It had surprised her when Cordelia had phoned, saying that her parent's graduation present for her had been a month long cruise for her and three friends. The May Queen had convinced them that a trip to Rome would be much more exciting, making the arrangements for her, Willow, Xander and Jamie, Buffy's boyfriend, to make the trip along with their friends. Angel had come along at their insistence that he should not be left out. So, now, the entire Scooby gang was ready to take Rome by storm, according to Faith. Willow wasn't really sure about all that, but she was glad to get out of Sunnydale for the first time in years.
"You ready, Red?" Faith asked, watching as her friend looked at her and smiled.
"I've been ready," Willow said, looking for Buffy. "Where's Buffy?"
"She wanted to sleep in. She and Jamie were up all night," Faith said, wriggling her eyebrows.
"That is a horrible image," Cordelia said, making a face. "I think I lost my appetite."
"Where's Xan?" Willow asked the pretty girl.
"Eating and watching some stupid movie. It's in Italian and he has no idea what they're saying BUT he'd rather watch that then go walking around the city this early in the morning. His exact words," Cordelia said, her tone miffed.
"Well, then. It's just us." Faith said. "We can have fun without them. Too bad Fang would burst into flames if he came with us. He'd probably have a good time."
"Yeah, Angel really needs to get out more. Since his whole spending hundreds of years in hell thing, he's been rather down," Cordelia said.
"I wonder why," Willow said, rolling her eyes.
"Nah, Fang isn't that bad. He's been actually smiling once in awhile lately. He's all right, for a vampire," Faith said, shrugging. "Wonder what there is to see in this town."
"It's Rome, Faith!" Willow said, laughing. "There is so much to see. I'm so glad we have three weeks here."
"Yeah, easy for you to say. I get stuck attending those damn meetings and training things. What a thrill." Faith scowled. "At least in Sunnydale, I'd be able to kick some vamp ass."
"Think of the museums and art work," Willow said, her eyes bright with excitement.
"We are in a foreign country with tons of exotic looking men that love pretty Americans and all you can think about is killing vampires and dusty old museums?" Cordelia said, shaking her head sadly. "Why am I friends with you both?"
"Why are you thinking about men when you have the one of the only two steady relationships in this messed up group?" Faith asked, watching the wealthy girl shrug.
"Xander is...Xander." Cordelia said simply. "I mean, he chose to stay inside and eat rather than spend the day with me. I just plan to keep my options open."
"Trouble in paradise?" Willow said quietly, genuinely upset that her best friend was having problems with Cordelia. If had told her two years before that she would think Xander Harris and Cordelia Chase were soul mates, she would have laughed herself silly. But, now, well, she had seen them together for over a year. They worked in some weird way that made her envious of the love they shared. "Maybe this vacation will help."
"Always the optimist," Cordelia said, smiling slightly at the redhead. "Who knows?"
"So, where do we go first?" Faith asked, turning to face them as she walked backwards, excitement evident in her face.
Cordelia put the glass back down as she leaned back in the chair. "That was good."
"Yeah, not that bad," Faith said, putting her fork back on her plate.
"Where can we go next?" Willow asked, her tone impatient.
"Aren't you tired yet?" Faith asked, amused at the girl's obvious joy in the most boring things.
"No!" Willow said, having to smile. "I know you both think I'm weird, but this is the last time I'll probably ever have a chance to visit Rome and I just don't want to miss anything."
"Well, then, why are we sitting here?" Cordelia asked, tossing her napkin on the table and standing. She straightened her skirt and headed towards the street. "Let's play tourist."
"If we do everything today, what are we going to do for three more weeks?" Faith asked, laughing as Willow smacked her arm. "Hey now, watch who you're hitting little girl."
"Whatever, slayer," Willow said, smiling as she moved to avoid Faith's hand. It had taken her several weeks before she had accepted the new slayer. But, now, they were very good friends. After Buffy had met Jamie eight months before, well, the blonde had started having more to do and Willow had found herself moving into a very close friendship with the single slayer. She had watched Faith go through men like Kleenex, claiming she got bored easily. Willow knew the girl was searching for love, even if she was in denial. So far, no man had been able to keep her interest. Willow knew Faith was very proud of her sexual prowess but the redhead somehow doubted the truth to the stories.
"Hey, what's that thing?" Cordelia asked, pointing to the fountain in front of them.
"Eh, pretty lady." A man moved in front of them. "That is the fountain of Treve."
"I've heard of it," Willow said, searching through her mind to remember the story behind it.
"It's big," Faith said, not very impressed by the large thing.
"Oh, pretty ladies, you must toss in a coin. Make a wish and one day you will return to Rome," the elderly man said, nodding in encouragement.
"A wishing fountain?" Cordelia said, rolling her eyes. "As if. I've lost many a penny to that fountain at the mall and none of my wishes have ever come true."
"That's right!" Willow said, laughing, "It is a wishing well. I've heard stories about it. I think there was even some movie..."
"Well, couldn't hurt," Faith said, putting her hand in the front pocket of her pants to find a coin. "Damn, I thought I had a coin."
"Here, pretty ladies. This wish will be on Mario," the elderly man said, holding his palm out with three bright coins shining at them.
"Oh, we couldn't," Willow said, smiling at him. She saw the sparkle in his blue eyes and knew he would insist. "Fine. Thank you, Mario."
"I don't believe in making some stupid wishes," Cordelia grumbled, taking the coin when Willow glared at her.
The three girls moved to the side of the fountain, each lost in their own worlds. Cordelia looked into the water, seeing the other coins shining in the sunlight. She sighed, knowing that this was pointless. She didn't even believe in wishing wells. She tossed the coin high into the air, her mind suddenly flashing to an image of her and Xander sitting on a sofa, years in the future with children running around them. She smiled softly, lost in this common dream as the coin fell into the water.
Faith frowned, having no idea what to wish. What could she wish for? What did she really want? She thought of the day they had spent in Rome. It had been fun, in its own way. She really did like Willow and even Cordelia wasn't that bad. But, three weeks of museums and fountains? She'd die of boredom. She suddenly smiled, deciding on her wish. She threw the coin into the fountain, wishing for a true adventure while in Rome. She wanted to have fun and remember this trip until she died. She saw the coin settle onto the bottom of the fountain and smiled.
Willow didn't want anything. She was happy with her life and everything lately. She watched Faith toss her coin, curious as to what was causing the gleam in the slayer's dark eyes. She then looked at Cordelia as the girl tossed her own coin, a serene look on her face as she appeared to be lost in her thoughts. Willow knew what to wish. She tossed her coin into the air, wishing for her all of her friends to be happy. She saw it hit the water and make a small splash as it slowly settled to the bottom. As she watched it, the face of the man she loved drifted into her thoughts before she pushed it away. She wouldn't think of him, knowing that she should not worry about what she would never have. She turned to face Faith and Cordelia, a smile on her face. "So, what next?"
Faith entered her new house for the next three weeks, frowning when she saw Wesley standing beside the stairs. She rolled her eyes as her uptight watcher pushed his glasses up from his nose. "Hey, Wussy. How's it hangin?"
Wesley resisted cringing at his slayer's flippant tone. "Faith, where have you been?"
"Out," Faith said, smirking as she saw him close his eyes briefly. She loved rattling him. It was the most fun she had during the research sessions. 'Why? Did ya miss me?"
"Like a disease," Wesley muttered under his breath, irritated that she was treating this opportunity so frivolously. "Did you enjoy your entire day of sightseeing?"
Faith sat on the sofa, wondering why she had come back here for the inquisition instead of going to that museum with Cordy and Willow. Oh, yeah. Museum. Duh. "Wasn't out all day."
"Did you forget the reason for this journey?" Wesley asked, following her into the living room area.
"A bunch of ass kissing with some stodgy bastards I could give a shit less about?" Faith said sweetly.
Wesley sighed, wondering what he had done to deserve having Faith as his slayer. Her carefree attitude and thirst for danger annoyed him to no end. "The chance to learn from many different people and take away enough knowledge to maybe stay alive a little longer."
"Bor-ing," Faith said, watching the watcher's jaw tighten as his hands clenched into fists. Score one, she thought gleefully.
"Don't you want to succeed and live to see your twentieth birthday?" he asked, his voice low.
"If I live, I live," Faith said, frowning slightly. "Listening to a bunch of old geezers is not going to add years on to my life."
"It might. You just refuse to give it a chance," Wesley said, wishing now that he had offered to remain in Sunnydale and Mr. Giles had accompanied the slayers. Dealing with the hellmouth would be nothing compared to putting up with Faith for three weeks.
"Oh, puh-leez. They could care less about me. To them, I'm just one of two slayers. If I die, another comes forward. So don't tell me I should listen to them as if they can give me some divine words. They can't." She said simply.
"Yes, well, you may be right," Wesley said. He saw her look at him surprise and almost smiled. He kept his features strict though and continued, "but they would much rather you survive than deal with a new slayer. The longer a slayer survives, the less training the new one needs."
"Using logic on me now, huh Wussy?" Faith asked, rolling her eyes and wondering why he wouldn't just give up. Yet, he never did. The entire seven months he had been in Sunnydale, he constantly pushed her to care about her chosen duty, to quit taking unnecessary risks, to care about herself. He was trying to be like Giles, she knew, but he also did care about being a watcher. To him, it was some big deal. She just didn't get that. That was probably one reason she loved to goad him. She never failed to get a reaction. "Not gonna work."
"I can't force you into caring about your life," Wesley said, knowing it would be pointless to try. "but as long as we are here, you will attend the meetings and training classes."
Faith snorted, rolling her eyes, "Yeah, whatever. I should have stayed with Giles."
