders of our relationship, so he offered to find an apartment with two bedrooms, since he's still apartment hunting after his place was blown up, so that I could come to LA."
"C'mon Wills, do you really think you could do that? Live with a vampire? And why that one?" Xander asked.
"Do you have another vampire you'd like me to live with?" she teased. As Xander gaped at her, she continued, "I don't see it being too much of a problem. Okay, so I'd have to make sure the windows were covered during the day. But hey, at least he wouldn't eat all my food."
"Are you sure about this Willow?" Riley asked. "I don't trust him."
"That's just because he's Buffy's ex," Willow informed him.
"No, it's not just that. What if he loses the soul?"
"I'm not planning on giving him a happy, if that's what you're worried about," she countered.
"You better not," Buffy grumbled under her breath.
Giles stood in order to look the redhead in the eyes. He spoke softly and without malice, "Willow, do you really think that now is the time to be separated from your friends?"
"I do. I know I'll miss you guys like crazy while I'm gone, but it hurts too much to stay here. I can't even sleep in my bed at my parents' house without thinking about Tara. I need to separate myself from where we were a couple. And LA is the ideal solution. I'll be with people who care about me, and I'll still be able to help fight monsters."
"But Angel…" Buffy tried again.
"Knows exactly what I'm going through," Willow interrupted, meeting Buffy's eyes. Buffy was the first to lower her eyes, admitting defeat with a nod.
Looking around at the reluctantly accepting faces, Xander exclaimed, "No. I don't care how much you can commiserate over together. I am not going to send you off to Deadboy!"
"Xander, it's not up to you," Willow informed him sternly. "Look, I know how you feel about Angel, but I trust him. He's not going to hurt me, at least not anymore than I'm already hurting." She took her best and oldest friend's hands in hers. "I'll miss you too, but I need to do this, for me."
"I don't want you hurt," Xander softly replied.
"Neither do I, which is why I have to go."
"But if he hurts you in any way…" he let the threat hang.
"You have first dibs to beat him up," Willow agreed.
With a sigh of defeat, Xander asked, "So when are you leaving?"
"I don't know yet. Angel said he'd give me a call when he found a place."
Angel was too excited to get much sleep and woke up much earlier than was natural for a vampire. He wanted to get over to Cordelia's to get her help with apartment hunting. She'd also be dying to know what happened in Sunnydale. Taking the sewers he made his way to her apartment.
Cordelia was still asleep when he arrived so Dennis let him in. Angel had brought the real estate section from yesterday's paper and called some of the realtors while he waited for her to make an appearance. By the time she came out of her bedroom he had two appointments to see buildings that might suit his needs.
Cordelia walked out of her bedroom, rubbing her eyes sleepily. "Dennis, why is it so dark in here?" she asked the ghost, expecting him to open the curtains. When he didn't she removed her hands from her eyes and screamed at the sight of a man sitting on the couch with a newspaper open in front of him. Then she realized it was only Angel.
"Angel," she reprimanded him. "Couldn't you make some noise when a person enters a room? And what are you doing here so early?"
"Couldn't sleep," he succinctly answered.
"Angel, it's 8 o'clock in the morning! What do you mean you couldn't sleep? And aren't you supposed to be in Sunnydale?" she demanded.
"I did go to Sunnydale. We were too late, by a day. The girl in your vision was Tara, Willow's girlfriend. I guess I should say ex-girlfriend…"
Cordelia interrupted him, "Wait a minute. Did you just say Willow's girlfriend?" Angel nodded. "Willow's gay?"
"Apparently," he shrugged. "I didn't know either. Regardless, Tara just dumped Willow, after she was injured by the demon in your vision."
"Oh, poor Willow… to lose her girlfriend after almost losing her girlfriend. She must not be doing too well."
"No, she's not," Angel agreed, surprised at the sympathy Cordelia was showing for the redhead.
Noting his curious, doubtful look, she questioned, "What? I'm not allowed to feel for the girl? I know we didn't always get along in high school, but that doesn't mean I don't like her."
Angel smiled. "I'm glad to hear you say that, because she's moving here for the summer."
"What!? Willow's coming here? When? Where's she gonna stay? Is Buffy coming with her?"
"Yes, Willow is coming to LA for the summer," he repeated. "She's going to live with me, as soon as I find an apartment. And she's coming alone. She needed to get away from Sunnydale – too many reminders of her relationship with Tara."
"I get that," Cordelia acknowledged. "I'm a little surprised that you're offering to take her in. You kicked me out after being there only one day."
"True, but, no offense, I doubt that Willow will be as high maintenance as you," he said affectionately.
"And it won't be too difficult for you, living with a human?" she asked.
"I hope not," he mumbled as Wesley entered the apartment.
"Who's living with a human?" Wesley asked, having caught the end of Cordelia's question.
"Angel will be," Cordelia answered. "I'll let him fill you in while I go get dressed. I can't wait until you find a place Angel, then I won't have you guys under my feet all hours of the day and night," she said walking off towards her bedroom.
"And who is this human that you will be living with? Cordelia?" he asked with a stern look.
"No," Angel laughed. "Willow is going to come spend the summer in LA and she's going to live with me once I find a new place."
Angel briefly went over the events of the previous day, filling Wesley in on Cordy's vision and what happened when he arrived in Sunnydale.
"So where are you going to live?" Cordelia asked as she reemerged, looking stunning and comfortable at the same time.
"I'm working on that. When I got back last night I asked Gunn to see if any of his contacts knew of a space that I could operate the agency out of that also has a two bedroom apartment. I also called a couple of realtors based on ads in the paper. I've got a couple of appointments for tonight."
"Did you try looking online yet?" Cordelia asked.
"Ah, no. You know I'm not good with computers." Angel admitted.
Booting up her computer, Cordelia offered, "Let me do some searching and see if I can find anything."
By sundown Angel had three more places to go look at that night. Cordelia insisted on joining him on his appointments, saying that she'd be the judge of what was habitable for a woman. Angel knew better than to argue.
Two of the buildings were dismissed instantly as admitting too much sunlight. Another had so many cockroaches that there was hardly any room to walk. (Cordelia ran screaming from that place and met Angel and the realtor on the corner of the next block.) The next building had a decent apartment space, but the business portion consisted of one large room, not quite what they were looking for. Angel filed it away as a maybe. The last place on the agenda was currently being used as a vampire lair. Angel dispatched the occupants, but didn't want to risk living there for fear that more vampires would be hanging around and would attack Willow.
He and Cordelia were getting discouraged. Aside from that one place, which he didn't really want to take, it had been a complete bust. Even though he was discouraged, he insisted on checking in with Gunn on his way to drop Cordelia at home.
Gunn did his best to hide his smile when Angel's car pulled up. He'd hit paydirt and he knew Angel would just love the place one of his guys had found.
"Hey, man, how's the search going?" he asked the vampire.
"Not well," Angel admitted.
"That's an understatement," Cordelia added. "We saw one place that might be okay; if we were desperate."
"Have you had any luck looking for a place?" Angel asked hopefully.
