Clarity

By Shakespeare's Girl

A/N: Spoilers for "Pangs." The scene at the Esspresso Pump. Angel and Willow have a moment of perfect synchronicity. Written mostly because when I was watching that scene the first time I kept going "My god, she wants him to kiss her. How does he not see that?"

Willow backed away as Riley and Buffy started conversing in earnest. She was cool. She could handle her friends having boys when she didn't. It wasn't even that she didn't have Oz; that was okay, in a way. It made sense. He'd left her for a good reason, and if she squinted really hard, she got it. But it hurt and it wasn't fair, and now she was the boyless one, instead of Buffy, and it was making her jealous. And pouty.

She looked up and saw-- "Angel!" she screamed, but it came out muffled, on account of his hand suddenly being over her mouth. "Evil!" she muffle-screamed. "You're all evil again!" It was hard not to get distracted by having big, strong, good smelling man nearby. Not that Oz had been terribly big, but strong, man, and good smelling, yes.

"I'm not evil, I'm here to help Buffy," Angel explained, letting her go. Willow watched in fascination as a little strand of spit connected his hand to her mouth for a few seconds longer. It was somehow really sexy and not disgusting at all.

"What's going on?" she asked, trying to sound intelligent and Willow-like, and not at all like a poor, teenage girl who's heart's been broken, but not nearly as bad as it could have been, but still, enough to hurt.

"My friend had a vision," Angel answered, and Willow couldn't help but notice he was stoic and taciturn, like Oz, only Angel was probably the originator of cool, silent, strong guy. Had he been this ripped before? And if he had, why hadn't she noticed? "Buffy's in danger."

"So, tell her," Willow shrugged, nodding back toward Buffy. "Help her."

"If she sees me, it'll be worse," Angel mumbled.

Willow gave a little puff of annoyed air and straightened into resolve mode. "See, I don't get that, all this 'leaving for her own good' garbage, because that's what it is. You can't give up just because there are obstacles. What kind--"

"Willow!" Angel interrupted, the look on his face saying it all. Had she ever noticed how expressive he was, just with the blink of an eye, or the lift of an eyebrow? It was kinda sexy, in that strange, Angel-y way, that made her kind of think of Oz, but once again, Angel was the originator of the cool, communicating with expressions guy and--Pay attention, damn it, Willow!

She took a deep breath. "Sorry. My stuff."

"You know how I feel about her," Angel reminded. "If there was any way . . ."

"Yeah. I know," Willow nodded. But then she thought about it and she wasn't sure she did know. Sure, she'd thought she knew, but the way Angel was looking at her, and the way she felt tonight, around him . . . sort of bubbly, effervescent and light, like the champagne she'd stolen from her mother's New Year's Eve party.

They were staring at each other, and Angel's forehead had that little crease between his eyebrows that meant he was thinking really hard, and maybe seeing something--someone?--in a different light than he had before, and Willow could feel her own face mirroring his expression, except, it was Willow-confused, not Angel-realization. She wasn't quite sure what it was that was happening, and then suddenly, she did, and it was exploding lights against the backs of her eyelids as she blinked, and technicolor brilliance, and Angel, Angel, Angel. She got it, now, the way Buffy couldn't bear to let him go, the way she would have done anything for him.

And when he said, "It's just . . . everything's different now," in that soft, low tenor of his, the one that had probably made Buffy's knees just as weak as hers were now, she got it completely--the lies and the heart ache and why it was so hard to stake him, and why it was so profoundly complicated when he came back, and all the difficulties, and even why he'd had to leave. She figured it all out in that one moment, and as she figured it out, something happened.

The air felt charged with electricity, somehow tangible, and they both leaned toward each other. When their lips met it was both a complete shock and completely expected, the only logical conclusion to the static and fuss in the air. Lips on lips, a kiss that was sweet and tender even as it was deepening enough to be slightly indecent, and a hand on the back of her head, the way she'd imagined it would feel, slightly cool but nice and right, her own fingers gripping biceps that were somehow pliable and stony. His tongue slid between her parted lips and caressed her own, the briefest, gentlest of touches, although there was no doubt he was in complete control. It was intoxicating and heady and volatile and perfect, and when he pulled away, they stared at each other for long moments, dark eyes meeting lighter, until they both smiled.

This was good and right, and would become something very, very soon, but that soon was a ways off yet, and it wasn't what either of them needed right now. And they both understood that without speaking, understood each other without speaking.

Willow grinned. "Hey, is Cordelia really working for you? Cause that's gotta be a special experience. Of all the people you could have hired."

Angel rolled his eyes, something that Willow didn't know he could do. "Willow, I'm here to protect Buffy. I don't have a whole lot of time for personal stuff."

The words were softened by his smile, tiny though it was, playing at the corners of his mouth.

"Right," Willow nodded. "Well, how can I help?"

"Well, if you can just tell me . . ." Angel glanced toward Buffy, and noticed for the first time the rather large man she was talking to. He frowned sizing him up. "Who's that guy?"