Eating Out
by Mosca

"It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sometimes it's good being the only one in the office. For instance. Right now I'm leaning back with my bare feet up on the desk, eating peaches from a can and reading this month's Jane, the swimsuit issue. It's Wesley's day off, so I can get near the CD player without risking my life. I have no money, and the phone is not ringing, but some days there is nothing better in the world than Safeway peach halves in light syrup with a side dish of Freddie Prinze Jr. in Speedos.

So Gunn would walk in right now and ruin everything. Enter, stage right, carrying Taco Bell. "Between your feet and that music, you're gonna scare away the customers," he says.

"If I so much as feel the phone vibrate with the thought of ringing, I promise, I'll turn it down."

"And put your shoes on? Please?"

"My feet," I say, crossing my ankles, "are gorgeous."

He walks over and hands me something warm wrapped in Mexican-themed waxed paper. "I got you a chalupa."

"Why don't you ever go to Del Taco? It's better," I say. And catch myself. "But thanks."

I am biting into my inferior Taco Bell chalupa when the phone actually rings. I hit pause on the CD player, swallow (and I put on way too much hot sauce for that), and pick up. "Angel Investigations we help the helpless," I sputter.

"Um, hi. Cordelia? This is, um, Willow."

"Oh hey! What's up!" I sound cheerful for someone who should be bracing herself for really, really bad news. You know it's bad news when they make Willow call.

"Um, yeah. I was thinking of, um, coming up to L.A. this weekend. And I was wondering, since you live there and stuff, if maybe I could stay with you? It would just be a couple of days, and if you've got to work I'll just go find something to do."

"Yeah, that would be really cool, actually." And I mean it, as much as I was way above being friends with Willow in high school. It would be good to have social contact with someone who is not Wesley, Gunn, or Lorne.

"I, uh, got a train ticket for Friday night. It gets to L.A. at, um--" I can hear her rustling through papers-- "8:36. It's-- it's okay if you can't meet me at the station, though, because, um, I know how to take the bus to the Hyperion from there."

I don't work Fridays, and you can bet your ass I won't be at the Hyperion on Friday night. Any opportunity to get out of listening to Wesley's Dylan bootlegs is an opportunity I will take. "No, that's okay, it's my day off. I'll meet you at the station. Is the McDonalds all right? Because it's the most obvious and brightly-lit thing there."

So we work out the details a little more, and I hang up. Gunn is starting in on his fourth taco. "Willow's coming this weekend," I tell him. "And nobody died."

"There must be some weird shit goin' down," he says with his mouth full.


I spend the rest of the week cleaning my apartment and worrying about what the hell is so fucked up that Willow won't even tell me on the phone. I guess at least it motivates me to clean out the fridge, which has crossed the line from overripe to disturbing. I mean, you know your fridge needs cleaning when the ghost starts writing "clean me" in ketchup on the fridge door.

But it's a good week. We get a few calls that remind us why being second under "Detective Agencies" in the Yellow Pages is a good thing: a woman who thinks her husband is cheating, and a father who wants to find out where his son goes when he blows curfew. (Thank God my parents didn't pull that one on me.) Plus a routine exorcism and some prosperity charms on a new Mexican restaurant. It's almost more than we can handle, and it's always fun going out with a telephoto camera and following slimy assholes and their slimy unemployed-actress girlfriends around town.

I get up around noon on Friday and celebrate with a big salad from the deli down the street from my apartment. I don't really know what I'm celebrating, but the salad is good.

Willow's train is delayed about twenty minutes, and even though it says that on the screens, I am standing in front of the McD's feeling twelve kinds of anxious. And I could swear she is the last one off that train when she finally does show up. The train ride has flattened out her hair. "I don't want to, um, ruin your plans or anything, but I'm just, I'm really tired. It's been--it's been an unnecessarily long day. So I was wondering if it would be okay, I mean if it's all right with you, if I just went back to your place and crashed? I mean, you could go out without me if you wanted. No biggie."

"Sure," I say. "I am completely up for renting some movies and chilling." These are the things that I don't say, because I am trying to teach myself not to say every asshole thing that comes into my head: 1. Please, please don't apologize for everything you say. 2. You don't know how much I would give to have friends here that I could just chill with and watch videos. 3. Every day of my life is unnecessarily long.

