I Dreamt of Someday

by Isis FG

Feedback: vagabond_angel@comcast.net

Disclaimer: If I were Joss, people would be happy, not indulging in puke worthy infatuations and lame storylines. Does that answer your question???

Rating: R
Pairing: B/A, of course! B/S semi-relationship, friendship (i.e. Spike friendly story), also W/X sorta…mentions of past ‘ships (B/R, C/X, Wi/O, Wi/T), mentions of A/C, Fr/G…also there maybe some reunions other than B/A, plus some new ships…I’m not telling!!!
Summary: Set about 7 years after Angel left Sunnydale at the end of GD2. Angel takes a trip to Sunnydale in order to tell Buffy something…only to find her living in an unconventional situation with Spike and a few other surprises pop up.
Spoilers: Anything from BTVS 1-6 and ATS 1-4 is fair game…basically, this jumps cannon after 6/3 although there are a few things pulled from what’s happened so far in season 7, nothing descriptive though, won’t give away storylines that much. As for direct spoilers about past eps, a lot of random stuff is brought up, so just know that old stuff is mentioned.

Distribution: my lame li’l fic page, ff.net, BA_Fluff list, and LoD if it wants it, anyone else, just ask first.

Author’s Notes: Ok…well, this is the first fanfic that I’ve really spent a lot of time on, so keep that in mind.

AN2: I mentioned this above, but this is a SPIKE FRIENDLY fic, if you hate the character then I highly suggest you do not read this because you will not like it.

AN3:  Just a clarification…I refer to Angel as Spike’s sire, I go with the theory that Dru sired Spike but because she was insane Angel became Spike’s surrogate sire.

AN4:  Last one, I promise…I’ve gone back and inserted some of the author’s notes that I wrote with certain parts…there were a few that are kind of important and I felt they needed to be included.

Warnings: language, implied sex


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Part 1 - Shocked
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“Are you sure you want to do this?” questioned Cordelia for about the hundredth time that day.

“Yes, Cordy. I’m sure. Even if it changes nothing, I have to tell her, it wouldn’t be fair not to,” answered Angel.

“I just worry about you. I don’t want to see you get hurt, and that’s all that ever seems to happen when it concerns you two. But I know you’ll always love her and that this might just be the chance you’ve both been waiting for. I just hope that you don’t get your heart broken…again. I don’t think I could deal with weeks of brooding from you,” she replied, with more than just a little sarcasm at the end.

“Thanks Cordy…I think. It’ll hurt if she doesn’t care, but I still have to do it. I’ll call you when I get there, and you can call me if anything really important comes up, okay?” stated Angel as he finished packing his bag and made his way to the front doors of the Hyperion.

“No prob. Good luck!”

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

Buffy sat on the roof outside her window and watched as the sun set over the horizon and the darkness of night descended upon her. She reveled in the slight warm fall breeze that twirled around her bringing about a feeling of peace and content. Watching the sunset like this had become almost a daily activity for her in the last few months. No matter what was going on around her, what bad guy was trying to destroy the world, what personal crisis was evolving, no matter what, she could sit out here and just forget it all existed. She could look out at the world, and up at the stars, and just live.

With a sigh, and a last look up to the now dark sky, Buffy crawled back inside the window and into the room she had called hers for the last 10 years. Instead of climbing the rest of the way into her room, she seated herself on the windowsill and looked over at the bed and the man occupying the left side just as he had for the last 2 years. As much as she hated to admit it, she was glad that he was there. If someone had asked her 3 or 4 years ago if this was where she would have ended up, she’d have told them they were absolutely crazy. But if there was one thing she had learned in her 10 years as a slayer, it was that the world was never predictable, and things pretty much always ended up as you least expected they would. He was precisely one of those things, but just because it was unexpected didn’t mean it was bad. It wasn’t exactly a perfect situation either, but for her, and him as well, it was what they needed for the lives they led and the world the lived in.

As she watched him sleep she saw his face contort in anguish and knew he was once again being plagued by the nightmares. She hated that it happened to him, but it was expected. How could it not be when the soul is forced back into a body that had committed innumerable crimes and atrocities? Their numbers had decreased over time, but they still came, and she hated the pain they caused him. It didn’t seem quite fair, that the soul should suffer for events that occurred when it wasn’t even there, and she’d now experienced the aftermath of soul reinstatement in two vampires.

