Willow entered the library with a smile on her face. It had been a wonderful weekend and she was the happiest she had been in weeks. After their lunch together, she and Cordelia had decided to get know each other. It had been so much fun. They had spent all day Saturday shopping, of all things. She had enjoyed it though. Delia had bought clothes and she had bought some new books and a couple of new programs for her computer. Being with Cordelia was far better than she ever would have imagined. Underneath it all, they actually had quite a bit in common. Of course, they had still had their differences. Just enough to makes things a bit interesting.

She sat down at the table, realizing that she was the first one there. Like that was unusual lately. She'd probably be the only one there. She let herself drift back over the weekend, remembering every detail. It was so silly, she decided. It had just been two days. Two days with someone she had considered her greatest enemy until Friday. Two of the most exhilarating days she had ever spent. She could easily find herself falling in love with Cordelia Chase before she knew it. Hell, she was already half in love with her. They had spent Sunday at the Chase mansion, watching old movies and just talking. Willow had heard things from Cordelia that she knew the cheerleader had never told anyone. She had found herself telling the other girl her own secrets and dreams before she had even realized it. If anyone had told her she'd count Cordy as a friend, much less a potential love interest, she knew she would have thought they were nuts. Yet, with Delia, it seemed so right somehow. Like the animosity that had been between them had been to conceal this spark that existed. Remembering the soft feel of Cordelia's lips on hers before she had left the girl's car the previous night, Willow moved slightly in the chair. A definite spark.

"Yo, Will. What's up?" Xander asked as he and Amy entered the library. "Where were you this weekend?"

She looked at them and smiled, "Hi Xan. Amy. This weekend? You called?"

"Yeah," he sat down and opened the box of doughnuts, "I needed some help with chemistry, but you weren't there."

"Oh," she said softly, sighing. Of course. He hadn't want to just talk to her. He'd needed something. Somehow that didn't surprise her. As much as she hated it, she and Xander were drifting apart and had been almost since Jesse had died.

"So, did you have a good weekend?" Amy asked as she playfully wrestled Xander for the only chocolate doughnut.

"It was great," Willow said, smiling slightly.

"What was great?" Buffy asked as she wandered in. She smiled as she leaned over and pulled the chocolate doughnut from Xander's hand. Winking at Amy and Xander, she said, "Pays to have slayer speed."

"Not fair!" Xander said, laughing. "That was the only chocolate one."

Buffy shrugged, "Oh well. There are eleven more to choose from."

"There are still a couple of jellies," Amy pointed out, taking a simply glaze for herself. "Want one, Will?"

"No thanks," Willow said, "I got breakfast this morning."

"You did?" Xander asked, frowning. "So that's where you were."

"Where I was?" she asked.

"I waited for you this morning at the corner. Thought we were walking to school together," Xander said, taking a bite.

"Sorry. I figured since we didn't all last week, that we weren't this year," she said, watching him grin sheepishly.

"That was just the first week of school, Willow. We always walk together," he reminded her.

"I got a ride," she said, shrugging. "In fact, I have a lift to school indefinitely so I don't figure I'll be walking for awhile."

"A lift? Who do you know that has a car?" Buffy asked, licking the chocolate from her fingers. She had stayed quiet during the conversation, feeling slightly guilty that she had been getting a lift from her Mom rather than meeting them to walk as they had done the previous year.

"Yeah," Xander echoed. "And can they give me a lift too? I so hate walking."

Willow laughed, "I'm not sure if you'd want to ride with her. Her driving is a bit dangerous."

"I heard that Willow Rosenberg!" Cordelia said, having walked into the library shortly before. She had been curious to see what Willow would say to answer Buffy's question. She smiled at the redhead, having just left her not thirty minutes before but feeling like it had been an eternity. She saw Willow's eyes light up and felt positively giddy knowing that she had caused that reaction. Willow liked her. Really liked her. The secret private her that no one really knew. It was fantastic. That acceptance just made her love Willow all the more. Like, Cordelia. Not love. Just like. This is all new to both of you and you'd better remember that before you fuck up the best thing that ever happened to you.

"Oh hush, Delia. You know you're an awful driver," Willow said, deciding not to overanalyze the feelings that rushed through her at seeing Cordelia. It was better to take it slow and see what happened.

"You ready?" Cordelia asked, raising an eyebrow at the pretty redhead. "You notice that I am pointedly ignoring that driving comment?"

"Just cause you know it's true," Willow teased, standing as she gathered her stuff.

"Argh!" Cordelia groaned, laughing as she rolled her eyes. "Why are we friends again?"

"Cause I'm so irresistible you have to love me?" Willow asked, smiling as she moved to join the cheerleader.

"Hmm...that must be it," Cordelia said, glancing at Buffy and the others who were watching with confused statements. "Hello gang. Excuse me if I don't sit. I'd say I'm sorry for not staying, but I'm not." She looked back at Willow who was doing her best not to laugh at her blatant honesty. "What? Should I lie and say that I'm happy to see them?"

"No. That would be the nice thing to do," Willow said, pulling her backpack on her shoulder. "And we know that you're rarely nice."

"Thank you!" Cordelia said, beaming. "Come on Red. Let's blow this joint."

"Where are we going again?" Willow asked as they started for the door. She had been so excited to see Cordelia that she hadn't even asked.

"Anywhere that Harmony is not," Cordelia said, shuddering. "I so am not in the mood for that bitch today."

"We should have just stayed here then," Willow said, laughing.

"Nah...too smelly," Cordelia said. "Somewhere quiet, though. I have to finish my journal entry for English."

