Characters: Angel and Willow
Spoilers: My own Devil’s Truth series. None for the show.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Angel, Willow, or any of Joss Whedon’s other creations. They belong to Joss himself, Fox, UPN, and the WB. Don’t worry, Joss, I’m not out to steal what’s yours. Not in the condition you left them in.
Summary: Angel discovers Willow’s new orientation.
Notes: This story is set between the end of Devil’s Truth and the beginning of Face to Face. If things work out, it will be first in the Venial Sins series, a series of stories set in the Devil’s Truth universe.
Angel groaned as he was awakened by a gentle but insistent shaking. He had not slept well, or nearly long enough. If there was any one member of the Sunnydale contingent whose home was uniquely unsuited to hosting a mass sleepover, it was Giles. Nonetheless, that was where they had all crashed. After their experience with Belial, nobody wanted to be alone. Not even long enough to go home and catch a nap.
Well, Spike might have been willing to go back to his crypt and leave the rest of them to their own devices, but he’d been trapped by the sun.
The sun. That had led to an uncomfortable compromise. The only room in Giles’ house that had no windows was the bathroom. So it was that after a brief, growling dispute, Angel had ended up sleeping in the bathtub, while Spike got the bathmat.
Angel couldn’t help but wonder if he’d made the wrong choice. At least Spike could stretch out where he was.
Oh, well. It wasn’t as if it was the first time he’d slept on something cold and hard. But his wounds were still just barely healed, and this definitely didn’t help. He groaned again as he shifted his aching limbs.
"Angel," A voice said softly.
Willow. So they didn’t want to send Buffy, eh? Or Buffy didn’t want to come.
"Angel, wake up. We’re getting ready to go."
Angel groaned one last time as he rolled over toward her.
"Angel, please. It’s almost noon and we don’t think we can wait any longer. Besides, it’s kind of a long trip, and we really need to pee before we go."
Angel’s eyes slowly pried open to see Willow’s worried and somewhat strained face. Apparently she herself was included in that final ‘we’.
"Uh? Uh…okay, okay. ‘mup. I’m awake." He sat up and looked around blearily, noticing that Spike was already gone. Then he started to gather himself to stand, but he paused as he came fully awake and her smell washed over him: morning breath, redolent of last night’s garlic-laden supper; the last remnants of flowers and fruit (damn weird modern soaps) and baby powder from her hair and skin; lemony-freshness from her clothes. All of it overplated with the stale salt and ammonia of hours-dry sweat, all of it built on the foundation of the essential Willow-smell—as unique as her face or fingerprint—which a visually- and aurally-oriented human language had no words for.
And something else. Something that left him blinking in amazement.
Willow was already turning away, saying "Oh, good. I’ll just tell—" when Angel caught her attention by saying:
"I guess things have changed a little since I’ve been gone."
Willow stopped and turned back to him, her face apprehensive. "Well, yeah. You don’t mean…I thought you…didn’t you…you knew about Riley, didn’t you?" Then a memory visibly hit her and she answered her own question: "Yes, you did! You came back at Thanksgiving, and then—" she scowled. "Buffy told me about what you said when you—"
Angel shook his head and waved the scolding away. "I did know about Riley. I didn’t know about…what’s her name?"
Willow blushed. If he’d had skin—not to mention a poker face—like hers, he would have gotten whipped twice as often as he had when he was a boy. "Her name is Tara—Tara Maclay, " she said with deliberate innocence. "What about her?"
"Her smell is all over you," he answered as he lurched to his feet. He mentally winced and smacked himself in the head as the words left his mouth. The last thing he wanted to do was back her into a corner. But between being half-asleep and completely stunned, it was no wonder he was stumbling all over.
Willow blushed deeper, and Angel suddenly understood why she was such an obedient child. She couldn’t get away with anything. "She’s my roommate," she said, her innocence strained. "I’m sure her smell is all over the room."
Angel shook his head. He’d changed his mind about backing Willow into a corner. He didn’t want her thinking she had to hide something like this from him—nor, as the alpha-male that he kept buried deep for the safety of the humans around him whispered, did he want her to think that it would be that easy.