So we get on the bus and end up going to the Hyperion, which is a few stops before the stop I get off at to go home, because Willow wants to say hi to everybody, and I think I can probably hit one of the three guys up for some booze procurement. Both of which happen. Through the stereo speakers, Bob Dylan is moaning something about dwarves. Willow chats with Wesley about Wiccan stuff while Gunn runs to the 24-hour liquor mart. He hands me a bottle of lemon-flavored Stoli, looks me in the eye, and says, "No driving."

"Promise!" I say, and we're back on the bus. We stop at the Safeway and get two pints of Haagen Dazs, a bag of marshmallows, some Jiffy Pop, and a big bottle of cranberry juice. We go down the street to the video store and rent "Thelma and Louise" and "Antonia's Line," because they're the two most chick-flicky chick-flicks we can find.

We sprawl out on the rug in front of the TV. The only reason I have a TV and a VCR is because we got a poltergeist out of an electronics store, and the owner paid us in merchandise. I'm lucky that it was expensive to exterminate that poltergeist. But I promise myself I'm not going to think about money anymore tonight. Because we pulled in a lot of business this week, and we're going to keep doing that, and I've got a big bowl of Jiffy Pop and someone to share it with, even if it's just Willow.

Twenty minutes into "Thelma and Louise," just as we're finishing off the popcorn and pouring our third drinks, she thanks me again for letting her stay with me. I tell her it's no big deal, which it's not. "I, um, I really needed to-- to get out of Sunnydale for a-- a few days. It's like all of a sudden everyone-- everyone ex-expects me to be in charge, and I'm not c-cut out to be the leader. I was always the-- the, um, the Velma, and I was good at being that. But now I'm-- I'm just sort of--" Under normal circumstances, Willow's babbling would bug the shit out of me. But tonight I'm in a good mood. Also, she seems to be legitimately upset in a way that babbling to someone can kind of relieve. And what am I going to say to her? I got to be queen of a demon realm, where I met a hot guy but refused to boink him because that would mean giving up my mind-blowingly painful vision headaches. While she watched her best friend die. Cordelia Chase, meet the world's tiniest violin, playing the saddest song.

She needs a hug, and I give her one. Being supportive is not exactly one of my natural talents, but it seems to work. "And on top of that," she says. "I had this fight with Tara. Wh-which is hard to accomplish, because sh-she usually avoids that. Like she'll calm me down? And I would have done anything for her, I did do anything for her, when Glory took her away I fed her and washed her and--"

I have a feeling that there are a lot of things that happened in Sunnydale that nobody bothered to tell me about. "It's okay," I say, stroking her hair and praying to whoever's listening that she's not reading too much into this.

"We were-- we were watching a movie," she said. "We were watching 'Heathers.' And-- and I said, um, it was really nothing. I said that Winona Ryder had cute hair."

Winona Ryder did have cute hair in "Heathers." From a completely objective standpoint. "I hated that movie in high school," I said. "I felt sorry for the Heathers. Like they were probably just normal people except that everyone thought of them as the popular girls. So they just did what people expected. But. Sorry."

"I always, um, kind of felt that way too," she said. "But it's still a good movie. And Winona Ryder's hair is really cute, s-so, I, um, said so. And, and, and Tara lost it. Like, um, I've never seen her lose it at all before, she never raises her voice or anything. It's kind of freaky and sweet at the same time. She said she was t-tired of me liking other people all the time. And-- and if I r-really l-loved her, I would only want her. I said I promised I wouldn't say anything anymore, but she said then she'd just know I was feeling things and not saying them, and she-- she didn't want me to be dishonest. And sh-she said maybe we should take a break, and I-- I should come back when I know I don't want anyone else."

"What does she want you to do?" I say. "Not have a pulse?"

"But-- but that's the thing. She really doesn't think of anyone else but me. That's-- that's what makes her special."

Suddenly, all I can think about is how completely pissed off Willow's girlfriend would be if she walked into my apartment right now, taking a break or not taking a break. Willow has her head on my shoulder, which is uncomfortable, but I guess she needs it. She keeps talking. I'm not sure if I'm listening because I want to make her feel better, or because it's interesting in a low, gossipy, Sally Jessy Raphael way. Today on Sally: lesbian lovers in peril! Will this relationship survive?