"I know....we can go hang in the computer lab. Jenny always lets me in early," Willow said, pushing the library doors open. She and Cordelia left the library, deciding that they'd crash in the lab until school started.

"Did I miss something?" Buffy asked, slightly stunned by what had just happened.

"She didn't even say goodbye," Xander muttered, looking at Amy and Buffy. "And since when did they become friends? I mean, just last week Cordelia was belittling Wills in Chemistry. Now they're bosom buddies?"

"Maybe it's a project?" Amy said, confused herself. For as long as she had known them, Cordelia Chase and Willow Rosenberg had been enemies. True, Willow had never done anything to provoke the girl or really fight back, but it was one of the known truths in school. They did not get along. "Homework help or something?"

"Yeah," Buffy nodded, feeling slightly jealous of the easy friendship that had seemed to exist between the girls. She and Willow hadn't really had a chance to do much talking since she had gotten back from LA. Maybe she'd see if her best friend wanted to get together for a girl's night in or a movie or something. "It has to be something like that. I mean, Willow hates Cordelia and Cordy hates Willow. There has to be some assignment or something."

"That must be it," Xander agreed. Satisfied that all had been explained, he took another doughnut before chatting with Buffy and Amy about their night out at the Bronze Friday.

**********************************************************************************************************************************

Willow smiled at Cordelia across the floor of the Bronze. They had spent every day together since the weekend before, meeting in the morning at her house, hanging out at lunch whenever possible and then doing homework and watching movies after school until it was time to go to bed. It was nice, just being with someone that seemed to want to be with her. Cordy had been neglecting her other friends, though, just as Willow had been. They had decided to take a break for a night, spending Friday night with their respective social groups. Willow was bored out of her mind. She missed the shared jokes with Cordelia that only the two of them seemed to understand. She couldn't explain how they had clicked so well in such a short time. She just knew it was nice, dating someone, even if no one knew they were dating.

Both girls had decided after a long talk that it would be better to keep their growing involvement to themselves, at least until they were sure there was actually something between them. Willow knew that there was, catching Cordy's eyes on her again as she glanced up. She didn't know how her friends could miss it, miss this attraction that seemed to consume her whenever she was around her former enemy. Not even two weeks before, Willow had been cursing the popular girl with everything nasty word she knew. Now, she could only think about what her lips tasted like. She knew that was weird, but she also had to admit that she had felt similar thoughts before. She was just good at ignoring them. She had never believed Cordelia could ever feel the same, so it was easier to forget any slight squidgy feelings. But, now, seeing the desire in Cordelia's eyes as they watched movies or just sat outside talking, she knew they had both been putting off the inevitable. They wanted each other. Not only that, they liked each other. She didn't know it was love, having never really experienced that elusive emotion, her crush on Xander being the only brush she had had. But, it felt like it could be love.

She listened to Xander tell the group about his adventures in gym class, the knee he had skinned and the way the coach had annoyed him. She rolled her eyes as he went into Coach Morrie's voice, catching it exactly. She had missed her friends, but now she missed Cordelia. If it was really love, she knew they would need to tell people soon. She couldn't continue to hide something this big from the people she cared about. She knew how Cordelia's friends would react. She was in fact a bit worried how people in school would treat them if it became public knowledge. But, in a way, she didn't care. What should it matter the sex of who they loved if it was the person they were in love with? She personally didn't see what was so important about girls dating boys, boys dating girls. You should love the inside, not the outside. But, she wasn't stupid. People in this town were small-minded, Harmony leading the pack. That was why they both had to be sure that whatever was between them was worth the risk. It would be complete upheaval for both their lives. If she continued feeling like this about Cordy, she knew it would be worth it to her. She found her eyes drifting back to Cordelia's table where she was leading a discussing with Harmony and the others. She was frowning, and she didn't look happy. She glanced over at Willow, her frown fading as she smiled softly.

"Oh, eew," Buffy whispered, drawing Willow's attention away from Cordelia.

"Huh?" Willow frowned, looking at her friend. "What's gross?"

"Look over there," Buffy said, "Don't look."

"You just told me to look," Willow said, laughing softly.

"I think those two girls are together," Buffy said, making a face. "Good God, they're holding hands."

"What?" Willow said, her face whitening as she glanced behind her. She saw two girls, both very pretty, sitting at a table alone. "Why do you think they're together?"

"Duh, Will. They're looking into each other's eyes and holding hands," the slayer said, shuddering. "They need to just quit that. I mean, how disgusting? To make kissy faces out in public like that."

"Two women kissing?" Xander asked suddenly, turning to look at the girls. "They are not!"

"Who cares if they are?" Amy asked, not looking at the girls in questions.

"Because, it's just gross. It's just not normal," Buffy said.

"Not normal?" Willow repeated softly, her eyes looking at the table.

"Yeah, I mean why would two hot babes like that want each other when there are so many good guys out here?" Xander asked, adding, "Not that I wouldn't want to watch them."

"You're awful," Amy said, rolling her eyes. "Buffy, quit looking at them."

"What? I just want to see if they are dykes," Buffy said.

"I need to get home," Willow said, getting to her feet. She was getting upset, thinking it was rather ironic that she'd just been thinking of telling her friends that she was falling in love with Cordelia and found herself faced with their obvious distaste at such a relationship. If they knew about her, would they still be so close-minded or would they try to accept her? Did she want to even take the risk of losing them if they knew the truth? She was just so confused, so much happening the past week.

"Already? It's early," Xander said, glancing at his watch.

"I'll walk you home," Buffy said, starting to get to her feet.

"NO!" Willow said, looking up, her eyes wide. "No thanks, Buffy. I need some air. I'm not feeling very well. I'll call you tomorrow, ok?"