Wesley stiffened, knowing that he didn't have her respect but hating to hear her constantly remind him of his inadequacies as a watcher. He knew there was a lot to learn still. He had rather been thrust into everything at a moment's notice with little time to prepare. He was only twenty four. How was he supposed to be as good a watcher as Rupert Giles when he had such little time to learn? "Yes, well, maybe you should have."
Faith looked at him, her eyes widening slightly at his snippy tone. She had scored a second hit and hadn't even intended to. She frowned, "What's got your undies in a twist?"
"At least Buffy seems interested in attending the meetings," Wesley said, watching her eyes narrow at the elder slayer's name. He then added, "And leave my undies out of this."
"B wants to go tell them all to fuck off for how they treated her and Giles. She used this as a free trip to Italy. If you think anything differently, well, you're more of an idiot than I thought," Faith said, wondering when he had started finding Buffy so damn interesting. He was her watcher, damn it. Buffy already had one.
"Yes, well, at least she will attend one meeting then," Wesley said, scowling as he realized that Faith was most likely correct in her prediction of Buffy's behavior. Thankfully, the Chases had rented the villa and the council had just chosen it. They would not be forced to leave Rome until their three weeks was up.
"I'll go to one of the fucking things," Faith said, glowering at him. "Happy now? You completely ruin my plans to have fun."
"The meetings will only be in the mornings so you should have plenty of time to run amuck," Wesley said, thankful that she appeared to have relented in her refusal to attend any of the meetings.
"You owe me, Wussy," Faith said, suddenly smiling an evil smile.
"Excuse me?" Wesley asked, not liking that look. He had seen it before and it usually meant trouble.
Faith stood and kept smiling, "I feel like seeing Rome nightlife. Come on, Watcher man."
"What?" Wesley asked, startled.
"I think you have been spending too much time at the library and in that damn watcher mode. So, you're coming with me. Someone has to keep me out of trouble," she smirked, knowing he would not allow his reluctance to go out to supercede his desire to be the perfect watcher. "Giles always go with Buffy if she feels like going out and no one is around."
"Fine," Wesley said, frowning as he tried to remember a time that Mr. Giles had gone out with his slayer. Before he could continue thinking, Faith was walking out of the villa and into the late afternoon of Rome. He sighed, following after her.
Willow entered the villa after Cordelia. Surprisingly, she and her old enemy had found a common love of art. They had spent the remainder of the afternoon touring an art museum and just talking about the paintings. Willow knew Cordelia was putting off returning to Xander for some reason. She really hoped this time away would help fix whatever was wrong between her two friends. She shut the door, seeing the living room area that was empty. "Wonder if Faith is in her room."
Cordelia laughed, "Yeah, and I have an Oscar. You know she's out painting the town red."
Willow had to laugh, "You're right, I'm sure. An Oscar?"
Cordelia smiled as she rolled her eyes, "Yeah, can't you see it? Me an actress. Whatever."
"Hmm....nope. Can't see it." Willow said, glancing up the stairs. "You think Xander is still up there?"
"I bet he's only moved to get food and use the bathroom." Cordelia said, smiling slightly. Her earlier anger had dissipated during the course of the day. She couldn't blame him for staying in, seeing as they had not even been in Italy a day.
"Sounds like Xan," Willow had to agree. She followed Delia up the stairs, noticing the balcony door standing slightly open. She moved towards it as Cordelia entered the room she was sharing with Xander. Willow heard him ask her how the day had been. She smiled, moving onto the balcony. "Hey, you."
Angel looked up and smiled slightly. "Hello, Willow. Did you have fun today?"
Willow moved to sit in the chair beside him, enjoying the cooling evening. "Loads. I saw museums and people and architecture and we had so much fun."
Angel had to smile at her enthusiasm. He found his eyes riveted on her face, a habit he was growing accustomed to over the past few months. He could watch Willow for hours and never grow bored. "Just you, Faith and Cordelia, right?"
"Yep. Xander played couch potato and Buffy stayed in with Jamie. Wesley was doing watcherly things," Willow said, "And you would have gone poof."
"True," Angel said, his smile fading as he turned to look back across the houses. Yet another reason he was resisting his growing feelings for the redhead. Humans and vampires did not mix. He had proven that already with the fiasco between him and Buffy. Of course, he had no worries of Angelus coming back, but the basic problems would never go away. It was better to remain her friend and hope she found someone to treat her the way she deserved to be treated. "It does sound like you enjoyed yourself."
"I did. And this was only the first day," Willow looked at the dark sky, watching the stars. "I have never met the Chases, but I love them!"
Angel laughed softly, "Did Faith and Cordelia enjoy themselves?"
"Yes, they did. We just spent the day walking around. Had some lunch, saw a couple of museums. Oh, and we went to the fountain of Treve and made a wish. This nice old guy gave us all a coin to use and it was kind of nice."
"What did you wish for?" Angel asked, curious.
"I can't tell you that, silly. It wouldn't come true," Willow said, smiling at him.
Angel raised an eyebrow, "Fine. Be that way."
"Angel!" Willow started, laughing when she saw the amusement in his eyes. "Oh, quit teasing me. I'll get Buffy."
"Oh no, not that," he said dryly. He and Willow had begun their friendship about a month after his return from hell. It had been her unflappable faith in him that had kept him from wallowing in self pity, as Faith called his stoicism. It had become a running joke between them to threaten each other with Buffy's wrath. His previous love knew of the joke and would sometimes get into the act during a research or patrol. "Anything but siccing Buffy on me."
"You just remember that, vampy!" Willow said, laughing softly.
"I always remember everything you say," Angel said sincerely. "So, you made a wish. Do you think it will come true?"
"I really hope so," Willow sighed softly, laying back against the chair and tucking her feet underneath her. She could hear the sounds of people and cars going by their balcony and smiled, just enjoying being with Angel in Rome. For a few moments, she would let reality fade and live in her fantasy world for just awhile longer. A world where Angel was hers and they were in love. Content, she relaxed into a peaceful silence sitting beside him.
Wesley followed Faith, casting a disgusted look around them. He frowned as she headed down a staircase into a dark corridor. "Exactly where are you going?"
Faith smiled, surprised it had taken him so long to ask. They had been walking in circles for hours. She had deliberately taken different routes, hoping to get him so lost he didn't realize they were less than a mile from their villa. She had made wagers in her mind on how long it would be before he was whining and wanting to go back. He had beaten all of her guesses. Maybe there was more to her watcher than she had originally thought. She turned to face him, smirking, "Don't you mean, where are WE going?"
He frowned, "Yes, where are we going?"
"It's a surprise," she smiled, turning to continue walking down the stairs. Honestly, she had no idea where they were going. But it wouldn't be fun to let him know that. She could see by the way he was beginning to sigh and fidget that he was getting worried. She kept walking, wondering where on Earth they were. She frowned, stopping and looking around.
"What's wrong?" Wesley asked, moving closer to her. He could see people in the shadows and walking past them. He tried to see if any looked like vampires, but he couldn't tell. The street she had led them to was darker than the other had been and he honestly couldn't identify any of the passing faces.
"Fuck," Faith hissed, turning to look the way they had come.
"Why do I have a feeling I am not going to like what you say?" Wesley asked, his impatience evident in his sharp tone.
"Don't worry, Wussy," Faith said, patting his shoulder reassuringly. "I'm just getting my bearings."
Wesley glanced at her hand and then at her face. He groaned, "Damn it. You got us lost didn't you?"
Faith looked at him, shrugging, "Not lost. Just taking a scenic route."
"Faith!" Wesley felt his control snap. "We're in a foreign country for one day and you already manage to get us lost. What the bloody hell is wrong with you?"
Faith frowned as she watched him begin to pace. He was losing it, she decided. "Don't be such a pussy! This is cool. I know where we are."
Wesley looked at her, his eyes narrowing. He reached up and loosened his tie, unbuttoning the top two buttons of his white shirt. "I really must have made someone angry in another life. That's the only reason I can explain for being unfortunate enough to get you as my slayer. Even Buffy has more motivation and responsibility. We've been walking for two hours and," he glanced at his watch, scowling, "twenty eight minutes and now you are lost. It's hot as Hades out here, this place smells and I am starving. Forgive me if I am a bit irritated!"
Faith looked at him with surprised eyes. She had never heard him say so much without stuttering or in such an authoritative voice. She watched as he took his glasses off, rubbing the bridge of his nose as he seethed with evident anger. She found herself watching his face, having never really noticed that he had such potential to be a hottie. God, what was she thinking? This was Wussy Wesley. He was in no way causing the heat to spread over her body. She felt anger at his assumption that this was all her fault. And what did he mean he must have been bad to get her as a slayer? She was a damn good slayer. "Fuck you! I'm way better than Buffy could ever be. You should be thanking your prayers that you were lucky enough to get me, buddy. We are not lost. I know exactly where we are. Just because you're scared, don't take it out on me buster!"
"Oh, do shut up," Wesley said, tucking his glasses in his pocket. He only needed them for reading and mostly used them to add to his watcher image. They got damn annoying at times. He glanced at Faith and saw her glaring at him. He tried to remember what he had said that would have caused her such irritation but couldn't think of anything he hadn't said many times before. Granted, this time his anger made the words appear even more sharp, but she had heard it before. He would never understand young girls.
"Make me!" she said, knowing there wasn't a chance in hell that Wesley Wienie could beat her up. "You uptight, prissy assed, boring, bad dressing, moronic..."
Wesley muttered, "Fuck this," under his breath before he pulled her against him and kissed her harshly. He pulled away, his eyes sparking with anger at her insults as he said, "Good. I guess I found one way to shut you up."