"Possibly," Gunn admitted, still trying to control the grin that was threatening to break free. "One of my guys found a place that sounded kinda like what you might need."
"Well, it can't be worse than some of the places we've seen. Lead on," Cordelia gestured.
"Your faith astounds me," Gunn deadpanned as he got in the car with Angel and Cordy, directing him to the address.
They pulled up in front of a building with newspaper-filled windows in a quaint neighborhood. The building in question was sandwiched in between a florist shop and a café. The covered storefront windows didn't give Angel much in the way of hope, but he followed the young man nonetheless.
Gunn led them into the building, commenting that they'd want to replace the broken lock when they moved in. There was a set of stairs in front of them leading up to the apartment and a door to the left leading into the business. First he brought them into the office space.
Admittedly, Angel and Cordelia were impressed.
"This place was some kind of doctor's office I think," Gunn explained as Cordelia checked out the reception desk and waiting room area. Angel headed further back down a hallway. There were three offices in the back, along with a small bathroom and a kitchenette. One of the offices had only one small window up in the corner of the room. The other two were a decent size. Angel could already picture Wesley in one office and using the other one for a library/weapons room.
"This could work," Angel admitted, "but what's the apartment like?"
"Come check it out for yourself," Gunn said, leading them up the stairs.
"That office is amazing," Cordelia whispered to Angel as they went upstairs. "The desk is huge, and there's a bathroom and a kitchen."
"I know," Angel agreed, trying to not get excited. "One of the offices has only a small window, perfect for me. The other offices can be for Wesley and a library."
Gunn opened the apartment door and allowed them to enter ahead of him. Angel and Cordelia headed off in separate directions, after a couple of minutes they met back near the front door.
At the same time they said, "It's perfect."
Gunn finally let that grin spread over his face. "I knew you'd like it."
"First thing tomorrow I'm going to call the building's owner and find out about leasing it. Then we need to get it fixed up so that I can bring Willow up here. I want to get her out of Sunnydale as quickly as possible."
"No problem," Gunn said. "Me and my crew can help with the cleaning and painting just as soon as you make this legal."
"It's a good thing this place is partially furnished. But I'd recommend getting new furniture for Willow's room." Cordelia said.
"Good idea," Angel agreed, heading back down to the car. "You think you could find something she'd like?"
"Absolutely," Cordelia replied, her hands itching to get on Angel's credit cards.
"Just don't decorate it too much," he warned the shopahaulic. "I want her to be able to decorate the room herself, so that it feels like a place she belongs, not just a place she's staying."
"Got it – buy new bed, dresser, desk, etc. but no furnishings. What about your room?" she asked.
"I can take care of that myself," he grunted, afraid of how Cordy would furnish his space.
"Why don't you just let this Willow pick out her own furniture if you want the space to feel like hers?" Gunn asked.
"Because I am an excellent shopper," Cordelia answered.
"He does have a point," Angel speculatively added.
"Hey," Cordy objected. "You can't do that to me! You can't dangle shopping trips in front of me and then just take them away."
"How about this," Angel tried to compromise. "You go out and buy Willow a bed so that she has somewhere to sleep when she arrives. Then you can go shopping together to furnish the rest of the apartment."
"What if she doesn't want to go shopping with me?" Cordelia pouted.
"I think I can get her to go with you," Angel told her.
"Fine, but we get the gold card, right? And I get to pick up something for myself for the effort."
"Of course, Delia," Angel agreed.
The next morning Angel tracked down the building's owner who referred him to a realtor, excited about having someone to fill the space. The realtor, also excited to be getting rid of the property, agreed to come to Cordelia's apartment with the paperwork.
Angel hated dipping into what he referred to as "blood money" which Angelus had collected, but since he knew that he'd be able to get into the new space faster with cash, he did so. He had enough cash with him to lease the property for the next six months when the realtor arrived.
The real estate agent, Gretta, was floored by the amount of cash Angel handed over for the building. She had him sign the lease documents and handed over the keys to the office and apartment.
As soon as Gretta left, Angel paged Gunn. Angel told him the building was his. He sent Cordy to meet Gunn and his crew at the building with enough money to cover any supplies they'd need while fixing the apartment up. Cordelia then continued on to find a bed for Willow.
After some creative haggling, Cordy purchased a tasteful bed with a full size mattress that would work well with many styles of furniture. The head and footboards had a simple design of black metal bars curving and interweaving, connected at the wooden posts. The bed was in stock, so they could deliver it the next day.
Upon hearing this news, Angel immediately called the redhead.
"Willow, pack your bags," he opened.
"Angel? You found a place? Already?" she asked.
"I did. You're gonna love it. Now it's not completely furnished. I thought you'd want to help pick out most of the furniture since you'd be living there too."
"That's so considerate," she gushed, still floored that he'd found a place so soon.
"Cordelia went and picked out a bed, which will be delivered tomorrow. I've got some friends making repairs and painting the place today. So if you're ready, I can come and get you tomorrow night."
"I'm ready, believe me, I'm ready." Willow eagerly responded. "I packed up all of the stuff I'll need yesterday, just in case you found something soon."
"Great, I'll leave as soon as the sun sets tomorrow."
"That sounds perfect. This way I'll get to say goodbye to the gang during the day and wrap up any loose ends."
"I'll see you tomorrow then," Angel said, wishing it were time to go get her already.
"I'll see you then. Thanks again Angel," Willow said.
"The pleasure is mine," he replied, before hanging up the phone.
Willow debated the best way to tell her friends she was really leaving. She thought about calling everyone together again, getting it all over with at once, but she'd already done that once. Instead, she opted to visit each friend individually to say goodbye.
Her first order of business that morning was to call her parents' answering service to inform them that instead of staying at their house for the summer, as planned, she'd be staying with a friend in LA. Since she didn't know the number yet, she said she'd call again with the number once she was settled, but she could be reached via email in the meantime. Willow highly doubted that she'd hear from her parents at all during the summer, but it was the courteous thing to do.
After taking her shower and packing up the last of her necessities, Willow headed over to see Giles. It would be difficult saying goodbye to him, if even for only a few months. Giles had been more of a father figure to her than her own father had been.
Normally Willow would simply walk into the apartment, using the key she'd been given, but today she felt the need to be more formal and knocked.
Giles was surprised to see that the person who knocked was Willow. Lately only strangers knocked on his door, the children preferring to barge in.
"Willow, what brings you by so early?" he asked. "And why did you knock? Is there something the matter?"
"No, nothing's the matter," she said, entering the apartment. "I just wanted to let you know that Angel found an apartment and he's coming to pick me up, tonight."
"Already?" Giles sounded surprised. This all seemed to be happening so quickly. Needing reassurance that she didn't feel pressured to leave he asked, "And this is truly what you want? To go live with Angel?"
"Yes, it is." Willow said confidently. "I know you still have problems with him from… from my junior year… but I feel safe with him."
"I didn't mean to insult your judgment," Giles said. "I just want to make sure you're not running away." Seeing as how his charges seemed to have a propensity for it.
