Author: kallie_kat (a.k.a. KallieRose or just plain Kat)
Summary: Set vaguely in late S1 or early S2, before Buffy and Angel have declared themselves "soulmates," although they're definitely interested in each other.
Disclaimer: I own none of the characters and claim no responsibility for anything other than this story, from which no profit is made.
Author's Notes: Although I am posting this for joss10k, this story is dedicated to Lisa Kelley. Thank you so much for all of your help, beta work, and most of all, your friendship. I hope you like this. Thanks also to dragonydreams for the beta (and all the other stuff, too!).
If you want to refresh your memories, you'll find the rest of the story here.
“You’ve got to be kidding. We discussed this, Willow. You agreed—we all agreed—that this was absolutely NOT going to happen. Are you on drugs or something?” Surprisingly, Xander was the first to shake off his shock and come up with something to say. And, as usual, he forgot to think through what he said before he said it.
Fortunately for him, Willow wasn’t going to take offense at his language, zeroing in, instead, on the fear in his voice. Fear for her continued well-being, she reminded herself.
Giles and Jenny had left Giles’ office and were standing just outside the doorway, their faces twin pictures of concern. “Willow, I assure you, we can find an answer to this problem without having you meet with Angelus. We just need a little more time.” Both adults nodded in an attempt reassure her.
Willow felt doubts assail her, but one look at the brief flash of hope on Buffy’s face was enough to spur her onward. “Giles, I know we’d come up with the answer eventually. But Buffy shouldn’t have to wait. She’s getting hurt. And I...I can help.”
She found help from a surprising source. Although, considering his feelings for Buffy, maybe it really shouldn’t have been such a surprise.
“I think maybe Willow is right,” Angel said cautiously. At the raised eyebrows he received, he added, “Hell, I’m not happy with the idea, but if we do this right, Willow will not be in any danger. And maybe we can get some answers.”
Buffy shook her head and jumped to her feet. “No way! I’m not budging on this, Willow.” Seeing that Willow looked just as resolute as ever, she softened her voice in an attempt to appeal to her. “Why did you change your mind? We can do this on our own—you know we can! There’s no reason to have to go to *him* for information. And could we even trust what he told us? Maybe he just sees an opportunity and wants to take it, without any intention of telling us the truth.”
Willow had to admit that Buffy brought up a good point. There was no way to tell if Angelus was going to be honest with them or not. He might very well lead them down a primrose path that could be their undoing. But at this point they were running short on options, and Willow didn’t feel like she could stand by and do nothing anymore.
“I’m going to do this, Buffy,” she said softly, the words sounding even quieter in the large room. “You can help me do it safely, or I can do it on my own. But I am going to do it. I have to do it.”
Her friend gave a sigh of frustration, and then sat back down at the table. “Sometimes I hate that I dragged you and Xander into this,” she muttered.
Willow’s eyes opened wide and she ran to her friend, pulling her to her feet and hugging her fiercely. “If it weren’t for you, Buffy, we’d be dead. I can’t prove it, but I know it in my heart. So don’t *ever* feel like that. Ever!”
“It’s just not fair. You guys should be doing normal high school things, not having to worry about the world ending. That’s my job.”
“It’s not fair that it’s *your* job, either, Buffy. But,” she added quickly, before Giles could break in with another of his ‘life isn’t fair’ speeches, “I guess we have to deal with life the way it is, and not the way we want it to be, huh?”
“Yeah,” a masculine voice agreed, and she knew Xander was beginning to understand her decision.
“Okay,” Willow said, more than a little relieved, “so, let’s figure out how we’re going to set this meeting up, shall we?”
Willow sat in a booth at the Espresso Pump, nervously toying with her tall decaf mocha with a shot of caramel. This had seemed like an ideal place for a meeting back when Buffy had suggested it, but she couldn’t help but feel incredibly nervous.