Faith felt her lips tingling from his hard kiss. She found that she was speechless, completely surprised that he had done something so rash. She watched as he glanced around them, his eyes settling on a door. He had kissed her. And it had been nice. She frowned when he walked away from her, just leaving her standing in the middle of the street. Hell, who did he think he was? Did he really think he could just kiss her breathless and then walk away as if it was nothing? No one walked away from her. She did the walking. She watched his back, noticing for the first time how cute his ass appeared in the tight trousers. Her fingers brushed against her lips one last time before she shook herself slightly and hurried after him. "Where the hell do you think you're going? You're not leaving me here alone!"
Willow shifted on the chair, listening to Angel's soft voice as he continued telling her of another time that he had visited Rome. She found herself drawn in by his voice, mesmerized by the images he could paint so well. She knew he was abridging the version she was hearing. Angelus had been in Rome along with his children, Drusilla and Spike. She decided it was better not to think of exactly how he filled the nights he was in town and concentrate on what he was telling her. "You make it sound so lovely."
Angel smiled slightly, hearing the sigh in her voice. They had been sitting on the veranda for over an hour and a half. He had found himself telling her about his life before he had lost his soul. About a time that he never spoke of. To Willow, though, he felt as if he could tell her anything. She would never think of judging him or holding his past against him. It was just another thing he loved about her. "It was. I mean, it still is. This is a wonderful city."
Willow smiled softly, "Yes it is. I loved what I saw today, but I don't recall seeing anything you mentioned."
"Willow, it was over a hundred years ago," Angel said, slightly amused.
"Well, still. I'd think those grounds would still be around." She said, thankful that it was too dark for him to see her blush.
"I'm sure they are. You and the others, you mostly stuck to this neighborhood, I'm sure." Angel said, "The house that we acquired was on the other side of town. I doubt you ever got near our stomping grounds."
"Oh," Willow said, smiling. "Guess the right area might help."
Angel chuckled softly, "I'm sure there are some beautiful grounds around here."
"I didn't see any. Just wonderful museums and cafes." Willow said softly, surprised to hear him laugh. She could instantly imagine his face as he laughed. She had memorized every detail of every emotion he ever had. She rarely saw him laugh, though he looked even more handsome when he was completely natural. He needed to laugh more often. "Of course, I have nearly three weeks to find them."
"They look magnificent in the moonlight," Angel remembered fondly.
"Really?" Willow said, wishing he would suggest going to find one of the gardens. She could easily imagine laying on the ground with her head resting on his chest. She knew he would never say anything though. They were just friends. That was all.
Angel stilled, his eyes finding her face bathed in the moonlight. "Truly beautiful," he said quietly, watching her smile softly. He opened his mouth, wanting to ask her to go for a walk. To stroll along the streets and see Rome through his eyes, her hand tucked into his. He couldn't form the words, fearing her rejection or even worse, her mistaken idea that it was merely friendship on his part. He had fallen in love with her gradually over the previous months. He couldn't lie and say it was instant or expected. It had rather snuck up on him, catching him by surprise and knocking him on his ass five months before. When he had thought she was dead...that the Mayor had taken her...well, his reaction and that of his demon had surprised him and made him accept that they were both in love with her. The problem came in telling her. He couldn't risk losing her in his life.
"That's nice," Willow said, unaware that he was talking about her. She heard a noise and looked to the side as light from inside shined on them.
"There you are," Cordelia said, stepping onto the balcony. She narrowed her eyes as she saw Willow and Angel sitting in the darkness. Together. She smiled slightly, wondering if something was finally brewing between her friends. "I was looking for you."
"I've been here," she said softly, smiling at her friend.
"I see that," Cordelia said, rolling her eyes. "Xander and I are going to get dinner. Want to come? Both of you, of course."
"Dinner sounds nice," Willow said, getting to her feet. She looked towards Angel, "Would you come?"
Angel smiled as he too got to his feet. "I think I could be persuaded."
"Good. Xander is dying for food," Cordelia said, keeping her tone light. She had been out all day, away from him for several hours, and his first words had been What are we doing for dinner. She loved him dearly, but the romance was gone. She had accepted that he didn't love her anymore, if he ever had. She was comfortable to him...like an old shoe. He didn't want to lose her because he'd be stuck facing things on his own. Back home, it was easy to put on a cheery smile and act as if nothing was wrong. Here, well, it was growing harder to smile. She forced a smile, "He's waiting downstairs."
"Well, let's not keep him waiting. He might start growling," Willow said, moving to follow the brunette cheerleader down the stairs. She felt a hand on her back and knew Angel was coming too.
Willow sat in the chair that Angel had pulled out for her. She smiled softly at him as she scooted forward towards the table. She saw Xander sit down, picking up the menu without even looking at Cordelia. She saw Cordelia glare at him as she sat in the chair, pulling it forward. Angel sat down beside Willow, his leg brushing hers under the table. He sat up straighter and mumbled, "Sorry."
"No problem," she smiled at him. She opened her menu, trying to avoid the tension between Cordelia and Xander. She had noticed it as they had walked towards the cafe. It wasn't very obvious, but she had heard enough from Cordelia to know that there was trouble in paradise. It appeared though that Xander had no idea there was anything wrong.
"What are you getting?" Xander asked his girlfriend, looking at her.
"I don't know. Probably just a salad," she said, her tone somewhat cross.
"C'mon, Cor. You need to eat more than that rabbit food," Xander said. "Get some pasta."
"I don't want pasta," Cordelia said, her tone low and even as anger passed over her.
"You have to eat something. It isn't healthy," Xander said, wondering what was wrong with her. She had been standoffish since she had returned from her outing. Add to that to their latest argument and he knew something was wrong. They had actually been fighting a lot more lately, without the make up sessions he had grown accustomed to. In fact, when he thought about it, she had been pushing him away for the past month or so.
"I don't need a parent, Xander," Cordelia said, wondering why he couldn't pay as much attention to her as he did to his stupid stomach.
"OK. What's wrong?" Xander asked, frowning.
"Nothing. Nothing at all," Cordelia said.
"Are you going to get anything?" Willow asked Angel, trying to avoid listening to Cordelia and Xander argue.
"Just something for show," Angel said quietly, his eyes concerned as he glanced at the two teens that were now in a heated, whispered argument.
"I'm not hungry. I'm going back," Cordelia suddenly said, standing. She looked at Willow, smiling weakly. "I'm very sorry, Willow. I just can't handle this right now."
Xander watched her leave, his face broken as he looked at Willow and Angel. "She can't walk home alone."
"I'll go with her," Willow said softly, standing. "Meet you back at the villa."
Angel watched her go and sighed softly. He found himself looking at Xander, feeling sorry for the teen. He had a completely confused look on his face as he continued to stare in the direction Cordelia had gone. "Xander?"
"Huh?" Xander shook himself, looking at Angel. He sighed, "What did I do? I don't want her to get sick from not eating well. I mean, all she ever eats lately are salads that she picks at."
"I can only tell you this," Angel said. "I'm over two hundred and fifty years old and I still don't understand women."
Xander laughed weakly, "I don't either. I mean, I love Cordy. Have for two years almost. I can seriously see myself being with her when I'm old and senile. Is that weird to have already found the woman I want to be with for the rest of my life?"
"Not at all. If anything, it's rather lucky. It took me almost three hundred years to find mine," Angel said softly.
"I thought you were over Buffy?" Xander said quietly, watching the vampire that had become a friend.
"I am," Angel said, catching Xander's eyes.
Xander smiled softly, "Ah. Willow."
Angel didn't respond, looking at the door the girls had left through. "Cordelia doesn't seem herself. She's worried about something. I can see it in her eyes and the way she carries herself."
"You can?" Xander frowned. "Why haven't I noticed?"
"I think she hides it well," Angel said in response.
"I love her, Angel. I don't want to lose her." Xander looked at the table, trying to figure out what had happened between him and Cordelia that would make her so upset. He couldn't think of anything. In fact, they had hardly anything together the past few months except research and other mundane tasks. He straightened up, looking at the vampire. "You have to help me, Angel. You're old. You have experience at this womanly trouble thing. What can I do to get Cordelia to love me again?"
Cordelia looked at Willow and sighed, "I'm sorry. For my behavior tonight. I don't know what came over me."
"Cordy, we've never been best friends, but lately I'd like to think we were getting closer. You can talk to me, you know?" Willow said, wanting to help her old enemy.
"Actually, you are my best friend," Cordelia said, "after Xander of course."
"Thanks," Willow said, having to smile. "It's good that he's your best friend."
Cordelia laughed, "Lately it seems that's all he is."
"Oh," Willow said, remaining silent. She knew that Cordelia Chase rarely discussed her actual emotions and she didn't want to ruin things before they were begun.
"I mean, in the beginning, when we first got together?" Cordelia continued, turning to face the redhead. "Before I begin this, can we sit down and get something to eat? I'm really starving."
"I thought you weren't that hungry?" Willow asked, following the girl to a small cafe.
"I wasn't. I was nervous and when I'm nervous, my stomach gets tied into knots," Cordelia said, following the maitre de as he seated them. "I felt so tense all the time around Xan now."
"What were you saying?" Willow asked, deciding what she wanted to eat and looking back at the brunette.
"When Xander and I first got together, it was mostly the danger of it. I mean, sure he was cute and I sort of liked him, but it was mostly just the circumstances. That and his lips. He has the most kissable lips of any man I've ever seen," Cordelia smiled softly thinking about them.
"Ahem," Willow cleared her throat, not really wanting to know about Xander's lips.
"Oh, sorry," Cordy shrugged, "Anyway, as time passed, I did something so stupid. I fell in love with him. Every goofy little thing that he did just endeared him to me more. I honestly thought he loved me too. Neither of us ever spoke the words, but I could see it in his eyes. You know, we've never made love. We've shared a bed without doing anything more than holding each other. Waking up in his arms? It's unexplainable. I mean, the feelings can't be described."
"I hadn't realized you two weren't intimate," Willow said softly.