"I've thought this through a lot Giles," Willow told him. "I know that it looks like that's what I'm doing, and maybe in a way it is, but it's also not. You must think I'm taking the easy way out. Everywhere I look I am reminded about what I don't have anymore. Sometimes I don't know how you did it," she said, looking up the stairs towards the loft.
Giles knew exactly what she was referring to. "I admit," he quietly confided, following her gaze, "there were times I considered moving, or at least refurnishing my bedroom. But I wanted that reminder, of what could happen when you turn your back on those you love, when you allow yourself to become distracted." Shaking his head, he tried to lighten the mood a little, "Besides, Jenny was taken from me. She didn't leave of her own choosing."
"Whereas I'm always the one being left," Willow sighed.
"Is that why you are leaving?" Giles quietly asked. "So that this time you are the one leaving?"
Willow shrugged. "To be honest, I haven't thought about it like that. Angel offered me an escape for a while and I was more than happy to accept."
"Just promise me you'll be careful. Los Angeles may not be on a Hellmouth, but it is still a dangerous place to be. Perhaps more so as it is without a Slayer."
"Ah," Willow said, eyes shining with pride, "but they do have a Champion."
"I'll be careful," Willow promised.
"Then I wish you luck. May you find the answers you seek," he wished her.
Willow hugged her mentor and he returned her embrace. Willow stepped back, promising that she'd call with the number once she was settled.
"Have you seen the others yet?" he asked, escorting her to the door.
"Nope, you were first. I'm off to see Buffy next, then Xander."
"Good luck. I doubt they'll let you go easily."
"Don't I know it." Willow rolled her eyes at how overprotective her friends could be. "I'll talk to you soon."
"Have a safe trip." Giles closed the door behind the girl he cared for like a daughter, praying that she would be safe with the vampire that haunted his nightmares.
Willow knew that her goodbyes with Buffy and Xander wouldn't go as smoothly as with Giles. She knew that as much as the man didn't like or trust Angel, he did have faith in her ability to make decisions for herself. Her friends were a different story.
Willow rang the doorbell at the Summers home and was greeted by Joyce.
"Hello Willow," the older woman greeted the redhead. "Buffy tells me you'll be leaving us for the summer." After a pause she added, "I'm sorry to hear about Tara."
"Thank you. And yes," Willow confirmed, "I'm going to stay with Angel in LA."
At the mention of Angel's name, Joyce tensed slightly. "Are you sure that's wise?" she asked the girl as she led her to the kitchen. "You… you know he's a vampire, right?"
Willow giggled, "Yes, I know. But his soul is nice and secure. Angel is my friend, and I trust him."
"You have more faith than me I'm afraid. I'm sure you've heard all of the arguments already about why living with him could be a bad idea, so I'll hold my tongue." Joyce smiled to soften the somewhat disapproving words.
"Thank you," Willow smiled back.
"So when are you leaving?"
"Um, tonight actually," Willow admitted. "That's why I stopped by, to tell Buffy."
"To tell Buffy what?" the blond asked, bounding into the kitchen after hearing her best friend's voice.
"I'll leave you girls alone," Joyce excused herself. "Good luck Willow."
"Thanks." Turning, Willow looked at her friend's face. "Buffy, I just stopped by to let you know I'm leaving tonight."
Buffy's face dropped in disappointment. "Already?"
Willow nodded. "One of Angel's friends found what sounds like an amazing place. They already started fixing it up, but are waiting for me to get there to do most of the shopping. Angel said he wants me to feel at home there, so he's going to let me pick out my own furniture and decorate my room myself."
"So you're going to go live in a practically empty apartment with my ex-boyfriend?" Buffy summed up, arms crossed over her chest.
"Yes," Willow answered, choosing to ignore the harsh tone in Buffy's voice. With a sigh Willow asked, "Buffy, do you think you can look past the fact that Angel's your ex and accept that this is what I need to do, for me?"
Buffy paused to take in her friend's pleading eyes and exhausted countenance. Buffy knew her friend well enough to know that Willow would move to LA with or without her blessing, so it was better to give it so that Willow would want to come back once she'd gotten over Tara's betrayal.
A slow smile filled the blonde's face as she said, "You do whatever you need to do. Then hurry home. I don't know what I'm gonna do without my best friend all summer."
"Oh, I'm sure Riley will have a few suggestions," Willow bantered, a twinkle in her eye.
"Yeah, but he's not a girl. Who am I going to talk to about Riley? And who am I going to go shopping with? And who's going to stay up late with me to just veg out and watch bad Indian TV?"
"Well, aside from the whole shopping thing, we can still do all that stuff. You know, the phone is a marvelous invention. We can talk every day if you want, about all of that stuff. I'll even ask Angel if I can have my own phone line so that you don't have to worry about him picking up."
"Well, that sounds okay," Buffy reluctantly agreed. Then her face brightened as she excitedly suggested, "Oh, and hey, if I have to go visit my dad we can hang in LA. I can show you all my old hangouts."
"That'd be fun," Willow agreed.
The girls chatted for over an hour over ice cream before Willow realized that she'd have to leave in order to make it to Xander's and home before Angel arrived. The girls hugged and Willow promised to call with her number as soon as she knew it.
Willow was most nervous about saying her temporary goodbyes with Xander. Not only did Xander seem to hate Angel the most, but they'd seen each other almost every day for the last fifteen years.
Xander's mom let her in and Willow made her way to the basement.
"Hey, Wills," he greeted her. "What brings you by on this lovely day?"
Deciding to just come right out and say it, Willow said, "I'm leaving for LA tonight."
Xander's smile disappeared as he grumbled, "At least it was a lovely day."
Willow sat on the couch next her friend. "Now don't get all mopey on me. I've been over this several times already today so I'm going to sum up your arguments." Willow paused to make sure Xander wasn't going to interrupt. "Okay. Yes, Angel is a vampire and Buffy's former boyfriend. Yes, in the past he has gone all evil and wreaked havoc with all of our lives. But that wasn't really him. He has his soul now, and it's not going anywhere."
"What are you saying? It's permanent now?" Xander asked, amazed at that possibility – no more Angelus would be a good thing.
"Didn't I mention that before?" Willow asked.
Xander shook his head. "No, I think I would have remembered that."
"Um, opps," Willow shrugged. She silently wondered if Angel knew.
"Does that make you feel any better about me going to LA?" Willow asked.
"A little," Xander reluctantly admitted. "I'm just really gonna miss ya. What am I gonna do without my Wills?" Xander threw an arm around Willow, squeezing her against his side.
"You'll survive. I'm not leaving forever, just a few months. And we can still talk and e-mail all the time. Besides, I'm betting Anya will be happy to spend extra time with you."
A slight blush rose on the boy's cheeks. "Yeah, but it's not the same as spending time with you."
"I should hope not," Willow smirked.
"Willow," Xander gasped. "Get your mind out of the gutter."
"Oh please," Willow chided. "Like one of the first things you thought when you heard Tara left was that now you wouldn't get to watch any girl-on-girl action."
Seriously Xander said, "I'm glad you can joke about it."
"I have to. It hurts too much otherwise."
"So why can't you stay here? We'll joke our way out of depression and bad memories," he offered/pleaded.
