She's too late.

The body that once belonged to a sweet girl from Texas Willow had flirted with now holds a cold god from somewhere she's never been and never wants to go.

She's too late, too late to do anything but console the ones left behind.

"Angel," she calls out. He's sitting in the dark. Maybe he's crying; it's hard for Willow to tell, even as her eyes adjust to the gloom. The offices seem cavernous with no one here. She wonders why he's here instead of in his apartment, but she's not going to ask him about it. "I'm sorry." She's never said anything she's felt more in all her life. This is one more life she couldn't save and it hurts, it hurts more than the death she's actually responsible for. She'd skin Warren a hundred times if she could somehow have gotten here in time to save Fred.

"I know." He says it, but she's not sure it means anything.

"If I had known, if they'd told me…"

"You couldn't have done anything. Illyria's a god." He probably thinks he's being forgiving, even comforting, but the words burn Willow like acid.

"You don't know that! Maybe I could have." She'd rather bear the guilt than the idea of powerlessness. Once a junkie, she thinks…

The light comes on suddenly and she realizes he's moved. He's staring at her now; it bothers her, but being stared at always has. For all she's supposed to have changed, she hasn't really changed much at all. Still afraid she's being laughed at or scorned, still afraid that if you look at her long enough, you'll realize just how sad and pathetic and just not good enough she is.

"Thank you." If that makes sense, it's in a very different world from the one Willow lives in.

"Why?"

"For caring, for wanting to believe you could have saved her."

They both feel that way, she realizes, both happier to shoulder the misery of not being what they should have been than to believe they did the best they could and failure is no one's fault. She remembers that Buffy felt the way they do once, about a girl she barely knew…but never when it mattered – never when it was Jesse or Jenny or Tara. Or Fred.

She thinks that maybe she hates Buffy right now.

She slides down to the floor by the desk. It's as if the weight she's carrying is finally too much. There are chairs in the room, but what's the point? Angel sits beside her. Perhaps he agrees about the futility of trying to be comfortable.

"Are you okay?" she asks. It's the most absurd of all possible questions, but really, what else is she supposed to say?

He doesn't bother answering, not that she even expected him to, and for a few long moments they sit, still and lost, not even looking at each other.

After the silence becomes more oppressive then the alternative, he speaks. "How did you find out?"

"Dawn. She told me when I got back, well sort of, anyway. She didn't really give me all the details, but after dealing with Glory," she winces for a moment at the memory of what happened to Tara, "I'm not one to wait when it comes to dealing with gods. I just wish…they knew, they all knew, how to reach me. They could have, you know."



"They?" Angel's afraid of what she'll say next, she can tell, but she doesn't have it in her to lie.

"Giles, Buffy, Xander, even Dawn. They all knew what to do if there was an emergency. Do you think I'd have gone if there was no way to bring me back if something came up?" She's angry now, and it shows in the pitch of her voice.

"No, you're right, you wouldn't." He pauses. "I'm sorry."

"Why?"

"For believing him. I should have known…"

For some reason, that's the most comforting thing he could have said. She reaches over and puts her hand over the one resting on his knees. Their eyes lock and somewhere a switch flips, though she's not sure why or by who. She only knows that seconds later their lips meet and it's written and inexorable.

Hands are on skin and the sound of fabric tearing registers somewhere in the back of her mind, though she's pretty sure it happened some time before she realized it.

"Angel," she pants, for no reason other than she feels the need to tell him she knows exactly who she's with. She wonders why.

He looks into her eyes and he doesn't need to say a thing. She wonders if anyone has known her as well as he seems to in that moment. She knows he doesn't see Buffy or Cordelia or even Fred. She wonders what he feels about that.

It's been a long time since she's been with a man. That fact becomes clear with the first entry of his cock into a body more eager than ready. Somehow, though, the pain makes it all better. If this is revenge and infidelity and solace rolled into one, at least the pain keeps things from becoming confused. She gives herself over to the intensity, pours all the feelings roiling within her into the fingers that claw his back, 

into the legs that wrap around him, into the cunt that marks each thrust with a mix of pain-pleasure-something-more that shoots through her like an arrow.

It goes on, neither wanting to finish. They do their best to hold back. Orgasms are endings and they're both too greedy for connection to let go. But it happens; they both find release no matter how eagerly they try to stave it off, and it's all the more powerful for being the enemy.

Afterwards, he lies beside her, one hand stroking her hair, and they don't let go. They're cold and lonely and they've lost so much already; they'll hang onto something for as long as they can.

The End.