"...And now that-- I mean, I think Xander's going to ask Anya to marry him and--"

I am so fucking out of the loop.

"I'm starting to w-wonder, because everyone sort of assumes that Tara and I are going to be together forever and ever and ever. And-- and I want that to be true. At-- at least n-now that's what I want. B-but we're only 20 years old! I mean, she's the only girl-- the only woman-- I've ever been with. I'm-- I-- I guess I'm not ready to say that I know she's the-- the one I'm supposed to be with."

If I were her, I'd be freaking out too. Probably more loudly. "I think relationships suck," I say. "All of them."

"But the whole point," she replies, "is the part in between the suckiness. And that was so great. I want to get back to that part."

"I think we need ice cream," I say, heading for the freezer. Because I know there is a right thing to say, but I don't know what it is.

"Cordelia, come back, this is the part where they meet Brad Pitt!"

We watch Brad Pitt seduce Geena Davis with his tight jeans and his cute-like-a-monkey face. And then we watch the rest of the movie. Once, we stop to switch ice cream flavors. We don't even look at each other until the credits start and I hit stop. I wonder if this even counts as social interaction.

There's some cop show on when the VCR switches to TV. Cable, because Dennis got usefully bored one day and figured out how to steal it. I'd feel bad about that if I could afford cable, or if I could live without TV. I start flipping channels.

"What about the other movie?" Willow asks.

"Oh, did you want to watch it now?"

"No, um, this is okay."

We find an old Simpsons rerun, and I stop flipping for a minute. "Xander completely ruined this show for me," I say.

"Yeah," she says. "He'd always make that annoying HA-ha noise."

"Or the 'Mmm, beer' thing. Remember that?"

"It made me want to hit him."

"I did hit him once," I say. "It didn't help." I sigh. "He ruined a lot of things for me."

"Like what?"

"Oh, like my social life. Jell-o pudding in little cups-- don't ask, because you don't want to know. Hmm. Oral sex."

"Ruined how?" Great. Now she's interested.

"Mostly by being amazingly bad at it."

She cracks up.

"I think he picked up his technique while he was a hyena."

She looks like she wants to say something but is laughing too hard.

"I--" and by now I'm having trouble keeping a straight face-- "finally told him he never had to do it again, because he was convinced that it was required somehow. Like, he had to repay me for blow jobs by annoying me until I pretended to come."

"You faked?"

"Only a few times. The first couple of times he tried it, I actually tried to give him pointers. It just made him try harder."

"I could never fake. It's like lying."

"So what do you do? Just say, 'All right, quit it, let's do something else because I'm not going to come?'"

"There was one time in the back of Oz's van. He always did it like he was afraid he was going to hurt me, so it would tickle. So he went down on me, and I was squirming and trying not to giggle. But I couldn't help it, because it really, really tickled, and I just started laughing. He looked up like I'd just insulted his manhood. Which I kind of had. I grabbed him by his hair and said, 'And I'm going to keep right on laughing unless you do it harder.' We, um, discussed it later, but it never really got any better."

"That's kind of reassuring."

"It's reassuring that we went out for more than a year and he never figured out how to get me off?"

"No, it's reassuring because now I know that it's not just my fault for constantly picking guys who couldn't figure out how to give a girl head if a clitoris came with instructions."

"Well, um, it takes practice," she says. "It's like-- like a skill."

"So now you're skilled?"

She grins. "I've had a lot of practice."

TMI. I take a big gulp of my fifth vodka-and-cranberry. "So are you skilled like you can always get Tara off, or does it work on everyone?" And bonus points for telling me why the hell I am asking you this.

"I don't know," she says. "I've only ever been with her."

"Sorry, that was a weird question. Wanna see who's on Conan?"

It's Winona Ryder. Her hair is very short and very cute. "Is it okay if we don't watch this?" Willow asks.

I turn off the TV. The room is black and silent, except for the streetlights shining through the window and the cars rushing by.

"Now I feel really bad," she says.


"Because now I'm curious. About what you asked me."

"I didn't mean anything," I say really fast.