"Are you sure?" Buffy asked, wondering why Willow seemed so upset suddenly.

"I'm sure," Willow said, giving them a smile. "You guys have fun."

Cordelia noticed Willow getting to her feet, watching as the redhead shook her head and smiled at Buffy and the others. She glanced at Harmony and the girls at her table, wondering how she had ever spent hours with them. They were so boring, talking only about clothes and boys. Nothing like the conversations she had with Willow, talking about future and past and hopes and dreams. She sighed, missing the redhead she had been falling in love with. She continued to listen to Harmony babble, her thoughts on a certain girl and wondering what sort of future they could ever have together.

Willow made it outside without Buffy following her. She let out a deep breath, her mind whirling. She wished she had someone to talk to. If it was someone other than Cordelia, she could talk to any of her friends about these growing feelings. But, none of them could understand. They'd think she was crazy or try to convince her that her feelings weren't normal. Giles would act flustered and be no help at all. And she couldn't really go to Cordelia and discuss these strange feelings. She sighed, deciding she'd just go home and write her thoughts in her journal. Maybe writing them out would help them make sense. She smiled suddenly, knowing exactly what to do.

***********************************************************************************************************************************

Angel took a sip of the blood, setting the mug on the table as he opened his book. He listened to the soft sounds of Mozart and smiled softly, his dark eyes moving across the pages. There was very little he enjoyed more than a good book and Mozart. He read several pages, sipping the blood as he became engrossed in the popular novel. He became aware of a soft knock on his door, surprising him. He shut the book, getting to his feet and sniffing the air. It wasn't Buffy, which was startling. She was the only person who ever visited him, though lately he had hardly seen her. He couldn't protest, knowing that their relationship would never work. She was a slayer and he was a vampire. It was better to stop that mistake before it happened, but he did rather miss the occasional visits. It was the only time he wasn't alone.

He opened the door cautiously, hearing the heartbeat but not recognizing the vaguely familiar scent. His eyes widened slightly before his face went blank. "Willow? Did something happen to Buffy?"

"No," she said, looking at the handsome vampire and feeling the doubts creep into her mind. "This is stupid. I'm sorry I bothered you."

Angel almost smiled at her confused look. He didn't know the redhead very well, having spent very little time with her unless they were patrolling. He had to wonder what would prompt her to come to him. He reached for her before he realized it, touching her upper arm, "Wait. You aren't a bother. Would you like to come in?"

She chewed on her bottom lip, "Are you sure? I mean, I bet you're real busy doing something important. Aren't you?"

"Actually, I was just reading," he said, moving to the side. "Please come in?"

She smiled slightly, "I bet you're wondering why I'm here aren't you?"

He closed the door, his dark eyes looking at the pretty little redhead, "No, I was thinking how nice it was to have company."

She glanced at him, surprise in her eyes, "Really?" She smiled, "I'd never have thought you were lonely."

"You've thought about it before?" he asked, watching her pale skin flush with color. He smiled, watching her in amusement.

"No, of course not," she said hastily, standing beside the couch. She didn't understand why she was there, having somehow found herself at the vampire's apartment instead of her own house. She had barely spoken two-dozen words to the man, yet she was now standing in his living room about to confess something she had barely come to terms with herself.

"Sit Willow," he said, moving to sit in the chair opposite the couch. "I promise I won't buy," he continued, smiling as she again blushed, "unless you want me to."

"What?" she looked at him, laughing softly when she saw the teasing glint in his eyes. "Quit that."

"But it's such fun," he remarked, not knowing exactly why she was there, but finding himself enjoying the visit.

"I have something I need to talk about, and I really need to talk to someone," she began, frowning as she realized how stupid she sounded. "And I was hoping you'd listen and maybe help me."

"What is it?" he asked quietly.

"I wouldn't come to you with this, but I need to talk to someone or I fear I may burst. So much is happening and I can't talk to anyone. I thought you might understand better than anyone else. I've read the watcher diaries and know that you are um well open minded and all that vampire sort of stuff," she took a breath, about to start again.

"Willow," he spoke softly, causing her to look at him. "What is it?"

"I think I'm in love and I'm so confused," she said, frowning.

"And you can't tell anyone except for me?" he asked, slightly confused. Usually her babbling to Buffy or Xander made him smile. Tonight, he was just trying to understand what she was talking about. How did his being a vampire help him understand her being in love? And what did open minds have to do with it?

"No," she said, her tone serious. "You can't tell anyone. Promise me what I tell you will stay between us. Please?"

"I won't talk to anyone," he said, watching her face. He hadn't realized how pretty she was, so innocent. He could sense her purity, being around her tempting his demon.
"The person I love, or think I love," she continued, "is Cordelia."

He raised an eyebrow, trying to keep the surprise off his face, "Cordelia Chase?"

She nodded, sighing as she sank back against the sofa, "You see my dilemma?"

***************************************************************************************************************************************

Willow sat back, looking at Angel with an anxious look in her eyes. "And that's it. I think I might love her. She might love me. And I have no idea what we're supposed to do about it."

"I must say, this is not what I expected," Angel admitted, still trying to rid his mind of the images of Cordelia and Willow from his mind. Since her softly spoken words, and then her entire recounting of the story to him, he had been trying to pay the attention to her that she needed while vivid visions of the two beautiful girls flashed through his mind. His pants had grown tight while he had listened. He could imagine the red hair spread out on a pillow and the dark haired beauty with her face buried between those thighs. This must be part of his torture, he decided. Being trusted enough to hear her secret, yet not able to witness what his mind so desperately wanted to see. He again pushed those thoughts away, knowing that he should not even be thinking them much less wanting them to happen. His demon struggled with his soul, both wanting the same thing for the first time in more years than he could remember. God, he needed to get out more.