Cordelia smiled, "We touch and we kiss and we come close, but for some reason one of us always pulls back as it nears the end. I don't know what's happening anymore. I see Xander and I see the man that I would like to be with for the rest of my life. I just think that when he sees me, he sees a girl he wants to have sex with and it never goes past that."
"Aw," Willow said, realizing what Cordelia's doubts were. She didn't think Xander loved her.
"Pretty pathetic huh? I mean, every time he mentions anything farther than next week, I cut him off and yet I can't be happy with him anymore because I can't see sooner than the rest of our lives."
"Not pathetic, just natural," Willow said. "I mean, he's a guy. Of course he isn't going to be thinking of marriage and children. You are both just eighteen. It's a bit early to be thinking of forever."
"I know," Cordelia said. "But I can't help how I feel. I think he's satisfied with just being friends that smooch. I need more than that. I mean, today for instance. He didn't even want to spend time with me on our first day in Italy. He wanted to stay in and watch television."
"He loves you, Cor," Willow said. "I've known him for twelve years. He cares about you even if he doesn't show it."
"But, I need him to show it!" Cordelia said, sighing. "You have to understand. In my house, my parents never told me they were proud of me or that they loved me. To this day, I think they didn't want me and pretty much ignore me in hopes that it would allow them to forget they had a child. On my birthdays? I'd get fabulous presents but no hugs or kisses. Most the time my parents weren't even there."
"I can understand that," Willow said softly, thinking of her own childhood with absentee parents.
"You know, I bet you can," Cordelia said, smiling slightly. "Then you know. You must want the same things."
"Someone to hold me and just let me feel loved," Willow said quietly.
Cordelia smiled, "Exactly. Waking up in his arms? I feel loved then. He's such a wonderful guy. I mean, he's cute, funny, caring and can be smart. And, he chose me. Me! He could really have had anyone if they knew him. I know people think I was doing him the favor in dating him but he was doing me the favor. He showed me what true affection could be. Gave me a small taste of something I want to last forever. But, these last few weeks? I think he's tired of me."
"He loves you," Willow said again, understanding exactly where Cordelia was coming from. Cordelia may have been pretty, popular and wealthy, but she was extremely insecure and unaware of her true worth.
"Maybe," Cordelia said, shrugging. "I just really don't know anymore. Sorry for being so dramatic. You must be sick of me."
"Nope," Willow said, smiling. "That's what friends are for, after all. And you're wrong. He isn't tired of you. He does love you. You're scared for no reason."
"Wish I could be that confident," Cordelia said, "but I can't. His eyes have changed. He doesn't even want to kiss me anymore. Am I being stupid?"
"Of course not," Willow said. "Give it some time. Maybe it's just everything with graduation and the mayor and all that. It's been a rough few weeks."
"Who knows? If not, well, I won't dwell on it," Cordelia said, looking at the food the waiter sat in front of her. "I mean, we're in Italy for three weeks, and my parents are paying for it all. We're all together and Buffy has silly meetings to attend so she won't be around much. Plus, we get to enjoy Faith and Wesley fighting their obvious attraction to each other the entire time. Things could be much worse."
Willow had to laugh, "True." She raised her glass, smiling at the brunette, "To love."
"To love," Cordelia echoed softly, a vision of Xander flashing through her mind.
Faith pushed past the people, glaring at them as they cursed her in Italian. They had better be glad that she didn't know what they were saying or she might just have to kick some ass. She hurried after Wesley, wondering what the hell had happened to him. He had kissed her. Sure, it had been a kiss full of irritation and was intended to shut her up, but it had been a kiss. Wesley was not supposed to kiss and especially not a brief heated, searing kiss that made her want more. That was definitely not part of the watcher job description. Well, she honestly had never seen a watcher job description but doubted that it would include kissing slayers.
Wesley heard more cursing, biting back a smile as he heard a man go off on Faith after having bumped into her. He heard his slayer growl at the man as she continued to follow him through the throng of people in the small pub he had entered. He felt a hand on his shoulder and turned, frowning at Faith. "What?"
"Hold up," she said, glaring at him. "What's the big hurry? Running some race I was unaware of?"
"Trying to get away from you," he said sweetly.
"Fine. Fuck you then," she said, the tingle on her lips from his kiss disappearing rapidly as anger and something too close to disappointment filled her.
"Can you speak without cursing?" he asked dryly.
"What bug flew up your ass?" she demanded.
"And again you demonstrate your mastery of the English language," he said, looking heavenward.
"I get it. You don't want me around. I can take the hint," she said, her eyes flashing. "Maybe we can switch with the others. You can have Miss Perfect Slayer, the stupid dyed blond bitch. I bet Giles wouldn't hate me."
"There will be no switch," Wesley said, glaring at her. "You are my slayer, so deal with it."
"As if I couldn't handle you," she shot back, moving closer to him as the crowd became larger. "That's a laugh."
"You couldn't even come close, little girl," Wesley said smoothly, not allowing her to lead him into another argument. He turned, finally seeing a table near the back. He moved towards it, leaving her standing in the middle of the floor looking after him like a stunned fish.
"Wait just a minute," Faith said, sitting down beside him. "What the fuck do you mean, little girl? I've had more experiences in my eighteen years than you have in your however old you are years!"
Wesley looked at her, his expression lofty, "I can assure you that you have not."
Faith snorted, "Whatever, Wussy. Keep telling yourself that you've actually had a life."
"You know nothing about me," Wesley said sharply. "And somehow I think that if we delved into the truth behind your *experiences* we'd know exactly who the little girl was."
"What exactly are you insinuating?" Faith demanded.
"I'm not suggesting anything," Wesley said, seeing the waitress on her way over. "I'm flat out calling you a liar. I wouldn't be surprised if you were a virgin."
Before Faith could respond to his smug little grin, the waitress was there to take their order. Faith glared at him, wishing she could just slap that smile of his handsome face. Wait a minute. Wesley is not handsome, Faith. You hate the arrogant little priss, she scolded herself. She found her eyes drawn to his mouth as he read over the menu, remembering what it felt like against hers. She scowled, hating him even more for suddenly finding a spine and becoming so rude and intriguing and attractive.
Willow looked up when the door opened. She smiled slightly when Xander came in, his eyes searching for Cordelia. "She's upstairs. Said she was tired and wanted some sleep."
"Damn," Xander said, making a face. "I'm beat myself. I'll see you tomorrow, Will. Thanks Dead Boy."
Angel shut the door behind him as he watched Xander take the stairs two at a time. He looked at Willow and found himself smiling. "How's Cordy?"
Willow sighed, shrugging, "Who knows? Claims she and Xander are drifting apart, but they still seem so much in love."
"He loves her," Angel said, sitting down on the sofa. He glanced at her and smiled as she rubbed her feet. "Feet hurt?"
"They're sore," Willow confessed with a slight smile. "Too much walking I guess. I loved today, but now my feet are regretting it."
"Let me," he said quietly, taking Willow's leg and moving her foot onto his upper thigh. He began to massage the soul of her foot as they continued talking. "Does she love him?"
"Yes. She's a lot like me," Willow said softly, amazed that she and the May Queen had so much in common. "Non-existent parents and no one that really ever showed us love. She just wants to be held and cared for."
Angel looked at Willow, seeing the far away look in her eyes as the gentle smile crossed her lips. She was so damn beautiful. He knew from the slight hitch in her voice that she no longer speaking solely about Cordelia. Willow wanted to be held and cared for too. He continued to massage her foot, smiling at her wishful look. "And you? What do you want, Willow?"
Willow caught her breath, looking at Angel and becoming mesmerized by the darkening look in his eyes. She suddenly became aware of the intimacy of their situation. Her foot was in his hands, resting on his upper thigh. His long fingers were stroking her gently. She licked her lips, wanting to tear her eyes away but finding that she couldn't. Almost as if she were being pulled, she felt herself leaning forward on the sofa, moving towards Angel. She heard a loud noise as the front door swung open. She jumped, jerking her foot from Angel's hands.
"You stupid, arrogant, doofish priss!"
"Please keep the shrill whining down," Wesley said, shutting the door and locking it.
"Don't tell me what to do!" Faith said, turning and glaring at her watcher. They had finished their meal in silence, their glares their only acknowledgement of each other. On the way back, Faith had broached his idea that she was still a virgin, giving him detailed descriptions of her previous activities. He had just laughed, telling her that they sounded like fanciful fiction. She had been so mad at his reluctance to take her seriously that she had lashed out verbally, as usual. Instead of rising to the bait, he had merely rolled his eyes and ignored her. She hated being ignored. "You're not my father!"
"Thank God," Wesley muttered, knowing that his resistance of arguing with her was making her more upset than anything he could have said. It delighted him to knock her off balance. He had tried all evening to not allow her to read him as she usually seemed to do so well. He wasn't sure if it was the change of location that was allowing him to actually fight back verbally or if he was merely fed up with dealing with her ridicule. Either way, he was planning on enjoying her confusion.
"Oh, just shut up!" Faith said, groaning. She turned, smiling sheepishly when she saw Willow and Angel sitting in the lounge. "Hey Red, Fang. Excuse me if I don't stay. Someone," she glared at Wesley before looking back at them innocently, "has given me a terrible headache."
"I'll see you in the morning, Faith," Willow said, fighting the smile that was threatening to cross her lips. She watched Faith cast another glare at Wesley before she walked up the stairs.
"Miss. Rosenberg. Angel. Good evening," Wesley said, smiling at them both before he went up the stairs to get some sleep.
"Why is I'm beginning to feel like the only normal person in this house?" Willow asked, laughing softly as she smiled at Angel.
"No comment," Angel said, laughing as she tossed a pillow at him. "Come on. You should get some sleep. You had a long day."