"You know it's not that simple. It was hard enough after Oz left. I can't be here right now with thoughts of being left twice in less than a year."
"I get it, I really do." Using the arm he already had around her, Xander pulled Willow into a hug.
After releasing her, Xander asked, "So when is Deadboy getting here?"
Smiling, Willow said, "He's leaving LA at sundown. So he'll get here roughly two hours later."
"What'cha doin' till he gets here?" he asked mischievously.
"Oh you know, hanging out in an empty house, making sure I have everything packed, keeping my eye on the clock. Why d'you ask?"
"How about I come hang out in that empty house till Deadboy gets here," he offered. "That way the house won't be so empty when you leave."
"You don't have plans with Anya tonight?" Willow asked, wanting nothing more than to spend her last few hours in Sunnydale with her best friend.
"She'll understand," Xander said. He stood and held a hand out to the redhead, pulling her off the couch.
Willow was having so much fun with Xander that she was startled when she heard a knock on the door. Looking out the window she realized that it was completely dark outside.
"Angel's here," she squealed and jumped up from the couch next to Xander to get the door, missing Xander's disappointed pout.
She opened the door, admitting the vampire. Angel looked over her shoulder, seeing Xander moping near the living room.
"Harris," he greeted the boy.
"Deadboy," Xander nodded.
"You ready to go?" the vampire asked the witch.
"Yep, just need to put my stuff in the car," she said, gesturing towards the bags near the door.
"That's it?" Angel asked, taking in the duffel bag, suitcase and backpack. "Aren't girls supposed to travel with lots of luggage?" He remembered Cordelia dumping half a dozen bags at his feet when she insisted on staying with him.
Willow looked at her luggage and shrugged. "I like to travel light. I mean it's summer, it's not like I'm going to need a lot of bulky clothes."
Angel tried to ignore the image of Willow running around the apartment in skimpy outfits, but was having a difficult time doing so. Instead he moved to pick up her duffel and suitcase.
"Here, let me take that," Xander offered, reaching for the suitcase.
"That's okay, I got it." Angel insisted.
"It's no problem, I'm heading out anyway," the boy countered.
Picking up the suitcase Angel headed outside. "I said I got it."
Willow laughed at the show of testosterone. She took one more long look around the house, turned off the lights and followed the men outside, locking the door behind her. She linked her arm through Xander's who escorted her to the car.
Angel stood by the open driver's side door, waiting for Willow to say her goodbyes, trying not to be jealous of the tight embrace she was sharing with the mortal boy.
"Be safe Wills," Xander whispered in her ear. "I'll miss you."
"I'll miss you too, Xan," Willow said, blinking back tears. She pulled back, squeezing his hand. "I'll talk to you soon."
"You better take care of her," Xander told Angel as Willow got in the car.
"I will," he said sincerely, finally climbing in behind the wheel.
Xander stood watching the convertible pull away down the street before turning and heading home.
"Tell me more about the apartment," Willow insisted, turning in her seat to look at Angel. They'd been on the road for over an hour, and Willow had tried several different tactics to learn about the place she'd be living.
"You'll be seeing it soon enough," Angel teased.
Willow stuck out her bottom lip in the most adorable pout Angel had ever seen. "I'm still not telling you," he insisted.
"Fine," she huffed. "Then tell me about the office."
"It's gonna be great," Angel said enthusiastically. "It's like it was made for us. There's a huge desk for Cordelia in the waiting area. My office only has one tiny window, so no risk of direct sunlight. There's an office for Wesley and the other office is going to be a library and for weapons storage – with a computer, for you," he added, noting Willow's disappointed look.
"What?" she asked. "Me?"
"If you want to help out, that is," Angel offered.
"Thank you, Angel," Willow said, briefly hugging him. "I didn't know how I was going to keep my self busy."
"I'm sure that we'll be able to find lots of things for you to do to keep busy."
"So what's my room like?" the redhead tried again.
"Well, what's your room like?"
"Dark," he answered. "Look, we're almost there, you'll be seeing it for yourself in just a few more minutes."
Willow turned back to look out her window again, figuring that she should pay attention to the area if they were getting near her new home.
Fifteen minutes later Angel pulled the car up in front of a small building. "Here we are," he announced. He stepped out of the car, moving to the trunk to grab Willow's bags.
Willow exited the car and followed Angel into the building.
"Do you want to see the office first?" he asked, knowing the answer already.
"What do you think?" she asked with a raised eyebrow. Chuckling he headed up the stairs. He unlocked the door and allowed Willow to precede him into the apartment.
"Let me give you the tour," he offered, setting her bags down by the front door. The room they stood in was the living room. The wall facing the street had a picture window, which had a makeshift curtain covering it so that Angel could move around during the day. There was a closet across from the front entrance, next to the hallway. A counter separated the living room from the kitchen. It was a bit on the small side, so far as kitchens go, but the appliances all worked, and Willow would be the main one using it anyway.
Angel led Willow down the hall. There was a room next to the kitchen with only one window in it. "This is my room," Angel confirmed. He'd picked out his bedroom furniture the night before, which had been delivered during the day. The room was sparsely furnished with a cherry wood armoire and a queen size bed. A leather chair sat in the corner with a table and reading lamp. A matching table sat next to the bed, which dominated the room. A heavy velvet curtain hung over the window, blocking out any possible sunlight. The window only looked out onto a narrow alley anyway.
As Angel led her out of his room, Willow couldn't help picturing him sitting comfortably in the chair, reading. Or reclining on the bed. Or better yet, lying under the covers, naked. 'Bad thoughts, Willow,' she mentally chided herself. 'Remember, gay now.'
Next to Angel's room was a good sized bathroom. There was a mirror over the pedestal sink which hid the medicine cabinet. Willow experimentally flushed the toilet, explaining, "To see if it's gonna run." Angel nodded. Willow smiled when the tank stopped when it was supposed to. The shower was attached to the bathtub. The shower curtain looked old, so Willow made a mental note to pick up a new one. She'd also need to get some kind of curtain for the bathroom window, which Angel had tacked a towel over.
At the end of the hallway there was another door. With a flourish, Angel opened the door, saying, "And this is your room."
Willow's bed stood against the wall next to the door. The wall across from the door held two large windows and a door with a window in it. Willow crossed the room to the door. It led out to a small balcony overlooking a small neighborhood park. She turned back around, observing the room from a different angle. There was a closet on one wall. The room was big enough for her to have a reading corner too. A dresser would be needed, and a desk. Willow looked at her bed; she had to admit, it was beautiful and looked very comfortable.
She ran across the room and threw herself on the bed, landing on her stomach. She rolled around, enjoying the feel of the padded mattress. Angel had insisted Cordelia go out and buy a tasteful forest green set of sheets for Willow's bed, knowing she'd look amazing between them.
Angel was still standing by the door, watching as the redhead explored the room and now rolled around on the bed. Feeling his eyes on her, Willow look up at him from her sprawled position on the bed. She rolled onto her stomach and beckoned Angel closer with a finger. He sat on the edge of the bed.
"So I take it you approve?" he needlessly asked.
"It's wonderful," Willow gushed. "How did you find such a perfect getaway?"
