In Days of Auld Lang Syne

It's been ten years, ten years to the day, since Sunnydale was destroyed. Willow has pretty much stopped following the various studies and commissions which have been assigning ever more ridiculous and far-from-the-truth explanations for that big hole where a town (her life, her home, her heart) used to be, though four years ago The Weekly World News actually got it right – not that anyone believes the tabloid with regular features about a Bat Boy and how many US presidents have really been aliens – and she still has the article tucked away in one of the magick books she still finds sort-of, kind-of useful. Or maybe that's just sentiment, because at her level of power? Not so much with the sacred sand and the circles and potions anymore.

Not so much with the girlfriend either.

Oh sure, at first Kennedy had thought it was really hot having a powerful witch for a lover – mostly the sexual stamina, Willow's sadly convinced – but then, when it became clear that that power was way beyond Slayer strength and that it had stopped being something Willow could put away as she had in the beginning?

That had been the day when Willow had come home to find Kennedy on the living room floor, screaming…

With another girl between her legs.

Seven years ago, or thereabouts. The specific day hasn't stuck in Willow's head the way the day Sunnydale ceased to exist has, and maybe that means something. What hurts more than losing Kennedy is that there's been no one since to fill the void. Oh sure, there've been some semi-drunken one night stands – mostly with girls, but that last one was with the guy who does Giles's tax returns, and wasn't that weird – but as much as sex is a nice way to pass the time, she's never been really able to just enjoy it on its own, without an emotional connection to make it transcend the physical sensation. Unfortunately, relationships aren't so easy for her – not anymore.

After all, what do you tell your partner when she (or he) realizes that they're getting older and you… aren't?

Oh, the little toy surprises in the box of all this power she's got. She's pretty sure she was crazy all those years ago when she jumped into magick thinking it would be just – so – neat. If she had it to do over again…

"Willow?"

A familiar voice startles her and she almost falls off the bar stool on which she's perched. "Angel?"

With a quick swivel of the seat, she turns and – yeah, there he is. He hasn't aged a day either. Weird to have something in common with him, that's for sure. Other than each of them having had a Slayer for a lover, that is. "Fancy meeting you here," she says because what else is she supposed to say? She's not going to bring up the battle because she probably should have stayed and let him scream at her for not being able to save Fred instead of teleporting out the moment the last demon dissolved into goo. Illyria's eyes, though… they'd bothered her. They were the windows to the rage she doesn't want to feel toward Giles for keeping the truth from her until it was too late.

She wonders if her one-night-stand with Giles's accountant was some sort of passive-aggressive way of trying to get back at Giles. You never know, do you? Well, actually, she'll know if and when Giles gets called in for an audit… if they do that in England. Willow's not sure.

"I could say the same thing to you," Angel replies and Willow knows that even after all this time he still doesn't know how he feels about her. Guess that's fair.

Holding up her half-finished… whatever-the-hell-they-call-this-frou-frou-trendy- overpriced-cocktail, she says, "I'm drinking a toast to Sunnydale."

He immediately knows what she means. "That was today."

"Well, ten years ago, but yeah."

"It was nine years since the battle yesterday." Oh god, she should have remembered that. Maybe she did. Sometimes her mind is an unknown land even to her.

She's about to apologize when he says, "Thanks. For helping. You made a difference."

Again she almost tumbles right off her stool. She doesn't feel like she did much. "You slew that dragon. I just did in some flunkies." Then something occurs to her. "Isn't it sort of weird the way apocalypses like to happen in May?"

Angel's eyes are wide and yet focused at the same time, but he guffaws slightly. "You know, I never thought about that before, but you're right." Now his eyes narrow. "You haven't changed a bit," and there's an accusatory edge to his voice as he says it.

"So you noticed, huh?" With an eye suddenly focused on how close the bartender is and how many people are clustered nearby, she decides maybe discretion would be a nifty idea and she suggests, "Let's go sit at one of those tables," indicating a group of empty ones off in a corner.

He nods, before asking the bartender for a whiskey and gesturing to Willow to head to the tables ahead of him. She does, picks the cleanest one, and then, as she sits and waits, she passes the time surveying the cheerful crowd as they laugh and flirt and make sexual plans with each other. She'd had her eye on the cute brunette about halfway down the bar before Angel had shown up, but she sees that the girl is allowing the oily attentions of a really creepy guy and she guesses it's just as well she never made her move. The girl has lousy taste and Willow doesn't need to regret anyone new – she has more than enough to regret in her life already.

