Starting Over, Part 3
By Tango


Dedication: For indie – for putting up with her crazy twin


On Thursday morning, Buffy stayed curled up in bed when Willow and Angel had their morning coffee ritual. She had purposely left her bedroom door cracked. Though their voices wafted up the stairs, she couldn’t understand what they were saying. She wanted to go down and sit with them, hear about whatever it was that they had to talk about. She felt left out even if she was the one who purposely stayed away.

She didn’t know how to deal with all the thoughts bumping inside her head. She barely had time to deal with Parker’s visit before Angel told her about his past. She was confused already about what to do with her life. Every thought seemed to be shadowed in her illness, by thoughts of what would happen in the future.

She shouldn’t have run out on Angel like that, but she couldn’t really think of how else she would have dealt with it. She already cared about Angel, maybe more than cared, and now she was just befuddled. Curling up in a ball, she stared at the window ledge.

“Hey,” Willow said, sitting on the edge of her bed.

“Oh hey, I didn’t hear you,” Buffy said, turning over.

“So you missed coffee this morning,” Willow said, feigning casualness and staring down at her for an explanation. Buffy knew that face, deceptively innocent, probably would have a great career in interrogation.

“Stop with the third degree,” Buffy said, sitting up and shifting uncomfortably under her friend’s stare. “I was tired.”

“You weren’t sleepin’,” Willow said, calling her on her lie.

“I was resting,” Buffy defended, crossing her arms over her chest.

“Were not,” Willow said, shaking her head. Her gaze softened and she sighed. “He told you, huh?”

“About murdering people?” Buffy asked. “That’s all there is, right?”

“The baby?” Willow asked softly. Buffy shivered and nodded. “That’s everything then,” Willow agreed.

“I know it’s crappy of me, Willow,” Buffy said. “Don’t look at me like I just broke his heart or something.”

“He was…quiet this morning and more stoic than usual,” Willow answered. “He didn’t tell me he told you, but I figured he did, since he didn’t say anything about you not being there. In fact, I think he expected you not to be there.”

“I’m sorry, Will, but he just sprung it on me last night and he was massaging my feet like we were talking about art or something. He killed people. I’m not saying he hasn’t changed, but I just need a second to deal with the fact that he *killed* people and went to jail for it.”

“He’s not the same person,” Willow said. “I’ve known Angel a couple of years but Oz had known him all of his life. When I first heard about it, I was shocked too. He killed people with his bare hands. Darla was pretty much in cold blood.”

“Pretty much,” Buffy said. She closed her eyes for a second. “Will, I really like him. A lot. But it’s better this way anyway. I couldn’t have a relationship with him. Now I can cool it off and take a step back.”

“Is this about him or about you?” Willow asked, crossing her arms over her chest with a frown.

“Both,” Buffy groaned. “And stop giving me that look! He killed people and I’m probably not going to live very long. We’re a match made in heaven.”

“Why are you so damn ready to curl up and die?” Willow demanded, standing up and pacing around the room. “So you have HIV. Yeah, that really sucks but your life isn’t over. You’re not even sick! You’re just as healthy as you were a year ago when you found out!”

“Why would I condemn someone else to living with my illness, Will? I feel guilty about you having to deal with it! I’m so limited on what I can do. I can never have a normal life! Never! And one day I’m going to find the first sore on my skin. Then I’m going to start waking up to cold sweats in the middle of the night. I’m going to die, Will and no amount of herbal remedies and meditation is going to change that!”

“So just give up then!” Willow announced angrily. She stopped her pacing and put her hands on her hips. “Why not? I mean, you could possibly live to be fifty or older, but probably not, right? Or what if you do have just one year or two? Are you just going to live it waiting in fear? Are you going to never know what it’s like to love someone?”

“Yeah, you’re one to talk, Will!” Buffy snarled, jumping out of bed. “Oz died and you just packed it in and gave up.”

“I loved Oz,” Willow said, the hurt covering her face. Unshed tears quivered in her eyes and Buffy felt immediately guilty for her comment.

”Willow, I’m-“

“Oz was everything to me. I loved him with everything I had. He was the only man for me and I’m sorry if you think that’s giving up, but it’s not. It’s realistic. What we had isn’t something you find every day. It was real and it was special and it was perfect and now he’s dead! I may not plan on finding some other man to replace him, but I’m living my life which is more than I can say for you!”


“I’m going to be late for class,” Willow said, walking towards the door. “Have a good day.”

Buffy watched as Willow walked out of the door and into the bathroom. She didn’t slam any doors. It wasn’t her style.

“Dammit,” Buffy said, sitting back down on the bed. She ran her hands through her hair and hunched over. It wasn’t going to be a very good day.


