Willow returned to her room after class to find Buffy gone and the stereo still playing blank tape. She looked about the room curiously. The lights had been left on, and there were clothes all over Buffy's bed. For a moment Willow thought Buffy was probably in the bathroom and about to come back. Then she took a closer look. Buffy's school books were still there, but her closet was open and several outfits were missing. So were a couple of Buffy's choice weapons from her slaying trunk. Her jewelry box had been left open as well.
For a moment Willow panicked. Had something horrible happened to someone that Buffy had to run off and deal with? Or had her emotional state &endash; whatever was bothering Buffy earlier &endash; been worse than Willow had thought and she'd run away again?
She had almost run out of 'what ifs' when her eyes fell upon a piece of paper taped to her computer monitor. She snatched it up so fast it almost tore.
Willow, it read, the handwriting hurried.
I'm sorry to run out on you like this. I know I probably gave you quite a scare. I've borrowed Mom's car &endash; you wouldn't believe some of the excuses I came up with &endash; and am driving to L.A. as you read this.
Willow nearly jumped at that. L.A? But L.A. was .
Yes, I'm going to see Angel. Now, before you get mad or do anything impulsive, let me explain. Actually, let me back up. Remember what I was saying earlier about flashes of forgotten dreams? Well, I was getting these memory flashes, and I wasn't able to figure out what they were until after you left. Then they were just so clear!
It was Angel and I, and we were together. And he was human, Will! It was so vivid &endash; I mean, I could feel the warmth of his skin and hear his heartbeat. I don't know what it means, or what the flashes are, but I know one thing. They're important, and I have to go to L.A. Maybe Angel will have the answers I need.
But don't be mad, Will. I know others will be, but This is the first time in months that I've done something that just felt right.
I'll call you from L.A,
For a moment Willow sat without moving, trying to make some sense of the words Buffy had written. Part of her was shocked that Buffy would even think of Angel like that anymore after he'd hurt her so much. And she had Riley now! Did she still think about Angel now that she had someone normal?
But then she had to remember how Buffy and Angel had once been, together, before anything had gotten in the way. It had seemed so romantic back then. Could it be like that again?
Finally, Willow had to ask herself something. If she knew where Oz was, if there was suddenly nothing standing between them would she return to him? Would she want to try again? The question wasn't as hard to answer as she thought. If the love was true, who was she to get in the way? Shouldn't she instead do all she could to help it along?
She picked up the phone and dialed quickly. "Tara? You up to some wicca-work tonight? I was hoping you could help me help some friends "
Buffy was quite proud of herself that she never had to pull over on the road to L.A. Not that the memory flashes didn't keep coming, but they were less defined. She was better able to keep herself under control when they were like that. It took her longer to get to L.A. than usual, though. Still, the new memories remained vague. It was like there was a movie on that she wasn't really paying attention to. She was hearing just enough bits and pieces to get an idea of the story.
/She woke up and was surprised to find that she was alone in the bed. She'd gone upstairs to try and find Angel, but found Cordelia instead. She was less than helpful.
"You know, I'm in real pain here and all you can do is talk about Angel," she was saying. "Has it even occurred to you how this whole turning human thing might effect me?"
"Regrettably &endash; no," Buffy replied, annoyed. "Look, if you know where he is, just tell me?"
Cordelia sighed. "He told me not to tell you."
A tinge of fear crept up on Buffy. "Is he in trouble?"
Cordelia shot her a look but said nothing.
"Cordelia, what are we, in second grade here? Tell me!"
"Oh, you want to talk about being mature?" Cordelia replied angrily. "Maybe it's time that *you* grew up and realized that you can't have anything. You can't have Angel and save the world. And anyway, it's your fault that he went to fight that thing by himself without "
The sense of dread grew. "What thing?"/
It was long after dark when Buffy finally arrived at the office of Angel Investigations. It was completely dark inside, but that was to be expected. And anyway, Angel's apartment was in the basement if anything she remembered was true. The only thing was, would he let anyone in this late?
She parked her mom's car on the street out front and sat in silence. She'd come all this way, and now she'd suddenly lost the nerve to go the last couple of steps. But she had to. Inside was Angel. Inside were answers.
Buffy was surprised to find the front door unlocked and she swung it open cautiously. She was greeted by a scene she never would have expected &endash; it was something from her nightmares. It was chaos.
A hysterical woman cowered to one side of the room, the blood speckling her face and clothes clear even in the dark office. Wesley lay crumpled in a far corner, conscious but obviously dazed. Cordelia held a bottle of water menacingly &endash; or defensively &endash; before her. And in the middle of it stood Angel, his voice cold and mocking, his vampiric features twisted in a sneer.
