Fare Thee Well

The Bronze. Angel knew that's where they would be. Celebrating saving the world from the demon-Mayor. He'd been impressed by them all that day - even Xander. They'd been brave and determined and they'd won. They'd sacrificed their school, and their once-oblivious classmates had sacrificed their naivete - in some cases their lives, as well - but they had, in the end, prevailed. The demon was now as thoroughly destroyed as the building that had once been Sunnydale High. It had been a valiant battle, one they could all be proud to have fought. It was only right that the four most important warriors were here, rejoicing in their victory.

But they weren't rejoicing, not really. Willow's hand was on Buffy's and he could see the tears that threatened to spill from his love's eyes. She was lost - lost in the sense of abandonment she insisted on feeling, in the illusion that things could ever have remained as they were between them, that their love had a chance which Angel was somehow throwing away, a chance that in truth had burned to cinders in Hell centuries ago. He felt sorry for her, sorry that she couldn't revel in the glory of her triumph over evil, sorry that she couldn't be more of an exultant Slayer and less of a lovelorn teenage girl. But there was nothing he could do to remedy that imbalance.

His eyes moved to Willow.

She had come to him the night before, stinking of the wolf, the completion of their union fouling his senses like the filth of a sewer. In his delirium, he'd been about to tell her - to tell her that there was something between them, something he didn't understand, something that drew him to her, beckoning with the voice of a siren. Something that unsettled and upset him. The smell of her, her innocence defiled by another demon...it had stopped him. Even in his fevered state, the truth had broken through, and it made him almost hate her.

Rationally, he understood. She loved her wolf and knew nothing of Angel's feelings. She had come to him only to tend him on her friend's behalf. And after all, he loved Buffy still, truly and with all his heart. But within him there was a demon, a demon who cared nothing for such justifications, who saw Willow as faithless and cruel and his, who saw Buffy as the soul's nonsense, who raised emotions within him that he couldn't begin to put name to, even if he weren't as afraid of himself as he was.

He saw Willow begin to rise from the table and he made a guess as to her destination, heading back towards the hallway that led to the bathrooms. He was right. Within a moment, she was there.

"Hey."

His voice stopped her as she was about to pass by and she turned to him, eyes wide with surprise as they locked with his. "Angel? What are you doing here? Did you change your mind? Let me go get Buffy."

He grabbed her arm before she could leave, before she could trap him into another meeting with the girl he was leaving behind or force him into the role of cad by compelling him to make an exit before Willow returned with her friend in tow.

"Angel?" Still so oblivious. Even now, when his eyes must be full of his need, she seemed totally unaware of what he'd been wont to imagine was shared between them. But all she saw was her wolf. Within him, there was the roar of his demon.

"There was something I forgot to do before I left." That was all he said before he kissed her.

She was in his arms now, undone by surprise, her body as soft and pliant against his as her lips were. She tasted like ashes and sunshine and only very slightly of Oz. He tried to think of Buffy as he kissed her, but he couldn't even conjure up the shadow of her face. All he knew was Willow. Willow - who didn't fight him, who, instead, kissed him back.

The kiss lasted for just a moment longer, her surrender to him making it more than unwise to continue, and he left her without a word.

He knew he'd upset and disturbed her, taken something important from her and given her nothing in return but guilt and confusion, but he couldn't bring himself to go back and try to make it right. There were reasons for that, but they were his demon's reasons and Angel refused to think about them. Instead, he rejoiced in the fact that he could recall Buffy's smile once more. So he drowned himself in memories of her as he left town. Willow was on her own.

The End.