Buffy spent the day cleaning the house top to bottom, scrubbing every inch vigorously. It wasn’t how she dealt with things before she got sick. Before she would go out, treat herself to a facial or shopping or a movie. These days she tried not to go out if she could help it. Sometimes it was harder to face people than others. She never knew when she was going to run into someone who knew.

She found that cleaning really helped to make her feel better anyway. When she was first diagnosed with HIV, she started taking really hot showers and switched all of her soaps and cleaning agents to antibacterial as if she could somehow wash it off. She scrubbed her body, her clothes and the floors, trying desperately to make it go away, to clean it off, but in the end, she was dirt free but the virus remained.

By the time Willow came home from school, the house was sparkling and smelling faintly of pine and lemon and one of those mountain air scented soaps. Buffy, freshly showered with her hair still wet, was curled up on the couch, reading and waiting for her roommate to come home.

“Willow,” Buffy said, jumping up and meeting her at the door. “Look, I’m so sorry for hurting your feelings today.”

“I know, Buff,” Willow said. “It’s okay.” Willow set her stuff down on the dining room table and then leaned against it. “I just want you to be happy for whatever time you have. I don’t want you to give up. I lost Oz and I can’t lose you too, but I will because you’re not even trying! A healthy life, eating right and exercising, trying things to make yourself better – that’s what I expected of you. My Buffy, all full of life and energy, all stubborn and independent, I expected so much more of you and you’re just giving up.”

“I’m sorry, Will.”

“I’m going to be angry with you when you die. I’m going to be so angry with you,” Willow said, choking on a sob. Tears fell from her eyes and streaked across her face. With a groan, Buffy hurried across the room and pulled her into a hug.

“Please don’t cry, Willow,” Buffy said, holding her close as tears fell across her face too. “I’ll try harder. I will. I’ll take a class or something, okay?”

“It’s not about me being happy,” Willow sniffled, pulling away to look at Buffy. “It’s about you being happy. If you give up, you’ll die. It sounds silly but it’s true.”

“I’m sorry…what I said about Oz,” Buffy said. “I just want you to be happy too.”


By Saturday, Buffy still hadn’t shown up for the morning coffee ritual. She finally told Willow about Parker being in town and what had happened with his little visit on Wednesday night. Truth be told, it was the fact that Angel had so expertly saved her that it made it easier for her to believe his story about killing his uncle and Darla.

She knew she couldn’t avoid him forever and Willow’s looks of disapproval were starting to make her squirm. The murders were only part of why she didn’t want to see him. She was still attracted to him and she couldn’t get involved with him or anyone else, despite what Willow said. It was too risky. She would try to be happier and get involved in things like she promised, but Angel was out of the question. The idea of telling him alone was enough to make her want to stay away.

But as luck would have it, Willow’s car broke down and even though she rarely drove it, she still called Angel to see if he could fix it. After coffee, he stayed to fix the car and was tinkering around with it the whole morning. Much to her dismay, Willow invited him to have lunch and then dinner.

When he finally left, Buffy cornered Willow in the living room. “Why do you hate me?” Buffy demanded.

“He’s my friend too,” Willow announced, just a tad too brightly. “Besides, you are so over his past and you know it. If you don’t want to date him, then don’t.”

“I don’t want to date him,” Buffy agreed.

“Good,” Willow said, plopping on the sofa and smiling winningly. “Then don’t.”

“I won’t.”


“You’re supposed to use your powers for good, Will,” Buffy protested, slumping on the opposite side of the couch.

“I am.”

“You’re evil.”


Angel hadn’t spent the week as he usually had, jogging and painting. He had used his money and his connections to find out exactly who the dark visitor was that had attacked Buffy the previous week. After Buffy had run out of the mansion, he knew she would need some time to deal with his past. He wasn’t sure if she would ever understand or forgive him for what he had done, but he did know that nothing and no one would ever hurt her, if he could do anything about it.

After Buffy hadn’t shown up for coffee the previous Thursday, he called Whistler. Whistler was definitely the most trustworthy of the lowlife scum he used to associate with. He had questionable habits but he was a true friend and had a talent for turning up information.

Whistler arrived on Monday morning in an old, rusty ’85 Buick that looked like only a miracle had gotten it from LA to Sunnydale. He wore a black leather hat he probably boosted from a man named Huggybear and a purple suit with a lime green shirt. Angel was sure the shirt had to be dipped in radioactive waste to get it that neon color.

“Nice hat,” Angel smirked as Whistler strolled into the mansion.

“You’re annoying me already,” Whistler said. He turned around in the center of the great room and let out a low whistle. “Nice digs, Angel. It wouldn’t kill you to get a little furniture though.”