Buffy fought back the hurt that sprang up at seeing him like this. Angel was a loving and sensitive man, even dead. Angelus was an evil, powerful, and extremely cruel vampire. Right now she needed to make sure he was no longer a danger to anyone. Later she could cry over how he'd gotten this way.
"Hello, lover," Buffy said loudly and clearly, interrupting Angelus' last tirade.
The vampire turned and smiled at her coldly. "Well, what a surprise, Buff. This visit is certainly the last thing I expected. What mission of anger brings you here this time?"
"Oh, the usual," Buffy replied just as coldly.
Angelus shrugged. "Doesn't matter. Saves me the trouble of having to track you down."
"Aw, I'm flattered," Buffy replied, stepping further into the office. "Still thinking about me?"
"What can I say, you've been on my mind," the vampire replied mockingly. "Can't say the same for your mind, though."
"What does that mean?" Buffy asked darkly. She clutched the stake in her pocket.
"Oh, you know exactly what I mean. Tell me, how long was I gone before you were in someone else's bed? And after him? Who is your college boy toy now, huh? The blond one, rather bland? Or have you replaced him by now, too?"
"You have no idea what you're talking about," Buffy nearly growled. "You left me. You wanted me to find someone normal. So you know what? I did."
"Normal, huh?" Angelus sneered. "You got that, alright. Boring too. I just never expected you to forget your 'dear sweet Angel' so fast. But then, I guess you're really good at forgetting."
If Buffy paled, it wasn't visible in the darkened office. "What are you talking about?" she asked, her voice just above a harsh whisper.
"I'll never forget, I'll never forget," he mocked. "But then, I guess the second time isn't nearly as memorable as the first. Or the third time, for that matter."
Wesley sprang up from where he was crouching then, catching the vampire completely off guard. He tackled Angelus and sent him crashing into the elevator shaft. The vampire fell and did not get up.
The office was silent then too silent and too dark. Buffy suddenly realized she was trembling. She wanted to sit down, maybe even cry for a while, but she couldn't. Not until this was over one way or another.
"Buffy " Wesley's hand was on her arm and she jumped.
She glared at him, her teeth clenched. "What the hell happened?"
Wesley flinched. Buffy felt a bit guilty for taking out her pain on Wesley. Only a bit though.
It was Cordelia who replied. "Ask her," she said with surprising venom, gesturing at the other woman in the room.
Buffy spun on the third woman. She looked terrified, but Buffy didn't care. She was also rather pretty, and looked vaguely familiar to Buffy. Had Angel slept with this woman? He wouldn't, would he? Break the curse like that? "What did you do?" Buffy asked, her voice dangerous.
"I " the woman said, shock making her speechless.
"She drugged him," Cordelia provided.
Buffy glared at the woman. She pulled out her stake threateningly. "Get out," she snarled.
"She said 'Get out,'" Wesley reiterated. Faced by their three angry stares, she fled the office.
Cordelia sighed. "There goes our first &endash; and likely only &endash; celebrity client," she said.
Buffy just looked at her blankly.
"Come on, then," Wesley said, walking towards the stairs into the basement apartment. "Let's deal with Angel before he wakes up."
Buffy looked blankly at the stake in her hands as she followed him. Could she do it? Could she kill the demon that wore Angel's face?
Wesley must have realized what she was thinking as she came to stand beside him, for he placed a hand on her hand with the stake. "There's no need for that," he said softly.
Buffy just blinked at him.
"He hasn't lost his soul," Wesley explained. "Angel is still there."
"So, what?" Buffy asked in angry confusion. "He just decided to let his demon out to play?"
"No," Wesley explained, "it was the drug he was given. It simulates bliss. Happiness."
"Oh," Buffy said softly.
They had reached the bottom of the stairs. "Buffy, help me get Angel to his room. Cordelia, get the chains."
Cordelia looked like she was about to retort, but then decided better and went to follow orders. For Buffy's part, she had nothing to say either. She was trying not to concentrate on the situation she had stumbled into. Trying not to think about Angel unconscious in her arms as she and Wesley carried him between them. Her distractions were no better, though.
There was Angel's apartment. When she had the chance to look around, she knew the place too well. It was exactly like she had dreamt of it. Every corner, every piece of furniture she even knew what Angel's bedroom looked like before she entered it. It was too real.
Her mind traced back to her 'conversation' with Angelus only minutes before. All of those words about forgetting She knew that Angel's feelings existed somewhere within those cruel words. What was he trying to say to her?
/I'll never forget./
Buffy nearly dropped Angel onto his bed. The words, the thoughts, the apartment, the bed she knew. She remembered.