Buffy left her seat on the sill and went over to the bed. She sat on the edge and placed her hand on his cheek, caressing it lightly with her thumb. His face slowly relaxed back to its peaceful sleep state. When she was sure he was once again deep in a dreamless sleep she quietly got off the bed and made her way out of the room.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

After leaving here room, Buffy made her way down to the kitchen and started a fresh pot of coffee. Once the coffee was brewing, she grabbed a plate out of the cupboard and a cinnamon muffin out of the basket on the counter. Just as she was about to sit down at the counter the doorbell rang. Placing the plate with the muffin on the counter she made her way to the front door. As she pulled open the door she was greeted with the last thing in the world she expected to see, the ex that she’d never quite completely gotten over no matter how much time passed. Neither spoke for a moment, both too caught up in the weirdness of seeing each other after so much time had gone by. It was Angel who spoke first.

“Buffy…hi,” he spoke, a certain amount of shyness in his voice.

“Angel,” was all she could manage to squeak out.

“Can I come in?” he requested.

“What?...oh yeah, sure. Sorry, just wasn’t expecting you when I opened the door.

“It’s okay. I’m sorry for dropping by unannounced. I guess I should have called first.”

“No, its okay. Just a surprise. Why don’t we go into the kitchen? I have a pot of coffee brewing.”

“Sure, sounds good.”

They made their way into the kitchen. Buffy wanted to ask why he was there, but she couldn’t quite bring herself to ask. Mostly likely it was some new danger here to try and exterminate her or trying to open the hellmouth that was always being a pain in her ass. And even if she did ask she wasn’t sure she’d be able to get the words out. It seemed that seeing him always muttled up her brain and caused all rational thinking she had to fly out the window. So for now she settled for general niceties that would normally exist between two people who hadn’t seen each other in years.

Angel was fairing much the same. He had come to see her with a purpose, but now that he was there he wasn’t quite sure of where to start. And part of him wondered if he had any right at all to come to her and tell her what it was he had to tell. She looked good, so obviously her life was going well. What right did he have to come and stir up the past and make things confusing once again. That is, assuming what he would tell her would make a difference at all. For all he knew, she could be happily entrenched in a serious relationship and had completely gotten over the past, their past. Even so, he told himself, it was still something he was obligated to tell her.

The two stood in the kitchen, each one leaning against a different section of the counter. Neither knowing quite what to say or do.

“So…,” Buffy said, finally breaking the silence.

“So…,” Angel replied.

“You want some coffee?” she asked.

“Ok,” came his unsure answer.

Buffy started to pour him a cup of coffee but was interrupted by the sound of a cell phone ringing from inside his jacket.

“Angel, and cell phones, who woulda thought,” she nervously joked.

“It’s probably business, do you mind if I take this somewhere quiet?” he questioned.

“Nope, don’t mind, you can go into the den,” answered Buffy.

She watched as he left the kitchen and went to the den. The shock of him arriving at her front door had yet to completely set in. The last time she had seen him was 4 years or so ago after she was resurrected. Had it really been that long, she wondered to herself.

As Buffy stood there, she thought back to that meeting so long ago. Her return from heaven was still heavy in her mind and she was still struggling to get back to life. And then he had called and wanted to see her. So she ran off to see him. They spent hours talking about nothing and everything. Just reveling in being near each other after they thought they never would be able to again. As sunrise drew closer they had reaffirmed their love for each other, but both understood that it just couldn’t happen. That they were destined to live apart no matter what they felt. Though neither actually said it, the meeting had been, in a sense, the goodbye they’d never said. Both knew they had to try to get on with their lives, lives that no matter how much they wanted it, couldn’t be carried on together. So they left each other that night, for what they both thought was perhaps the last time. Then again, maybe not, Buffy thought as she stood there leaning against the kitchen sink, staring out into the night and thinking about that meeting 4 years prior.

In the den, Angel spoke on the phone to Cordelia. She’d called him to see if he had arrived in Sunnydale safely and to see if everything was ok. He assured her that things were ok, or as ok as they possibly could be. She also relayed some information on cases to him to keep him up to date before saying goodbye. He hung up the phone, but continued to sit in the chair. Why was he so nervous about this, he wondered. Running a hand through his hair, he stood and went to make his way back to the kitchen. It was then that he felt another presence in the house. Wondering, or perhaps nervous, about who else was there, he quietly walked back toward the kitchen, stopping in the shadow just outside of the entrance to watch for who entered.

Buffy was startled out of internal reverie by a familiar kiss on the cheek, bringing her back to the present. Almost, but not quite, forgetting about her unexpected guest, she settled into her normal routine.

“Morning luv,” spoke Spike, in a not quite yet awake voice.

“Morning huh? Last time I checked, the sun setting meant it was nighttime,” she rebutted sarcastically as she turned to face the man standing behind her who was holding a young, auburn haired child.

“Hey sweetie, how was your nap?” she asked the child as she reached to take her from Spike’s arms.

