Trapped Inside a
Month of Grey
SPOILERS: All of Buffy Season Four, and Angel Season One.
DISTRIBUTION: The usual haunts.
DISCLAIMER: Willow, Angel, Buffy, Doyle, Xander, Cordelia, Oz and Giles all belong to Joss Whedon, the greatest man alive, Mutant Enemy, Fox Television and the WB. The title of the fic is borrowed, with love, from the song Mercury by the Counting Crows, lyrics written by Adam Duritz.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I refuse to believe Doyle is dead. I've refused to believe Joss before, so this isn't a first. So, Doyle is here, alive and kicking.
DEDICATIONS: Lots of them. As always, for Lore, my partner in crime. And, as always, for David, because he does inspire me so very much. And to a very special unnamed someone who also inspires and encourages me, while writing the most beautiful words that I've ever read. And, mostly this fic is dedicated to the girls from That Happy Place most of us aren't having the best December so this is for us. You girls have seen me through some dark and dreary times I love you all very, very much!! Two months til the PBP!!! Merry Christmas!!!
"This isn't going to work."
"Of course, it is. Angel is sitting around in that dark, icky office of his, brooding constantly," Cordelia informed the redhead, "So, I thought to myself, 'Who better to cheer him up than Willow?'"
"Buffy, for one!! And what about you? And you?" Willow asked, turning to face the green-eyed demon sitting quietly on the couch playing a game of slapjack with Dennis, Cordelia's ghostly roommate.
"Don't pull me into this, Red it wasn't my idea," he replied in his thick Irish brogue before quickly slapping his hand down on the Jack of Spades just dropped from thin air by Dennis.
"He and Buffy only make each other more miserable. Bringing her here would only make things worse."
"This is ridiculous, you guys. Angel and I aren't friends I came here to help with some research that you needed help with not to help unbrood a sulky vampire."
"It's Christmas, Willow. And you're always little Miss Nothing-Is-Ever-As-Bad-As-It-Seems, so you know, put on a Santa hat and hop on down to that office of his and give him some holiday cheer!!" Cordelia instructed brightly, as if it were the most logical idea in the world.
"Then take him a Dreidel."
"Cordelia!" This time it was Doyle snapping at his girlfriend's lack of tact.
"Did you even stop to think that maybe I had some plans for Christmas?" Willow snapped.
When Cordelia turned threw her own words back at her, Willow decided that she had had enough, spun on her heels and stormed out of the apartment.
After wandering the streets for a few hours, she found herself standing in front of the dank building that housed Angel's agency and his apartment. It was Christmas Eve, after all, and too late for her to head back to Sunnydale, anyway. Not that there was anything waiting for her there, either. Buffy was with her mother, Xander and Anya would be spending the holiday in bed, Giles had gone home to England, and Oz well Oz was AWOL.
< Maybe misery loves company. > she thought with a shrug of her shoulders.
She had to bang on the door for several minutes before a grouchy-looking Angel finally threw the door open, staring at her in surprise.
"Merry Christmas, Angel?" She asked, hopefully.
"Why do people only remember that when I don't want them to?"
Angel looked at her a bit strangely before stepping aside and inviting her in.
Moving into the dark office in silence, Willow noted that it didn't seem to her that Angel was brooding any more than normal. Of course, it had been well, actually, it had been only a month since she'd last seen him, and that hadn't been the best of circumstances.
"Can I get you some coffee?" he offered.
"No, thanks caffeine makes me wacky."
"Me, too," A small grin played across his sad, dark features.
He motioned for her to sit on the couch, joining her as she sat.
"Why are you here, Willow? Shouldn't you be back home with the others?"
She sat quietly for a moment, thinking about how to answer before deciding honesty would be the best policy.
"Cordelia called me this morning and said that there was some big thing that was going on here, and that you guys needed my help with some research or spells or something and that it was an emergency, and then when I got here this afternoon, she told me that she had really invited me here because you were more broody that normal and she wanted me to try and cheer you up," she finished breathlessly.
"Cordelia brought you here to cheer me up?" he chuckled.
"You think that's funny?" She certainly didn't find it amusing.
"She had good intentions. She's changed a lot she's still tactless as Hell, but she's got a good heart," he shrugged.
Willow was quietly trying to blink back the tears that were threatening to spill down her cheeks while Angel talked.
"Since moving here, and since getting together with Doyle, she's opened up more, and isn't nearly as unthinking and unfeeling as she always seemed to be."
< She wasn't thinking about me when she tricked me into coming here. >
Willow was finding it harder and harder to fight back the tears, so she turned on the couch to face away from Angel.
"I should go, Angel this wasn't a good idea. I'm certainly not"
Angel touched her back gently, noting that her usually strong voice had grown weak and strained.
She stopped speaking, gulping down great breaths of air , trying to hold her emotions in check.
"What's wrong, Willow?"
"I hate December," she whispered.
"I hate December. Bad things happen in December," she sobbed.
Angel turned the small girl in his arms, gently brushing back her short red hair from her face, "I hate December, too, Willow."
She lost it then lost the tiny bit of control that she had, tears streaming down her face, choked sobs forcing themselves out from deep inside her chest. Angel held her, rocking her in his arms.
After several minutes, her cries subsided and she pulled herself away from Angel, vigorously rubbing her face.
"You OK?" he asked gently.
She nodded her head, and he stood from the couch, pulling her along with him.
"Let's go downstairs to my apartment. I'll make some tea, and we can talk. About why we hate December," he reached up and wiped away one last tear that was about to fall from the tip of her chin with the pad of his thumb.
A few minutes later and they were sitting at opposite ends of Angel's kitchen table, each cradling a cup of steeping, hot tea.