"Yeah, well, my life is never quite the norm," she said, making a face. "You know, it feels good to have talked to someone about it. I've been keeping it inside for so long I thought I might go crazy."

"Willow, you can talk to me anytime you want," Angel said softly, pushing any attraction he felt for the girl away as his need for friendship overpowered that lust. "I'm always here for you."

"You know, the one good thing about all this so far is getting to know you better," Willow said, having listened to his own history with William during her talk with him. He had loved his childe, that evident in his voice as eyes when he spoke of the man. "It's nice having a friend that knows what this is like."

"I'm sure that the others will accept it, if it does turn out to be something more than attraction," Angel said.

"I used to think that," Willow said softly, remembering their reaction to those two girls at the Bronze earlier that night. "Now, I don't know. I'm past the point of really caring. I mean, if they care about me, they should accept that I love her. It shouldn't matter if she was a woman or a man. Right?"

"It shouldn't," Angel agreed, "but things in the real world don't always work the right way."

"I know that," Willow said, sighing. "That's one reason I'd rather not tell them until I know for sure. That way, if I lose them, I know it will be worth it."

"If she makes you happy, that in itself will be worth it," Angel said, trying to reassure her but not wanting her to believe it will be all roses. "And you do have me."

"Thanks, Angel," she said, glad that she had the man's friendship to count on. He had been wonderful, accepting what she had said without flinching. Of course, his vampire nature made him rather open to sexuality which helped. She didn't fool herself into believing that he would react the same way if human, though she almost believed he might. He had turned out to be not as quiet and brooding as she had always suspected, having a rather dark sarcastic sense of humor that she enjoyed. "It's getting late. I really should be going."

"Are you sure?" he asked, glancing at the clock and seeing that it was way past midnight. He smiled sheepishly, "Sorry, I hadn't realized it was so late. Would you like me to walk you home?"

"That's ok. I think I can make it. I have my trusty stake and cross if someone does bother me," she said, showing him her cross.

"It wouldn't be a problem," he said, not liking the idea of her wandering around at night alone.

"I walk alone all the time," she said, "No need to worry."

"I'll see you out then," he said, getting to his feet, adjusting the front of his pants to conceal the slow softening of his cock.

They went to his door, Willow walking outside and onto the stoop. She breathed in the night air before turning to face him. "Thank you again, Angel. It means so much, having someone listen without judging."

"It isn't a problem, Willow. Don't keep acting as if it was some horrid task. I enjoyed it, actually. It was nice having someone to spend the evening with," he said, lifting his hand and brushing a lock of red hair back over her ear.

"Well, I enjoyed it too," she said quietly, smiling at him.

"You can come back anytime you want, you know," he offered, "even bring Cordelia if you both need a place to be yourselves, so to speak. My door is always open for you."

"I may just take you up on that," she said, leaning up and brushing her lips against his cheek in a friendly kiss. She was determined to ignore the faint flutterings his casual touch had brought, knowing it was just some silly lust. Nothing like what she felt for Cordelia, well, not all of it at least. "Enjoy the rest of your night, Angel."

Angel smiled, watching her walk down the stairs. He reached inside his door, grabbing his keys and a coat before following after her, intending to make sure she got home safely.

Across the street, a soda bottle dropped to the pavement with a soft clang. Xander's mouth hung open, his eyes disbelieving. He watched Angel walking behind Willow, knowing he hadn't been mistaken. His friend had been with the vampire since leaving the Bronze. She had kissed Angel, knowing that he had sort of been dating Buffy even if they had decided to be just friends. He felt betrayed that she had not told them she was seeing Angel. She had lied to them, gone behind their backs. He shook his head in disgust, wondering how he was supposed to face her at school on Monday knowing that she was lying to them all.

**********************************************************************************************************************************

"You're kidding!"

Willow laughed, "Nope. He said we were both welcome anytime we needed to let the act go."

"Wow," Cordelia said, shaking her head. "I can't believe Angel was so cool. Hell, girl, I can't believe you went to Angel of all people. What were you thinking?"

"Well, I had read the books about him and knew he had had a relationship with a childe, William. I figured being a vampire that he might understand and I really needed to talk to someone," Willow said.

"Yeah, I can understand that," Cordelia said, sighing.

"I was able to tell him things that I couldn't tell you," Willow confessed sheepishly. "You know, about how I'm feeling and all."

"Really? Feelings?" Cordelia smiled, liking that idea. "You have feelings for me?"

"Maybe," Willow said with a smile.

"Well, I might have feelings for you too," Cordelia teased, chewing on her bottom lip.

"I hope you don't mind my telling Angel," Willow said suddenly, realizing that she might have overstepped the bounds of their tentative relationship.

"Of course not," Cordelia said, taking Willow's hand. "I'm glad that he was cool with it all. And I'm glad that whatever he told you has made you less stressed."

"Actually, he didn't tell me all that much," Willow confessed, "he just listened which meant so much more than any lectures or speeches."

"Remind me to thank him," Cordelia said, standing after she looked at her watch. "Ugh, I have to go. Meeting Harm and the girls to look for dresses for the dance."

"Sounds like fun," Willow said, rolling her eyes. "I'm supposed to meet Buffy and the gang at the library. She saw some slimy demon the other night and we're researching."

"And I thought dress shopping with Harm was bad," Cordelia said, making a face. "I'd rather just sit here with you."

"Me too," Willow said. "But, we have to go."

"Yeah, keep up appearances and all that," Cordelia said, making a face. "Why aren't we just telling them all to mind their own business and let us love who we want?"

