'Ah,' Willow thought. 'It's good to be out of Sunnydale. Even if it is for a few days.'
Willow had read about this amazing computer seminar and thought that it would be great to get away from everyone for a while. For some reason, the gang had been acting like a bunch of whiny brats lately and Willow could stand it any more. So she decided to leave Sunnydale for a few days and relax.
Willow rented a car and on that Thursday, hugged everyone by and, after Buffy made sure that Willow had her supplies, she took off and headed for UCLA. Along the way, she tried to figure out things to do since the conference wasn't until Saturday.
At one point, Willow stopped to get something to eat and pulled out her travelers guide for California and turned to the heading for Los Angeles. There were museums of all kinds, but Willow was enjoying this being outside stuff. 'Maybe there is life outside of the internet,' she thought with a smile.
She searched the guide towards the middle of the LA section, figuring that that was were the bulk of the attractions would be. When she didn't find anything interesting there, she turned to the front of the LA section. She only read about two descriptions into the section when she came across something called Angel's Flight Railway.
"Angel," Willow said out loud. She hadn't seen Angel for quite a while and figured it might be fun to see him again, now that he and Buffy were split and he might not be so brooding. 'Yeah, right. Angel not brood?'
Willow finished her lunch and ran to the closest pay phone. "Giles? It's Willow. No, I'm fine. Really. I just needed some...no...Giles, I'm FINE. All I need is Angel's business address. No. No. I'm just...no. I only want to see him...he IS my friend, you know. Yes, I know what you think of Angel. Yes, I know that you worry about me. No. I'll make sure I take my stake and my holy water. I promise. Thanks Giles. See you soon!"
Willow scribbled down the address on the stack of yellow post-it notes she carried. She got her map back out and figured out, roughly, where Angel lived. She wondered momentarily if he would be mad at her showing up unannounced, but figured if he was, she would leave and head for her hotel.
Willow hopped back in the car and turned on the radio. She found something that sounded fairly pleasant, a sort of light rock kind of stuff, and heading back onto the highway. It only took here another hour or so to reach Los Angeles. 'City of Angels. Angel's city. That's pretty funny," she thought. 'I wonder if he's thought of that. Nah. He probably broods too much to think of jokes.'
Willow found the address and pulled over next to the curb. She got out and looked up at the building. She set herself, smoothed out the wrinkles in her pants and made her way through the door. Inside, there was a board listing office number. 'Angel Investigations. Office 204. That would be the one.' Willow smiled at the thought of seeing Angel, and even Cordelia, again and headed upstairs.
Willow knocked on the appropriate door and heard someone from inside say, "Come in." She pushed the door open to see a scruffy looking man sitting at the receptionist's desk.
"Welcome to Angel Investigations. How can I help you?"
Willow smiled uncertainly. "My name's Willow Rosenberg and I'm a friend of Angel's. Is he here?"
"Angel? Ummm...Angel. Yeah. Uh, no. He's not in right now. Anything I can help you with?" 'My word,' Doyle thought to himself. 'So this is Willow. Angel never said she was beautiful.'
Willow blushed slightly at this man's rather obvious lack of subtlety. Even naive little Willow could tell that he was looking at her and finding her attractive. "Um, do you know when he'll be back, Mr..."
Doyle rubbed his hand on his pants and held it out to Willow. "Doyle. My name's Doyle. No mister. I'm Angel's right hand man." He gave her the most charming smile he could while fighting off another hangover.
Willow smiled back, feeling the heat of the blood rushing further up her face. "Doyle. Yeah. Angel mentioned you the last time I saw him."
Doyle's face contorted in fear. "Whatever he told you, it was a lie. Plain and simple. I didn't even know those guys were crooked." Doyle's face broke out in a sweat until he saw Willow struggling to hold back her laughter.
"Well, okay. Maybe not everything he told you is a lie. At least he said I was handsome and charming, right?" Doyle said on that smile again and it sent shivers down Willow's spine.
"Well, not in those words, no," Willow replied with a grin. "He said something about a deadbeat gambler..." She let her words trail off as Doyle's face twisted up in anger.
"Why I'll kill him...well, not kill him since he's already dead. I mean...you know what I mean."
"Yeah, I do. I wanted to kill him a bunch of times. Especially after he almost killed me."
"Killed you? Why would he want to kill a beautiful, sweet...uh...lass like yourself?"