"Yes, I did," she said, smiling. She was glad that Faith had come in when she had. Otherwise, she might have done something really stupid like kiss Angel.
"I'll escort you to your room, milady," Angel said, offering his arm to her.
"Ah, always such a gentleman," Willow said, taking his arm and walking up the stairs.
"Not always," Angel said quietly to himself, wondering if she would find the images haunting his mind gentlemanly. Somehow, the term x-rated came to mind. He walked Willow to her door, removing his arm from hers almost reluctantly. He kissed her forehead, whispering softly, "Sweet dreams, Willow."
Willow sipped her coffee, her amused eyes watching Faith assault her fruit with a knife. "Faith, honey, they aren't vampires."
"What?" the brunette looked up, scowling.
"You're slaying your fruit," Willow said softly.
Faith glanced down and then looked back, a sheepish grin on her face. "Oh. Sorry."
"What's bothering you, slayer?" Cordelia asked, knowing that something was wrong.
"Nothing," Faith said.
"Would it have something to do with the fight you and Wesley seemed to be having last night?" Willow asked innocently.
"That pompous little priss actually accused me of lying about my past. Said they were the mere ramblings of a little girl," Faith repeated in a whiny voice in a bad imitation of Wesley's. "I'll show that bastard little."
"God, why don't you just admit that you want him?" Cordelia asked. She saw Faith's eyes narrow and smiled, "Please, don't even start with the empty threats. You've been hot for him since the first time you two argued. He's one of the only people that will stand up to you and you love it!"
"No way!" Faith denied, shaking her head. "You're nuts."
"Faith, we're all friends here. You can be honest with us. We know you're interested in him," Willow said.
"I can't stand him and he hates me. I mean, he's always wishing that Buffy was his slayer. Can't remind me enough how terrible it is for him to deal with me," Faith said, not realizing how jealous she sounded.
"You want him," Cordelia said, her voice teasing.
"Just shut up, cheerleader," Faith said. "I'd say you had enough problems of your own to worry about rather than interfering in my life."
"Fine. Be a bitch. See if I care," Cordelia said sharply, her good mood ruined.
"Damn," Faith cursed, knowing that she had said the wrong thing. "C'mon D. I was just lashing out."
"Fuck you," Cordelia said sweetly.
Faith sighed, "Is it really that obvious that I want him?"
"Yes," Cordelia said, smiling slightly at the look of utter despair on the slayer's face. "Almost as obvious as the fact that Willow is completely, head over heels in love with Angel."
"Cordelia!" Willow said, her face flushing. "I am not! We're just friends."
Faith snorted, "Who was it that was talking about honesty?"
"We are," Willow said, sighing. "Just friends."
"The looks he shoots your could melt the North Pole," Cordelia said, smiling.
"Faith was right. You are crazy," Willow muttered. "Angel thinks of me as his ex-girlfriend's best friend. Some little tag along that has some common interests. We're just friends, and that's all we'll ever be."
"I wouldn't bet on it," Faith said, having seen the relationship between Willow and Angel grow over the past months. "You two are soulmates. I mean, you both already act as if you're dating, you just don't get the smoochies."
Cordelia laughed, "I never thought I would hear the word smoochies cross those lips, Faith."
"What can I say?" Faith said, shrugging, "I'm trying to cheer up my pessimistic friend here."
"You guys are crazy, but let's concentrate on the matter at hand," Willow said.
"You fucking Fang?" Faith asked innocently, laughing as Willow's face heated up even more.
"Faith! Angel is just a friend. That's it, so drop it," Willow said. "We were discussing you and Wesley and how opposites attract."
Faith rolled her eyes, glancing at her watch, "Damn. It's almost time for that stupid meeting."
"Trying to get out of this?" Cordelia asked.
"All I will say is that I want Wesley as much as Willow wants Angel," Faith said, winking at the redhead. "Oh, and that he's a damn good kisser! Toodles, girls. See you later."
"Did she say kisser?" Cordelia asked, looking at Willow.
"Yep. I think a lot more happened last night than a silly argument," Willow said, smiling slightly. She was glad her friend had found someone that matched her. And, Wesley was rather cute sometimes. She looked at Cordelia, "I was serious by the way. Angel and I are just friends. There isn't anything else there."
"Uh huh. Sure thing, hon," Cordelia said, nodding as she patted Willow's hand. She saw the look in Willow's eyes and decided not to press the issue. She smiled, "So, what shall we do today?"
"I can't believe you did that," Wesley mumbled again, shaking his head.
"What?" Faith said, her tone defensive. "Don't even think about blaming me for this."
"Who else would you have me blame?" Wesley asked, rubbing his temples.
"That asshole Bridges," Faith said, spitting out his name.
"No, I am thinking that this one was you," Wesley said, rolling his eyes.
"Oh, just shut up," she said, not wanting to admit that it was her fault.
"I can't believe you did that," he said again.
"You've already said that," she said through clenched teeth, glaring at him.
"Well, I can't," he said, having to ask, "Why?"
"He asked!" she said, stopping in the street and glaring full force at her watcher. To think she had considered this prissy little prick attractive just that morning.
"It was meant as a joke," Wesley said, leaning against the building. "Did you not understand that?"
"Fuck you," she said, smiling as he closed his eyes briefly.
"Faith, when the head of the watcher council asks an entire room full of watchers and slayers if anyone is ready to leave yet, you are not, I repeat NOT supposed to raise your hand and tell him that 'he is the most boring person you've ever met and his monotone whining is putting you to sleep'. I mean, did you not think for a moment that maybe, just maybe, he would not find that a compliment?" Wesley asked, trying not to smile as he remembered the expression on Mr. Bridges face at Faith's lazily spoken words.
"He shouldn't have asked if he didn't want the truth," Faith said, shifting uncomfortably under Wesley's gaze. "I was just being honest."
"Dear child, there are times for honesty. This was not one of them," Wesley said, sighing.
"Well, at least I stayed! I mean, your precious Buffy is on a plane right now headed back to Sunnydale and I don't hear you whining about that!" Faith said.
"Jamie had to get home. I knew that Buffy had no interest in being here so I was not upset with her behavior," Wesley explained.
"Yeah, right. Whatever. And the Princess gets away with something else," Faith said.
"Let's just find this book store, get this manuscript for Bridges and forget about today," Wesley said, glancing at the scrap of paper he had been handed as Bridges had announced to the entire council that Wesley and his slayer had just volunteered to retrieve some needed documents for him. They had been sent away at that moment. Wesley would never admit it, but he was thrilled to not have to sit those boring lectures anymore. He understood why Giles had stayed home. This was worse than he had feared. After his experiences with Sunnydale, everything he was hearing was bullshit, to put it bluntly. But, now he was stuck trying to get this book for Bridges before he slowly eased his and Faith's presence away from the council, the sooner the better.
"Fine," she said, glancing at the street. She hated to admit that she was thrilled to not be sitting there listening to that boring Bridges anymore. Walking around Rome with Wesley...well, there could be worse things. Of course, he was ticked at her. She had been trying so hard to be nice to all his associates. And then she had ruined it by speaking up when she should have just shut up and gone to sleep. Oh well, it was done. They could find this book and maybe Wesley wouldn't make her go back. She could hope.
Cordelia walked into the bedroom suite she was sharing with Xander and put her bag down. She sat on her bed, sighing as she kicked her shoes off. She must have walked a dozen miles that day. She really wished that Angel could be in the sun. Then, he and Willow could tour all the dusty old museums and leave her to shopping.
"You look beat," Xander remarked softly from the doorway. He had been in the living room when she and Willow had returned. He had followed her upstairs, wanting to try to make things better between them. He just hoped it worked. He had listened to Angel, surprised that he might actually be learning something from the vampire. Angel had told her that often times in relationships a point was reached where things were almost too comfortable. He believed that Xander and Cordelia had reached a stagnant point in their courtship. Xander had to agree. Before, they would fight and make up and just enjoy being together. Now, though, she seemed to be pulling away from her. The fighting was more personal, the quips more hurtful. He hated this widening gap between them.
"Must have walked twenty miles," she said, yawning.
"Welcome to Willow in the land of boring old museums," he said, smiling as he moved towards her bed.
"God, I know," she moaned, laying back against the bed. "She's like a kid in a candy store. All I see is a bunch of junk. She could honestly spend hours looking at the same dusty old piece of crap. Today, though, I got to make her do some shopping."
"Bet she loved that," he said, kneeling at her feet. He took her foot, watching as she stiffened slightly before relaxing as his fingers began to massage the bottom of her stockinged foot.
"That feels good," Cordelia said softly, staying on her back as she let herself enjoy the soft touch of his hands on her aching foot. "She wouldn't buy anything. I even found her this perfect little dark blue dress set her hair off brilliantly. I know Angel's mouth would have dropped open if he'd seen her in it. I mean, there was this slit and a plunging neckline and everything. Would she buy it? Noooo...."
"Angel huh?" Xander said, smiling slightly. "They do seem to be dancing around an attraction don't they?"
Cordelia sat up and leaned against her elbows, catching her boyfriend's eyes. "You don't sound ticked."
"Why would I be upset? He seems to really care about her. She could do worse than Deadboy. He isn't that bad."
"Who are you and what have you done to Xander Harris?" Cordelia demanded, knowing that Xander couldn't stand Angel.
Xander had to laugh, "Am I that bad?"
"You're just...surprising me," she admitted, smiling slightly at his smile.
"Oh, really?" he said, moving his hands to her other foot. He kept his eyes on hers, realizing that this was the first time they had really spoken in weeks. Had a normal conversation that hadn't ended with them arguing or one of them leaving in a huff. Of course, the conversation wasn't over yet. This is what he had missed. He remembered what had gotten them talking and smiled, "So, you remember where this dress was?"
