Disclaimer: I own nothing. It all belongs to Joss and a bunch of other people who are not now and have never been me.

Until it Ends

"It hurts."

Angel didn't reply, but then, Willow didn't really expect him to say anything. He was never much for talking, at least not to her. Maybe with Buffy, but it was hard to think about her so-called best friend right now, even though she was all Willow could think about. Well, she and Xander were.

"I mean, I know he's had a crush on her since the day they met, and I know he's never going to see me that way, but she knows - she knows how I feel about him and she still...oh my gosh. Angel! I am so sorry. I didn't mean...I'm sure she didn't mean anything by it, I mean I know how she feels about you and this is probably all just some weird acting-out thing, but..."

"It hurts."

He smiled slightly as he spoke, but he wasn't mocking her. His expression was neither dismissive nor sarcastic. In fact, she wasn't quite sure what emotion was in his eyes, what feeling lay unexpressed by his taciturn mouth.


Suddenly, she was as quiet as he was. The silence was awkward, but there was something in his mien that forestalled her from breaking it and it went on. It would go on until he allowed it to end.

She didn't realize at first, when his hand somehow wound up holding hers. By the time she noticed, she knew her hand had been in his for some time. Still, she didn't speak, her tongue tingling and heavy with the effort, unused as she was to shared silence, as afraid as she was to waste time not spent alone on the silence she knew too many days when she walked into her oft-empty house.

Then he began to walk and she was compelled to follow, his hand still holding fast to hers. The walking helped. She focused on each step, counting them in her head, a substitute for speech that was meager, but it served. She was unaware of where they were headed thanks to her diverted focus, but it didn't matter. A powerful demon was leading her by the hand and that served as quite fine protection in Sunnydale, at least if one kept clear of the cemeteries and other hot spots. Which they did.

After a while, Willow realized that they now stood in front of her house, its darkened windows and palpable emptiness as familiar to her as the warmth of lights and a home-cooked meal waiting would be to most of her classmates. She looked into Angel's face, her plea shining from her eyes. His own seemed to give permission and she spoke.

"How did you know where I live?"

He was quiet for another moment and she could almost see the scales as he weighed his words. She wondered why. How difficult a question was this to answer?

"I've followed you home before," He paused, his eyes once again hooded and his expression inscrutable. Just when Willow thought that was the end of it, he said, "To make sure you were safe."

She was more confused than ever. First, because she'd never realized that he'd followed her and it made her feel strangely afraid - knowing that someone could do that without her knowledge. Second, because she wondered why a basically innocent answer was one to which Angel had needed to give so much thought. For a moment she wondered if there was something he wasn't saying. But then again, with Angel, wasn't there always?

She was glad when the silence returned and she wished she hadn't broken it in the first place, though she was more perplexed by her own unease than anything else. She took comfort in the fact that, the next time they saw each other, he would be back on Buffy's arm where he should be and they'd both be acting as if tonight - none of it - had ever happened. Maybe that made her a doormat, but it was best, and somehow she could tell that Angel was like her that way - not wanting to do anything that might risk losing the ones - or one, in his case - that they loved. It wasn't worth it, especially since swallowing one's pride and keeping the peace always meant that things went right back to normal. Sometimes that was even a good thing.

She could almost see their next evening at the Bronze unfolding in her mind like a play. Buffy would be there with Angel, gazing adoringly at him as she always did, and maybe Xander would finally get the message and start looking elsewhere...maybe, just maybe, in the direction of the girl he'd known since kindergarten. Her vision buoyed her well-honed optimism and she was about to offer a few words of hope to Angel when she found she couldn't speak...because Angel was kissing her.

It was strange and awkward and she hadn't for one second seen it coming. It was addictive and thrilling in a way that was terrible and felt just like the sin she was pretty sure she didn't believe in. This was the moment where she was supposed to be pushing him away and protesting that Buffy was her very - best - friend and they should not be doing this, but somehow that wasn't happening.

Her arms were around him the same way his were around her and she was pretty sure that wasn't her mouth that her tongue was in. His eyes were open and looking at her and she knew he knew exactly who he was kissing. She wanted to close hers, to escape the same knowledge, but the growl she heard when she did so briefly made her open them right up again. She was here, right in front of her dark, quiet house. Angel was kissing her; she was kissing Angel.

It went on - just like the silence she'd not broken until he permitted it. It would be the same with this kiss. She wondered what would happen when it ended. She knew that she didn't really want to know. It went on.

The End.