“Gooood, I hungy,” the child answered.

“Hungry….hungry huh? Well I guess we’ll just have to do something about that then won’t we,” said Buffy, fake exasperation in her voice as Spike chuckled.

“Is there any coffee, luv,” queried Spike.

“Of course, isn’t there always cof-,” she started to respond, but was cut off when she caught site of Angel standing just outside of the kitchen, mouth part way open in apparent shock of what he was watching.

“You ok, luv, what’s wrong?” a worried Spike asked before he turned to look in the direction her eyes were gazing. Upon reaching their destination, his eyes widened at the sight of his sire staring at them, a somewhat pained expression on his face. “Angel,” Spike said quietly.

“I, uh, I gotta go, uh, thanks for the coffee Buffy,” spoke Angel in a shaky voice. He quickly made his way out of the kitchen to the front door as Buffy stood there not knowing what to do, and damning herself for practically forgetting he was there.

“Go on, go after him. I’ll look after Sierra,” Spike said with a sigh as he took the little girl from Buffy.”

Buffy didn’t answer him, instead looking up into his eyes with an unspoken thank you. She hurried out of the kitchen and went after her former lover, hoping to catch him before he again disappeared out of her life.

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Part 2 - Explanations
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Buffy ran as quickly as possible out of the house, hoping to catch Angel before he had driven off, possibly forever. There was so much to be said, and she could only imagine how he was feeling after seeing what he had seen in the kitchen. She felt bad that her life now had been exposed the way it had, but she also felt a little angry that he would just run off like that.

Running out onto the porch Buffy saw Angel about to get into his car and yelled to him.

“Angel, wait. Please,” she pleaded.

Angel watched as she strode down the walkway and came to a stop a few feet in front of him.

“Why are you leaving?” Buffy asked in a loud whisper.

“It was wrong of me to come here after all this time. You don’t need me to come in and mess everything up,” he responded, although the first thing in his mind was to ask her what the hell she was doing with Spike.

“Isn’t that for me to decide? You can’t just keep doing things like this. I’m not a teenager anymore, Angel. I can handle the real world, or at least I like to think that I can. You obviously came here for a reason and now you’re just running off. Which, grant it, I can kinda see why, but I’m not gonna let you. So we’re gonna talk whether you like it or not. You’re gonna tell me what you came to tell me, and obviously there are things that I need to tell you. And I will tell them to you, whether you want to hear them or not. But not here. Why don’t we go for a walk, find somewhere to sit?” Buffy requested, hoping he wouldn’t put up a fight.

“Honestly, I’d rather not, but I can see you are not going to take no for an answer so I guess I don’t have much of a choice. Let’s go,” Angel huffed and started walking down the street.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

After a short, silent walk to a nearby cemetery, the former lovers found themselves awkwardly seated across from each other, Buffy against a tree and Angel opposite her against a mausoleum. The endless silence continued for a few minutes until Angel looked up at her and stared straight into her eyes before speaking.

“Why Spike,” he questioned solemnly.

“Couldn’t start with an easier question could you, huh?” she half jokingly replied, but seeing that he wanted an actually answer, she sighed and softly shook her head. “It’s not something I can answer in a sentence. It’s not that simple. Nothing in my life’s ever that simple.”

“It’s not what I wanted for you. He’s not what I wanted for you,” was all he could say because it was the honest truth of how he felt, other than the blinding rage that Spike would dare touch what was his.

“No, I suppose not. It doesn’t fit into that cookie cutter type normal life you had all planned out for me.”

“I wanted for you what you deserved. You can’t tell me that you don’t want a normal happy life.”

“Maybe you’re right, maybe I do, or at least some point I did. But Angel, have you ever really thought about that. I mean really, truly thought about it? If you had, then you’d have realized what I did quite a while ago,” Buffy stated with an audible sigh and stretched her legs out in front of her. This was going to be a long night of dredging up things that neither of them probably wanted to hear.

“I’m a slayer, Angel. It’s not something I can push aside, or only be when I want to. The Slayer is Buffy Summers, and Buffy Summers is the Slayer. And with that little name tag comes a disclaimer that says ‘normal life not included’. It doesn’t matter if I want to be Betty Louise, happy homemaker, wife, and mother. I can’t have that, and really, I don’t think I want it. I’ve lived my life too long as a slayer to be like that. I can’t sit at home at night playing cards with the family, and personally, it’s a little too boring. And what all-American male am I going to find to have that with? You may think that the best thing for me is to find some regular joe who can give me sunlight, sex, and kids, but that’s where you’re completely and utterly wrong. I’ve tried that, and it never leads to good things.