"The blue one?" Cordelia asked, nodding at his agreement. "Yeah, I remember the shop. They had it in her size and everything. Why?"
Xander smiled, "I was just thinking we might have found a little project. Something we can work on together. Ya know?"
"Together?" she whispered, licking her bottom lip as a small smile crossed her face. "So, you want us to work on getting Angel and Willow to fall in love?"
"They're already in love. I just think they need some help figuring that news out," Xander said with a small smile. "I love Willow and want her to be happy. If Angel makes her happy, so be it."
"So, we play matchmaker for them?" Cordelia asked, her eyes still caught by his.
He nodded, "Together, we can do it. They won't know what hit them."
Cordelia smiled, "Sounds like fun. When do we start?"
"Did you have fun today?"
Willow looked up at the softly spoken words and smiled, "I enjoyed most of it."
Angel sat down beside her, his eyes on her face. Since that moment in the living room, when he had wanted nothing more than to kiss her until they were both exhausted, he hadn't been able to get her out of his mind. He had been sitting in his dark room, lost in thoughts of her, when Buffy had dropped by to tell him she was going back to Sunnydale. She had smiled, a look entering her eyes as she searched his own, and she had whispered for him to take good care of Willow for her before kissing his cheek and joining Jamie. He wasn't sure if she really knew his feelings for Willow or just expected him to protect her friend. Either way, he was glad that Willow was back home. "Not all of it?"
Willow shrugged, "Well, I had to go shopping with Cordelia. That wasn't a whole lot of fun for me, but she deserved the break. She went to an art museum with me today and didn't gripe once after spending four hours in there. I can't really gripe for sitting around while she tried on clothes for a couple of hours."
"You didn't buy anything?" Angel asked, smiling at the image of Cordelia stuck in a museum for several hours. She must really care about Willow to put up with something he knew she hated just for the redhead's enjoyment.
Willow snorted, "I hate shopping. I just waited for her. I read a bit of a book and made appropriate comments when she showed me this dress or that. It wasn't too bad."
"Did you know that Buffy and Jamie left?" Angel asked.
"Yeah, we took them to the airport," Willow said, not going to tell him that before she had boarded the plane, the slayer had told Willow to look after Angel for her. The blonde had then winked before getting on the plane. Willow knew that Buffy knew of her crush on Angel, having had a roundabout conversation with her friend about it several times before.
"Oh," Angel said. He looked out over the city, not really sure what to say.
"I was wondering if you could help me," Willow asked quietly.
"Of course," he said, looking at her with a frown. "What's wrong?"
"Oh, nothing's wrong," Willow clarified. She smiled at him, "I just stayed up last night thinking...."
"I'm worried now," he said smiling, glad that nothing was wrong.
"Hey there, mister," she defended, smiling.
"What do you need help with Willow?" he asked, looking into her shining green eyes and waiting.
"Cordelia and Xander," she said simply.
"What?" he asked, watching her smile widen.
"They belong together. They are in love and about to lose it all because of their stubborn stupidity. They deserve to be happy," she said, her face resolved.
Angel sighed, "And you think by interfering you will help them rediscover their love?"
"I think that with *us* interfering, they might have better luck. I mean, we are talking about Cordelia and Xander here. They aren't known for their amazing communicating abilities, you know?"
"Us?" Angel repeated quietly, a small smile crossing his lips. "So, we help them realize that they are in love and what they might be going to lose?"
"Yeah. I think they just need a small reminder that they are in love," she said.
"Sounds like it might work," he said, wondering if he should feel guilty for messing with Xander and Cordelia's lives just for the chance to spend time with Willow. If so, to hell with it. Surely he had earned some guilt free moments the past eighty some odd years. He smiled at Willow, "So, when do we start?"
Faith entered the dark store and sneezed. "Damn, it's dusty in here."
"Looks as if it hasn't been cleaned in years," Wesley remarked as he looked around in distaste.
"Who are we looking for?" she asked, looking around the deserted bookstore and not seeing anyone.
"I believe the fellow's name is Harznet," Wesley said, moving towards the register area. "Hello? Is anyone there?"
"It doesn't feel like anyone's around," Faith commented, turning and pulling herself to sit on the counter. She flipped through one of the books piled on its surface as she frowned. "Hey, I've seen this before. Giles has a copy of it. Some demon book we had to go through a few months ago."
"Yay for Giles," Wesley said, wishing that a day could go by without him having to hear the older watcher's name. He glanced at several of the others books. "Everything here is about the occult or magics or demons."
"Just great. We trek through Rome to end up in some dusty old bookstore that seems to cater to weird freaks. Plus the guy we are supposed to meet seems to have pulled a Casper and disappeared."
"I doubt it caters to weird freaks. I would guess that it is a research source for the council and assistants of the council," Wesley said, glancing around with a frown.
"As I said, a bunch of freaks," Faith said sweetly. She suddenly slid off the counter, a slight frown on her face. "Something doesn't feel right."
"You've noticed that too?" Wesley said, glancing at her.
"Yeah, it isn't vampires, but something is in the air," Faith said, moving to check the aisles. They were all empty.
"Mr. Harzenet? Are you back there?" Wesley called out towards the area behind the register.
"Fuck this," Faith said, rolling her eyes. She pulled herself on to the counter and slid across it. She glanced at Wesley who was watching her with that annoyed look and smiled, "Coming, watcher man?"
"There is a proper entrance," Wesley muttered, moving to unfasten and lift up the side of the counter to walk behind it. He followed Faith into the back room, both cautious as they checked the area beside them.
"Holy shit," Faith said, stopping and causing Wesley to run into her. She felt his body against hers and closed her eyes briefly from the feelings that the brief contact had caused. God, she must be going crazy. Keep reminding yourself that it is the priss, she said mentally. Wesley is not attractive. She opened her eyes, a determined look in her eyes as she looked at what was before her.
Wesley looked around the office, seeing the torn books that covered the floor. Papers were scattered everywhere and a file cabinet had been knocked over. There were definite signs of a struggle. He noticed that the phone was hanging from the desk, the receiver quiet as it barely touched the floor. He noticed something dark beside the desk, coating the carpet. Moving forward, he knelt and touched it briefly. He pulled his fingers away and looked at the red stickiness covering them. He sighed, leaning his head against the side of the desk as he looked at Faith's worried eyes. "I think things just got a bit complicated."
"Do you think she'd like this one?" Xander asked, holding up a delicate silver bracelet for inspection.
"It's beautiful and charming," Willow said, smiling at her old friend. She had been rather surprised when he had asked her to go shopping with him. After they had left the house, he had told her that he wanted to find something special for Cordelia, for her to remember Rome.
"Just like Delia," he said, his love for the girl evident in his voice.
"You love her a lot, don't you?" Willow asked as he paid for the jewelry.
Xander smiled sheepishly before moving across the street towards a small bench. He sat down, looking at her and seeing that she was waiting for an answer. "Yes, I love her. I can see myself growing old and having children with her. I just don't think she loves me like that."
"Oh please. She loves you, Xander," Willow said, having to admit that she wasn't sure if Cordelia would be the having children kind.
Xander smiled wickedly, "As much as you love Angel?"
"Probably more," Willow responded automatically before her eyes widened. She glared at a laughing Xander, "I meant...she loves you a lot."
"Uh uh, Wills. You already said it," Xander said, smiling at his best friend. He had told Cordelia to give him a couple of hours with Willow and he would know the extent of his friend's feelings for the vampire. It had only taken a little over an hour before the opportunity to trick her had come along. He felt like doing a small dance right there on the street.
"I didn't realize what I was saying," Willow defended, almost smiling at the look of happiness on Xander's face. "Besides, don't you hate Angel? Deadboy remember?"
Xander shrugged, "You two make sense. What can I say? I'm maturing."
"Yes, you are," Willow had to agree. It was strange to see the differences in all of her friends. They were about to start college though. They were adults, technically. "So, it wouldn't bother you...me liking Angel."
"Liking?" Xander raised an eyebrow deliberately and laughed at Willow's blush. "I think we are far past the liking stage, my dear."
"Oh, like you know anything about it," she said, groaning.
"I know more than you might think," Xander said, putting his arm around her shoulder and squeezing. "He loves you too, you know. Just goes to show the undead has some sort of taste left."
"I'm just a friend to him, Xander," she said, chewing her lip as her eyes saddened. She sighed, "Enough about that. Do you have an ideas how you're going to give Delia the bracelet?"
Xander shrugged, "I figured I'd just give it to her."
"Oh God," Willow said, rolling her eyes. "How romantic."
"Quit being so damned cheeky. I think you've been around Faith far too long."
"You need a plan, Xander. A romantic dinner, just the two of you. Moonlight overhead. Elegant music drifting towards you," Willow sighed, imaging the scene, only substituting herself and Angel as the leads.
"You think she'd like all that fuss?" Xander asked. "It's not like I'm proposing...it's just a bracelet."
"Yes, she'd like all the fuss. She's a woman after all. We like romance and fuss," Willow said, smiling at her old friend. "Come on. Let's start walking. We can look for the perfect restaurant before we head back."
Xander nodded, "Thanks for the help, Will. I want Cordelia to enjoy her time here."
"No sweat, Xan," she said, smiling. "That's what best friends are for, after all."
"Wow," Cordelia said softly as she followed the maitre d through the maze of tables.
"You like?" Xander asked, his eyes hopeful. He had been nervous all day, feeling almost as if this were their first date. He was sweating slightly and kept worrying about saying the wrong thing.
"I love," she said, smiling at him. She sat down, her eyes still on him. This was the most romantic thing that he had ever done for her. She laughed softly, "This was Willow's idea, wasn't it?"
"What?" he asked, suddenly grinning sheepishly, "Yeah. I bought you something and she acted like I was insane when I mentioned that I was just going to give it to you. She said all women liked romance."