“Don’t have too many visitors,” Angel grunted. “I need your help.”

“I figured. Information gathering?”


“This about a girl?”

“Shut up,” Angel said. “Yes. The girl is Buffy Summers. She lives in a house with a good friend of mine, Willow Rosenberg on Revello Drive. Last Wednesday, some fraternity punk, attacked Buffy on the front lawn.”

“You ask her who he was?”

Angel glared. “I need to know who he is, where he’s staying and anything else you can turn up about him.”

“Angel, no offense buddy, but there’s like three people in this town. What do you need me for?”

“People know me,” Angel said. “I need to keep this quiet. I think he lives in LA anyway, so you’ll need to pull some strings there.”

“I need some cash.”


“I didn’t tell you how much yet,” Whistler said, laughing. He was always amused by Angel’s constant seriousness about everything. Even in the old days before he went to the slammer he was a pretty serious guy. He could use a few lessons in getting the stick out of his ass.

Angel pulled out his wallet and handed his friend a thousand dollars. Eyes as big as saucers, he stared at it for a moment before looking back up at Angel. “I meant for food and a motel room for the night, not for three hookers and an 8-ball.”

Angel grunted. “Let me know if you hear anything.”


By Angel and Willow’s weekly lunch the following Wednesday, Willow had used every opportunity to invite Angel over. He was constantly at their house fixing something or helping out. Willow had even broken one or two things on purpose. Of course, when Buffy accused her of it, she denied it vehemently.

“Willow, I appreciate what you’re trying to do but she hates me now,” Angel said as they sat on the quad, eating lunch together.

“She doesn’t. She wants to jump on your bones,” Willow said, blushing when Angel’s eyes popped open in shock. After a moment he laughed and shook his head.

“No, she doesn’t. She thinks I’m a murderer, which I am, and she doesn’t trust me.”

“She doesn’t trust herself,” Willow said. “Believe me, I know Buffy better than anyone on the planet.”

“She’s beautiful. She could have anyone.” Angel set his lunch aside and ran a hand through his hair. He leaned back and met Willow’s eyes. “She shouldn’t settle for someone like me.”

“Then why do you keep coming over?” Willow asked, her eyes twinkling with mischief.

“Because you keep breaking things,” Angel said, laughing. “And don’t tell me that three toothbrushes just lodged themselves in the bathroom sink.”

“It was an accident,” Willow lied, putting on her best innocent face. “Besides, not only do I know Buffy better than anyone else. I know you better than anyone else. You’d be over anyway.”

“You do know me better than anyone else,” he said quietly.

“And as the best friend to both of you, I can do whatever I want,” she said, triumphantly.

“I don’t deserve her,” he said. “I wish I did, but I don’t.”

“You’re both big dummies. You deserve each other.”


Buffy probably would have gone on trying to avoid Angel as much as possible and most likely would have avoided telling him about her sickness for as long as possible if she hadn’t broken that glass. Friday night, Willow invited Angel over for dinner again and then stayed at the library late. She called to say that her paper was taking longer to research that she thought it would, so Buffy would have to cook and entertain Angel on her own. After which, Buffy accused her of being sneaky and Willow did not disagree. She did swear she was really working on her paper. That part was absolutely true.

Buffy was a little nervous about having Angel over and all to herself. She tried to be calm about it. There would be food and dishes and then hopefully he would leave quickly. If she was lucky, he wouldn’t expect her to talk to him or look at him or touch him in any way.

She looked down at her outfit. She had put on her favorite jeans and a tank top, but left her feet bare, in the attempt to seem casual and at home. She didn’t want to think she had dressed up for him even though she knew that the low rise jeans were just slightly sexy. Sighing, she took two glasses out of the cabinet. It wasn’t her fault that her favorite, most comfortable jeans just happened to be sexy too. It was simply coincidence.

“Hey Buffy.”

Buffy whirled around so quickly that one of the glasses slipped from her hand. She screamed when it exploded on the floor at her feet. Backpedaling, quickly, she managed to drop the second glass as well.

“Dammit,” Buffy whimpered as she looked down at the chunk of glass lodged in the arch of her foot. Glass was everywhere and her blood was starting to drip on the floor. A moment of panic seized her and she looked up as Angel crossed the room with long strides.

“No!” Buffy shouted. “Don’t come in here, Angel. There’s glass everywhere.”

“Don’t move,” Angel said quietly, completely ignoring her request. Glass crunched underneath his booted feet as he came closer. “You’ll cut yourself again.”