"I'm going to have to give Gunn credit for that." At her questioning look he explained. "Charles Gunn is a street kid who fights vampires. We've helped each other out on occasion. You'll meet him. It was his friends who helped get the apartment ready." Angel reclined on an elbow as he spoke.
"I love it. I can't wait to start decorating. There's so much potential for the place."
"Do whatever you want to, Willow," Angel insisted. "I meant what I said. I want this to be a place you feel comfortable, so decorate this room, the apartment, as you wish. And there's no budget, just don't tell Cordelia that," he winked.
"Got it." Willow leaned forward to give Angel a quick kiss on the cheek. Both of them relished the brief contact of warm lips against cool skin.
"So what would you like to do tonight?" he asked the redhead lying across from him.
"Well, I don't know about you, but I'm hungry. I'm guessing there isn't any people food here yet, so why don't we go check out that café that's downstairs after you grab a bite to drink."
"If you want to go down and order, I can meet you there," Angel offered, not wanting to feed in front of her.
Sensing his trepidation, Willow said, "It's okay. I've seen Spike drink blood from a cup before. Besides, we're going to be living together, I'm going to have to see you sometime."
"Fair enough," he conceded. Angel stood and Willow bonelessly rolled off the bed and followed him back to the kitchen.
Willow hopped up on the counter between the kitchen and living room, giving both rooms another look. She guessed that she'd probably have to buy some dishes, pots and pans, silverware, glasses, etc. All that Angel had gotten was a microwave and a couple of mugs. The living room would need some work done too. The windows definitely needed new curtains. There was an old couch, but it looked like it had been there forever, so she decided she'd have to get a new one, maybe one that pulled out into a bed. She could already imagine the kind of furniture she'd fill the room with.
By the time she finished her perusal of the living room, Angel had finished drinking his dinner. After rinsing the mug, he asked, "Are you ready?"
"I am. Hopefully they'll have some muffins or bagels or something that I can bring back for breakfast too."
As they headed out the door, Angel handed Willow the extra key, officially making this her home.
Willow instantly fell in love with the small café downstairs. There were only a dozen or so tables with a few comfortable chairs near the front window for those just ordering coffee. She could already foresee herself spending a lot of time there. They served the sort of fare that appealed to her. For dinner there were only a few items to choose from. Tonight's menu consisted of chicken pot pie, meatloaf or a stew. Willow decided to try the homemade chicken pot pie and found it incredibly delicious. The lunch menu included sandwiches, soups and salads. They also served bagels, muffins and other assorted pastries all day, along with coffee and tea.
Angel sipped at a mug of decaffeinated coffee, telling her about the couple of cases they'd worked on so far this summer as Willow practically inhaled her dinner.
In between bites Willow requested, "I don't mean to sound rude or anything, but I was wondering, if it's not too big an expense, and I will help out with the bills once I find myself a part time job. I wonder if they're hiring here…"
"Willow," Angel interrupted, trying to hide his smile at her nervous babbling.
"I think you were trying to ask me a question," he reminded her.
Blushing slightly, Willow said, "Oh, yeah. I was wondering if I could have my own phone line." She rushed to add, "Not that I don't mind sharing. But since my friends don't really like you," she smiled sheepishly, "I thought it might be easier for everyone. That way they could call me and not have to worry about you picking up. And you wouldn't have to constantly have them telling you to take care of me and not let me get hurt if you did pick up the phone."
"That makes sense," Angel casually agreed. "I have an even better idea. When you go shopping with Cordelia tomorrow, why don't you sign up for one of those cell phones. Cordy got one for me but I don't like carrying it around. This way your friends can always reach you, and if you ever do get in a situation when I'm not there, you can call for help."
"That's a great idea," Willow agreed.
"Now… I thought we already agreed that you're going to come work for me," Angel said.
"Yeah, you said I could help out to keep busy," Willow agreed. "But I'm going to need some kind of income while I'm here. I can't just sponge off you all summer."
"Of course you can," he contradicted. "But if you insist on earning your keep, then I can pay you for helping out at the agency."
Willow blinked in surprise. "Really? You'd pay me to do research and magick and stuff?"
"Why not? I pay Cordelia to sit at a desk and not answer the phone. I pay Wesley for his assistance. I don't see any reason not to pay you for any help you can give."
Willow opened and closed her mouth a couple of times before she was able to answer. "Thank you so much Angel. Giles would never think of paying us for all of the hours we put into doing research and patrolling. Not that he could really afford to. And we don't do it because we expect payment, obviously. I mean we do it because it's the right thing to do. Which I guess is why you do it too. Only you get paid for it."
"Is that a yes," Angel asked, her rambling thoughts slightly confusing him.
"It's a yes," Willow confirmed, rushing around the table to give Angel a quick hug before returning to her seat.
"Great, once you're all settled in you can begin helping out in any way you see fit. We're going to have to get the office space cleaned out first."
"Oh, hey," Willow said excitedly. "I could set up the computers for you. I can create a network for all of the computers so that you can share files."
"Would you mind picking out the computers too," Angel requested. "I try to avoid them at all costs, and Cordelia wouldn't really care either way, except for the color maybe."
Under her breath Willow observed, "You and Giles have one thing in common then." Having heard her with his enhanced senses, Angel merely glared. Realizing that he'd heard her, Willow bashfully offered, "Sorry, but it's true. Giles hates computers too." Changing the topic back, she said, "Of course I'll pick out the computers. How many do you need?"
Standing to return to the apartment, Angel said, "Two I think. One for Cordelia to use out front, and another one for the library I think, just in case someone else wants to use it."
"That's easy," Willow said. "And I'll find something inexpensive that will work well."
Standing outside the apartment door now, Angel gestured towards the locked door, "Care to do the honors?"
"Oh, right." She dug the key Angel had given her out of a pocket and opened the door. "I live here too."
Angel picked up the bags that he'd left by the door earlier and carried them into Willow's room for her. She followed.
"So what time is Cordy coming over tomorrow?" Willow asked.
"If it was for work I'd say between 10 and 11. But since you're going shopping, my guess would be around 9 o'clock."
Willow laughed. "I'm really in for it, aren't I?"
"Probably," Angel agreed. "Cordelia takes her shopping very seriously."
"I'll try to be quiet in the morning then," Willow offered.
"Don't worry about it, I sleep like the dead."
"Ha ha," she deadpanned.
"Do you have everything you need for tonight?" Angel asked. "I know there isn't much in here yet."
"I'll be fine," she assured him. "I'm gonna get some sleep. It looks like I'm going to be having a pretty busy day tomorrow."
"Sleep well, Willow."
"You too," she returned.
Angel closed the door behind him as he backed out of the room. He listened at the door for a moment as she rummaged around in her suitcases for her pajamas and bathroom things. When it sounded like she was ready to head to the bathroom he rushed into his room, thankful for his vampiric speed, closing the door just as hers opened. He let out an unnecessary sigh of relief.
Angel couldn't believe how happy he was having Willow there. After living alone for so many years he had thought it might be strange sharing his home with someone. Granted, he'd lived with Spike and Drusilla when he had lost his soul in Sunnydale, but that wasn't really him. Even so, this was different. Then he'd been living with his childer, his family.