"You never smelled as much like Oz as you smell like her."
Willow’s face had gone past matching her hair to a shade of purple that actually clashed with it. Wringing her hands nervously, she began her answer: "Well…uh, I guess that’s true, you haven’t been to visit much. And when you have, you’ve been…" She caught herself. "Hey, wait a second!" The blush drained from her face, replaced by a scowl that made Angel want to burst into a wide grin and cower back into the tub at the same time. She pointed an accusing finger at him and began to scold again: "That’s rude—smelling people like that! It’s sticking your nose in other people’s business—" She paused and crossed her arms over her chest defensively. "—in a…disturbingly literal way! You should keep—"
"Willow, I’m a vampire and you’re two feet away from me."
Willow stopped mid-rant, blushing again. "Oh. Right. Well…" She took a deep breath. "You’re right. As it turns out…I’m…kinda gay." She paused, then looked up at him, her Resolve Face firmly set: "And Tara’s the one who helped me figure that out."
Angel smiled gently. That was better. "Does she make you happy?"
Willow looked startled for a moment, then smiled as her eyes went distant. "Very," she said. Then she sighed in relief. "I’m so glad you’re taking it like this," she said, returning her attention to him. "I was so afraid you would…" She started blushing again, perhaps realizing that she wasn’t exactly paying him a compliment. "Well, I don’t mean to…it’s just…you’re so old."
Angel patted her on the shoulder. "Old enough to know how precious any kind of love is," he said. "Besides," he added as he tightened his grip on her shoulder for support as he stepped out of the tub. "Now that I think about it, this doesn’t come as a complete surprise to me."
"Nope. Remember when your double came over from Anya’s alternate universe?"
"I thought you said that the vampire had nothing to do with the person."
"I lied. Becoming a vampire means you lose your soul—which changes a lot, but not something like this. If she was kinda gay…"
"Then so am I," Willow sighed. "I guess you knew even before I did, then."
Angel shrugged. "I didn’t really think anything of it. Why would I? My parents would have been absolutely overjoyed if I had settled down with a nice Irish girl."
Willow laughed, and Angel suddenly realized how much he’d missed that silver-bell tinkle of a laugh in the time he’d been away. Then, to his shock, she threw his arms around him. He held in his grunt of pain and returned the hug as best he could.
"Oh, I’m so glad you feel that way," she burbled. "Since I’ve known you, you’ve always been kinda like I’d always imagined a big brother would be like—except, you know, when you were evil—and it would’ve just broken my heart if you hadn’t…"
Angel lost the thread of her speech as he was distracted by the stinging in his eyes and the lump in his throat. "I’ve been a big brother before," he said softly, interrupting her monologue. "I hope I do a better job this time."
Willow fell silent and smiled up at him, then laid her head against his chest. Angel hugged her tighter, and for a moment, he did feel like a big brother again.
Then a pounding at the door sounded the reality alarm. "Whatever’s going on in there, wrap it up!" Faith bellowed from the other side. "My back teeth are floating!"
The hug broke apart like a snapping rubber band. "Uh, right," Angel said. "Right. I’ll let you, uh…take care of things, and I’ll say you had trouble waking me up."
"Right," Willow said. "Thanks. If they knew we were having a Moment while they were in the bathroom line, we might get lynched."
Angel started for the door, but Willow stopped him one last time. "Angel?"
"That thing, about how much we smell alike—did you mean that, or were you bluffing? I mean, we are roommates. Couldn’t that…?"
Angel shook his head. "That wouldn’t do it. Buffy and her mother smell as much alike as you two do, but, well, they’re mother and daughter. Besides, they lived in the same house, ate the same food, and washed with the same soap for Buffy’s whole life. The only way two people can smell that much alike that quickly is frequent, very intimate contact." He spoke the last sentence with college-lecture seriousness, but it made him feel like a big brother teasing his baby sister all over again, for the first time in two hundred years.
"Oh," Willow said in a tiny, embarrassed voice. "That means every vampire, and most demons, know when two people are, you know…"
Angel nodded, his face an innocent, earnest mask that barely hid the smirk beneath.
Willow was blushing fiercely again as Angel shut the door behind him.