"I wasn't, um, suggesting anything." She pours herself another drink. "Want some? I mean, another-- not--"

"Yeah, thanks." I notice that she puts in a lot of vodka. I am starting to think about things, which means I'm almost definitely drunk. Like, Willow didn't know she was gay until she fell in love with Tara. So how does anybody really know what they are until they can rule things out? And if that's true, how can I rule anything in or out except high school football players, a couple of guys I picked up in bars in LA, a small assortment of half-demon guys with interesting eyes, and Xander Harris? I am definitely, definitely drunk.

"But would you?" I say.

"Would I what?"

"Go down on somebody else to see if it worked."

"I don't know. Maybe. I-- I guess I think I should. But I don't know."

"Because I would totally let you. If you wanted to. For research purposes."

"No." She shook her head shaggily. "I couldn't do that. It would be-- it'd be weird."

"Okay, well, whatever."

I swear, we stare at the blank television for a few whole minutes. And then she turns to me. And says, really softly, like she hopes I won't hear her and the whole idea will disappear, "Did you really want me to?"

And I hear myself say, "Yeah, kind of."

She leans towards me. "You need to-- um, promise one thing then."


"No faking."

"Okay," I say. I think I would be more embarrassed to fake it for her than to just get up and say, "Well that didn't work." Like it was pretty clear that as long as I was honest, it wouldn't bruise her ego, despite the fact that that's the exact opposite of how it works for everyone else.

"Oh, and also? If you want me to stop, just say. And I will."

I sort of nod. She puts a hand on my arm, and before I know what I'm doing or letting her do, she's kissing my neck and getting her hands under my shirt. I jump back.

"You wanted me to do this the way I, um, do it, right?"

"Yeah, I just wasn't expecting that."

"Sorry." She pushes some hair back from her face. "So you want to start over?"

"Okay. I guess. I mean, yes." I'm starting to talk like Willow. Which is kind of funny.

"Good. Because you're kind of tense, and I don't know if I could..."

"Come on, before I change my mind and make you stay with Wesley."

She's sitting on her hands, like she's afraid to touch me now. So I do one of those I-would-never-do-that-sober things and kiss her on the mouth. With tongue. I feel her melt like-- like a pint of Haagen Dazs in the sunshine. And she kisses me back, and starts fumbling with my shirt.

I break off the liplock long enough to say, "It ties there in the back..." and realize that kissing Willow isn't much different from kissing any of the guys I've kissed, except possibly for the fact that it doesn't feel like she's trying to suck my face off. I feel my shirt flutter to the floor. It's a halter top. I don't really understand the consequences of this until her thumbs are on my nipples.

"You're cold," she says, and she pushes me back onto the rug. And I think, she can tell the difference between cold and aroused. Of course, I'm a little of both. But I've never been with someone who knew the difference before. I mean, she would know the difference. She's got her own.

She moves one hand down to my hip, but she's still got the other on my breast and she's still kissing me. And they're deep kisses, but they're friendly, not really sexual at all, just intimate. Nice. She moves her head down towards my shoulders, but I don't really want to stop kissing. I love kissing. I could kiss forever.

She's got her mouth on my nipples, and now I am aroused, not cold. She sneaks her hand up between my legs, under my skirt. She strokes my thighs with her fingertips. Her nails are very short, so it's mostly skin that's just a little rough, and I can barely feel the smooth ends of her fingernails. She is scratching me hard enough that it doesn't tickle but not so hard that it hurts. And this is something that turns me on, and no one has ever done it before. It's something that I thought about when I realized I was going to be stuck with my visions-- that our bodies can do all these things, and are waiting to do them, but we have to figure out that they're possible.

Anyway, by this point I'm pretty sure that whatever Willow knows how to do works on people other than Tara.

She hooks her fingers under the waistband of my underpants, and I can tell she's trying to slip them off quickly. But they get twisted up around my knees, so I have to kind of wriggle out of them. I'm hoping she's not paying attention to what they look like, because they are definitely not getting-laid underwear. But she doesn't seem to notice. Just throws them out of the way and keeps going.