Just as she sighs, Angel sits down, two whiskeys in hand, setting one before her. "I hate those ridiculous cocktails," he says and she decides to let the insult to her choice of beverages slide. The truth is, she loathes them on principle and only drinks them for the buzz and because she hates the taste of straight alcohol… like this whiskey, which makes her grimace as she sips it.

There's a slight shake of Angel's head and she wonders about it, but no, she's not going to ask. He's probably just contemptuous of her inability to enjoy the drink he prefers. Guess he has a point there. She feels adolescent and not at all sophisticated. Probably looks it too, considering how long it's been since she aged a day. "I don't get older anymore," she blurts out. "I'm pretty sure I never will. Not so sure about the immortality thing, but… probably."

Despite the fact that he'd pretty much figured out the 'no aging' thing at the bar, Angel still seems sort of surprised, or maybe it's something else, but he's feeling something uncomfortable; it shows on his face. She shrugs and, trying for lightness, offers her own thought from just a few moments ago, "Well, at least we finally have something in common. Besides having slept with a Slayer."

"And a werewolf," he adds, and she almost chokes on the whiskey she'd been swallowing.

Huh? Once she stops coughing, she asks, "You've been with a werewolf? When you were Angelus, right?" He shakes his head and she's completely confused. "But…"

"Sex isn't perfect happiness," he says dismissively and she realizes that he's right and she really should have already figured that out, especially since her night with the tattoo artist she'd bedded a month before she headed back to Boystown with Giles's accountant. "Her name was Nina," Angel adds and Willow shakes off her bad memories and gets back into the conversation.

"Nina?"

"Yeah. I was with her for a little while, before… But I sent her away right before the battle."

"And you didn't look for her?"

"I thought about it. It wouldn't have been fair though. She deserves more."

"So what do you do? I mean, now that you've figured out that you can do the sex thing. One night stands?" She winces as she says it, worrying that he'll take it as an insult.

To her surprise, he doesn't. He nods and says, "Sometimes. It beats being alone." But the tone in his voice tells her that this is one more thing they have in common.

"Not by much," she says.

"I thought you had a girlfriend. That little Slayer who was with you."

"Nah. That's been over for a while." Taking another sip of the whiskey she's finding easier to swallow now, she muses, "You'd think I'd be used to walking in on my lovers having sex with other people by this time."

"Sorry."

"Don't be. It was bound to happen. She couldn't handle how powerful I am. Imagine how she'd feel about the aging thing. Even Buf…" She pauses, terrified now that she's brought up the one who will always be the elephant in the room – the girl who didn't show up at that battle in Los Angeles. Angel just nods, though, and she takes it as permission to continue. "Even Buffy and Xander. I mean, they say they're okay with it, but they always make excuses not to see me these days. We talk on the phone but…" There are tears forming in her eyes and she really hates how weak she must seem. "Guess this seems pretty par for the course to you."

"No. That's why I tried to never make friends with humans. It's too hard, dealing with…"

"I never thought I'd know what you go through, you know?"

"I never thought you would either."

It's so strange. Here they are, two people connected by so much and yet… "It's kinda weird how we've never even had a real conversation before, huh?"

Again with the wide eyes, and she thinks he's about to argue, but then he chuckles. "We haven't, have we?"

She smiles and it feels so strange that she realizes it's the first true smile that's been on her face since… well, it's better not to think about that. But somehow she still blurts out, "I miss Tara."

It surprises her that, after a few seconds, Angel seems to recognize the name. Buffy must have told him because she knows she's never said a word about Tara to him before. "Guess you heard," she says, and he nods. It's an encouraging gesture, or at least she reads it that way, so she continues. "She was my girl, you know? My everything. When Warren shot her…"

The biggest surprise of this surprising night is Angel reaching across the short distance between them and taking her hand for a few seconds. "I'm sorry."

Now, she thinks, would be a good time for… "I'm really sorry too. About Fred. If I'd known… if anyone had even tried to reach me…"

"I know." The words are firm and clear and she can see in his eyes that he really does know. He's forgiven her. Boy does she wish it was that easy for her because she's still playing the 'could-a, would-a, should-a' game.

"I really liked Fred," she says, deciding not to mention the one or two naughty dreams she'd had about the girl. She was cute and sweet and something about her had reminded Willow of Tara. No one since has even come close.

"Fred was special."

The lines around his eyes make her wonder. "You loved her." She's fishing, but who knows?

He smiles ruefully. "Not the way you mean, but yes, I loved her."

Raising her half-empty glass, she makes a toasting gesture. He reciprocates and she takes another sip. Maybe she's learning to like it, this whiskey stuff. Or maybe she's just past caring. "It's not fair. The ones who deserve to live… they never do."

"And we're still here."