"Because we're chicken?" Willow volunteered.

Cordelia had to laugh, "Yeah, that sounds about right." She turned serious as she looked at the redhead she was falling in love with, "You do know that we're gonna have to tell them eventually, don't you?"

"Yeah, I know," Willow said. She shrugged, "Honestly, I never had any doubts that they'd be cool with it until last night. Now, I have no idea how they're going to react. It's weird you know? Being scared of your best friends."

"I don't have any real friends, so it isn't as bad for me," Cordelia admitted. "I mean, Harm hates me no matter who I'm in love with. She'll use this as ammunition, but I don't care. Being popular isn't as important as being with you. Come on, sweets. I'll drop you off at school on my way to the mall."

"Sounds good," Willow said, grabbing her backpack from Delia's sofa. "Pick me up after you get done shopping? Knowing you, that will probably be late this evening anyway."

"Hey now!" Cordelia said defensively then she started to laugh. "You're right. Even with Harm and the girls, I could stay until the mall closed down."

"That should give us enough time to research. I know that I'll be done by nine cause Buffy will have to go on patrol. If we finish earlier, I can wait," Willow said, getting into Cordelia's car.

"Just call me on the cell when you get finished," Cordelia said, smiling. "I don't want you to wait at the library alone if Buffy goes to patrol. You know Xander and Amy will go out and Giles will retreat into that office. I can be at the school in fifteen minutes from the mall."

"The mall is at least twenty minutes away IF you happen to be in your car when I call," Willow said, smiling as they drove towards the school.

"Trust me. Fifteen minutes or less," Cordelia said, smiling.

Willow laughed, seeing the school come into view. "Damn, we're here already? You drive too fast!"

"It's a curse," Cordelia said, laughing. Impulsively, she leaned over and brushed her lips against Willow's in a soft caress. She pulled back, her face tinged with red. "I'll see you soon."

"Yeah, see you soon," Willow said, getting out of the car. She raised her fingers to her lips, watching as Cordelia drove away.

************************************************************************************************************************************

Willow walked into the library, a small smile still on her face. She couldn't believe that Cordelia had kissed her. She felt like doing cartwheels or just simply jumping up and down and screaming. It was silly in a way. It had been a brief touch, just the gentle touching of lips, yet it had felt so right. She greeted the others without really paying attention to them. She was lost in thought as she put her bag on the table and sat down.

She shook her head, knowing now was not the time to be thinking about Cordelia. She had research to do. She glanced up, frowning when she saw Xander glaring at her. Buffy was looking off to her left, staring at something behind Willow. Willow glanced back, seeing nothing except bookcases. Amy was looking at her with an apologetic look before looking back at the book in front of her. Confused, Willow said, "Hey guys. What's up?"

"How could you?" Xander demanded, anger in his voice. Since he had seen Willow leaving Angel's apartment, he had gone from confused to worried to just plain angry. Willow had betrayed them all, gone behind their backs to have an affair with Buffy's ex of all people. She had lied to them. Well, actually she just hadn't told them the truth. He honestly could care less that she was involved with Angel, it was the idea that she hadn't told them about the affair that bothered him the most. Of course, he hated Angel and didn't like the idea of his best friend getting involved with the vampire, but he could have dealt with it if she had just trusted them enough to be honest.

"How could I what?" she asked, looking at Buffy, "Buffy? What happened?"

"I can't talk to you right now," Buffy said softly, closing her eyes briefly. She knew she was acting like a selfish brat. After all, she had been the one that had decided that she and Angel never would have worked out. Why should she care that he seemed to have found happiness with Willow? Because, she had just now found out. She knew it was unreasonable to think that they would have asked her permission or even considered that it might hurt her for her best friend to start dating the guy she had had such deep feelings for for over a year. If it had been her, she knew she wouldn't have thought about those things. In a way, though, she had expected more from Willow. Was it foolish to expect something from someone else that she didn't even expect from herself? OK, so she was a bit jealous that Angel had found it so easy to forget her and move on. That was common. And she felt that Willow should have told her. She could understand why the redhead had been acting so weird the past few weeks. Buffy had to wonder how long the two had been involved. Had it started when she had still been in LA? Could it have been going on even before she had told Angel that they needed to see other people? Xander had said the two had looked very comfortable together the night before. Buffy stood, not wanting to think that she had been played by her best friend and a man that she still loved in her own way.

"What happened?" Willow asked again, hurt in her voice at Buffy's attitude.

"As if you don't know," Xander said, disgust in his voice.

"Xander, talk to me," Willow said, not knowing what was happening. She looked at Buffy as the blonde paced back and forth, looking everywhere except at her.

"Why? You sure as hell haven't been talking to us," Xander said.

"Damn it, Xander. What happened?!" Willow demanded, annoyance in her voice.

"I saw you two," Xander said, frowning. "All lovey dovey and kissy kissy."

"Oh my God," Willow whispered, her face turning white. Xander had seen Cordelia kiss her. "It's not...it's not what you think."

"How do you know what we think?" Buffy asked suddenly, turning to face her friend. "You didn't trust us enough to even tell us the truth!"

"I didn't really know what to say," Willow said softly, flinching at Buffy's look.

"You should have tried the truth," Buffy said, looking away again before she said something she didn't really mean.

"Are you in love?" Amy asked softly, not really agreeing with Xander and Buffy's decision to confront Willow.

"I don't know," Willow said honestly. "We just started sort of dating. I don't really know where it's going, if it's even going anywhere."

"I can't stand here and listen to this," Buffy said, running her hand through her hair.