She must have noticed the thigh thing, or maybe it's just one of those things she does. Anyway, she's got her mouth on my thighs now. She nudges up the bottom of my skirt until it's flipped up inside-out over my stomach. She's kissing and sucking and I close my eyes and arch my back over her hand which is on the small of my back. These are only my thighs and I think what will happen when she moves up just a little and she does. She makes long strokes with her tongue that open me up. She sucks on my clit and my inner labia, strong enough that she pulls a little. She makes little swirls with the tip of her tongue in places that don't have names-- where the slopes of my clit connect to my labia, that little underneath path of flat red soft stuff between my clit and my vagina. She teases my opening with her tongue, doesn't even go inside for a while, just circles it until I couldn't possibly resist. And then she gets her tongue in-- I'm surprised how far she gets her tongue in-- and makes little tingling thrusts. I get little happy waves up my back, and I breathe harder, moan softly. She rubs my hips and my butt in wide circles with her hands. And she goes back to those long paintbrush strokes, and to the sucking and pushing with her tongue, all kinds of things, and I'm not really keeping track anymore. It's taking a long time, but okay, because oh. There's little tingles behind my eyes oh shit but never mind also in my hips stomach chest and yes very soft and wet there and oh. Mmm. Loud enough to shake the walls. OH. YES. I yell. OHHH. Oh. She licks me a few last times, pulls my skirt down and kisses me on my bellybutton. I think I lie there for a long time after.

"Do you want me to..." I finally manage to say.

She's got this grin on her face. This huge grin. "It's okay. I mean, only if you want to." She's drinking the vodka and cranberry that she started, uh, beforehand. She holds it up and says, "I get kind of cottonmouth after."

I don't do anything that night, except make up the couch with a clean sheet and pillow and extra blanket, and find her a towel, and put on my pajamas, and brush my teeth, and go to sleep in my bed which is suddenly huge.


One of the things about being poor is having to work weekends. Willow figures out how to take the bus to the contemporary art museum, which of course is the kind of thing she'd want to do on a Saturday in July. We get one call, and since it's just me on duty, I go out on it. Some idiot buzzed a vampire into an apartment building. The vamp killed the tenant, and the landlord wants us to de-invite him before he comes back. It's not real witchcraft, just some herbs and crosses and a quick charm, but I'm still proud of myself for not having to call Wesley on his day off.

I spend the afternoon reading Vogue and feeling laid.

Willow shows up a few minutes after sundown. She's got shopping bags.

"How was the museum?" I ask.

"Air conditioned," she says. "And it had lots of neat sculptures that looked like you should be allowed to climb on them. Which you weren't. Which was kind of a letdown."

"Good gift shop though?"

"No, I, um, went to the Salvation Army and a couple of other little secondhand stores. People don't know what they're giving away sometimes. It's, um, a good way to keep yourself stocked for cheap. I mean, Wicca-wise."

I decide not to mention that I bought today's skirt at one of those shops. People don't know what they're giving away sometimes.

She kind of sniffs around me. And she grabs my wrist. "You did magic today," she says.

"Oh, just a devamp."

"A what?"

"Uninviting a vampire that somebody invited in accidentally. We do 'em a lot."

"Isn't that, um, complicated? I mean, I remember it was a lot of work when Angel went all nuts and..." she looks towards the desk. "Um, sorry."

"It's okay," I say. "We all make fun of him. I don't see why you shouldn't."

"Oh," she giggles. "Okay."

"Wesley figured out how to do it pretty quick," I say. "The devamps. We've got a lot of downtime, and Wesley spends most of it listening to annoying music and reading very old books."

"How?" she says softly. "I mean, the spell."

"It's not really a spell," I say, "you just..."

She actually grabs a pen and paper and takes notes while I tell her. And then she says, "So how about that place you told me about? With the green karaoke demon? That could be fun."

"I don't think Caritas even opens before midnight," I say.

"We could, um, have dinner first," she says.

I'm starting to say something about agreeing with her as Wesley walks in with a thick leather-bound book and a toppling stack of tapes. "You're still here?"

"We're just leaving," I say.

"Good. Because I need to be alone with-- with Blonde on Blonde."

Willow and I end up at this Vietnamese place where I go so often for takeout that they know my name. Which is good, because I skipped lunch. We eat spring rolls and noodles, and I tell her about Pylea. And I realize that this is the first time I've told anyone that story. Because all my friends were there, and they all had the scary near-death experiences while I got fanned by monks.

Willow doesn't talk about Buffy.

