Under My Thumb Ch. 8bybadgirl298©
Angel shadowed her movements, silent in the stillness of the night. He watched her fluidity of motion, admired the innate grace of her stride. She was fierce, powerful. Like a mythical Amazon come to life. Two vampires approached her from behind. He tensed, ready to run in to help and reveal his presence. But he was too slow. She slammed her stake through one's chest and efficiently beheaded the other with his own ax. She dispatched them in mere seconds, their dust blew in the breeze, flying around her blond mane of hair. She didn't need him to fight with her. . .for her. . .she didn't need him for anything. He'd better get used to that.
With one last look, he turned around and made his way towards Willow's house. He felt the urge to speak with her once more. Her gentle demeanor and genuineness had imperceptibly lightened his soul during their talk. Last night's talk had proven worthwhile, though awkward at times. After having been a social creature for a couple of years now, he found that he craved human companionship. Willow was the only person he could speak to in the whole world and she was an engaging companion.
He pecked on her glass once more. She looked up and saw him, her eyes grew warm and a smile creeped into her expression. Angel tilted his head to the side, charmed by the change in her features, the light in those snapping green eyes. Then the light went out. She remembered he wasn't Angelus. Wasn't her demon lover. Angel suddenly had a desperate urge to see her light up when she saw him, not his demonic other half. Madness. "Can I come in, Willow?"
"Please do." She said, walking over to the door.
He let himself in and then walked over to where she had been typing on the computer. She quickly closed out the screen she had been looking at. "What's that?"
"Nothing." She said immediately. Then she flushed. "Something for school, no big deal." She took a sip from her water bottle. "What brings you here?"
"Do I need a reason?"
"No, I guess not." She smiled at him tentatively.
"Are you allowed to have boys in your room now?"
She laughed. "It's nice to see you, Angel."
"It's nice to see you too, Willow." He sat on the edge of her bed. "Why didn't we do this more often before. . .?"
"Yeah, before." She bit her lip, thinking a moment. It was a typical Willow response. She often mulled over what she was about to say, chose her words carefully. "I don't know why we didn't. Maybe we just lived in different worlds."
He looked miserable again. "I used to be with Buffy."
"Yeah, that was probably it."
"She hasn't even talked to me since the night I came back. Hasn't even come by."
"Have you gone to see her?"
She rolled her eyes. Men. "She's probably wanting to follow your lead on this."
"Should I go see her?"
"Uh, I'm thinking yes. You can't avoid this any longer, Angel."
"I can't be her friend. Just her friend."
"You can and you will." She said sharply. Dammit, I brought him back to be with her and he will! "I brought you back so that you two could–" She turned away, fighting back a sob.
"You have that kind of power?" He stared at her. "You're not even a gypsy."
"I'm a witch." She lifted her chin. "Or I will be, after I study for a while. What's the matter? Surprised little predictable Willow could defeat Angelus." She smiled bitterly. "Wasn't as hard as you would think."
Hmmm. . .a backbone of steel in this otherwise gentle young woman. He filed that bit of information away, while searching for a way to change the subject to something less emotional. "Can I help you with your school project?" He said, pointing to the screen.
She blushed that adorable shade of red again. "No. I don't need a tutor."
"You let Angelus help you with a project." Did he just sound like a jealous beau?
"You're not Angelus." Willow said, raising her eyebrows.
"So you keep telling me."
"Come on, Angel. Don't be that way." Willow soothed. "Tell you what, why don't we get some coffee? Or can you--"
"I can, I like coffee actually."
"The Expresso Pump it is." She saved the file, before he could read do more than the title over her shoulder. A Demon's Touch? Must be a horror novel.
"That's one tall mocha and one grande French roast, please." Angel said to the cashier. Willow automatically pulled out her wallet from her coat but the vampire shook his head. "My treat."
She smiled. "Thanks." The man brought over their drinks and they took a corner booth. Angel looked at the other customers surreptitiously. Large groups of people always upset him. People in general did that, too. Willow was happily sipping her mocha, enjoying the fusion of fine coffee and sweet chocolate. Angel watched her curiously. Humans were so hung up on food, he'd really forgotten what that felt like. It was such a simple pleasure, one of many he had unwittingly forfeited to become a vampire. Food hadn't tasted the same since he'd become a creature of the night, his taste buds preferred liquid fare now. "Taste good?"
"Really good." She smiled. "Oz brought me one from her the other morning. chocolate chip muffins too."
"Oz, yes. I noticed that two of you are close."
Still engrossed in her mocha, Willow didn't bother to look up before she answered him. "Uh-huh, I guess so. We're friends."