"Buffy's right," Xander said, feeling a slight prickle of guilt as he saw the tears glimmering in Willow's eyes. He knew he was being a bit rough, but hell, she'd gone behind their backs and started dating Angel without any thoughts to them. "I can't be around you right now, Will."

"You're kicking me out?" she said, stunned that they were acting so betrayed. All she had done was kiss Cordelia. "Isn't that a bit extreme?"

"Extreme? You don't call going behind our backs and starting an affair without even thinking about us extreme?" Buffy asked. "Lying to keep us in the dark!"

"I never lied," Willow defended. "I may not have been completely truthful, but I never lied."

"It doesn't matter," Xander said, sighing. "You didn't trust us enough to be honest. What does that say about our friendship?"

"Yeah, I mean, you're too scared to tell us you're falling in love," Buffy said. "You really trust us that little?"

"I didn't know how you'd react," Willow said, hoping that this was a nightmare and that she'd wake up.
"Well, now you know," Xander said, looking at her. "Why don't you just go home, Wills?"

"You're right. Now I know," she said, blinking back tears as she stood and grabbed her bag. "And you wonder why I never mentioned anything before."

Buffy sat down as the door shut behind the redhead. She sighed, looking at Xander, "Do you think we were too hard?"

"I can rather see her point," Amy said softly, looking at them both. "Would her having been honest from the beginning changed your reactions to the news that she was involved with Angel? I somehow doubt it."

"She lied to us, honey," Xander explained. "This has nothing to do with Angel."

"Who's lying now, Xander?" Amy asked, getting to her feet. "I think you both need to deal with the idea that Willow is with Angel before you start these long speeches about trust and being honest."

"Where are you going?" Xander asked his girlfriend.

"I'm going home. You see, I like Willow. I consider her a dear friend and as long as she's happy, well, I don't care who she loves," Amy said, leaning over and kissing him. "Be honest with yourself before you condemn her for being dishonest."

"You know what?" Buffy asked as Amy left.

"What?" Xander looked at the blonde slayer.

Buffy sighed, grimacing, "I think we really fucked this one up."

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Willow left the school still dazed from shock. They had really turned on her. Only in her worst nightmares had her friends been so uncaring and stubborn. She just couldn't understand why they were so upset that she was dating Cordelia. It wasn't their life, it was hers. She felt a soft breeze and glanced around, not really seeing anything except darkness and shadows. She pulled her arms tight around herself as she debated what she should do. In a way she wanted to storm back into the library and make them listen to her. In another, she realized it really wasn't her time. They didn't want to listen to her anyway. If they were really her friends they'd be happy that she was falling in love and not care that it happened to be a woman. Sighing, she decided she should probably just go home. She'd hardly been home except to sleep the past couple of weeks.

She considered the two ways she could get to her house, knowing that the quickest was through the park which also happened to be the most dangerous. She didn't have any specific deadlines so she decided that the longer, safer route was the way to go. She headed away from the park, heading down a street that went rather close to Angel's apartment. She considered stopping by and letting him know what had happened, just feel his supportive arms around her as he listened to her, something her friends didn't seem to want to do. But, this wasn't his problem. It was hers. She knew she should call Cordelia, but it had hardly been an hour since she had been dropped off so the brunette was probably just starting on the second store. Willow had no intention of ruining that fun.

Willow turned down Maple, pausing in front of a familiar two-story house. She realized that it had honestly been over a year since she had been on this street. She moved beside the large tree that stood on the sidewalk opposite the house, leaning her head against the bark. Memories flashed in her mind, memories of two laughing boys having water gun fights, memories of hiding behind this very tree to avoid the spray. She sighed as she saw the now silent house, the For Sale sign in the front yard, faded from over a year of sunlight. After Jesse's death, his parents had moved away from Sunnydale. His mother had not been able to deal with daily reminders of losing her only son. Willow closed her eyes, knowing in her heart that Jesse would have accepted her feelings for Cordelia with a smile and maybe a bit of jealousy. After all, he had had a huge crush on the cheerleader. Jesse may have been goofier than Xander in many ways, but he had always been there for her, helping her deal with her feelings for Xander and so many other things. Having him die not once, but twice had been horrible. Unknown to the others, she had had trouble sleeping for weeks after his death, wondering if she should have died that night with him. Only later did she realize that if she had been supposed to die, she would have. Now, she visited Jesse's grave a few times a month and pretty much moved on with life. That was all she could. She heard a tree branch breaking and opened her eyes, turning her head to the side.

"Oh, you startled me!" she said, shaking her head to clear it. She couldn't believe she had stupidly become lost in memory on a street in Sunnydale at night. She definitely did not have a death wish, but this made her seem like she did.

"You weren't here."

Willow smiled slightly at the pretty woman. "I was thinking. I'm sorry, is that your house?"

The woman glanced at the house behind them and then looked back at Willow. She shook her head, "No. I was just out for a walk. You looked lost."

"Do I know you?" Willow asked, frowning a bit. At closer look, the girl appeared to be her age or a bit older. She thought she knew everyone that went to Sunnydale High.

"Not yet," the girl said with a whisper of a smile. "But you will."

"Um, ok. I have to go now," Willow said, moving away from the tree. "It was nice meeting you and all. Be careful around here at night."

"Careful?" a soft laugh. "I'm always careful."

"All righty then," Willow said, thinking that while the park may have been dangerous she might not have had to confront some strange girl. "Bye now."

"Do you ever listen to the stars?" the girl asked, slowly following Willow. Willow watched the girl's graceful movements, envying that ease and confidence. "They say such lovely things yet no one ever listens to them."

"The stars talk to you?" Willow asked, backing away from the approaching girl while casting glances behind her. She felt no threat from the woman but there was a sense of unease. Maybe it was just that she was not used to being followed by a beautiful yet slightly bizarre woman.