There's still hours and hours before there's any point in going to Caritas, so we take a walk. We talk about whether Xander and Anya are going to get engaged, and Giles's magic shop, and whether Pop Tarts are better toasted or raw. We end up back at my building with nothing to do until midnight. "We could watch that Dutch movie," I say.

"Okay," she says, and we go up, and she kisses me before the door is even shut. "Sorry," she says. "You-- you probably didn't want me to do that."

But it's okay. It's strangely okay.

Everything is strangely okay.

"I did that thing that guys do last night," I say. "The one where you go down on them, and they're really into it, and then the second they get off, they roll over and go to sleep. Which I hate."

"But you-- but you didn't," she says.

"Yes I did. I was skanky asshole boy, and now I'm apologizing. And I'm really, really bad at apologizing, so could you please accept it? Okay?"

"B-but you weren't. You asked-- you asked if I wanted, and I said no, it was okay. And-- and I wasn't doing that thing where you say you don't want, to make the other person happy, even though you really do want."

"Maybe Tara is turning you into a nun."

"N-no, just-- I knew th-that it was going to take a while, and I'd have to give you in-instructions and stuff, and-- and I wasn't up for that." She smiles. She's so sweetness and light most of the time. Little Mary Sunshine gone geek. But this smile is pure evil. "Then."

She slides her hands under my shirt and unclasps my bra from underneath. The straps run slack down my shoulders and get caught in my sleeves. And I'm thinking, I don't need instructions for making out. I put my hands on her hips and kiss her. She falls off balance, and I try to catch her, and we both end up on the floor. I wriggle out of my bra before it gets all twisted up. I get my hands up under her shirt again and peel it off of her. She's lying flat on her back with her arms above her head, and her breasts are perfect little domes. Safeway canned peach halves. I run my tongue over one of them. In light syrup.

"That's nice," she says. I go for the other breast. And suddenly she's like an interactive instruction manual, all, "try sucking on that" and "ow, it's not like they're going to give milk" but mostly "oh, wow, that feels good." I nip her accidentally on the curve of her belly, and she squeals.

"Sorry," I say, pretty much incoherently because my face is buried in her stomach.

"No, um, could you do that again?"

I grab a soft chunk of skin in my teeth and pull at it gently. "Eep," she says. I keep doing that, kissing and biting all over her belly and her breasts, and she's squirming happily, like no one's ever done this before. It wouldn't surprise me if Tara would refuse. If she'd be afraid of breaking Willow. If she still hasn't figured out that people are hard to break, and that they heal really fast when they do.

I draw a line of kisses down from her belly button, hoping I'm doing this right since I haven't heard any instructions for a while. I unbutton her jeans slowly, and pull them down her legs. Her underpants are caught in them in a big bunch, which saves a step, I guess. Her pubic hair is reddish-brown (which answers that question) and thick, like she doesn't shave her bikini line. I scoot up, and she's got her knees around my shoulders. "You can stop if you..." she says, but I'm pretty sure she'd kick me if I actually did. Or hex me.

"I won't," I say.


She smells clean, not like soap, just cool skin. Which is funny, because she's so warm. Her thighs are a little sweaty, and she's wet. Not letters-to-Penthouse wet, not dripping down her legs like she's got some weird disease, just soft and shiny and-- wow. I did that.

I give her a nervous lick. She tastes not totally unlike tunafish, but damn, people exaggerate. "Tickles," she says. "Harder."

After that the reviews are mostly positive. I'm basically trying to remember what she did to me last night and repeat it, and that seems to work. She likes me sucking on her clit, flicking my tongue up under the hood. Or, at least, I think she does, because now the only instructions I'm getting are "yes" and "that's good" over and over. Which I'm pretty sure isn't a bad thing. I've got my hands on her ass, which seems to be keeping both of us from falling over. I slide one hand up and find her opening with a finger. She makes another "eep" sound, and I think, oh shit, fingernails. But when I start to pull my hand away, she says, "No... good..." which I think means she wants me to keep going, and she doesn't complain when I've got three fingers in her, so it looks like I got it right. She's pushing against my face and my hand now, saying "that's good" over and over, or at least something that sounds vaguely like that. Which means she's probably close, or at least that's what I think it means, so I just keep up the rhythm, as fast and hard as I can do it. She comes moaning, sort of quietly, like she doesn't want to bother anybody.