Owen got juiced by adrenaline and craved the danger that almost got him killed. Scott, aside from being an ass, didn’t know my secret and dumped me when he didn’t like the things he couldn’t understand. Parker…well, let’s forget Parker. And then comes Riley. Mr. Military Demon Hunter Extraordinaire. You’d think that would have worked. He knew my secret, was part of my world and all that, but no. He never really could accept who I was. He couldn’t accept that I was strong, or acted strong, emotionally as well as physically, and he couldn’t accept that I didn’t need him to coddle me 24/7. So he left, leaving me to wonder if romance just isn’t meant to be part of my life.

And if you asked The Council I’m sure they’d say exactly that. Maybe they’re right. I’ve had a few dates since Riley, but I never let it go anywhere. I can’t let a normal man into my abnormal life. It leads to too many questions, and too much danger. I can’t do that to someone, and I can’t spend all my time worrying about hiding secrets or about their safety. Normal guys aren’t part of my life, and a normal life is something I’ll never have. I’ve accepted that, made peace with it, and I live the best way that I can.”

After finishing her speech, Buffy leaned her head back against the tree and watched Angel expectantly, knowing he’d find something wrong with her words, something that would still make him think he didn’t belong in her world. She watched him silently, and could tell there were a million thoughts running through his head. For a few minutes he didn’t say anything, just sat there thinking until he found a way to express what was in his head.

“I guess you’re right. I never really did think too much about it. I wanted so much for you. I hated seeing what being a slayer did to your life and I wanted you to at least have some things that could make you happy in a normal sorta way. And I couldn’t give you those things. It’s hard to watch someone you care a lot about go through the things you went through. I just wanted you to have as much of normal as you could have. But I guess you’re right, it’s not really something you can have. You’ve thought a lot about it, I can tell, and I’m glad you’re able to get past it. You’ve grown into such a wonderful woman, do you know that?” he posed, not really requesting an answer.

“But you still haven’t answered my question. Why Spike?” Angel added softly.

“I know, but like I said, it’s not something I can explain in 10 words or less, probably not even 200 or less,” answered Buffy in an equally soft tone.

“Then start from the beginning. Explain it to me, all of it. I’ve got time,” was Angel’s slightly anquished reply. But she knew he didn’t really want to be angry with her, he just wanted to understand why she’d made the choices she had.

“The beginning. Yeah, I guess that’s the best place to start. Better make yourself comfortable, this is gonna take a while…and please, let me just say everything before you get pissed off, or angry, or broody, or whatever.

I guess ya gotta go back to before my mom died. Spike had that chip put in his head about a year before that and he was helping us, occasionally, even if he didn’t really want to. But then he started to have this sort of obsession toward me. He said he was in love with me, was stalking me a bit and all that. Most of us tried to ignore it. I mean, come on, how could Spike be in love with me considering he was an unsouled vamp who’d tried to kill us more than once. But at the same time, he was there when we, I, needed him most…when it came to crunch time with Glory, he was there. He did his best to protect Dawn, even got himself thrown off a tower trying to keep her safe. He still blames himself for not stopping the ritual from starting which led to me swan diving into the portal to close it.”

“And that’s where it started on his end. For me, it’s a little harder to explain, and no where near as simple,” began Buffy. Taking a deep breath and pulling her knees up toward her chest she began the tale of her downward spiral after her return from heaven.

“When they resurrected me, things were…hard. And yeah, that’s to be expected, but you can’t imagine what its like to be pulled out of heaven and thrust back into this world. All I wanted was to go back to where it was quiet, and peaceful, where I didn’t have to worry about the next apocalypse coming at me. I’d fought for so long, and fought so hard, and then it was over and I could finally rest. But then I was back, and they were all so happy about what they had done. They thought they pulled me out of hell and saved me. I couldn’t tell them I’d really been in heaven, it would have destroyed them. So I kept it to myself and suffered.

The world was so loud and forceful and harsh. It was a struggle to get up everyday and face the endless evils. Plus add into that a little sister to take care of, bills to pay, friends getting married, other friends having personal problems. I just shut down, turned into robot Buffy, doing what I had to do to get through each day, but never really feeling anything. And then there was Spike who was the only one who could seem to relate at all to what I was going through, and he was the only one I told about heaven. I could let go a little around him. It sorta just snowballed from there. He could make me feel when nothing else could. I fought it because I knew what he was and that he couldn’t really love me. It just kept coming back to him though.

And then this song infecting truth demon came to town and had me blabbing to everyone about heaven, and Giles left, and Willow’s problems. Somewhere in there a few kisses with him led to sex that literally brought a house down. I was so ashamed afterwards and hated myself. But it kept happening. The only time I felt alive was when I was with him. And at the same time he was destroying me mentally. For some reason his chip didn’t work with post-resurrected Buffy and he could hit me, heh, and I hit him. It was beyond ugly. The things we did….but I’m sure you don’t want to hear the details.

