Disclaimer: Characters and Premise are borrowed from the show "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer."
Willow held Buffy as the Slayer collapsed into her lap, shaking with a pain so great that it denied the release tears would have provided.
The slight witch couldn't believe what she'd been told; Angel, after everything they'd been through, had broken up with Buffy. And he was going to leave Sunnydale to make it final. Angel had decided that the obstacles and dangers inherent in their love were too great and he was giving up, just like that. No, Willow corrected herself, in her heart of hearts she knew this decision was as deeply painful for Angel as it was for Buffy. Only Buffy had friends to turn to, Angel had to deal with this alone.
No he didn't, Willow decided, her resolve face making a brief appearance as she smoothed Buffy's hair comfortingly. When the Slayer had collected herself and pulled away from Willow, the redhead said. "I should call Oz, tell him I won't be able to make that thing we were going to do tonight.
"No," Buffy protested. "You don't have to break your date to stay with me."
"That's what friends are for," Willow said firmly. "Oz will understand. He's good that way."
"If you're sure," Buffy replied, handing Willow her phone.
"I'm sure," Willow said dialing Oz's number.
"Oz, it's Willow. I can't make our thing tonight," Willow said, glancing nervously at Buffy.
"What?" Oz asked, confused.
"Angel broke up with Buffy last night," Willow confided. "Because it couldn't work out happily. No one should be alone right after a painful breakup."
"I understand," Oz said.
"I knew you would," Willow replied. "I love you."
After Willow's call, Oz headed directly for the mansion where Angel had taken up residence.
Despite the bright sunny day, Oz noted that many of the windows were open to the sun. Somewhat worried, Oz pounded on the heavy door. When his summons went unanswered, the guitarist walked around the building until he found a conveniently low window and entered that way. e found Angel in the master bedroom. The vampire was sitting on the floor, inches away from a pool of sunlight.
"Hey," Oz said softly.
Angel looked up slowly. "Buffy's not here," he said. "I had to break up with her."
"Willow mentioned that," Oz replied calmly.
"She's comforting Buffy," Angel realized.
"Yeah," Oz said.
"I'm glad," Angel replied. "Willow's a good friend."
"She's worried about you too," Oz remarked.
Angel turned back to watch the motes of dust sparkling in the sunlight with a look of intense longing. "She shouldn't," he said.
Oz took off his jacket and seated himself beside the souled vampire, carefully avoiding the sunlight. Today the werewolf had a feeling that it would be considered rubbing it in if he demonstrated his ability to withstand the sun.
Angel paid no attention to Oz's actions; instead he moved to follow the sinking sun. Cautiously he ran his fingers over the floor that the sun had just abandoned, letting the residual heat soak into his skin.
Oz watched him curiously but remained quiet. Most people felt the need to fill the silences he left, still Angel was hardly most people. The vampire had had a long time to grow accustom to silence. Oz also knew that some things didn't have to be said, it was up to Angel to determine whether this was one of those things.
The sunlight retreated several more inches as they sat there and Angel dutifully followed it, always maintaining the barest minimum distance that was safe for him.
Cautiously Angel placed his open hand against the ethereal boundary defined by shining dust motes. "It's safe for me to feel the radiant heat," Angel said after a time. "Only it's not just heat, it's sunlight, there's nothing else like it."
Oz nodded to show he was listening.
"I crave it like a drug," Angel continued. "But it could destroy me so easily."
"Not if you're careful," Oz said.
"Most of the time I'm content with being careful, with almost having," Angel remarked, then deliberately thrust his hand into the light. "Sometimes that's not enough, sometimes the price doesn't matter."
Oz watched as Angel's hand caught fire and still the vampire made no move to draw it back. Oz took Angel by the elbow and firmly pulled him away from the light. Using his jacket Oz smothered the flames then inspected the damage Angel had done to himself, Angel's flesh was blistered and smelled of burned meat.
With a sigh Oz rose to his feet tugging the vampire after him. He led Angel to the bathroom and pushed his burned hand under cold running water. Angel hissed with pain.
"First aid kit?" Oz asked.
"Under the sink," Angel replied.
Oz retrieved the supplies then carefully patted Angel's hand dry and applied a light dressing to the wound. In a human the measures would be necessary to limit damage and ward off infections, but Angel's status as a vampire made the gesture somewhat pointless. On the other hand, Oz thought, sometimes the gesture is the point.
"Sometimes, it's worth getting burned," Oz said. "You do have friends to pull you back before it goes out of control."
Angel looked down at Oz, surprise marking his face. "I let you pull me back today," he said after a while. "Could you have done it if it had been for real?"
"Don't underestimate your friends, or your willingness to be pulled back," Oz instructed.
"If I were the only one to burn I might risk it," Angel said, walking back to the bedroom. "But it never works out that way does it?"
"So what do you do?" Oz asked, following him.
Angel went to the window and closed the blinds. "Remove temptation," he replied.
"And if you can't survive being cut off from it?" Oz asked, noting the longing in Angel's eyes as he stared at the closed window.
"Then I don't survive," Angel answered.
"And if she can't survive without you?" Oz asked.
"Sunlight destroys the darkness," Angel said, his voice an odd mix of pride and pain. "It doesn't need it to shine."