"She was right," Cordelia said, looking around the open-air balcony they were sitting at. The moon was half full and high overhead. A gentle breeze ruffled her air ever so slightly. She sighed, looking back at his handsome face over the candles. He smiled at her, the same goofy smile that had stolen her heart so long ago. She had been crazy for thinking that she could live a life without him. She could survive, but it wouldn't be living unless she was in his arms. "I love you, Alexander Harris."
Xander lowered the menu, his eyes widening slightly. He smiled, "Love you too, Cordelia Chase."
"I'm glad," she whispered before she looked at her menu.
"She's smiling!" Willow squealed, smiling at Angel.
"So she is," he replied, his eyes on Willow's face.
Willow looked back at the table where her friends were sitting, trying to forget that it was Angel who was sitting across from her. Trying to forget how wonderful he looked in the soft glow of candlelight. Trying to ignore the images of his entire body bathed in that soft glow. "They're talking. Golly, she looks beautiful."
"Very beautiful," he said softly, his eyes still on her face. He watched her glance at him in surprise, catching his eyes on her own face instead of Cordelia's and then blushing. He smiled, glancing at the other table so she could have time to deal with the awareness that he found her attractive. "They seem to be happy."
"Yeah," she whispered, wondering if his comment had been directed to her or about Cordelia. She couldn't really just ask if he meant that he found her beautiful or that it was the cheerleader. She moved her eyes from his face and looked back at the table where Cordelia and Xander were sitting. She smiled, watching her two dear friends talk so intently. Their hands met over the table and she sighed softly, a happy look entering her eyes.
"Enough," Angel finally said, looking back at her. "We should give them some privacy."
"You're right," she agreed, looking at him then glancing down at the menu in front of her. "Did you want to leave?"
"No," he said, smiling. He enjoyed the sight of her face across the candlelight too much to leave yet. "I thought we'd eat then maybe take a cab to some gardens that I know outside of town."
"Gardens?" she said, smiling. "I think I'd like that."
"Good," he said, looking at his menu. "So, what would you like tonight?"
Willow smiled as she looked back at the menu, listening to his soft voice as he made several suggestions to her. She forgot about Xander and Cordelia as she began to enjoy simply being with Angel.
"Damn it!" Faith said, groaning loudly in disgust. "This is fucking pointless."
"Nothing is pointless," Wesley said, his own tone rather disgusted.
"Have you ever listened to Buffy ramble? Talk about pointless," Faith said, shaking her head. "Hmm...maybe that should be mindless."
"Ahem," Wesley cleared his throat, directing a glare at her.
"What?" Faith asked, her statement innocent. She rolled her eyes, "Fine. Take away all the fun. You know, I'm getting hungry and tired and I need to kill something," she whined the latter.
"I'm a bit hungry myself," he said, frowning as he looked at the clock. "Damn. The silly thing isn't working."
"Huh?" Faith asked, smiling slightly as she heard him curse. She knew he must, just never in front of her. Uptight arrogant priss.
"The clock. It has said two since the last time I looked at it," Wesley muttered, taking off his glasses and rubbing the bridge of his nose. "I have no idea what time it is."
"Don't you have a watch? I mean, you? Mr. Prepared Watcher Man without a watch? We've probably been here forever and you wouldn't know. How prepared is that?" she asked, watching him wince at her words.
"I lost my watch at the school when we defeated the mayor," Wesley said through tight lips.
Faith snorted, "Yeah right. Likely story. Can't really prove that you just forgot it now can I? I feel like I haven't slept in days and the last time I looked at that stupid clock it said 2 and that was hours and hours ago. We can't find a damn thing in this mess and we have no idea what we it is we're looking for anyway! Real good plan there, Wes."
"Would you please quit the screeching?" he asked, glaring at her as he moved from the pile of books he had been searching through. He ran a hand over his face, wishing he had some idea what they had been sent to get that someone would kill over.
"I do not screech," Faith said, glaring back at him. He had removed his jacket and his sleeves were now rolled up past his elbows. The first few buttons of his shirt were undone and she could see the white undershirt underneath. She looked away, not wanting him to see the desire in her eyes. She kicked at the counter, wishing she had a vampire around to beat into submission. The room they were in was small, had very little air and he was much too close for her comfort. Besides that, she could smell his sweat and cologne, the scent making her wet for some ungodly reason.
"Would you please stop stalking around like some caged animal?" he asked, his eyes watching her sleek body as she moved. Damn if she wasn't like some animal. Wild and free. He shook his head, clearing those particular thoughts away. It was not wise for a watcher to sit and drool over his slayer. Vivid fantasies of her athletic legs wrapped around his waist as he drove into her deeply would not get this mystery solved anytime soon. She was just a child, for Lord sakes. Just eighteen, and innocent despite her attempts to convince others of her worldliness.
"Then let me leave," she hissed, turning to look at him. She knew her lust must be evident in her eyes. It seemed to have overtaken her body, her mind, her soul. God, what she would do for just one more taste of him. For his mouth on hers as his hard body pressed against her.
"You are not going anywhere," he said, frowning as he saw her ragged breathing. He stood, trying to appear more imposing. "So, quit whining and get to researching. We can send out for some food or something, I'm sure."
"What if I'm not hungry for just food?" she asked, hating him for not seeing what was so obvious to her own eyes. Why couldn't he see that she wanted him to kiss her?
"I'm tired, Faith. I'm not in the mood for your silly little games of sexual innuendo. Just try to find something so we can leave," Wesley said, starting to turn back to his chair.
Faith groaned at his dismissal, anger running over her. Damn stupid prissy man. She moved quickly, her hand going behind his head. He looked at her, his eyes widening slightly as her mouth caught his. He opened his mouth to protest, her tongue entering it smoothly. Moaning slightly, his hands moved behind her as he pulled her against him. Their tongues battled as they fell to the floor, knocking several books off the table in their struggle. Wesley ignored the voice in his head telling him that it was not proper for a man of his age to be laying on the floor, kissing Faith. He didn't care any more what was proper, the taste of her overwhelming his good sense.
Cordelia opened her eyes, a small smile crossing her face as she turned her head. She looked at Xander's face, watching his eyes flutter as he slept. She moved her hand up and traced the lines of his face, remembering the taste of his lips, the feel of his hands. She sighed softly, the slight ache between her legs reminding her exactly how they had spent most of the late evening and early morning hours. She was no longer a virgin. Xander was no longer a virgin. She didn't really feel any different. Except for that slight ache, her body felt normal. She knew it was silly to think that she would wake up a changed woman. Yet, in some ways, she did feel different. She was no longer an inexperienced child. She remembered the baffled way she and Xander had approached their first time, neither really knowing what to do but having a vague idea at the same time. She could not think of having shared such a special time with anyone except him. She loved him so much.
She watched as he slowly came awake, his dark eyes opening and looking at her. A soft smile crossed his face as he licked his lips, turning his head against the pillow. His hand came up, brushing a lock of hair from her cheek. "You ok?"
She nodded, the feel of his hand against her face comforting, "Yeah. You?"
"Great," he said, smiling a slightly goofy grin. "I love you, Cordy."
"Love you too," she whispered, almost wishing they never had to leave the bed and the room.
He studied her face, leaning over to kiss her gently before pulling back. "These last few days," he started, knowing that they hadn't had a good few months before coming to Rome. He wasn't stupid. He knew that they had been having trouble. But, since deciding to get Angel and Willow together, they had been rediscovering the reasons they had gotten together in the first place. After the dinner the night before, they had been so caught up in the romance of the evening that they had ended up making love. It was the best night of his life and he knew that he couldn't lose her. "I don't want to lose this. Ever."
"Me either," she said softly.
"Would you be my wife?" he asked in a rush of words before he lost his nerve.
"What?" Cordelia said, her eyes wide.
"Come on, Cor. Marry me?" he asked again. "Make me a happy man?"
"Are you sure? I mean, marriage?" Cordelia repeated, surprise evident in her voice.
"Do you not want to marry me?" he asked, his face falling.
"No. Yes. I don't know," she said, "This is so sudden, Xander. And it's not fair!"
"Not fair?" he said, moving to sit up.
She sat up too, the sheet falling from her full breasts. "It isn't fair! We've had a rough few months and just now I'm starting to feel that you really do love me and you spring this on me? I mean, what am I supposed to say? We're so young. We just graduated high school for pete sake. How can we get married and think that it will last?"
"Because we love each other damn it," he said. "I've seen marriages last much longer without that love. Why can't ours work?"
"I don't know if it will or not," she said, "but it's scary. I don't know what to expect or to even imagine happening."
"Will?" he said, his anger leaving his face as he stared into her watery eyes.
"Will," she sniffled, running a hand through her hair, "I don't know if this is smart, Xander. It could very well be the stupidest thing we've ever done besides stay at the Hellmouth, but it feels right. Besides, Cordelia Harris has a nice ring to it, don't you think?"
"It sounds perfect," he whispered happily, claiming her lips again as they fell to the bed.
"I love it," Willow said, smiling as she looked at Angel.
"I'm glad," he said softly, watching her face. He moved from the doorway as he entered the villa, shutting the door behind him. "I haven't been here in so many years."
She glanced at him, hearing the wistful sound of guilt in his voice. She grabbed a pillow from the couch and threw it at him, laughing as he glared at her. "No brooding! This is a vacation. We're meant to get away from everything."
"I was not brooding," he said, looking at the pillow and then back at Willow, a calculating look entering his dark eyes. "Merely remembering the past."
"And brooding," she teased, putting her duffle bag on the floor beside the couch. She sat down, a smile on her face. "I can't believe Cordelia and Xander are going to get married."
"They seem happy," he said.