But I kept going back because I needed to feel alive, and he kept pushing all my buttons, making me believe I belonged in the darkness with him. And while all that was going on things were going to hell with every other part of my life. Dawn was shoplifting, Willow was losing herself in magic, Xander was trying to deal with wedding jitters that eventually led to him leaving Anya at the altar, plus the geek trio making my life hell. Somewhere along the line I broke things off with Spike, which he didn’t take well culminating in him trying to force himself on me and then after I told him that that was why I couldn’t ever love him he disappeared from Sunnydale for months.

After he left, things went to hell fast. Anya became a vengeance demon again, the geek trio was trying to destroy me, and then Tara was killed and I was shot. Willow went psychotic, rivaling Angelus in her desire to destroy the world. We were lucky we all made it out alive. But somewhere in all that I realized that I wanted to live, I didn’t want to die. That was such a big thing for me because of everything I’d been feeling after coming back from heaven. After we saved Willow she went off with Giles to try and recover, and the rest of us spent a relatively quiet summer trying to recover ourselves…any questions so far,” she ended meekly.

“I had no idea things were that bad,” Angel stated, his gaze focused on the ground next to him.

“No you didn’t, and I didn’t really want to call you for help. As much as I wanted to, I knew if I called you and you came, it would have only made things harder because eventually you would have had to leave, and I’d have been hurt all over again. And we weren’t exactly, what was it ‘living in each other’s worlds’ anymore were we? It wouldn’t have done either of us any good to go running whenever things got too bad. Like Giles said when he left that year, I had to learn to stand on my own 2 feet. It was rough, and I fell, hard, more than once, but in the end I came out standing and that’s what matters.”

“Its amazing to hear you talk like this, so mature. You’re hardly the girl I remember, but yet you’re still the Buffy I fell in love with. I’m guessing there’s more to tell?” Angel asked, looking at Buffy with pride in his eyes.

“There’s always more to tell, but most of its been told, though some of the big points are left. Spike came back to Sunnydale a few months after he left. I was patrolling one night and heard something in crypt. When I went in I found him cowering in a corner, starved, and repeating ‘I’m sorry’ over and over again. After everything that had happened between us he went on some quest in Africa and came back with a soul.” At Angel’s shocked gasp she paused. “Yeah, a soul. I don’t understand it, and I don’t think he really understands why he did it, but he says it was his love for me that drove him to it.

Anyway, after I found him I couldn’t just leave him like that, even with what he did to me. I cared about him, don’t ask why or how, but I did. I brought him back to the house and set him up in the basement. It was a battle to get him back on his feet again which I guess you might be the only person to really get that. It took a couple years to finally get him to function on his own, and to help him with the guilt. Dawn always liked him and she became a good friend to him. Willow understood the guilt after what she’d done from Tara’s death and the magic and she tried to help as best she could. Xander, was, well typical Xander, but eventually he eased up and tried to accept Spike.

Nothing happened between Spike and I during that time. The subject of him loving me before he got his soul back never came up. I just tried to be a friend and support him. And then when he was back to more like himself he started to help with patrolling and evil fighting. We spent so much time together and we talked a lot. One night he thanked me for everything I’d done for him, and he told me that he didn’t really know if his evil self was really in love with me, but that he, as he was now, loved me like a really close friend. I didn’t really have anything to say back to him, it was kinda unexpected to hear.

As time passed we just fell into this pattern. We spent so much time together, we lived in the same world and now truly fought for the same cause. He didn’t care about me being a slayer and my strength, and, obviously, the whole vamp with a soul thing wasn’t a huge deal for me. We were there for each other whenever we needed someone. I guess you could say its just mutual need. But its not love in the ‘in love’ sense. Neither of us really wants to be alone, and we don’t have a lot of options, so we’re there for each other. That’s just the way things are between us. And there ends the tale of Buffy’s life since we last talked.”

Buffy finished her post-resurrection life story and found that she couldn’t force herself to look up at Angel. She was afraid of what she’d see in his eyes. She wondered if he’d be angry, or hurt, or worst of all, maybe he wouldn’t care. So she just sat there and looked down at her hands.

“I don’t really know what to say. It’s a lot to take in. I never imagined Spike with a soul,” an almost perplexed Angel said.

“Yeah, tell me about it,” stated Buffy, stifling a yawn.

“You’re tired”

“A little, long day at work, and add on to that long emotional conversations.”