Now he was living with a human girl. Even when he'd been with Buffy she'd go home after spending the night with him. But Willow would be here all of the time. She would be eating here, sleeping here, showering here – gulp. He heard water running in the bathroom and wondered if she was naked in the shower now. 'No, the water shut off, she's just brushing her teeth,' he thought, unsure if he was relieved or not.
Willow finished her bathroom routine and was turning to go back to her room, but instead found herself outside Angel's door. She quietly knocked.
"Come in," he called out.
Willow opened the door and leaned against the frame, hands twisting together behind her back. Angel was sitting in his chair with a sketchpad in his hands.
Looking up at her, Angel ignored the fact that all she was wearing was a tank top and boxer shorts and asked, "Was there something you needed?"
She nibbled on her bottom lip for a moment before quietly saying, "I wanted to thank you again for letting me stay here. I know how much of a loner you usually are. You didn't have to go to all this trouble of finding a place big enough for me too – and all of the money you're going to be spending to fix the place up – it's probably the nicest thing anyone's ever done for me before. So, thanks." By the time she finished Willow had tears in her eyes.
Angel was instantly in front of her. He wrapped the small girl in his arms, assuring her, "Willow, I promise you, it is no imposition. I already needed a new apartment, one which would have to be furnished, regardless of whether or not you were living here. And this way I won't be living in what Cordelia thinks would be a proper vampire lair," he joked.
Pulling back enough to look up at him, Willow teased, "So you think you'll like what I pick out better?"
"Undoubtedly." Willow relaxed. "Feel better?" he confirmed.
"Yeah. Good night Angel."
Angel kissed Willow on the forehead and reluctantly released her from his arms. "Good night Willow."
Willow crawled into her new bed feeling happier than she had in a long time. She still couldn't believe that Angel had opened his home to her. When everyone else in her life seemed to make every effort to get and stay as far away from her as possible, Angel was asking to live with her. She could feel the tears prickling at her eyes again.
Willow rolled onto her side and tried to will her tears away. Unfortunately, now that her thoughts had started down this path, they refused to stray.
'Why would Angel want me to live with him when my parents can't be bothered to be in town when I'm living back under their roof? I mean, I know I was excited about that when Tara was going to be spending the summer with me there, but now she's not. No, Tara couldn't stand my life so she had to leave Sunnydale, and me. Oz couldn't be around me either. Wasn't wolf enough for him.'
Willow's silent tears were no longer so silent. Soft sobs forced their way out of her. Wiping furiously at her eyes she told herself, "I'm not going to do this. I am not going to cry myself to sleep, again."
Willow tried to clear her mind and picture how she was going to furnish her room. Unfortunately this brought her back to Angel's generosity, which rekindled her tears. Eventually she gave into them and cried herself to sleep… just as she had every night since Tara left.
Angel lay in bed awake, cursing the thin walls and his enhanced hearing. He'd thought he'd done a good job of making sure Willow understood that he wanted her there. Yet he knew that a few kind words wouldn't be enough for someone who'd been hurt so often. He'd never understood how her parents could spend so little time with their daughter. Or how she'd managed to become such a wonderful, caring woman without them.
Then there were the more recent reasons for her insecurity: Oz and Tara. To have your lover leave you once is extremely difficult. But to have another one leave after only a few months… Angel couldn't blame Willow for doubting his hospitality.
When he heard her begin to cry, then try to talk herself out of crying, he felt a tug on his soul. He wanted nothing more than to go to her and take her in his arms and promise that everything would be okay. Luckily he knew that such a gesture would not be welcome right now. Willow was in mourning and she needed to be allowed the luxury of doing so in a semblance of privacy.
It didn't take long for Willow to cry herself to sleep. Once he was certain the crying had stopped Angel finally allowed himself to sleep as well.
Willow woke bright and early in the morning. She opened her eyes and saw green. For a moment she didn't know why she had green sheets. Then she remembered… she was in LA, in Angel's apartment. Willow smiled as she stretched and sat up. She looked around her empty bedroom. There was sunshine coming in through the windows, broken by the trees from the park. Willow grabbed a towel out of her duffel and headed for the shower.
Willow was nibbling at the muffin she'd brought home from the café the night before when the doorknob rattled. When the door didn't open there was a sharp knock. Willow unlocked and opened the door to admit Cordelia.
"Did you know your door was locked?" the brunette asked as she entered the apartment.
"Good morning to you too," Willow mumbled. "Of course it was locked, this is LA."
"I know, but you live with a vampire. That's like, built in security." Breaking off a piece of Willow's muffin, Cordelia asked, "So how'd you like your bed?"
"It's wonderful, thank you."
"I knew you'd like it. You would have liked any other furniture I would have picked out too, but Angel insisted that you get a say in it."
"Well, I'm glad he did. I've never furnished an apartment before. This is going to be fun," Willow admitted.
"Then lets get the show on the road." Cordelia linked her arm with Willow and started to lead her out the door.
Pulling back, Willow said, "Just a sec. I need to grab my purse." Willow dashed back to her room and picked up her purse. After starting to leave, she turned back to rip a piece of paper out of a notebook in her backpack. She quickly scribbled a note for Angel to let him know she was out shopping. She folded the paper as she returned to the front of the apartment, leaving it in front of the microwave.
When they were almost out the door Willow remembered, "Oh, wait, I need to get Angel's credit card."
Cordelia fished a piece of plastic out of her purse and held it up for Willow's inspection. "Already got it taken care of."
"Does Angel know you have that?" the redhead asked warily.
"Of course. He told me to let you buy whatever you want. Now if only I could find a man like that," Cordelia said wistfully.
"Angel is not 'my man'," Willow corrected as she followed the brunette to her car.
"That's right, you're into girls now I hear," Cordelia teased. "Now how come I had to hear about that after you got dumped?"
Willow shrugged. "Forgot?"
"How could you forget to mention something like that?" Cordelia countered.
Shifting uncomfortably in her seat, Willow asked, "Do you mind if we don't talk about this right now? It still hurts too much to talk about Tara."
Cordelia was about to argue, but with a quick look at Willow's pained expression, she relented. "Fine, but eventually I want a full explanation."
"Thanks," Willow sighed.
Changing the topic back to an area she was very familiar with, Cordy asked, "So what room do you want to start with?"
"The windows." Cordelia raised one perfectly shaped eyebrow. "I know; windows aren't a room. But I need to get new curtains for the living room, my room and the bathroom. So we may as well start by making the apartment safe for my roommate to move around during the day."
"Curtains it is." Cordelia nodded.
Angel woke in the early afternoon to an empty apartment. He stumbled into the kitchen for his breakfast and found Willow's note waiting for him. He couldn't help smiling at her thoughtfulness – that even though he knew she was going shopping with Cordelia today she still felt the need to let him know that's where she went.
As he drank his breakfast, Angel noticed a piece of paper near the front door. Keeping careful to avoid the patches of sunlight escaping the curtain over the living room window, Angel went to retrieve the paper.