Her tears spent, she sadly related the story of Oz and Veruca. While it had happened in November, facing the holidays alone was ripping Willow apart. She knew that Buffy and Xander were sympathetic, but still tired of listening to Willow. They both thought that the time had come for her to get over Oz and move on with her life. She would have loved nothing more than to be able to push past her depression and move on, but it seemed that the harder she tried, the worse she felt, and no one seemed to care.
"Is Buffy over me?" Angel asked, already knowing the answer.
"Of course not," Willow spouted, "She'll always love you!"
"Then why does she expect you to be over Oz so soon?"
"I er she you soulmates and all that"
"So, you're saying that she loves me more than you love Oz?"
"No I Angel" she trailed off.
He reached across the table and clasped her hand in his, "I'm sorry, Willow. I didn't mean it to sound that way. But it seems to me that that's what Buffy and Xander are saying. No two loves can be compared. No one is greater than another. You loved Oz love Oz. That's something that you have to work through in your own time, not at their convenience. That isn't the way it works, and she should know that better than anyone."
"I just miss him so much," she whispered, "I want to get over it I want to not jump for the phone every time it rings hoping it's going to be him I want to not look over my shoulder constantly hoping to catch a glimpse of him somewhere I want it to not hurt so much."
"Certain smells remind you of him, certain colors, certain times of day"
"How do you do it, Angel? How can you stand it?"
"Because I have to. And, it does get easier. The distance has helped. I still think about her, but not so much anymore. I've occupied myself with other things. I can laugh now. I wish I could be with Buffy, Willow, I do. I wish we could have a normal relationship between two normal people that love each other. But we can't have that, and as awful as this may sound, I'm happier without her," he answered, haltingly.
"But why do I sit here in the dark brooding all the time?"
"I don't. I used to do it all the time. I know it looks like I haven't changed to you, but I have. But, lately" he trailed off, staring into the nothingness behind Willow's head for a moment.
"You remember last Christmas?" he asked.
"For a few brief hours, Willow, things were perfect again."
Willow's brow knitted in consternation.
"What?" he asked.
"Were you happy?"
"Yeah, I was for the first time in a long time."
"Angel?" she stared at him.
"Didn't that seem weird to you?"
She gaped at him for a moment in disbelief.
"You were happy, Angel. Why didn't you lose your soul again?"
"I I never thought about it."
"Think about it now! When after with Buffy when it happened and, you know you became him how did you feel? I mean, that moment of happiness was it any different than how you felt last year?"
His jaw dropped and he was speechless for a moment.
"It felt the same, Willow."
The two stared at each other for a few moments.
"Do you think?"
She shrugged her shoulders.
"I have to call someone."
"Buffy?" she asked.
He shook his head no, picking up the phone and dialing.
"It's me, Cordy, let me talk to Doyle Cordy, this is important Doyle? Meet me at the post office Now," he hung the phone up and turned back to Willow.
"The post office?"
"I'll explain when I get back. This won't take long."
It was less than two hours later when he returned. Willow was curled up on his couch reading a book, which she promptly dropped when she heard the clanging of his elevator as it lowered into the apartment.
"It's done," he told her, sitting next to her on the couch.
He leaned back against the soft black leather, rubbing his hands wearily across his tired brow.
"What's done, Angel?" she asked, knowing from experience that she should fear the answer.
"It's over there is no curse. In the hospital, when you did the spell the second time and the voices came through you that wasn't Jenny, and it wasn't the gypsies it was the Oracles."
Angel started from the beginning, explaining all the events of his life since the day Buffy showed up in his office.
"So, you just saw the Oracles again, and they told you that the curse is gone it wasn't part of the second spell I did and that no matter how happy you are, you won't be Angelus again?"
He nodded his head, still in shock, "I guess they have other plans for me."
"That's great, Angel," she clasped his arm, squeezing gently.
"It doesn't change anything, Willow. Buffy and I are good fighting together, but bad in every other way. We still can't be together"
"Shh" he quieted her, "I know that's what you're thinking. I don't want to be with her. I'm still happier without her. We make each other weak."
"I don't understand, Angel"
"Yes, you do. Think about it, Willow. If Oz came back, right now, and wanted things to go back to the way they were, could you?"
"No, you couldn't. The hurt and the distance and the time apart it all adds up to meaning that you can't be together. You will always love him, just as I've accepted that I'll always love Buffy. But we can't be with them, and we eventually, maybe, we'll be able to love someone else."
"You're two-hundred and forty-six, Angel. It took you that long to find someone that you could love. I haven't got that long to wait for someone else to come along," she sniffled, her tears threatening to spill over again.
"Listen to me, Willow," he turned to face her, grasping both her tiny hands in his, "I was twenty-seven when I was turned, and up until that point, I had never met a woman that I could fall in love with. You know what I was like before I was turned a whoring, thieving drunk. There was no room in my life for love and after I was turned, I was Angelus. And he did love, believe it or not."
Willow looked at him blankly, not comprehending.
"Angelus loved Darla and he loved Spike and he loved Drusilla. And after the curse, I isolated myself. I had no contact with people until Whistler found me and took me to Buffy. Maybe that's why I fell in love with her, because she was the first person that I really saw, because she was right there in front of me. I had something to reach out for, a purpose."
She was still staring at him, confused.
"What I'm trying to say is that I've loved only Buffy in my life. That's not including the time I didn't have my soul, and that is including the twenty-seven years when I was either a child or a lush, and the eighty years that I had no contact with people. Maybe this time it won't take me so long to find someone else to love. And maybe it won't take you so long, either. I'm not closing myself off to the possibility of it happening again. I'm not telling myself that Buffy is the only woman that I can ever love."
Willow finally understood the point he was making. It wasn't hopeless for either of them.
TBC in part 2...