Oh god. His words make her realize what she sounded like. "I didn't mean it like that."

"I know." Another rueful smile. "But it's true. If I could trade my life for Fred's…"

"Same here." 'Or Tara's' she adds silently. Closing her eyes, she can still look into those sweet, soft eyes she loved so much… and she can still hear Tara's last words: 'Your shirt.' Imagine if that was the last thing you ever got to say.

"I wish I'd met her." Angel's voice opens Willow's eyes, mostly because she believes him and that means a lot.

"You'd have liked her. Everyone liked her."

"Sounds a lot like Fred." He's right, and she guesses that's part of what she thought was so attractive about Fred.

"It's funny how time doesn't make the grief go away."

"It never does." He downs the rest of his whiskey and adds, "You won't get used to that."

There's no upside to eternity, is there? She should really change the subject. "How's Spike?"

Oh great. Angel looks stricken and she feels horrible. He's staring at his glass now, obviously not happy that it's empty. A cocktail waitress comes bouncing over and Angel's looking at her as if she's an oasis in the middle of the Sahara… and not even because of the rather enticing pair displayed by her skimpy uniform. What? The accountant notwithstanding, Willow still likes the ladies and those boobs are hard to ignore.

Angel orders more whiskey – the bottle this time – and they wait silently until it arrives. Cash is paid and a very generous tip gets slipped into that impressive cleavage before the waitress leaves, clearly disappointed that Angel didn't ask for her number, and then Angel pours them each another drink. "Spike shanshued," he says after an impressive swallow.

Spike what? "Huh?"

"It was a prophecy - about a vampire with a soul becoming human again. That was supposed to be my… but I signed it away, so Spike got lucky."

Oh god. That's just… "Spike's human? As in breathing, heartbeat, aging… the works?" Why hadn't she known? Why hadn't he…? "He never told Bu... anyone."

"I don't know what he's doing these days. I think Illyria might still be with him." Another swallow, probably to try to smooth the sharp edge of pain Willow can hear in his voice. He sounds like a child whose Christmas presents were stolen and given to the kid next door – and there's nothing he can do but stand barefoot in the snow with his nose to the glass, watching that other boy enjoy each and every one of them.

There was a time when she'd have been confused about why he was so upset. Not now. No, not now. This time she's the one who reaches across the table and her hand closes over his. "I'm so sorry, Angel."

"You understand," he says, with a tone of wonder more appropriate to that child in the snow than to a vampire centuries old.

She thinks of the one night stands and the loneliness and the friends who are shutting her out. "I do."

They stay like this for a moment that seems to last a very long time and then she takes her hand away. For all that his hand was cool, her hand feels colder when it's no longer touching his. But she doesn't reach for him again, instead focusing on her drink with a seriousness and intent that would be hilarious if she thought about it, which she doesn't, just alternating between sipping from the glass and staring into it. When she finally looks up, Angel's staring at her. "We should leave."

The bottle is three quarters full and Willow, ever practical, asks the obvious question, "What about the whiskey?"

"I have better stuff at my place."

Something in the way he says it… oh god. Is this a pass? And if it is, how does she feel about that? "I'll bet you do," she says, flirting, testing the waters, trying this on for size. She's more sober than she usually is at this stage of the game and Angel is a guy she actually knows. Someone she has a real connection to. Someone who's a friend.

"Let's go." He gets up, then holds out his hand for her to take as she follows his lead. Her car is out in the parking lot and she's going to suggest following him back to his place, but he pulls her toward his car instead, a showy convertible. "I'll bring you back here in the morning." Okay, this must officially be a pass. And can she just say that he's possibly too confident considering he hasn't actually asked and she hasn't actually said yes?

However, she'd pretty much already decided, so maybe she's just being petty. He opens the passenger door and she's about to get in when he leans in and… he kisses her and she kisses him back.

She's kissing Angel. He's kissing her. They're kissing. Hands are moving over bodies, tentatively at first, but then each gains confidence, learning each other, exploring. This is good, she realizes, so much better than what she's found in the beds of strangers.

Right about now she should be feeling guilty about Buffy, but she doesn't. Not at all. Buffy's off with whoever her current boyfriend is – not like Willow knows since conversation between them has become stilted and awkward and anything but chatty – and anyway, the Buffy and Angel Show closed many a long year ago.

She's also not worried about the curse and Angel's soul. This, after all, isn't true love, even if it's the most honest thing she's done since… since a piece of metal ripped a hole in her own soul. The kiss ends and he's looking at her as if he's seeing her for the first time and she gets it now. The kiss was a test. A chemistry test. The look in his eyes tells her she passed with flying colours. He did too, frankly.