Willow leaned toward Doyle in a conspiratorial fashion. "It was Angelus. Not Angel. I don't think Angel would ever hurt me."
Doyle puffed his chest out with macho pride. "He better not. If he ever hurt one soft, lovely hair..." Doyle shook his head, trying to regain his composure. He mentally smacked himself. Usually he wasn't even this taken by Cordelia. "So...what brings you out this way?"
Willow smiled shyly and looked down at the floor. "I'm attending a computer seminar at UCLA and thought I would stop by and see an old friend...and a new one, apparently."
'Friend?' Doyle thought. 'I'm already her friend!' Doyle suddenly realized that Willow was still standing in the doorway. "Please, Willow. Come in and have a seat. I can't bear to see you standing there for another minute." Doyle ran over and pulled up a chair for Willow.
Willow sat down and sank into the chair. "Whoa!" she shouted as she nearly fell into the chair. Doyle thought she looked like a child in an adult's chair and tried not to laugh. "So, Doyle...what do you do here for Angel? I mean, you said you were his right hand man. I don't think that means you sit here drinking coffee and reading the paper all day."
It was Doyle's turn to blush as Willow seemed to hit the nail on the head. "Well, no...I mean I have other duties aside from the coffee and the newspaper. I get to go out and risk myself in the daylight when Angel can't. And then I help Cordelia with the research and...stuff like that." Doyle trailed off when the smile got too wide for Willow to hide.
Willow suddenly sobered. "Isn't it scary going out and helping Angel? I mean, you're not a vampire. I don't think."
Doyle winked at Willow and whispered "I've got a secret and I'll tell you, but you have to promise not to tell Cordelia under any circumstances. Now...do you swear not to tell?"
Willow frowned wondering what it was that Doyle was going to share. Did he carry a gun? Was he a wizard? She held up her fingers in a Girl Scout salute. "Scout's Honor."
Doyle looked around the room and satisfied that it was empty but for the two of them, he asked, "Are you ready?" Willow nodded her head and let out a small gasp when Doyle shook his head and suddenly he was green and covered with spikes. He shook his head again and the spikes disappeared and his skin was pink again. "There," Doyle said with a grin. "How was that?"
Willow sat motionless for a moment. She had never seen anything quite like that. She had seen vampires put on their game face, but this was totally different. She thought to herself that Doyle was much better looking as a human. 'Bad thoughts, Willow. Bad Willow.' Willow smiled and said, "That was neat."
"Neat?" Doyle looked at Willow skeptically, but then noticed the light in her eyes and he realized she was serious. 'Such pretty eyes,' Doyle thought to himself. 'Stop it, man. What are ye doing? Ye hardly know this girl and here ye are fawning over her. I mean, yeah she's gorgeous and she's obviously smart. And her hair is fabulous. Running you hand through it...' Doyle mentally smacked himself as he realized what was happening and he realized that Willow was talking to him again.
"...and vampires. I'm sure you've run into them. But, you know, since Angel's not here, I should probably be going. I wouldn't want to keep you from your work." Willow gave Doyle that small smile that he felt was going to break his heart.
"No, lass. I'm sure that Angel will be back soon. Maybe you should stay. Hey! Are you hungry?" Doyle was praying like mad to the Powers That Be that she was. Anything to spend more time with her.
Willow thought about it and smiled. "Yeah, I could eat," she replied, borrowing one of Oz's favorite lines. 'Is he asking me out on a date? No...That couldn't be. It's just lunch. Or dinner. That's all.' Willow sighed silently. "Wait. Didn't you say we should stay here?"
A small, pathetic smile played over Doyle lips. 'Goddess, what nice lips he has. Bad Willow.''
Doyle thought frantically. "Well, now. Angel would kill me if I let one of his friends go hungry while she was waiting for him, now wouldn't he? Let me go get something out of Angel's office." With that, Doyle smiled like a schoolboy. He found the drawer where Angel kept a small stash of money. Doyle figured that Angel wouldn't mind if he spent some of it on Angel's lovely friend. 'God, man. There you go again.'
Doyle returned to find Willow looking out the window. He stopped in the doorway and admired Willow's silhouette. 'God. She looks even better than Cordelia. Her hair is the sweetest shade of red. It looks almost fiery now, being highlighted by the sun. Get a hold of yourself, man. It's just lunch.'
"Well," Doyle remarked. Willow turned, and Doyle's jaw almost hit the floor as she smiled at him again. "You ready? The boss is paying." He said this last with a smirk as he fanned out sixty dollars.