A glance to the left put Buffy clearly in view, a reassuring smile plastered on her face. And if she looked to the right, she knew that she’d see Giles and Xander sitting at a table, pretending—badly—to play chess. Jenny and Angel were around as well, hidden but ready to help, and she reminded herself that there was absolutely no way that Angelus could get away with anything she didn’t want him doing.
She just hoped Angelus realized that, as well.
They had relayed their conditions for the meeting to Angelus by way of Willie, who seemed less than thrilled to be the go-between for the Slayer and the new Master in town. But word had been sent, and an acceptance received, so all that was left to do now was wait.
Willow was nervous enough as it was, but the fact that it was now two minutes past the designated meeting time and she was still sitting alone was just making things worse.
“Miss me?” Angelus asked, as he slid into the booth next to her. Her head whipped around at the sound of his voice, and she swore she could hear her heart pounding in her ears.
She had placed her purse on the seat next to her as an obvious obstacle, but Angelus merely picked it up and moved it to the other side of the booth and then slid even closer to her. “I—you—you need to be—over there.” She pointed to the seat across from her, looking up at him with large, nervous eyes.
Angelus stretched his legs out in front of him and dropped his arm around her shoulders, making it clear that he was perfectly happy where he was. “I like the view from here better.”
She tried to wiggle away from him, but he just followed her, his thigh pressed against hers, his arm pulling her closer. “Relax, Willow. All your little friends are giving me dirty looks. We wouldn’t want them jumping to conclusions and putting a stop to this little meeting before I had a chance to give you any useful information, would we?”
His tone was teasing, and oh-so-reasonable, and suddenly Willow felt like she was making a big deal out of nothing, so she did her best to calm down. She was here for a reason, after all. This was a fact-finding mission.
“Okay, so how did you and—and your childe—get here?” She couldn’t call his childe by his real name. Xander was her friend; she could not use that name to describe some Angelus wanna-be.
He laughed softly, his hand reaching up to run lightly along her cheek. “You’re all business now, aren’t you?” His fingers tangled in her hair, finger-combing the locks as they tumbled down past her shoulders. “Such beautiful hair. Full of fire and passion. Just like you.”
She shivered at the words, trying to ignore them—and him—but with little luck. The touch of his hand, the feel of his fingers in her hair, made her body tremble, and sent sparks of desire flaring to life. She tried to remain cold and sensible, but it was difficult to do when even the sound of his voice made her stomach do summersaults.
Distraction. She needed to get him thinking about something else. Something besides trying to seduce her. “But you don’t really know me. Do you? You may have—” she couldn’t bring herself to say the word aloud, “fucked me,” she whispered. “And now you think you know me. But all you see is what you want to see. You don’t know the first thing about me.”
A glare accompanied her words, but it seemed to bounce right off Angelus’ armor. The touch of wistfulness in her voice was not lost on him, however. “Then why don’t you teach me? I’ve been told I’m a very quick study. And the subject is one that I’m sure will require hours of in-depth investigation, even for someone with my...prowess.”
Even when she tried to change the subject, he managed to change it right back to the one thing she didn’t want to talk about: them. “That’s not why we’re here,” she hissed, annoyed by the fact that he was getting to her, despite her best intentions to remain aloof. “Now, are you going to tell me how you got here, or are you just going to keep wasting my time?”
She thought she saw a flash of annoyance cross his face, but it might have been a trick of the light, because when she blinked, he wore a bland smile. “Absolutely. That’s why we’re here, after all. You might want to take some notes, though. I’d hate to have to repeat myself.”
Willow smiled. “I’m wired for sound. No need for notes.” In fact, she had wanted to take notes too, but Giles had deemed it unnecessary. Jenny pointed out that if her concentration was on putting words to paper, then it was off of Angelus. And that distraction could prove dangerous.
Angelus brushed aside the collar of her blouse, ostensibly looking for wires. But the way that his fingers trailed across her skin felt more like a caress than a clinical search.
“Watch it, buster!” she exclaimed, swatting his hand away. “Keep your hands to yourself!”
He smiled, as if indulging a child. “Just checking for myself. Only a recorder, no transmitter,” he murmured, and she wondered if he was looking for ways to use that information to his own advantage.