There was no answer, just a slight narrowing of dark eyes. "You're trying to leave me."

Willow was startled by the sound of hurt in the woman's voice and the flash of pain in those hypnotic eyes. "I really need to go home. I'm expected."

A small smile crossed full lips, "You're lying to me, lovey. No one is waiting for you."

"No, I'm not lying. My friend is expecting me. She's going to be at my house anytime and when I'm not there she'll worry," Willow said, trying to sound sincere.

"I suppose that means she shall worry then," the girl said, her eyes clouding slightly as she smiled.

"Leave me alone," Willow said, feeling a slight rush of fear at the woman's tone and look. She turned to run, colliding instead with something hard. She smelled leather and smoke surround her as her face hit cotton fabric. She glanced up, her eyes widening as she looked into cold blue eyes and a sneering face. She started to scream but his hand covered her mouth before she could even finish the thought. She felt strong arms hold her roughly as she struggled against him. He easily turned her around, her back against his chest.

"This the one, pet?" a bored voice asked in a decidedly British accent. His accent was more pronounced than the woman's soft lilting one had been, but she knew they must both be English.

"Yes, she's the one," the girl said coming forward, her eyes pinning Willow in place. "Daddy wants her. More than even he realizes."

"This little chit?" a snort then a curse as Willow's foot hit his leg, "Damn wanker likes to pick the spitfires, that's for sure."

"For her, he'll make me all better," she said, moving her hand up and trailing it along Willow's cheek softly. She leaned in, brushing her lips along Willow's chin before pulling back. Her lower lip thrust out and she said, "I want to keep her. She tastes so sweet. So warm and alive. I can hear her heartbeat, thump thump thump."

"That's not the plan, luv," he said, his tone annoyed.

"Can't we change the plan?" she asked, fingers still brushing against Willow's face. Willow was petrified with fear, having no idea who these people were, who Daddy was and why he would want her. She also didn't want to be kept by this woman. Something told her she would not like that.

"Bloody hell," he cursed, still easily keeping Willow subdued even though he was getting more irritated. "No, pet, we can't change the plan. We get Daddy dearest to give you his blood, you heal, he gets his little trollop back and we leave this damn town without a stake in our hearts. Got it?"

"She's not his," the girl said, a knowing smile crossing her face. "He wants her, but she isn't his. Not yet."

"I know he hasn't had her, but we saw her with him last night," an impatient groan. "You saw her and said she was the way to get him to cooperate. Remember?"

"So pretty," the girl said in response, whispering to Willow. "You like girls better don't you, lovey? So soft..."

"Damn it, Dru. Is this definitely the one?"

Drusilla. Willow thought the name fitting to the beautiful but strange woman. She found herself mesmerized by the woman's eyes, drowning in pools of darkness. For a few moments, she forgot everything: who she was, where she was. The only thing that existed was Drusilla.

"Yes, she's the one," Drusilla said, looking into the blue coldness of her childe's eyes. She smiled at him, her eyes softening when she recognized the worry in their depths. She had been so weak, so ill. He was trying to make her better, to give her her strength back. He had promised her he would fix her and she knew he intended to keep that promise. This girl, this pretty little slip of a human, would give them the bargaining power that they needed when facing her sire. For this girl, her Daddy would listen to them. There would be no fighting. She had seen so much fighting of late. So much blood and death. Not here. Not in this town. Seeing Spike's determined eyes, she knew that it would take what strength she did still possess to prevent that, but she would do it. Her Daddy would help her, then she and Spike could leave this nasty smelling place. "We shall take her with us."

Spike smiled as Drusilla shared a small smile with him. He could see that she was tired, this night having been the most activity she had had since Prague. He looked down at the top of the redhead, rolling his eyes at the entire plan. He didn't know why they couldn't simply take that miserable poof and perform the ritual without his consent. Force the bastard to do something for them for once. But, his Princess wanted consent so damn it he'd get that bastard's consent. He leaned down, smelling the scent of apples and vanilla. He felt her struggle intensify at his sire's words and smiled, inhaling the pleasant aroma of fear. "Nighty night, Red," he whispered in her ear before applying pressure to her throat until she passed out. He slung her body over his shoulder easily, holding out his hand to his Princess. "Shall we, m'dear?"

Drusilla took his hand, leaning slightly against him for support as they walked slowly back to the warehouse, Willow balanced on Spike's shoulder as they merged with the shadows.

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"Why do you keep looking at your watch? Are we boring you?" Harmony demanded.

Cordelia looked at the blonde and frowned, "Of course not. I was just expecting a call."

"Ooooh, do tell," Aurora said. "I didn't know you were dating anyone right now, Cor."

"Who is he?" Carly asked eagerly.

"It's no one," Cordelia said, rolling her eyes. "Why does everything have to be about boys to you guys?"

"It's not," Erica said, "but you were expecting a call and you've been looking at your watch non stop for the past hour and a half."

"I have?" Cordelia frowned. "It's nothing. Why don't we finish shopping?"

"Fine, you keep your secrets Cordelia Chase. Just know that eventually we'll find out who he is," Harmony said.

"There isn't a he to find out about now," Cordelia said, "much less later."

Luckily for her, the girls seemed content to drop the subject. She was pretty sure they did not believe her even though she was telling the truth. There wasn't a 'he'. Willow was most decidedly a she. Cordelia managed to get the girls finished with their shopping within another hour. Willow was supposed to call her for a lift after researching. Maybe she was still researching. Cordelia left the other girls in the parking lot at their cars before heading towards the school. She could think of some excuse to be at the library then she could whisk Willow away for some dinner.