Getting into his car, she pays little attention to where they're going, concentrating on the feel of the wind in her hair and the lingering sensation of Angel's hands on her body. She's about to have sex with her third guy ever. She has a feeling it's probably going to feel more like her first. Oz, for all that she loved him truly and sincerely, was a boy and as for Giles's accountant? He wasn't as bad as the tattoo artist, but that's still damning with faint praise.

Barely any time seems to pass before they're in the parking garage of a very fancy high rise. Angel and expensive surroundings seem to go together and she's wondering if he has those extravagant Egyptian cotton sheets she hears about in movies. Her own budget isn't equal to the task of clothing her bed in them.

The elevator is almost silent and it's appointed in that 'understated elegance' way that tells her the condos in this building start at more money than she'll earn in even her probably-infinite lifetime and go up in price substantially for every square foot and fancy upgrade. You know, her mother would probably approve of Angel.

Too bad she hasn't spoken to her parents in eight years. Too bad she'll never speak to them again.

Angel pulls her into his arms and the kiss is needy and intense and aggressive – very different from what they shared in the parking lot. She likes it and she gives as good as she gets. How much she wants to be with someone who knows her, because Angel does, even if they've never really talked in a personal way before tonight. He's been in her life, in so much of it, and that has weight and heft and meaning. It's the same for him, she knows. They are, somehow, the keepers of each other's history and, once upon a time, his soul passed through her on its way home. It's not love, but it's… it's something.

There's a soft ding that they somehow hear and the elevator doors open… right into the very lavish penthouse she guesses belongs to Angel. "Private elevator," he explains. After a pause, he adds somewhat defensively, "You get to a point where you wonder what virtue there is in not spending what you have."

She's not judging him. "You've more than earned it all," she says, and she means it. Somewhere there's a former vampire who's got life - real and true and full life – all courtesy of Angel. She thinks a decent standard of living is the least Angel is due, and not just for that. Too bad he can't mount that dragon head in his living room.

Too bad Fred isn't here to enjoy all of this too.

"It's nice," she says as she looks around the place. Boy is that ever an understatement. Soft lighting illuminates the exquisite furnishings, rich fabrics upholster the chairs and couches, fine art hangs on the walls… even at her family's most affluent, Cordelia Chase could only have dreamed of a place like this. Willow has no idea what Angel's net worth is, but it's more than anyone ever thought, that's for sure.

"It's a place to live." Spoken in the indifferent tone of someone used to the finer things. It's pretentious as hell, but she lets it slide.

She wanders through the room and then stops, running her hand over the edge of one of the sofas. Whatever that fabric is, it feels soft and sensual and like nothing you'd ever find in Ikea. What would it be like, she wonders, to make love to Angel on that upholstery?

Just as she thinks that, he comes up behind her and slips his arm around her waist, pulling her against him. She can feel his… interest against the small of her back. It's no small thing – metaphorically or literally. His lips are against her neck and she sort of wonders what it would be like if he were to bite her; she's got a hunch it would be nothing like Harmony's silly attempt on her life. She thinks she might even enjoy it.

His movements are rough as he turns her around, manhandling her with the confidence of someone who's known her as both a shy genius and a powerful witch and who sees himself as at least her equal either way. It's pleasurable to a degree that shouldn't be surprising, but sort of is. Go figure.

"Mmm," she moans as his mouth finds her neck again and his hand slips between her legs. God is she ready. But just as she thinks that maybe she really is going to find out what that upholstery would feel like against her naked body, Angel picks her up and, cradling her effortlessly, carries her into what might be the biggest, and is definitely the most ridiculously lavish, bedroom she's ever seen. No one's ever carried her to their bed before and it's kind of a romance novel thing to do, but that's not really such a bad thing. Neither are the sheets, which aren't Egyptian – or any other – cotton, but which are silk and feel amazing even though she's not naked yet. "Wow," she says, pretty superfluously, and he sort of half smirks as if to say, 'you ain't seen nothin' yet.' Then he starts disrobing and… he was right.

'Beautiful' isn't a word she's ever applied to a man but it fits. He's absolutely, positively beautiful. Definitely the most perfect man she's ever seen. And oh god – definitely bigger than any guy she's ever had sex with before, not just in the height and weight sense either, though he is that.

Angel's looking at her and… oops. She's kind of supposed to be getting naked too, isn't she? She gets back up off the bed and starts unbuttoning her blouse. Oh how she hopes she doesn't disappoint him. She knows his taste has always run towards… well, blonde hair, big boobs, kind of the same things Willow likes. He probably would have drooled over Tara almost as much as Willow did.