Her gaze followed his hands as he laid them both on the table in front of him. “So, how did you get here?”
“You’ve got a one-track mind, don’t you?” he asked, sighing dramatically. At her glare, he relented. “Fine, fine, I’ll tell you the story. Are you happy?”
“I will be, when you actually tell me something,” she replied tartly.
“Fine. Well, it all started because Xander had to bring home a stray.”
He hesitated for a moment, trying to figure out how he wanted to spin this. “A human. Well, sort of. Do you know what a vengeance demon is?”
She shook her head. “Demon of some sort?”
He snorted. “Good guess. Yeah, they’re demons. They grant wishes.”
Willow raised her eyebrows at the abbreviated description. It seemed to her that there was probably more involved than just that. Maybe it was the fact that the word ‘vengeance’ was included in their name. “What kind of wishes?”
“Not good ones.” He frowned, his eyes almost black in the dim lighting in the corner of the café. His voice was quiet, and she leaned in closer, hanging on his every word. “There’s always a twist. You think you’re getting what you want, but somehow it usually comes back to haunt you.”
“Kind of like the woman who wants to be able to eat anything she wants without gaining weight, only to find that everything tastes like ashes?”
Angelus nodded. “Exactly. Vengeance demons specialize in that sort of thing. So, anyway, Xander brought one home. She was pretty badly hurt.” He decided not to mention that the reason she had been hurt was because he and Xander had hurt her. Telling that version of the truth wouldn’t help him reach his objective.
“So, you took her in, out of the goodness of your heart?” Willow asked, trying to keep the skepticism in her voice to a minimum.
“Something like that,” he agreed smoothly. “She told us she was a vengeance demon, only she had lost what she called her power center. Without that, she was as human as you. She offered us all sorts of things if we’d help her get it back. But then she died before we could help her.”
Willow suspected that there were more than a few holes in Angelus’ story, but the fact that a vengeance demon had been involved was valuable information. It gave them a definite place to narrow the focus of their search, and that fact made her almost giddy with excitement.
“A bright light blinded me, and I must’ve passed out. The next thing I knew,” Angelus continued, “I was standing in a street, not too far from here.”
“Where, exactly?” she asked, her eyes alight with curiosity.
“Just a couple blocks from here. Let’s go. I’ll show you,” he promised, holding out his hand.
Willow was halfway to agreeing to go with him before she thoroughly thought the idea through. “Uh, no thank you,” she said, shrinking away from him again. “Could you just, maybe, give me the street names?”
He chuckled, the grin he gave her making her face flush. “Don’t trust me, do you?”
“Maybe not,” he conceded. “But I’m willing to help you, so shouldn’t that earn me a little of your trust?”
“All you’ve done so far is feed me a story with more holes than a piece of swiss cheese,” she retorted, but she grinned when she said it, as if she thought she had scored a point against him.
He grinned right back at her. “I’d never lie to you, Willow.” The insincerity was obvious, but then again, she thought maybe he meant it to be.
“I’m sure you’d never tell me anything but the god’s honest truth,” she agreed. “Angel assures me that you’d never lie to me—or any of us.”
The smile slid from his face at the mention of Angel’s name, but it was quickly replaced by something a bit more predatory. “I’ll make you a deal,” he told her, leaning in close and whispering in her ear. “I have something more I could tell you, but it’ll cost you something.”
“More? More like what? And what do I have to do to get it?” Her heart began beating double-time again; he was deviating from the carefully choreographed evening she had expected, and it was making her more than a little nervous. Surreptitiously, she wiped her hands on her pants and peered up at him through ginger-colored lashes.
“I promise you, you’ll enjoy it. Possibly,” he added silkily, “a bit more than you’d like.”
“What is it?” she asked softly, her lips trembling slightly in anticipation.
“A kiss,” he whispered. “You give me a kiss—a real one, mind you—and I’ll tell you how to defeat the demon your Slayer has been having problems with.”
End of Chapter 11