"Thank you," she says, after.

I am washing my hands in the kitchen sink. "Did I do it right?"

"Yeah. I'd-- I'd say so."

We have sex twice more before we decide that it's late enough that we ought to go to Caritas. Three times, depending on how you divide things up. She clings to me on the bus, which is nearly empty. "Like anyone cares," she says when I pull away. "Like you'll ever see any of these people again."

She has the sense to calm down once we get to the bar. The place is always packed on Saturday nights, but when Lorne sees us come in, he finds us a miraculous hidden table. We get a bunch of complicated frozen tropical drinks and share them (if the police-repelling charm on Caritas ever failed, serving to minors would be the least of Lorne's problems). I keep thinking that Lorne's going to sit down with us, or worse, persuade one of us to sing. But he's busy running the bar and emceeing the stage. Once, he walks by our table and winks at me. I hope it's not so obvious that he doesn't need me to sing.

"Okay, now the Bronze seems really pathetic," she says on the bus ride home. When we get back to my apartment, she knows she isn't going to have to sleep on the couch this time.


We sleep in so late that we run to this diner near the train station for grilled cheese and milkshakes. If we weren't in such a hurry, I'd feel like I was on a date in the Fifties. The waiting area at the station is for ticketed passengers only, so I have to leave her off at the McDonald's. This time, it's pretty obvious that I should give her a hug.

"I think--" she says-- "I think I should go back to Tara now. I, um, think it's time."

"Okay," I say.

"No, I mean, I've been th-thinking a lot because-- because of what we did, and I, um, think it helped me figure out those thoughts. And I think I really do. Um, love her. And we're probably going to have an even more massive fight over this, but I think we need to have those fights. Like, otherwise the relationship never gets anywhere. And I want it-- I want it to go somewhere. I want it to go everywhere."

"That's good," I say. "Because I don't think I could handle having a girlfriend. I think that deep down I'm still straight. Mostly."

"Um, I'm glad-- I mean, not because-- but I just didn't-- didn't want to-- you to feel like I was leaving you because of you."

"Willow. I would have completely freaked out if you'd told me you wanted to stay."

"Would've given your ghost a thrill."

"Yeah. He'll probably leave me notes for a few weeks. 'When's that redhead coming back?'"

"I think that this is one of those-- those things you remember," she says. "Instead of doing again."

"Oh, like I could forget that."

"You? I'm still walking funny."

"I said I'd stop when--"

"Yeah, and I, um, told you to keep going, so it's all my fault for getting scratched."

We stare at each other for a minute. She'll just argue more if I say I'm sorry, and kissing it and making it better is more or less out of the question. "So we're good then?" I say, when it's been long enough that saying anything is less stupid than staring at her like an idiot.

"Still friends."

"Still friends," I say, and I smile, and she gives me another hug. And it's weird, because I'm not even sure we were friends before. And because I'm absolutely sure we are now.

"Well, I'm gonna miss my train."

"Yeah, you should come back up here some time," I say. "You should bring Tara."

"Okay. I will. Um." She shifts her overnight bag. "Bye."

"Bye," I say, and she's gone. Just another girl from the suburbs, leaving L.A.


Wesley and I are on duty tonight, and it's actually pleasant for a change. He orders a big pepperoni pizza and some Diet Cokes from this pizza place down the street. We're pretty sure it's a drug front, but they make pretty good pizza for a drug front, and they've referred us a couple of clients. So they reign as the official pizza place of Angel Investigations, crack or no crack. We silently agree to take turns with the stereo and not purposely play anything just because we know the other person will hate it. He reads some British music magazine; I finish the Vogue and start on Mademoiselle. I paint my nails. I paint my toenails. I offer to paint Wesley's nails. We trade magazines. The phone doesn't ring.

"You're in a good mood," he says at about four in the morning.

"I figured some stuff out," I say.

"Yeah," he says. No, he scoffs. "I know what you figured out."

"No. I just feel like I know what I want now."

"Well, congratulations." He raises his eyebrows and returns to his magazine, but the effect is lost because he's reading the swimsuit issue of Jane.

And he can laugh all he wants, because I do know what I want. I want a guy who takes instructions. And is willing to practice. A lot.


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