“Why don’t I walk you back and you can get some sleep.”

“What about what you wanted to talk to me about?”

“It can wait, I can stay for a few days. It obvious there’s a lot to be said between us, and it’s not exactly something we can do all in one night. Especially if you’re about to fall asleep.”

“Are you always so logical? Of course you are, you’re Angel, what else would I expect,” ribbed Buffy.

“Come on, I’ll walk you back, get some sleep, and I’ll come by tomorrow, ok?” Angel said soothingly.

“Ok, works for me,” yawned Buffy.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^
Part 3 - Hope
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Author’s Note:  Thought I’d state for the record, in case anyone was worried, this IS a B/A fic and it WILL have a happy ending. If I can’t get happily ever after in Jossverse, then I’ll get it in my, or other’s writing. I am, first and foremost, a B/A shipper to the end. But even with that being said, I will also say that I am…fond…of B/S. I’ll always pick Angel over Spike, but given the fact that Joss is evil and won’t give us B/A loyalists any glimpse of hope for our soulmates, I’d rather have Buffy be with Spike than with a normal boring guy…think Riley. And before I get flamed for that, I don’t mean the Buffy/Spike from season 6…although I love the raw heat and magnetism between the two then, I hated the darkness to it, the way Spike manipulated and played Buffy’s mind. I like their interaction this season (7) though. I finished writing this part after watching the most recent ep, “Showtime”… and as hypocritical as it may be for a B/A shipper to say this, I was moved by the B/S related scenes. So if you’re wanting to know why this fic is so pro-Spike, this is why. Please don’t flame for this, its just my opinion. To each their own, as they say. It’s your choice to read, it’s my choice what I write. That’s all. Enjoy.

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Buffy entered the house, closing the door behind her, and leaned back against it. She closed her eyes and tried to gather herself back together. It amazed her that even after so much time had passed, that Angel could still scramble her brain. Everything between them was always so emotionally charged which wasn’t necessarily a good thing, but its also what made it all the more real and passionate.

Taking a deep breath she peeled herself off her perch against the door and continued into the house. She heard the TV on in the living room and knew that Spike was probably in there watching some cheesy TV show as usual. Knowing that he’d want all the gory details she made her way into the room.

As she entered, Spike turned off the TV and looked at her expectantly, his left eyebrow raised slightly.

“Don’t look at me that way,” she half snapped at him.

“I wasn’t looking at you any such way, just lookin’,” he shot back.

“Whatever,” she replied with a wave of her hand and plopped herself down on the couch next to him. “So I guess you wanna know huh?”

“Only if you wanna tell, I wouldn’t stop ya if you wanted to spill,” he smirked.

“Not much to tell. We talked. JUST talked. That’s it,” her monotone voice relayed.

“Talk huh. Rather dull don’t ya think?” queried Spike.

“What? You think we were just gonna jump each other and hump like bunnies. Please, give me some credit. I do have some self control,” huffed Buffy.

“Uh huh. So what did you and my poof of a sire talk about?” he posed and then pulled the blanket off the back of the couch after he noticed that the slight fall night chill that had fallen was making her cold.

“Thanks. Mostly, it was just me talking. I told him about all the big stuff that’s gone on since I last saw him. There was a lot he didn’t know…,” she hesitated before continuing. “all the stuff that happened after I was resurrected, for instance. And the important points from the last few years…the, uh, relationship type stuff.”

“Uhh, should I be making plans to move far, very far away? I’m not really look for my un-life to end just yet,” asked an honestly worried Spike. He’d known Angelus for quite a long time now, and he’d touched his mate. That type of treachery was not something that would go unpunished.

“No, I think you’re safe. I don’t think he’ll try to stake you in your sleep. I mean, yeah, obviously it’s not something he’s happy about. He didn’t quite come right out and say it, but I could tell. The anger was there in his eyes,” she closed her eyes, the image burned into her head.

“Don’t get all mushy now. I’ve seen enough of the Buffy/Angel googley eyes to last me a lifetime,” harped Spike.

“You never change do you? And no, I wasn’t making googley eyes,” stated Buffy emphatically.

“Were to,” he replied simply.

“Bite me. No that wasn’t an invitation,” she said and then corrected herself.

“Like I’d want your blood anyway, probably make me as bitchy as you,” he joked and then grinned at her. “So what now?”

“Beats me. He’s still in town. We didn’t finish talking cuz I was tired. I still don’t know why he came. We never got around to that. So he is going to come by tomorrow so we can…talk…some more,” responded Buffy, and unintentional slight smile on her face.

“I saw that smile. Happy about the prospect of more time with the poof are we?” teased Spike.