She entered the library, an annoyed expression on her face. "Well, this is such a surprise. Finding you all here at night."

"Cordelia Chase. Just what we need," Buffy said, groaning.

"To what do we owe this honor?" Xander asked, rolling his eyes.

"Willow. Where is she? I need help with my chemistry homework," Cordelia said.

"Who knows? Why don't you go ask her boyfriend?" Buffy said, making a face.

"Boyfriend?" Cordelia said, frowning.

"Angel," Xander spat out the name.

Cordelia started to laugh, "What-ever. Not in this lifetime."

"I saw them together just last night. All huggy buggy and lovey dovey," Xander said, making a face.

Cordelia remembered what Willow had told her about Angel hugging her and almost spilled the beans. Instead, she caught herself, "And Willow confessed her dirty little secret?"

"Yep. Well, she never said his name but she didn't deny it," Buffy said. "I'd rather not talk about this right now, and especially not with you."

"You people are so stupid. I bet you didn't even listen," Cordelia said, shaking her head in disgust. "I'll try her at home."

She left the library, angry at them for most likely putting Willow through the wringer without hearing her side. She wondered why Willow hadn't called her but figured the redhead hadn't wanted to bother her shopping. As if shopping was more important to her than Willow. She shook her head, knowing that she and Willow really needed to talk. To clear up a few things. She was in love with Willow and the redhead needed to accept that. She got in her car, heading towards Willow's house. She'd try there first then she knew she'd head to Angel's, the only other place she could think of that Willow might go. Either way, she'd find Willow and find out what Buffy the Bitch had said to her then she'd do her best to make it all better.

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Cordelia Chase turned off her car, leaning forward until her forehead touched the steering wheel. She sighed, the soft sound echoing in the empty car. She looked up, staring at the darkness in front of her, unaware of the worry that her eyes held. She had been searching for Willow for more than two hours. Still, she had found nothing. The redhead's house had been empty, no lights turned on. She had dropped by the Bronze, thinking that maybe the girl had gone there to wait for her. She had even gone back to the mall on the off chance that Willow had gone there to search for her. Again, nothing. She couldn't call Buffy or Xander, knowing that neither knew where Willow had gone. In fact, it was their fault that Willow was now missing.

She got out of her car, moving quickly to a front door that she had never stood in front of before. She knocked three times, the sound brisk and business like. She was praying with every breath that Willow would open the door with a smile and a hug. Or at the very least that she would walk into the apartment and see Willow sitting on the sofa. She was doing her best to ignore the voice that was telling her that she lost everything she loved, that she had lost Willow. She counted to twenty three before the door opened. "Angel."

"Cordelia," Angel said quietly, looking at the teen-ager with a puzzled glance.

"You seem very surprised to see me," she said with a sigh. "I guess that means that Willow isn't here."

"No, I'm afraid that I haven't seen her since last night," Angel said. "Why? Did she say she would be here?"

"I don't know where she is," Cordelia admitted with a wry smile. "I've seemed to have lost her."

"Come in," he invited, opening the door to the cheerleader.

"Thanks," she walked in, sitting on the sofa primly as she thought again if she had checked everywhere.

"Now," Angel sat down in his armchair, "you say that you've lost Willow?"

Cordelia nodded, looking up at him with worry in her eyes, "Yeah. She met the gang today at the library. You know, Saturday research session or something. It appears that they pretty much attacked her for something she didn't do. I went shopping and she was supposed to call me when she left. By the time I got there, the idiots were gloating that they had shown Willow the error of her ways and she was gone. She's not at home, she's not at the Bronze, she's not anywhere that I've looked."

"Buffy and Xander attacked her?" Angel asked, slightly confused from trying to follow Cordelia's ramblings.

"Xander saw her leave here last night. They decided that she must be fucking you and told her off," Cordelia said with a sharp tone. "Great friends there. You know, believe what you want and never listen to the people you're supposed to care about."

"You're right. They're idiots that don't realize what they're losing," Angel said quietly. The night before had been nice for him. It had been so long since he'd been comfortable with someone. Willow was special. Of course, his dreams of that afternoon had been rather vivid, the stars being Willow and the girl now sitting on his sofa looking so hopeless.

"She's OK, right?" Cordelia asked. "I probably just missed her?"

"Why don't you phone her again? See if she's arrived at home yet. She might have taken a walk to clear her head," Angel suggested.

"Yeah, that sounds like Willow," Cordelia reluctantly smiled.

"Here," he handed her his phone, watching as she dialed. He hoped with everything that Willow answered the phone. If she didn't, he had no idea what to do. Sunnydale was not a place one got lost in unless there was danger involved. His eyes narrowed as he thought of someone harming his Willow. They'd regret the day they ever touched her, he decided.

"No answer," Cordelia said, placing the phone back in its cradle.

"You up for a bit of hunting?" Angel asked, seeing the fear that entered her eyes at his words. "I'm sure she's fine. Knowing Willow, she probably went for a walk and got sidetracked. But, I'd rather go look just to make sure." "You don't think she's dead? That some evil nasty Sunnydale thing took her away from me?" Cordelia asked.

"I don't think so," he said, "but I can't promise."

Cordelia let out a breath, gathering her courage. She stood, "OK, let's go. I need to make sure she's OK."

"Cordelia," Angel said quietly, catching her eyes as he pulled his leather coat on. "If anyone has hurt her, they will pay. I promise you that."

"You'd have to get in line," she said with a brave smile as she brushed past him.

He watched her go and almost smiled, suddenly seeing what Willow loved about the cheerleader. He grew serious as he shut the door, walking out to join her. He was going to find Willow, and she was going to be fine.

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