Angel's nostrils flared and his eyes glittered. "And how friendly have you two been?"
Willow's mouth fell open at his tone. "That is none of your business, is it?"
"If you say so. " His lips seamed into a thin line, they were white around the edges. "Just let me. . .he's not good enough for you, Willow. You deserve better."
She gave an unladylike snort. "Like who?"
Like me. Where the hell did that come from? Angelus abruptly stood. "I have to go." He reached into his pocket and withdrew a handful of coins that he spread on the table. In a matter of seconds he was out the door.
"Was it something I said?" Willow said, staring at the empty place across from her.
"Angel?" The vampire whirled to see Buffy standing by the hearth. She had her arms wrapped around her body.
"Buffy, hello." He faltered for a moment. "Are you cold?"
"Yes." She shivered slightly. "I was just stopping by to . . . I was on patrol . . .I was about to le–"
"Buffy, you don't have to make excuses." He burrowed his hands into his coat pocket and turned to face the empty hearth. A chill wind stirred the ashes.
"I wasn't." A thought occurred to her. "Where were you?"
"I just stepped out for a minute." He shrugged, trying to appear casual.
"Try an hour." He started to protest. "Angel, don't lie to me." She looked at him in disbelief. "I've been here for a good hour."
"I–I was with Willow." A voice in his head chuckled, unnerving him. In more ways than one. "I just wanted to thank her, for bringing me back."
Buffy waited for the surge of jealousy. None came. "Oh. How was she?"
"Good." His eyes darkened as he thought of her pleased tone of voice when she mentioned Oz. "I guess."
"Angel? Are you ok?" She stepped toward him, placing a hand on his arm. He looked at her upturned face. Buffy. The Slayer. The love of his life. He laughed inwardly. He hadn't felt anything besides pain and anger since he had gotten back. His soul remembered feeling normal in her presence . . .happy. Willow's words came back to him. I brought you back so you two could– Maybe he should try to find what he had before. Maybe his conflicting emotions toward Willow were the last traces of Angelus's influence and it would all soon be gone.
He cupped Buffy's face with his hand. "Buffy." He muttered low in his throat. Her eyes were filling up with tears. "Don't cry, my love."
"Angel, I just . . ." She shook her head helplessly. A part of her wanted to touch him, hold him, hide from the pain in his arms. Another part of her saw image after image of what he had done. . .what he could do if they touched again. A moment of blind passion.
He lowered his head to brush his lips with hers. It felt like kissing a steel statue. Cold. Immobile. Frozen. His mind flashed with images of Willow, her heat, her passion, her fire, her magick. He deepened the kiss, trying to block Willow from his mind, trying to find Buffy, his savior, his warrior for good, his purpose for existing, in his heart. She just wasn't there anymore. He would still fight on her side. His purpose was to atone for his misdeeds, and now he had more than ever. But whatever spark that had been there had died out. The embers as cold as the hearth they stood in front of.
Buffy tried to enjoy his kiss. Tried to rejoice in the return of her lover, in the sanctuary of his embrace. But her watcher's broken hearted face kept replaying in her mind. She saw Jenny's twisted body. Xander full of unexpressed anger. The quiet hurt in Willow's subdues visage. She saw Angelus laughing as he fought her on a dark street. She saw everyone but the Angel she had loved.
They sprang apart at the same time, their looks mirroring each other, full of regret, pain and hurt. They knew, without speaking that it was over. They could fight side by side, they could be friends, but they would never again be lovers. And the scariest part, for both of them, was that it didn't seem to matter as much as it should have. But they realized that some things couldn't be undone.
Angel's hand dropped from her cheek. "Buffy, I'm sorry."
"Me, too." She looked down. She needed to get out of here. "Look, I have to finish patrol."
Angel nodded, feeling defeated, yet relieved that she was leaving at the same time. "Yeah, you should go."
She leaned up and pressed her closed mouth to his. "I'll see you around." He nodded in agreement and watched as she strode quickly outside, to do what it was that a slayer did. Kill demons. He stood, wrestling with his own inner version. She never looked back.
Moonlight filtered through the flimsy curtain, it bathed her in an ethereal glow. She sighed in her sleep, clinging to her pillow. Angel sat down at her side, the bed dipped under his weight. She was the only thing he had left in this world. A small young woman who had restored his humanity. His new savior. Rescuing him from an eternity in God knows where demons end up when they become ashes. "Thank you, little one. Good night." He ran his hand over her sleek red hair and pressed a kiss to unlined brow. Angel walked to the door and let himself out.
"Good night, Angelus." Willow mumbled, still in the dreamworld.