This story takes place following Angel's return from Pylea. Having found Willow waiting in the Hyperion, he decides to drive back to Sunnydale with her.
"It's a Honda," Angel grimaced as he dropped a small canvas duffel bag onto the sidewalk. The muscles in his jaw tightened as he clenched his teeth. His dark eyes fixed on a small white automobile gleaming in the beacon of a streetlight.
"It has tinted windows!" Willow squeaked defensively, bouncing up beside Angel.
"We're taking my car." Angel grunted in response, lifting the bag and hurling it into the backseat of the inky black Plymouth. "Get in."
Willow shifted her weight awkwardly and glanced unevenly at Cordelia Chase. She stood just outside the front gate of the Hyperion beside a couple of forlorn trans-dimensional travelers, fondling a small tiara, biting her lower lip. Willow's eyebrows creased with worry, her eyes glassed over with tears, and after a moment of hesitation, she slid into the passenger seat.
"Drive safely," Cordelia whispered, her voice covered by the starting engine.
"Come on," Wesley frowned, turning back toward the hotel. "We'd better check on Fred."
Angel gripped the steering wheel with both hands, his knuckles glowing white. He sat forward in the seat, his eyes focused entirely on the road ahead. The city lights stretched out in a blur of blues and yellows, reds and greens. Willow felt her stomach wobble uncomfortably between her esophagus and her heart. It took effort to swallow the bile that gargled at the back of her throat.
"Could you please…" Willow whimpered, covering her mouth suddenly to hold back a wave of nausea. She gagged behind her palm, turned her head to the side, and vomited over the ledge of the passenger door. It flowed like a stream along the road, splattering cars parked on the street.
"Can't." Angel mumbled in reply, pushing his foot harder against the gas pedal. The engine roared as the car lurched up the freeway entrance.
"They won't start without you." Willow sighed, glancing over at the vampire beside her. "They won't start without us."
The road stretched out before them, unhindered by the stream of traffic inside the city. Just a few miles out, the lights died away and the interstate was dark and breathtakingly quiet. Willow's eyes darted from one side of the car to the other. It was a long drive to Sunnydale, and she had an inkling that music wouldn't be appreciated. Blood seemed to pour back into Angel's hands, and after a moment, he sat back in his seat.
"It wasn't an accident," Willow frowned. Dropping her eyes to the dashboard, she recalled the bright portal that seemed to cradle the Slayer for a second before letting her fall to the ground below. A shot of anxiety leapt up her spine, creating gooseflesh on her scalp. "She did it to save us, to save Dawnie. You would have been proud of her."
"I know she's a champion, a slayer. It's her job to rescue us, to keep the world safe." Willow began after a pause, lifting her head to stare out of the windshield. "But it was more than that. Glory was more than just a demon; she was a god. The only way to stop her was to make a sacrifice. I don't think I could do what she did."
The car fell silent. Willow brushed tears from her eyes with the back of her wrist. Rivulets of wind sailed beneath the canvas top of the convertible Plymouth, brushing over their heads like dirty secrets. Angel cleared his throat, his cough like a growl that set Willow to shivering.
"I didn't bring any blood," Angel muttered, his eyes never faltering from the road ahead.
"I have some Cheezits." Willow frowned uneasily, retrieving a plastic baggie of slightly stale crackers from her handbag. Angel lifted a stiff hand from the wheel and held it out. The sounds of munching filled his brain briefly, blocking out all other thought.
"I'm proud of her," he said at last, dusting crumbs onto his pant leg and returning his hands to the wheel. "I'm ashamed of myself."
"You were in another dimension," Willow reasoned, stuffing the remaining handful of crackers into the glove box in front of her.
"Yeah…" Angel frowned. "Right."
"Awhile back, Buffy came to visit the office. You remember?"
"I remember. She didn't have much to say about it when she came home."
"They lied to me."
"The day she came to visit me, I…" He paused, staring out into the night, beyond the road, beyond the desert. "We fought a demon. It burst into my office and we chased it down into the sewers. I spilled some of its blood and I became human."
"Human…? Angel, why wouldn't she have told me?" Willow blinked, turning in her seat to face him.
"We spent the day together, and the night. I thought…I thought it was over, that I'd been redeemed by the Powers that Be." His voice rose with hope, and just as quickly drooped with disgrace. "I was wrong. The Powers told me that if I remained human, Buffy would die. I wouldn't be able to protect her, and she would die. So I asked them to turn me back into a vampire. It was the only way I could protect her."
"They turned back the clock. They took the day away from her memory, from Cordelia's memory, from Doyle's. I'll never forget that day, and she'll never remember it. I gave up our happiness to protect her, and I couldn't even…"
"Angel, I…" Willow whimpered, at a loss.
"I'm ashamed of myself. I couldn't keep her safe."
Willow stared blankly at the small digital clock on Angel's stereo. The glowing green numbers switched from 1:32 to 1:33. Her hand shot out from the armrest and fiddled with the dial, switching it randomly from one station of white noise to the next. Voices popped out of the infernal machine at last. They carried a tune and filled the car with something other than the blustery wind shaking against the windows. The twang of a country voice oozed from the speakers. Willow bobbed her head reluctantly and shoved a stale Cheezit into her mouth.