Willow smiled at the attempt at levity. "Of course. Where are we going, big spender?"
"Going?" Doyle looked at her blankly. He hadn't thought of that part. "Going. Yeah. Where are we going? Well, what are you in the mood for?"
"I don't know, Doyle. Anything but fast food. I need to lose some weight."
"Not from where I'm standing, lass. You look great to me." Doyle rolled his eyes at himself. He shook his head and chuckled as Willow laughed quietly. Not to mention the blushing stuff.
Willow giggled as she took the arm that he proffered. She drew close to him when they got outside as quite a breeze had picked up. Doyle immediately straightened his back and squared his shoulders, making himself feel foolish, but enjoyed the sensation of having a beautiful woman on his arm.
They decided on a small coffee bar, where they took a table away from everyone else. Willow ordered a bagel and some orange juice and Doyle got black coffee.
"What? Nothing to eat? Come on. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day."
"Well, lass," Doyle replied. "It's 1:30 in the afternoon so it's not breakfast and food tends to interfere with my digestion."
Willow laughed and found that she had relaxed from the long drive and was enjoying herself more than she had with Oz recently. Well, not that recently was that recent. Oz had been spending a lot of time with his band and going on tours. That didn't leave much time for Willow. Willow frowned at this thought and looked at her half-eaten bagel, as though it held all the answers.
After a couple more half-hearted jokes, Doyle realized that her dark mood might deepen if she didn't, somehow, manage to come to grips with...with whatever it was that was bothering her. So he used a centuries old technique that his mother taught him. He asked.
"What is it, Willow? Something suddenly seems to have taken the fun out our lunch. Come on and open up. I promise Angel and Cordelia won't hear a word, if that's what you're worried about."
"No, it's not that," Willow replied. "I've been having...well, no, you don't want to hear about this."
Doyle smiled that small smile and Willow just had to smile back. It was like he was able to cheer her up with only a simple smile. "Come on now, lass. What do you think Angel would do to me if I let you leave here without me trying to help you, at least a little? He'd beat me too a pulp and then stuff me in an envelope and mail me to your place so that I could apologize."
Willow envisioned Doyle all beat up, showing up in a package on her doorstep. She started laughing that high lilting laugh. She chuckled for a moment more and then stopped laughing, but at least she was still smiling. "I've been having guy problems," she said meekly.
"What? Is he out of his mind? Wait. Are ye bein' stalked? Do I need to get involved?" Doyle was suddenly on the defensive, looking for someone who hurt Willow. He was breathing faster and he clenched and unclenched his hands.
Willow smiled. "No, it's nothing like that. My boyfriend is in a band and he doesn't seem to have a lot of time for me right now. He's going on tours and rehearsing. He writes but it's beginning to become a form letter. 'Willow. Things are great here in San Francisco. The tour's going well. See you when I get home. Love, Oz.' I mean, he could at least take the time to put something special in the letter. You know, a flower, a guitar pick, someone's heart..." Willow trailed off to see if Doyle had gotten the joke.
Doyle seemed to be off in his own little male world. Willow could almost see the pictures in Doyle's head of Doyle beating up Oz for not paying attention to her and the thought made her smile. Not that she would let Doyle get mixed up with Oz. Doyle suddenly shook his head. "Wait. Someone's heart?"
"You know. I left my heart in San Francisco. Come on, Doyle. If you're going to be bored with the conversation, you could at least pretend my jokes were funny."
"No no no, lass. I'm not bored. I was just thinking that this Oz must be out of his mind, not paying attention to a lovely creature such as yourself." Doyle mentally clapped his hand to his forehead. 'Way to go, Doyle. Keep it up and she might sick Angel on you. Here she is talking about her guy problems and you keep wanting to take her...never mind. Just keep focused. Bad thoughts, Doyle.'
"You know," Willow said in a far away sounding voice. "You must be a hit with the women. You are kind of a smooth talker." Willow had a half smirk on her face.
"Well, if you must know," Doyle began with a half grin of his own. "At the moment, the woman I am in love with does not deem me worthy of her love. She can be quite stuck up sometimes."
Willow raised her fists. "Is she out of her mind? Do I need to go beat some sense into her?" She almost didn't get the last part out as she had started laughing. The look on Doyle's face was priceless.
"Nay, lass. I think I can handle it on ma own." 'Good lord. Willow and Cordelia in a fight? Knocking each other down and pulling each other's hair? Rolling around and...and...bad thoughts, Doyle.'