“I did not smile, you’re imaging things…wouldn’t be the first time,” Buffy shot back, an innocent smile plastered on her face.

“Did to. But seriously, are you ok? I know its gotta be hard seeing him. I remember what it was like when Dru showed back up last year. So don’t tell me you’re fine,” he stated, eyes cast downward.

“I’m…okay, I guess. It’s hard. Things were never simple with me and him, as you well know. Bad things happen, people get hurt, emotional turmoil ensues. But, yeah, I’m ok. I mean, I didn’t wake up this morning with the expectation of seeing him. The shock of it all is just, weird. I don’t know if I ever thought I’d see him again,” she replied honestly.

“Are you okay with seeing him again?” he questioned.

“Truthfully, I don’t know. Part of me is grateful to see him again, to know that he is ok, and alive, err still undead, and doing well. But another part fears it because, as I said, when it comes to the Angel and Buffy show, things never go well,” answered Buffy, closing her eyes to calm the emotions beginning to stir.

“What if it’s different this time? Do you want that?” he probed seriously.

“I don’t know Spike. I just…don’t know,” was all she could answer and then leaned her head against his shoulder.

Within seconds she fell fast asleep, worn out from her daily activities and the unexpected emotional drain when her past decided to revisit her. Spike sighed, and inwardly hoped that things would work out for her. He couldn’t say that he wouldn’t be a little hurt if she got back together with his annoying sire because it would diminish the closeness he had with the person he loved, but wasn’t ‘in love’ with. But, he thought, she deserved happiness which he knew she’d be able to find with Angel.

Breaking off his internal thoughts, Spike carefully picked up the sleeping slayer and carried her up to their room. He placed her into the bed, tucked the covers around her, and set the annoying little pig next to her.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

Across town, Angel entered the mansion, which he still owned, and retreated to his room. Almost unconsciously he undressed and prepared for bed even though he suspected that sleep would not be forthcoming. There were too many things to think about. He’d learned too many things about Buffy’s life tonight, too many things were revealed to allow him to slip into a rejuvenating sleep.

The main thing that continuously insisted on reverberating in his head was that of Buffy…and Spike…Buffy and Spike…together. Just the thought of it made his stomach lurch. It was a small consolation that Spike now possessed a soul. But he was still a vampire, he was still his childe (for all intents and purposes), he was still touching what was HIS. Angel thought briefly about what Angelus would have done if Spike had committed such a crime against his evil counterpart. A small smile formed on his face at the ideas of torture that infiltrated his mind. With an audible groan he pushed them away. Buffy wasn’t his anymore. As much as he wished he did, he did not have the right to act against their…relationship.

Pulling back the covers, Angel stretched his long muscled body out on the silk sheets. Memories of Buffy and him intertwined together in the bed wafted into his consciousness. He closed his eyes and ran a hand over his face in frustration. The things Buffy told him tonight he never expected. She’d been through so much, she’d survived, she’d flourished and grown, and he hadn’t been there to see any of it. The woman she was now was self-assured, confident, and accepting of her role in life. She amazed him even more than before, if that was even possible.

Angel contemplated the other things she had told him, Willow’s problem with magic, Xander’s brush with marriage, and that she had a job. She hadn’t said what it was, just that she had one. *That must be a first for a slayer* he mused silently. *The Council must love that. That’s Buffy, always going her own way.* Angel’s thoughts then wandered to something else he had seen on this very revealing night. The child, the little girl that Spike had been holding. Who was she? Nothing Buffy had said gave him any idea to her identity. Buffy hadn’t even said anything that alluded to a child. He had more than an idle curiosity about the girl, and also a slight pain in his heart that Buffy possibly had a child by another man. As Angel finally drifted off to sleep he thought only of Buffy, and the beautiful woman she had become.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

As night pervaded, two warriors of good slept dream filled sleep. Each envisioning the other, seeing the past, the present…the future? One watched the images with avid interest and a hope filled heart, wishing that it wasn’t too late for forever. Forever. He’d once promised her forever. Over the years, the dreams had faded, but never been completely lost. A silent hope had always lingered in his heart that one day it would be allowed, that there would, for once, no longer be anything standing on the path between them. Maybe now was not yet that day, he hoped it was, but if it wasn’t, he’d continue to hope that there would be a someday.