Maybe thinking about Tara isn't the best idea right now. Doing her best to shut off her brain, she concentrates on trying to be seductive as she removes her clothes. Acting sexy is the key to being sexy. Buffy told her that once.

You know, thinking about Buffy is even worse than thinking about… just stop thinking completely. That would be best.

Nudity is achieved and Angel is staring at her, taking in every inch of her, and it's kind of unnerving. "You're beautiful." The way he says it… she thinks maybe he even means it. Still, the way he's looking at her…

"I know I'm not really your type."

Coming closer, he says, "I think I'm a little too old to have a type. Besides…" he looks down at… at, "I'm not really your type these days either."

She giggles. "The last person I was with was a guy." Angel looks a bit… deflated, so she hastens to add, "Giles's accountant. He works for the Council, too, so maybe calling him a guy is a bit of a stretch."

Now Angel's the one who chuckles, but ruefully. "So you've seen Giles?"

"It was a 'have to' kind of thing. World save-age. But leaving Colin's place without saying goodbye… you never know. He was kind of into me. Giles might just get audited soon." She's fudging a bit since she's not at all sure Colin was even the guy's name, but does she really want to admit to Angel that she doesn't remember the names of people she's slept with? The parts about the guy having a pretty serious 'thing' for her and leaving his place before dawn without so much as a kiss on the cheek are true enough at least.

"You did it to get Giles in tax trouble?" Oh god. Does Angel think she's a slut?

"Maybe." She shrugs, but he's smiling. That's good, right?

Angel pulls her in for a kiss that ends sooner than she expected. She's still sort of nervous and he can obviously sense that. "I'm not a child, Willow, and I don't expect you to be some virginal maiden. We've both been through hell and back. We live in the shadows. The rules everyone else lives by? They don't apply to us."

Immediately after his pronouncement, he's kissing her again; it's clear that the conversational portion of the evening is over, at least for now, which Willow doesn't mind one bit. Her body shifts right back into sexual overdrive and she feels like a horny teenager. It's clear from the way Angel is all over her that he's on the same wavelength. Let's just save the foreplay for some other time.

If she was thinking she was going to get to be on top, that's clearly not going to happen. Instead, she's on her back before she even realizes she's been maneuvered off her feet and onto those very luxurious sheets. But before she can enjoy the sensation of silk against flesh, there's something she enjoys even more…

The feeling of Angel inside her.

Clearly there is something to be said for centuries of experience, because he's got her body almost singing, overwhelmed with the kind of ecstasy she sure never expected to feel again and not with a guy. It's almost more than she can stand.

But Willow's never been a taker. She's determined to give him everything he's giving her and then some, so she goes to work, using her yoga-toned muscles and her agile fingers to make him moan her name even as he thrusts into her ever harder and stronger.

It doesn't take either of them long at all – in moments, they're screaming their release to the heavens and later Willow will be very relieved for the expensive construction that will allow her not to worry about having woken Angel's neighbors.

He's almost panting as he withdraws from inside her and rolls off to lie beside her. She knows just how he feels, and boy is it flattering to have made a creature who doesn't even need to breathe react the way he is.

"That was…"

She nods heavily, amazed she can move. "Yeah, it was." She pauses and admits, "I'd forgotten…that I could feel that way, you know?"

He props himself up on an elbow and locks eyes with her. "Me too."

Taking a chance, she suggests, "Maybe we could do this again sometime?"

Something flickers in his eyes and he looks oddly… vulnerable. Even with that as a hint, she's stunned when he says, "You could stay." Her eyes feel as wide as her head, but she's not saying no, and he continues. "Look, I know you don't love me. I don't love you either. But… I care and I think you feel the same way. That's a whole lot better than what we've had, isn't it?"

She smiles and says, "Yeah, it is."

So softly that she's not sure he even intends for her to hear him, he murmurs, "I don't think it's even possible for me to be perfectly happy anymore." She says nothing, but she has to agree and anyway, they can worry about risks and curses and Orbs of Thesulah when and if the day comes that they need to. For now…

This time Angel speaks in a voice she's meant to hear. "So tomorrow we'll go and get whatever you want from your place, okay?"

She's saying yes, isn't she? She's really saying yes. "Okay."

That slow, sexy smirk returns and his hand traces a pattern over her breast. "In the meantime, what was that you said about doing this again?"

She winks at him and her own hand does some pleasant wandering down Angel's body. Maybe it's a good thing, having all this power, or maybe it's a good thing there was a vampire with a soul in her past; she's not sure which. What she does know is that right now she feels happy for the first time in a long time… and for the first time in an even longer time, she doesn't regret what she is.

Angel is a gift - and Willow is grateful.

The End.