A Bitter Taste
Willow stared at the pages of her history book, thinking about her coffee meeting with Angel. It wasn't a date, not even a pseudo-date, even if he had broken up with Buffy. They were friends. But still... Something had been different this week.
Angel had been different this week. She couldn't explain it, but there had been a dozen tiny things that just seemed a bit unusual. He'd been more open, discussing things that she'd only heard him hint at before. He'd smiled a couple of times, and had seemed more at ease with himself. It all added up to something being different.
But he was still Angel, still her friend. Right?
Of course he was still Angel. Of course he was still her friend. He'd listened to her ramble hopefully about Oz, and talked for a while with her about the sort of little things that really didn't mean much more than that he was taking the time to listen to her. Only a friend would do that for her.
Maybe it was just that dating Buffy had been bad for him? The part of her that was Buffy's friend felt guilty for thinking that way, wanting to offer comfort to the Slayer who was one of the few friends Willow had ever had. But really, a Slayer and a vampire didn't make much sense. He was handsome, and mysterious, and nice, but... If he and Buffy didn't talk about things, and couldn't compromise, and only focused on this very moment, how could they have something that lasted? They kept getting all jealous and possessive, and then defensive and angry, and it was just... bad.
Angel seemed to be getting over the break-up a lot faster than Buffy though. Or maybe he was just hiding the pain better? Two hundred and forty years could teach you a lot about hiding your feelings.
Shaking her head, Willow gathered her books, managing not to jump when the bell rang, announcing the end of the school day. Opening the door from the library, she glanced out, looking for Oz. Maybe they could have coffee and talk?
But she didn't see Oz. She saw Buffy, talking to a guy that looked vaguely familiar.. Scott something or other, she thought he'd been in one of her classes last year. And wasn't he on the basketball team? He was saying something, and Buffy was doing that smiley glance away, glance back thing. Buffy was flirting with him.
Maybe Buffy wasn't taking things quite as hard as she'd made it sound?
Slowly, Willow slipped out, heading the other way. Let Buffy and Scott have their chance to talk, she was certain that Buffy would tell her all about it later. Wasn't it a bit soon to be moving on though? She'd only broken up with Angel last week... No, she chided herself, Buffy was just talking to him. It wasn't as if she was just hopping into bed with the first cute guy who talked to her.
"You can't possibly think that's a good defense!" That sounded like Xander's voice.
"Right. Because you're such a fashion expert?" Female, annoyed, and definitely familiar. Willow just couldn't quite place the name to the voice at first.
Things sounded too quiet after that.
Nervous, remembering the praying mantis-woman and Ampata, Willow edged closer, peeking around the corner. What horrible nasty had her hooks and sights set on Xander this time? She tried to prepare herself for anything.
Xander was kissing Cordelia.
Xander and Cordelia were still kissing.
She pinched her arm, hard, convinced that this was just a nightmare. No, they were still kissing. Xander, who she'd had a horrible crush on forever, and Cordelia, who they'd hated for years. Kissing.
Buffy and Scott. Xander and Cordelia. Willow shuddered, suddenly not wanting to loiter in the halls any longer.
Unfortunately, the full moon brought her back that night, wolf-sitting Oz. Since they hadn't been able to find a cure, Giles had proposed some means of temporary confinement. After a lot of debate, they'd ended up settling on the book cage in the school library.
Time with her new boyfriend didn't hold quite as much appeal when he was locked in a cage, twice as large, furry, and snapping long sharp teeth at anything that got too close.
"Someone might get the idea that you aren't having a good day." Angel's voice slid through the air. "Do I smell tears, Willow?"
"Maybe." Willow glanced up, and dredged up a shaky smile for the vampire. "It's been a long day."
"Do you want to talk about it? I'm probably a better listener than he is right now." Angel gestured towards Oz, a hint of a smirk playing over his face.
"I guess so." She sighed, and wrapped her arms around one knee. "Buffy... I think she's moving on. I saw her talking to a guy earlier, flirting. Just last night she was going on about how miserable she is because the two of you...the two of you aren't together, if that makes sense. Can you really get over it that fast, or was she exaggerating for the sympathy, or trying to make herself move on by flirting with what's his name?"
"Ouch." Angel shook his head, looking almost like he was hiding a smile. "That was pretty fast. Although... if she's just talking... I wasn't wanting her hung up on me forever. How's Xander taking her moving on?"
"I don't know. He was too busy kissing Cordelia earlier to talk to." The words hurt, and she could feel the tears threatening again.
"Cordelia?" Angel blinked. "The cheerleader? I know that she's been helping, but..."
"Yeah. Cordelia. We never got along with her, we even had a club about it. Except, now... He was kissing her." Willow closed her eyes, not wanting more tears. "And I had to find out by walking in on them in the hallway. He couldn't even tell me."
In the cage, the werewolf growled, ears flattening as he glared at the vampire.
"Maybe someone's jealous." Angel pointed towards the snarling werewolf. "I never could figure out how much they retain of their mind when they go furry, or what they remember the next day."
"Maybe I can ask him tomorrow." Willow sighed, and let her head fall forward. "So many changes and questions..."
"You look tired. Maybe you should rest for a while?" Oz and I will keep watch over you." Angel offered, his dark eyes looking sympathetic.
"I really shouldn't..." Willow's words cut off with a yawn. His eyes seemed so dark.
"I'll watch over you." He reached out, tilting her chin to look right into her eyes. "I won't let anything eat you tonight, Willow."
Her last thought as she slipped into sleep was that maybe there was some truth to those stories of vampire mind-tricks after all...
Looking at her slumbering form, Angelus smiled. "No, I won't let anything else get you, my friend. You have my word on that."
Carefully, he tried to make her more comfortable, wondering when he'd gone soft. Him, Angelus the Scourge of Europe, protecting a human girl; calling her his friend. But it was true. Willow had become his - or at least, Angel's friend. And he wanted her to be safe.
He was turning into such a sap in his old age.
end Dark Coffee 2: A Bitter Taste.