"Yeah, they do," Willow said, her voice envious. She and Angel had spent the night wandering around Rome, him showing her his version of the town. They had gotten home at dawn, finding the house quiet and empty. Then, early this afternoon Cordelia and Xander had come downstairs, looking flushed and happy and bubbling over with enthusiasm. She had heard their news, surprised and yet not. She was happy for them, but she also envied their happiness. She knew that Angel must have sensed that because after he had heard the news, he had invited her to visit an old haunt of his in a small town outside of Rome. She knew it was because he thought she could use the time away. She had jumped at the idea, telling Cordelia and Xander that she wanted to give them time alone. So, now she was sitting on a sofa in a nice villa in some small town with Angel watching her with those dark eyes. "You know, I wonder where Faith and Wesley disappeared to. Last I heard they were going to some council thing."
"I'm sure they're fine," Angel said. "I believe Faith mentioned retrieving some book. They probably got side tracked or split up. With those two, who knows?"
"Yeah, who knows?" Willow said, knowing that the slayer had not gone back home the night before. Her room had been empty that morning and she hadn't been back before they had left at dusk. She also knew that Faith could take care of herself and that the council had all sorts of projects in mind for their retreat which most likely explained where the girl was. "So, this is your place?"
"It was Darla's actually," he replied lazily, sitting down and watching her face. "She loved Italy."
"Oh," Willow nodded, understanding that. "So do I."
"And there the differences end, we hope," he replied, mentally comparing his redhead with his sire. There were few similarities, but not many, thank God.
"I'm sure they do," she replied with a smile. "Well, this is a lovely place."
"Yeah, it is. Spike, Dru and I spent a few summers here during the late 1800s. It is beautiful this time of year. The fragrance in the air. Well, you'll smell it as you sleep tonight," he said, smiling softly.
"It's very romantic," she said, smiling before she felt her face flush. "I mean, for other people. Not us, cause we're just friends and romance doesn't mix with friendship and I should stop now."
"You're right," he said, his eyes looking into hers, searching for something, anything that would allow him to believe she felt half of what he did.
"I am?" she whispered, her eyes looking towards the floor at his soft words. She knew it was stupid to ever think someone like him wanted her. He was so out of her league.
"It is romantic," he said quietly, his hand reaching out to touch her face.
"Huh?" she looked up, her eyes wide. She saw his hand pause in midair and it fell. She looked at him and frowned, wondering why he had stopped reaching for her. She looked into his eyes, seeing emotions that surprised her yet also made her feel a small flicker of hope.
"I'm sorry. I was stupid to bring you here," he said, moving to his feet and starting to pace. "This setting? I didn't plan to seduce you. Damn, who am I kidding? I'd die to seduce you. To taste your lips and feel your skin. I need to take you back."
"Wait a minute," she said, getting to her feet. "You wanted to seduce me? You want me?"
"I'd have thought it was rather obvious," he said, sighing as he glanced at her. "I'm sorry, Willow. I never meant for this to happen. I didn't plan on falling in love with you or making your life even more complicated. I'll understand if you want me to leave you alone."
"No brooding," she said, her mind reeling from his words. She slowly began to smile, her confidence growing as he ran his hand through his hair. She moved towards him, taking a reassuring breath. "Angel?"
"Yes?" he asked, looking up and pausing as he saw the smile on her face and the look in her eyes.
"You didn't ask me," she said, stopping as she stood in front of him.
"Ask you what?" he asked slowly, holding a breath he didn't need as he waited for her words.
"You know," she said, chuckling as she moved her hand along the buttons of his shirt. She could do this.
"Tell me," he demanded, his voice husky as she moved her hands higher. It was taking all of his control not to push her down and sink into her warmth there and then.
She licked her lips, watching his eyes darken at her gesture. She moved her fingers up his neck and began to trace the outline of his lips, not believing she was actually doing this. This couldn't be happening. It wasn't real. She saw him stiffen as her finger moved along his lips, saw the restraint in his body. She was doing that to him. "Seduce me, Angel," she whispered as she stood on her tiptoes and brushed her lips against his.
"What's up?" Faith asked as she entered the sitting room, a large grin on her pretty face. She flopped on the couch, her feet going up on top of the table.
"Where have you been?" Cordelia asked, snuggling closer to Xander on the love seat and looking at the slayer with a pointed look.
"Um, yes, well, we had a slight problem arise in the retrieval of that book," Wesley said as he sat down in the armchair. He glanced at Faith and winked at her, watching as she smiled.
"For almost two days?" Xander asked, glancing between the watcher and slayer and slowly smiling. "Uh oh, someone got lucky!"
"Xander!" Faith shrieked, laughing despite the slight blush crossing her cheeks. She cursed her light skin, knowing that her embarrassment must be obvious. It was rather difficult to act cool and mature while blushing. "We were on official council business, tracking a rare and antique book."
"Did you find it?" Cordelia asked, smiling as she saw the two glancing at each other with familiar tender glances.
"Yes," Wesley said, snorting as he rolled his eyes. "It appears that the entire thing was devised as a test of sorts from the council."
"There was never any book," Faith said, groaning. "I mean, there was a book, but it was never missing. We spent so many hours tracking something that was at the council's office the entire time. Just some stupid test to see how well we worked together and all this shit. They even hired some vamps for us to have to fight. Stupid ass pricks."
"Well, there was something good that came from it all," Wesley said with a small smile as he took Faith's hand and squeezed it.
"Oh yeah, see! I knew there was some sparkage there," Xander gloated receiving a hit from Cordelia. "Sorry, baby."
"So, what did you two wild and crazy kids get up to while we were on our wild goose chase?" Faith asked, pulling Wesley onto the couch beside her. She settled against him, pulling her feet up underneath her.
"Nothing much. Had dinner, went sightseeing, got engaged, went dancing," Cordelia said loftily, smiling as Faith screamed.
"Yep, she's finally making an honest man out of me," Xander said, beaming.
"Guess we aren't the only lucky ones," Wesley said, reaching over to shake Xander's hand. "Congratulations, Harris. Cordelia."
"So, where's Red?" Faith asked, looking around with a scowl.
"I'm not really sure," Cordelia said, shrugging. "She and Angel left a few days ago to give us some privacy, to enjoy the engagement glow."
"She and Angel huh?" Faith said, wriggling her eyebrows and giving them a leer. "Wonder if Vampie got lucky too."
"From the way they've been heating up the room lately? I'd put my money on yes," Cordelia said chuckling.
The group continued to talk for another hour, catching up on most of the events over the past few days. Cordelia answered several questions concerning the wedding while Faith answered questions about the council's hunt. They had just decided to eat when they heard the door open and voices talking loudly, laughing as they entered the room.
Willow smiled as she entered the room, Angel behind her with his arm moving around her waist in a possessively hold. She looked at her friends, seeing the casual embraces and her smile grew wider. She cocked her head slightly, the mark on her neck clear for all to see, as she winked at Faith and Cordelia, saying, "Hey guys. We're back."
Willow snuggled against Angel, resting her head on his chest as she sighed softly. She felt Angel shift, his mouth by her ear as he said softly, "Something wrong, bella?"
She smiled at his endearment. Beautiful, in Italian. She loved it, knowing that she was the first person he had ever called that name. He had started calling her that their first night together, whispering in her ear as he had shown her such pleasure and taken her to such heights. After spending the last few weeks with him, hearing his voice soften every time he spoke that name, she felt almost as if it was a caress or a soft I love you. "Not really," she said finally, just enjoying being in his arms, "just feel sad that we're leaving."
"Isn't it awful?" Cordelia said, shifting in place as she stared into the night. "I love Rome."
"It's been wonderful," Faith agreed, smiling at Wesley before looking at her friends. "I mean, look at what we were like when we first got here and now what our lives are like."
"Yeah, I'm an engaged man," Xander said, smiling his off kilter smile as he pulled Cordelia into his arms.
"And it's been confirmed that I must be insane," Cordelia said, laughing as she kissed his cheek.
"I think it's rather obvious what I get to bring home from Rome," Angel said lightly, his chin resting on Willow's shoulder as he pulled her closer to him.
"Yes, well, I believe we are all much better off than before," Wesley said.
"I second that," Faith said, her hand in his.
"But I still hate to leave," Willow said wistfully.
"Yeah, me too," Faith agreed.
"We'll be back," Cordelia said nodding, a determined look in her eyes. "I know it."
"Here, bella," Angel said, handing Willow a coin from his pocket. He saw her look at him and he smiled, "The fountain? Haven't you heard the stories? If you toss in a coin, you get to return to Rome."
Remembering the first day they arrived in town, and the wish she had made, she smiled, holding the coin tightly. "Yeah, I heard," she glanced at Faith and Cordelia and saw the slight widening of the other girl's eyes as they too remembered their wishes. She looked at them and laughed, "What do you say girls? Should we risk a second wish?"
Faith laughed, digging in her jeans pocket for a coin, "Fuck yeah. Who knows? It might come true too."
Cordelia nodded, shaking her head as she found a coin, "I can't believe I'm doing this. I so don't believe in this stuff," she continued to protest as she moved forward to join the others. The men moved together, watching as their lovers looked into the fountain and then at each other. All as one, three coins were tossed into the air, making a small splash before settling on the bottom. The girls turned, moving into their lovers' arms and taking one last look at the fountain.
"Ok, we're ready," Willow said, smiling as she started to walk towards the waiting taxi.
"Yeah, back to the old grindstone," Faith said, making a face.
"Hellmouth and all," Cordelia added, rolling her eyes as she and Xander got into a taxi.
"You comfortable?" Angel asked as Willow got into the car.
"Yes," she said, kissing him gently before laying her head against his chest.
He smiled, holding her close as he said, "I love you, bella."
"And I love you," Willow said softly as she settled beside Angel in the cab, his arm around her as they started off towards the airport and home.