“Angel, please, don’t come near me. I’m serious,” Buffy demanded. Tears stung her eyes as he scooped her up into his arms and carried her across the room. He set her gently on the counter and leaned down to inspect her foot.

“Don’t touch me,” she said in a panic. “I’m HIV positive. You can’t touch it, Angel. Get away from me. Get away!”

He stood up and looked over her for a moment and she bit her lower lip, trying to hold in her sobs. She hadn’t wanted to tell him that way. She hadn’t wanted to tell him at all. Now her blood had dripped all over the floor and she couldn’t think of what to do next.

“I’m going to help you, Buffy,” he said firmly. “Tell me what to do.”

“You can’t t-touch the blood,” she said, taking a shuddering breath to calm down. “There are plastic gloves under the bathroom sink.”

“Alright,” he nodded. He cupped her face in his hands and wiped her tear stained cheeks with his thumbs. “Take a deep breath. We’ll clean all this up, okay?”

She nodded and took a deep breath. Turning on his heel, he took the stairs two at a time and pulled the box of gloves out from under the sink. Opening the medicine cabinet, he found gauze, tape and hydrogen peroxide. He grabbed those too and headed back to the kitchen. Buffy sat on the counter and stared down at her foot as blood dripped onto the floor.

“I’m going to pull the glass out,” he said, pulling on the surgical gloves before heading over.

“No,” she said hoarsely. “You might get cut.”

“Keep still and I won’t get cut,” he answered. “It’s a big chunk.”

“Angel, I’m serious. If you touch my foot, I’ll kick you in the head,” Buffy growled out. “Just give me the stuff and I’ll do it myself. I can’t risk you touching my blood.”

“Be quiet,” Angel said, grabbing her ankle gently in his hand. She yanked her leg, but he held on tightly. “It’ll be quick. Be still.”


“Be. Still.” Defeated Buffy watched, as he carefully pulled the glass from her foot and then inspected the wound to make sure he had gotten it all out. Buffy was mortified by the whole ordeal and shocked that he hadn’t freaked out even when she’d been screaming and crying. In fact, he didn’t even appear to be phased at all by her news. Maybe Willow had told him after all.

When he was done seeing to her foot, he swept up the glass and at her instruction, used a chlorine bleach solution to clean up the blood all over the floor, since he wouldn’t let her get off the counter. She watched as he silently performed the task just as he would with any other job he set his mind too.

After he was done, he carefully looked over the kitchen to make sure he had taken care of every detail. He picked up the broom and seeing that there was blood on the bristles, he snapped it in half and stuffed it in the trash bag.

He didn’t even get annoyed when she made him triple the layers of trash bags around the whole mess. He simply did as she asked and carried it outside, then came back in, lifted her off the counter and carried her into the living room where he gently deposited her on the couch.

“I think I’ll call for takeout,” Angel said after he set her down. “Do you like Chinese?”

“You can go,” Buffy said watching him carefully. “Willow’s at the library and probably won’t be home until late.”

“I thought we were having dinner,” Angel said. Buffy’s face scrunched up in confusion. He actually looked like he had no idea why she was giving him an out.

“You don’t need to stay here,” Buffy said slowly. “It’s really fine if you go.”

“Is this because of what I told you the other night or about something else?” Angel asked, lowering himself to the couch beside her. “I came over for dinner and honestly, I’m still hungry. I understand if you don’t want to see me given that you’ve spent the last week avoiding me, but if this is about the accident then-“

“Angel, I can’t tell you that I don’t have a problem with your past. I do. It was horrible and I’m still trying to deal with that news, but I believe you’ve changed. I think you’re a good person who had a lot of obstacles. But this isn’t about you. I have HIV. Did you miss that part?”

“Given that you shouted it at me, it was kinda hard to miss.”

“So this is your chance to make a quick getaway,” Buffy said.

Angel moved toward her slowly, took her hand in his and brought it to his cheek. He turned and kissed her palm. The act was so sensual that Buffy had to fight the urge to shrink back into the couch.

“I don’t want to get away,” he whispered, moving even closer until his lips were inches from hers. “Do you want me Buffy?”

“Yes,” she breathed before she realized the word was going to escape. He moved closer and she gasped out, “No. I meant, no.”

He smiled and covered her mouth with his. Their first kiss was slow. Angel was patient but determined as he pressed his mouth against hers and licked the seam of her lips until she opened for him and twined her tongue with his. She threaded her fingers through his hair – purely by instinct – pulling him closer, deeper, until she realized she was somehow fully under him on the couch.

She broke the kiss abruptly and pushed him away. “Stop,” she said, almost sobbing out the word. “Please Angel. I can’t do this.”

“I’ll order dinner,” he said and stood.

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