Willow tilted her head and looked at Doyle. His Irish accent seemed to get a little thicker when he was concerned about someone. It was quite...stimulating. 'Get a hold of yourself, Willow. It's not like he's the love of your life. He's a friend of Angel's. That's it.'
"Hmmm. Someone being stuck up and not being able to figure out when someone loves her. That sounds familiar."
"Really? And who does that remind you of?" Doyle was glad to be off the subject of his love life. He was, in the recesses of his brain, trying to figure out a way past Cordelia's defenses. He didn't want to talk about her.
"Cordelia Chase. She was one of the most stuck up, snotty, spoiled, rich brats I have ever met." Willow's face turned slightly red from anger this time, not embarrassment.
"Cordelia? You mean the Cordelia that works here?"
"Yeah. I can't see how you stand working with her. She just has her head in her own little world and she doesn't care about anyone else but herself."
"Well, now I wouldn't say that's entirely true," Doyle replied. Willow was definitely getting a little viscous. "I mean, she cares about Angel. She given him hugs and tried to cheer him up a whole mess of times."
"That's only because Angel has saved her life several times. She probably feels like she owes him something."
"So...," Doyle started, trying to change the subject. "This computer conference you're going to. What's it about?"
"Oh, the usual stuff. E-commerce, web sites, networking. Things like that."
Doyle nodded, even though he was almost completely computer illiterate. "Yeah. I think that they will be big in the near future."
Willow looked at Doyle with her forehead creased in astonishment. Doyle thought it made her look lovelier. "What, lass? Why are ye looking at me like that?"
Willow felt a shudder run through her body as Doyle's accent got thicker again. She relaxed and laughed. "You don't know much about computers, do you?"
"Well, not really. Cordelia handles most of that kind of thing. I mostly...uh..."
"You mostly hang out and be Angel's right hand man, right?" Willow laughed again as Doyle gave her a weak smile.
"So," Doyle tried again to change the subject. "What do you do in, is it Sunnydale?"
"Well, there's Buffy, she's the Slayer. I'm her right hand girl and her best friend. I'm also a senior in high school."
"Only a senior? I figured you were in college. I mean, I figured you were working your way through college as a, I don't know, a model or something." Doyle felt the hot blood rising in his cheeks and decided that if she wanted to smack him, he let her because he deserved it after that.
Willow gave Doyle her shyest smile and looked down at her plate, which no longer contained any of her bagel but crumbs. She seemed to be embarrassed by his comment, but she didn't seem angry, which made Doyle sigh with relief. "You think I could be a model?" Willow asked so quietly that Doyle had to strain to hear.
"Aye. That I do, lass. Someone as pretty as you? The modeling agencies would be out of their bleeding minds not to snatch you up." Doyle gave her a big smile that melted Willow's heart with its sincerity.
Willow shook her head. "No. I'm just the little mousy one. Buffy is the one that all the guys drool over. She should be the model. I would just carry the lens caps to her photo shoot. But then I could set up her web site, you know something like slayer.com, and put her pictures up..."
Doyle shook his head and chuckled quietly as Willow had once again managed to turn the subject from herself to Buffy and managed to get herself going again with the computer stuff. Doyle wondered if there was any way to get Willow to talk about herself for more than ten seconds, not including the ramblings and the computer jargon. Technobabble is what some of the people he'd seen on TV calling it. Doyle actually considered, very momentarily, trying to add in some jargon of his own, but with the look he got earlier about his comment about e-commerce, he quickly thought better of it.
Doyle shook his head and realized that Willow had stopped talking. She was talking a drink of her juice and Doyle took the chance to ask, "So how do you know Angel, if I may be so bold?"
Willow looked at him sidelong for a moment and then said, "Well, you probably know about Angel and Buffy. Well, since I'm Buffy's friend, I got to know Angel a little when the two of them weren't either making out or fighting. And since we lived on a Hellmouth, Angel was around a lot, you know fighting demons and vampires and generally saving all of us. Then he lost his soul when he and Buffy...ummm...consummated. I performed a spell to give Angel his soul back..."
"Wait," Doyle interrupted. "You gave Angel his soul back? I knew he had lost it and got it back, but he never said how. Wow. That must have been pretty tough."
"Well, not really," Willow replied. "It wasn't a hard spell. The really tough part was going to hell to get Angel back." Willow shuddered involuntarily at the thought.