The Importance of Coffee

Author: Lucinda
story # 1 in Coffee & Thoughts series
rating: pg
Willow/Angel friendship, mention of the B/A tension
Disclaimer: I own nobody from BtVS
Distribution: Bite Me, please?, WillAngel, WWW, WLS, NHA, Soulmates others please ask
Set season 2, after Reptile Boy.

He could still hear her words, echoing inside his head. 'And you! You're going to live forever, and you don't have time for a cup of coffee?' She had shown so much fire, anger and this... vibrancy that he had never imagined her capable of. She has yelled at both him and Giles, furious with them about their treatment of Buffy. Giles for pushing her too hard as the Slayer, and himself for... not having coffee. For not being the boyfriend that Buffy wanted him to be. For not having the time for the lovely blond. It had sounded as if Willow blamed him for Buffy going to that Frat party. With the snake creature in the basement that they were sacrificing girls to, in exchange for influence, power, and financial success. Had it been his fault that she had gone? Had he had some influencing factor? Could his refusal of coffee been so important, so far reaching?

'...don't have time for a cup of coffee?'

She was such an amazing influence on everyone that saw her. She saw the best in people, and somehow made people want to be the person that she saw in them. People wanted to live up to her image of them. Somehow, the coffee thing was important, and he had failed to measure up.

Perhaps... he could talk to her? Ask her to explain the importance of the cup of coffee, to understand why she had been so upset about it. She could help him understand the mystery. Maybe even the cryptic smile that Buffy had shown when he did offer to get coffee with her. He felt as if he was treading over something important and only half understood. Maybe he was obsessing...

Yes, he would ask her, perhaps tonight if she was at the library. Willow might even be less angry now, although if she still seemed mad, he could always try to talk to her later. Good, he had a plan. Willow would most likely be the best person, possibly the only person to ask about this. She knew that he had been out of touch with society, and wouldn't look at him as if he were some sort of freak or monster for not understanding these things. Even if both terms could be applied to him.

Shaking his head slightly, he slipped between the shelves in the library, feeling grateful for the large dark room, built without windows to protect the books from direct sunlight. It enabled him to be in the library during the day. He could smell her, apple body wash and raspberry hand lotion, and he heard the sound of her fingers tapping at the keys of the computer. Concentrating, he checked for the presence of any other people, discovering to his surprise and relief that the library held only Willow.

"Is there a big menace that nobody mentioned to me?" He spoke from right behind her, close enough that his breath tickled her ear.

Willow jumped, her heartbeat racing, and half spun in her chair, eyes wide with nervous surprise. She calmed down somewhat when she discovered that it was him, settling back onto the chair. "You startled me."

Giving him a hesitant smile, and a gesture towards one of the chairs, she spoke again. "The only big problem that I'm battling tonight is an English paper. Xander avoids the library if possible, Giles is off with Miss Calendar, and I have no idea where Buffy is. So, here I am, one out of seventy four students chosen to turn in a paper on Othello for Mrs.. Meier's english class. It's actually kind of nice not to be referencing pictures of icksome monsters and the coroner's site for the most recent bodies."

Angel gave a small smile in response to her comment, briefly wondering how she had become so used to researching for Buffy and Giles. "I wanted to ask you a few things. About coffee, and why it's such a big deal."

Willow tried to smother a giggle behind her hand, only partly succeeding. "I suppose things have changed a bit for you. I mean, I don't think coffee houses were featured everywhere when you were alive, and I know vampires don't think of coffee the same way that mortals do... ummm, how do I explain this? Maybe... where do you want me to start?"

Angel sighed, considering the truth of her words. "Can you help me figure out exactly what asking someone to coffee is supposed to mean? What is it supposed to accomplish? What does it gain?"

She was smiling at him again, this teasing, knowing smile... when did Willow get a knowing smile? What did she think she knew about him?

"You were the sort of guy that mother's warned their daughter's about, weren't you? The sort that was after... umm... not commitment." She was still smiling.

"I wouldn't have thought that would still show... what makes you think that?"

"It's in the way that you phrased your questions. What does it gain... you make it sound like a formula for getting women into bed. First, A, then B, then a few more steps, and then you get sex. And umm... I just realized that that is so entirely none of my business..." Now, she was blushing, her fingers running through her hair as if trying to hide behind it.

"Well, I was. I was actually a rather lazy drunken lay about with a taste for loose women. But I know things are different now. And I'm not the same as I was then. Which leaves me rather... baffled."

"Baffled. Okay, I suppose I can clear up a few things for you. Let's say that you are a guy, who's interested in a girl. You see her, she's pretty, and you want to get to know her better. You find out her name. You go over, and let's say that you can actually talk to this girl. You say something like 'Hi there, Kelly. Would you like to go out for coffee?' and if you're lucky, she says yes, because otherwise there's rejection, and pain, and let's not go there." Willow gestured with her hands as she sketched out the little scene.

"So... I have a coffee date with the pretty girl. What then?"

"It's not quite a date. More of a pre-date experience. It lets you talk to someone a bit more privately than, say, dancing at the Bronze. It also tells Kelley that you're a little bit interested in her, and she's a bit interested in you if she says yes. It sort of lets you evaluate someone as a potential date without it being a a real date, because people go out for coffee with their friends all the time, so there's no pressure."

"A pre-date. So, it would be more like, offering a pretty girl some wildflowers to see if she might be interested?" Angel was trying to understand. "And it's safer, because if she isn't what I want, there's no serious commitment?"

"Yeah. But it's considered rude to plan to meet for coffee and just not show. Other than that, no commitment. So, you have coffee with Kelley, and discover that you can't stand her, and never want to be anywhere near alone with her again. Everything's okay, and you don't have to have anything to do with her like that again. So, you see Gina, and ask Gina for coffee. You have fun talking to Gina, and you want to meet her again. Maybe you eventually move on to lunch... or, I guess, normal guys would, not that you aren't normal, well except for the whole vampire thing... umm... I think I'll just stop now." Willow was crimson by the end of her words, babbling at full speed.

Angel smiled, certain that Willow hadn't intended any insult to him. She had simply gotten so caught up with her explanation of the whole coffee thing, that she had forgotten that he was a vampire. Not the worst thing that could have happened. "So.. in that case, would you like to have coffee with me on Saturday?"

Willow gasped, her expression one of surprise. After a pause, she spoke. "I probably shouldn't... I'm supposed to avoid caffeine, but... I'd love to."

"Great. I'll see you then." Smiling slightly, Angel left the library.

end Importance of Coffee.