A Fool There Was

The Bronze. It was the place they always went to celebrate or commiserate and tonight was no different, except that it was, for the four friends seated at a corner table, a little bit of both. They were celebrating defeating the Mayor and saving the town, along with almost all its inhabitants, but they were also mourning their losses: the students they hadn't been able to keep from being killed (no one was terribly depressed about Principal Snyder being eaten), the school that was now a pile of rubble, and the love of Buffy's short life, who was gone. Not dead - well, not more dead - but gone, nonetheless. That last made it hard for any of them, except maybe Xander - who at least had the decency to try to contain his glee - to feel truly euphoric about what they'd accomplished.

It was funny; a part of Willow was happy, deliriously so, in fact. After all, she and Oz had...well, they had, and it had been wonderful. So much better than she'd been led to believe her first time would be. It had made her feel closer to Oz than ever, made her feel that they truly would be together forever. But another part of her felt guilty. As Willow was finding confirmation that her love was hers for always, Buffy was losing hers. Maybe someday her friend would find some small consolation in the knowledge that Angel was leaving because he loved her, but right now, yeah, Willow had to agree that it sucked and she could easily understand Buffy's misery.

She excused herself for a moment and walked off towards the ladies room. Not so much because she needed to use it, but because she needed to clear her head for a moment.

"Hey."

After everything that had happened today, Willow would have bet that she could never be surprised again. It was a bet she would have lost the moment she heard that voice coming from the shadows of the hallway.

"Angel? What are you doing here?" Her eyes found his. "Did you change your mind? Let me go get Buffy." She was about to go do just that when he grabbed her. "Angel?" Now Willow was worried. What was going on?

"There was something I forgot to do before I left."

She wanted to ask what that was, but he answered her question before she could speak. He kissed her. His cool lips against hers almost stole her breath and she was too surprised to resist. After a moment, her hands went to his shoulders. She meant to push him away, but it never happened. Instead, she kissed him back, allowing him to deepen the kiss.

This was Xander and the fluking all over again. This was something different, something darker, something worse.

It was over after a time and he left before she could ask him what it meant, why he'd done it. And then he was gone, truly gone, on his way out of town with Willow's honour and her peace of mind packed among his belongings.

She went back to the table. She meant to say something, she truly did, but the words wouldn't come and she was never able to find them. Not even with Oz.

There was a something missing now that made it harder to look her friends in the eye. A something she knew she'd never get back, no matter how hard she tried. That night she made love to Oz, but it wasn't the same. It would never be the same again.

She hated Angel.

The End.