It was a note from Wesley:
I assume that you are not yet awake, as it is still the morning. Cordelia mentioned that she was taking Willow shopping today – I pity the girl and wish her luck. Using the key you had left for me, I was finally able to see the new office space for myself. I am amazed that you were able to find such a fitting space for us. I found the office with only one window, which you said you will be taking. Of the two remaining ones, I would like to request the office at the back of the building, with the lovely view of the park. I agree that the other office will make a fine library. When you are ready we can begin moving what remains of your old library out of my flat and into the new space.
I admit, I am very excited to begin this new venture and am at your disposal for preparing the space to be ready to re-open for business.
Please give my regards to Ms. Rosenberg and tell her I look forward to seeing her again.
Your faithful employee,
Angel shook his head in amusement at Wesley's formality. He would love to get started cleaning up the office space, but the large storefront window prevented him from beginning until after sundown, which was still several hours away.
As he grabbed his towel and headed to the shower Angel idly wondered how Willow was faring with her shopping.
"Are you sure your trunk hasn't been magickally altered," the redhead asked, dropping onto a chair at the restaurant.
"Of course it hasn't." Cordelia insisted. "I just know how to pack a trunk for maximum capacity."
"Well I am in awe," Willow said. She couldn't believe how much they had already done today.
Their first stop had been at Linens 'N Things. Willow found curtains for the apartment and Cordelia picked out something to cover the window in the reception room of the office. They also picked out kitchenware, bathroom accessories, hangers (which Willow had forgotten to bring) and some pictures for the walls.
Willow insisted on stopping to buy a cell phone next. She hoped that by signing up early enough in the day her service would be working by the time she got back to the apartment so that she could call her friends while she got off her by-then tired feet. She picked out a cute little flip phone that would easily fit in a pocket or purse.
Cordelia insisted on going to Crate & Barrel to look at furniture. Willow instantly fell in love with the leather sleeper club sofa. The leather was so comfortable – and she just knew Angel would love it. A coffee table was quickly matched to it, along with a chaise. Willow had always wanted a chaise – they seemed so decadent. They also picked out an entertainment center to match the coffee table. Willow didn't care for the bedroom furniture, so they put in their order for the living room pieces and arranged to have them delivered in a couple of days.
Now the girls were taking a much needed break for a fortifying lunch.
"It's a good thing Angel doesn't have a working heart, otherwise he'd have a heart attack when he sees the credit card bill he's gonna get." Willow commented.
"And we're not even done," Cordelia laughed.
"I don't know if I can do any more today. I'm exhausted," Willow admitted.
"Nonsense," Cordelia gestured in a dismissive manner. "I happen to know that it is possible for a person to shop for much longer without dropping from exhaustion."
"From personal experience I take it," Willow guessed.
"Of course." Cordelia flashed a toothy grin.
The girls ordered sandwiches and diet sodas when the waiter appeared at their table.
"So how you holding up?" Cordelia asked as soon as they were alone again.
"Aside from the exhaustion… I feel like we've gotten a lot accomplished."
"That's not what I meant," Cordelia quietly clarified.
"Oh." Willow let out a long sigh. "I'm doing about as well as could be expected after your lover leaves you because she can't stand living a dangerous life."
"So pretty crappy," Cordy surmised.
"Yep." Willow nodded for emphasis. "It's better being here. I can feel it already."
"Is… Is it okay to talk about this now?" Cordelia delicately asked. "I know you said earlier you wanted to wait, but it will probably be better to talk about this with someone."
Looking around the relatively secluded area they were in, Willow reluctantly agreed, "I suppose we may as well get this over with." She braced herself for a barrage of questions.
"Okay. Where to begin," Cordelia said to herself. To Willow she said, "So how did you two meet?"
Willow groaned – they were going all the way back to the beginning. "In Wicca Group. Tara was the only other real witch in the bunch, the rest were all wanna blessed-be's."
"So were you like, attracted to girls before or was it just Tara?"
"It was Tara." Willow got a wistful look on her face. "It was like it didn't matter that she was a girl. It wasn't something I was looking for or planned, it just kinda happened. I never expected to fall in love with her, but the more time we spent together, the more it made sense for us to be together."
"You really loved her?" Cordelia questioned, having her doubts. "Even after being in love with Xander for all of those years and then Oz?"
"Is it that hard to believe?" Willow countered. "I mean, I chose her over Oz when he came back. I must have loved her."
"But you stole Xander from me," Cordelia exclaimed a little louder than necessary. Once the other diners returned to the meals she continued quieter, "You were so in love with Xander in high school that even though he was with me and you were with Oz you two still made with the smoochies."
"And you're just devastated to have lost him?" Willow quirked an eyebrow in question.
"Well, no, not any more. He was, and always will be, a complete loser. But you never showed any interest in being with a girl back then."
"Things change," Willow shrugged. "Like I said, falling in love with Tara wasn't something I planned. Kinda like you falling for Xander." Willow pointed out.
Changing the topic a bit, Cordelia leaned forward and asked the question she'd been dying to ask since she found out about Tara. "So what's it like, being with a girl?"
Willow shifted uncomfortably in her seat and began playing with her napkin. She had never been comfortable discussing her sex life. Luckily the food arrived so she was able to delay answering for a few minutes.
After they had taken a few bites Cordelia tried again. "Did the two of you have sex?"
Willow glared at the brunette for a minute before answering her. "We were in love, what do you think."
"But… how?" Cordelia would never admit it out loud, but for all of her dating experience, she really didn't know much about sex, especially with women.
"Did you want me to draw you a diagram?" Willow sarcastically asked. She really didn't want to get into this with Cordelia of all people. Noting the genuinely curious look on the other girl's face, Willow relented. Blushing furiously, she tried to explain. "You know how a guy will sometimes bring you to orgasm before he actually enters you," she paused to see if Cordelia was following her, "it's like that."
"So you're stuck at third base?"
"That's a crude way to put it." Willow said defensively. "But there are ways… toys… for if you want more."
"But if a man can do that to you, then why date a woman?" Cordelia asked, afraid to ask about the 'toys' Willow used.
"It's different. Physically, a woman knows exactly the right places to touch you because she has the same type of body – the same erogenous zones. A woman's touch is softer, not so desperate. And emotionally…" Willow paused to think of the best way to phrase this. "You know how every woman's fantasy is to fall in love with her best friend?"
Cordelia nodded, "Like you did with Xander."
"Exactly, one reason we made with the smoochies even though we knew how wrong it was was because in a way we were fulfilling that fantasy. That's kind of what it's like being in a relationship with a woman. Tara really was my best friend. Yes, I still called Buffy and Xander my best friends, but Tara is the one who knew me best. She knew everything about me – my hobbies, the way my mind worked, the way my body reacted; we could talk about anything. I could be myself with her and not have to put up any kind of front. She would intuitively know what I needed when I needed it and vice versa. When Oz came back she was willing to let me go so that I could be happy with him, which only made me love her more. When Oz found out about us, he went all defensive and wolfy."
"So are you only going to date women now, or are you still interested in men?"
