The Tears of Polychrome

"I'm sorry."

It was such a paltry thing to say, but he couldn't find any other words. Here he was, standing in the room he'd last visited to terrorize her by killing her fish. The aquarium, he noticed, was gone. Obviously she hadn't replaced her murdered pets. Not that fish would be much comfort to her right now.

She'd been crying before he arrived; that was obvious, despite the smile she'd plastered on when she invited him in – with no hesitation, and he'd marveled at that, at how easily she trusted him again. Of course, in her condition, she might just not care.

"Why are you sorry?"

Okay, that question almost made him laugh, especially since she was utterly sincere. Why was he sorry? The list could take days: killing her fish, slaughtering her favorite teacher, attacking her in the hallway that first night… And that wasn't even including the plans he'd had for her before Acathla had distracted him. It also didn't include…

"Spike." He thought that was an explanation, but her wide-eyed expression told him she didn't understand. It suddenly occurred to him just how little she knew him… or he her, if truth be told. "He's my creation," Angel explained, his voice tight as he thought about everything those three words really meant. "If it weren't for me…"

What had he said? Because Willow suddenly burst into tears. "Are you okay?" he asked, wondering what he should do.

She said something incoherent and sat down on her bed, so he waited, hoping she'd speak again and this time say something he could understand. "It's not your fault that I… I can't believe I kissed Xander. I hurt Oz, Cordelia's in the hospital, everyone hates me, and it's all my fault." Those last words brought on a wail and a fresh wave of sobs.

Much to his own surprise, he sat down beside her and tried to offer some comfort. "You thought you were going to die. It was only natural to seek comfort and…"

"We were kissing before that," Willow interrupted and Angel was… okay, shocked. Of course he remembered that she'd once had a crush on Xander, but he thought that foolishness had been left behind when she and Oz had begun dating. At any rate, he certainly had never thought of Willow as the sort of girl who…

He was being judgmental, wasn't he? It wasn't as if she'd had sex with the boy; it was nothing more than a few stolen kisses, a brief taste of what she'd once wanted so badly, probably more of a balm to her womanly pride than any real infidelity of the heart. "It's still not unforgivable," he said gently, putting his arm around her. His mind unaccountably went back to the day he'd saved her from the boiler room. She felt as small and slight and helpless now as she had then – and as in need of saving, somehow.

She turned her face to look up into his eyes. "Would you forgive Buffy?" She asked her question as if she already knew the answer, but she didn't, did she? His mind flashed back to his girl grinding against Xander… flirting with Ford…

"I have," he said.

For a moment she looked confused but then a light of understanding dawned in Willow's eyes… there was hope there too.

"You think maybe Oz…?"

That was another matter, wasn't it? Angel knew little about wolves, other than that they were possessive, but so were vampires, so that wasn't an enormous amount of help. "He should. You'll just have to give him time."

Even Angel knew that the guarantee for which she'd hoped wasn't there and another bout of tears ensued. He held onto her, letting the salt dampness of her pain and guilt soak his shirt. Had Buffy cried like this when she'd hurt him? Had she been this consumed with self-hatred and sorrow?

He had a hunch he knew the answer to that, and as much as he tried to rationalize it with his knowledge of Buffy's Slayer nature, accepting that she never questioned herself, couldn't question herself, it hurt. "It'll be okay," Angel said to the crying girl he held, but he knew she didn't believe it.

Neither did he.

The End.