"I haven't decided. Dating Tara wasn't a conscious decision. If the next person I'm attracted to is a man, then I'll date a man. The same for if it's a woman. It was Tara's soul that drew me to her, not the package it was housed in."
"Just so we're clear, this soul's beautifully wrapped package is only interested in dating men." Cordelia informed the other girl with a smile.
"Dually noted," Willow grinned.
Several hours and stores later, Willow turned the key in the lock to the apartment. Angel came out of his room as the redhead collapsed on the ancient couch, sending up a cloud of dust. Willow coughed, but was too tired to move.
"How'd it go?" the vampire asked.
"Mission accomplished," Willow tiredly said. She lifted her head to look at the bags near the door and the ones still in the hallway that Cordelia had brought up. "I never want to move."
"You might want to get off of the dust magnet," Angel suggested. "Did you pick out a new couch?"
"Yep," Willow said, pushing herself into a sitting position. "New couch, chaise, coffee table and entertainment center for this room. Desk and dresser for my room... Kitchen and bathroom stuff... Curtains for every room but yours, since you already took care of that one... New cell phone for me. I am never setting foot in a store again."
"When does the furniture arrive," Angel asked.
"Couple of days," Willow answered.
"So when do I get the show and tell?"
"Later?" Willow hopefully asked. "I think I need a nap and a bath." Then looking down at her dust-covered body she added, "Not necessarily in that order."
"Go right ahead. Is there anything I can help with while you relax?"
"Can you bring in the rest of the bags? And if you really want to help, you could unpack and wash the dishes and stuff for the kitchen. They're in those bags." Willow pointed out the appropriate ones.
"Not a problem," Angel assured her.
Taking Angel's offered hand, Willow stood and trudged her way towards the bags. She rummaged through the Linens 'N Things bags until she found the apple scented bubble bath she had bought. She offered a weak smile to Angel before slowly making her way towards to bathroom to fill the tub.
Angel distracted himself from his impulse to follow Willow into the bathroom and offering to wash her back by doing as she requested. He sifted through the bags, finding the set of dishes, glasses, silverware, pots and pans. He also found sponges and dishwashing liquid in the bags, along with a drying rack and a linen towel.
'She thought of everything,' he thought to himself, only slightly amazed at her thoroughness.
Angel unpacked all of the kitchenware as he waited for the bathwater to shut off, not wanting to interfere with the temperature of Willow's bath. He then began to hand wash all of Willow's new dishes.
Once the bath filled with warm bubbly water, Willow stripped out of her dusty, sweaty clothes and lowered herself into the water. She let out a sigh of contentment, allowing the heat to ease the tension in her aching body.
As she lay there, Willow's mind replayed her conversation with Cordelia during lunch. She had brought up an interesting point, one which Willow had answered with a much more thoughtful answer than she had given the subject. Was she strictly gay now?
She had answered Cordy truthfully – she hadn't been attracted to Tara because she was a woman - or for that matter to Oz or Xander because they were male. Although she doubted that she would have had such strong feelings for Xander if he'd been a girl. Willow couldn't help laughing at the idea of a girl with Xander's personality.
But was she only interested in being with women now?
Willow heard the water running in the kitchen and smiled at the thought of Angel doing the dishes for her. She pictured him wearing an apron to keep from splashing water on his silk shirt. Or better yet, wearing no shirt, and no apron. Willow let the image take form – she could see the strong muscles of his back gliding underneath his skin as he washed and rinsed the dishes.
Then she imagined those hands washing her... His hands would guide a soapy washcloth over her back. Once it was nice and clean he would pull her back so that she was once again lying in the tub, running the cloth over her shoulders and down her chest, brushing against her nipples, making them hard. (Willow found herself mimicking her fantasy with the washcloth in her hands.) The cloth would travel lower, grazing over her flat belly, then dip between her legs briefly, teasingly, then back over her hip and down one leg. Angel would lift her foot out of the water enough to wash the bottom of her foot before switching feet and then traveling back up her other leg, abandoning the washcloth when he returned to the apex of her thighs…
No, she was most definitely still interested in men.
Willow drained the tub and turned on the shower to rinse the remaining bubbles off her body. She adjusted the spray to a cooler temperature, her body flushed from the involuntary fantasy. With the towel wrapped securely around her, Willow dashed to her room to throw on some clean clothes. Luckily she missed Angel's head poking out of the kitchen to catch her barely covered form running down the hall.
"Feel better?" Angel asked as Willow entered the kitchen from behind him.
"How'd you know I was there?" she asked in surprise.
"I heard your heartbeat," he informed her.
"Well now I know to never throw you a surprise party with human guests," Willow joked.
"How was your bath?" Angel laughingly asked.
"It was wonderful," Willow sighed. Glancing at the kitchen, she saw the drying rack was full. "You finished all of them?"
"You were in there a while," he shrugged. Leaning against the counter, Angel asked, "What would you like to do tonight?"
"I thought we could hang the curtains. You know, make the place vampire friendly."
"Thank you, an excellent idea." Angel agreed.
Willow had chosen two sets of curtains for the living room. One set of light weight curtains that would block out the sun's rays while still allowing light into the apartment to fit within the window frame. Then another set of thicker, darker curtains to surround the windows, that when closed blocked out all light.
The bathroom received a new set of room-darkening blinds with a valance at the top to block the bit of light that would naturally poke out.
Finally Willow's windows received white paper blinds with pale green curtains to go over the windows and the window on the door.
They both collapsed on Willow's bed when they finished with her room. Willow turned her head to admire her newly covered windows. Turning her head back to the vampire she said, "We make a good team."
"That we do," he agreed, tucking a stay piece of hair behind her ear. His hand lingered for a moment longer than necessary, enjoying the flush of her skin from the exertion.
A beep ended the moment. Willow looked confused for a minute before she realized what the noise was. She jumped off the bed saying, "My phone."
She grabbed her purse and pulled out the new cell phone. Flipping open the cover she saw she had a new text message announcing that the phone could now be used. "Hey, look, my phone's ready. I have a cell phone." Flopping back on the bed next to Angel she asked, "What's your number. I want to program my new phonebook."
Angel smiled at Willow's excitement and rattled off the number. Willow diligently typed in his name and number, a speed dial number automatically being assigned.
"Oh, hey, you're number two on my speed dial," she showed the vampire.
"What's number one?" he asked.
"Um," she checked, "Voicemail."
"Well, I should probably let you call your friends to give them the number and let them know you're safe and sound here," he offered, already standing. "Did you want anything for dinner?"
"Yeah, I am kinda hungry. We can go down to the café again. I didn't have time to go grocery shopping today."
"I can go get something to bring back so that you can call Buffy," he offered, not wanting to cut into time with her friends.
Willow glanced at her watch and standing, closed the phone. "Buffy's probably out patrolling by now anyway. Let's go eat."
Willow walked out of the room, leaving a baffled vampire to stare after her. 'Willow just passed up talking to her friends to spend time with me,' he thought as he watched her stop by the door and tap her foot impatiently.
"You coming?" she called back.
"Right behind you," he answered, quickly moving to her side.
Willow grinned up at Angel as she took his hand and led him out the door.