While one dreamt with hope, another dreamt with fear and weariness. The sins and pain of the past still too strong to look beyond. Images of vengeful sires, murderous alter personas, imprisonments in hell, tense togetherness, breakups in sewers, poisoned arrows, silent goodbyes across a smoke filled street…endless acts of betrayal, intentional or not. They were all still there to her, almost as fresh as when they originally occurred. Somewhere inside there was always hope, but it was always out-muscled by visions of the past. It was too much to hope. Broken hearts can never truly be healed, they can only be precariously mended. It tore too much at her hearts tattered whole to consciously believe in someday.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^
Part 4 - Unleashed
^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

Thankfully for Buffy, the following day was Saturday, which meant that she could sleep as late as she wanted which is just what she did. The early part of her sleep had been restless and dream filled, but finally she’d fallen into a deep sleep. She didn’t wake up until just past noon when she felt the edge of the bed sink a bit and smelled some deliciously yummy breakfast food. Cautiously she opened her eyes, wondering who was there and why she smelled food. When she opened them she found Spike peering down at her, a smile on his face, and a tray full of food.

“What’s this for? What did you break this time,” she asked suspiciously.

“I’ll have you know I haven’t broken anything…major…in a long time. Just thought I’d make you some breakfast. Sounded like you had a rough night, I’m lucky I’m not a big bruise this morning,” joked Spiked while putting the tray in front of Buffy who was now sitting against the headboard.

“Oh sorry ‘bout that. Dreams,” winced Buffy.

“S’ok. It’s only fair, payback for…” started Spike, trailing off at the end.

“Did you make this all by yourself?” she questioned with a sympathetic look, quickly changing the topic knowing that Spike was referring to his own nightmares.

“Of course, didn’t even burn down the kitchen,” he announced proudly.

“Good to know,” Buffy replied as she began to devour her breakfast.

While Buffy ate, Spike took to straightening up the room. For some unknown reason, after he’d regained his soul he became a bit of a neat freak. And Buffy was anything but neat these days. So he often found himself picking up numerous articles of clothing, or stray weapons and putting them away. Buffy would laugh at him when he did it, but she never said a word because it meant she didn’t have to pick them up herself.

Just as she finished her breakfast, Buffy and Spike heard a shriek coming from the hallway followed by Sierra dashing into the room. Behind her, Xander was crawling on all fours growling like a tiger. The little girl ran over to Buffy and pleaded for help. Spike hoisted her up onto the bed where she curled up against Buffy, her auburn hair falling into her face. Using his right hand, Spike pushed the hair out of her face and grinned at her

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

Buffy spent the day taking care of her normal weekend tasks. She did some laundry, some cleaning, paid some bills, watched a little TV. They were her norm, the things that were familiar. Typically, she didn’t mind these days at all. They were quiet and relaxing, and they were the closest she’d ever get to ‘normal’, but that was fine with her. It was all she needed. Today, though, she found herself antsy, glancing at the clock every ten minutes hoping it would move faster.

When she finally ran out of things to do to keep herself busy it was late afternoon, but still a few hours until darkness would fall. She groaned at that thought and then groaned again when she realized why she’d done it in the first place. Angel. It would still be another few hours until he would be able to come. *Damnit* she said to herself. *He pops back into my life and I’m falling into ‘love sick puppy’ syndrome yet again.*

Deciding that she needed to distract herself, do anything to keep from thinking about Angel, she stuck a movie into the VCR and flopped down on the couch. A half hour passed and Buffy realized that she hadn’t seen a second of it because she was too caught up in thinking about a certain tall, handsome, broody vampire. She looked at the clock for the millionth time that day and saw it was still at least another or so hour until sunset. After thinking for a minute she decided that she would just get it over with and go to see him instead of waiting for him to come to see her.

She jumped off the couch and began to walk toward the door when she suddenly stopped and looked down herself. There was no way in hell she planned on seeing Angel wearing jogging shorts and an oversized t-shirt, not to mention that she hadn’t yet showered, her hair up in a messy bun, and no make up on. Quickly turning, she dashed up to the bathroom to shower and make herself presentable not thinking at all about why she cared what she looked like when she saw Angel.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

A half hour later she was dressed and ready to go. She’d chosen to wear khaki pants with a coral colored tank top/cardigan set along with brown chunky heeled boots. After putting the key in the ignition to her car, Buffy realized that she had no idea where she was going. Angel hadn’t told her where he was staying while in Sunnydale. She went over Sunnydale’s lodging options in her head, trying to figure out where he might be. The town didn’t have any remotely decent motels, and Angel certainly wouldn’t stay at some rat trap type place, and his old apartment building had been converted into a day spa. That only left the mansion as a possible place for him to stay.

*It’s worth a try* she told herself. *God, why am I being like this? Angel and I are over. Period. I shouldn’t be getting this worked up over it. It’s always the same though, Angel comes, Buffy gets weak in the knees, then Angel leaves. Somebody should just put me out of my misery*

Buffy finished her internal chastisement of herself and began the short journey to the mansion. All the while her stomach was doing little flip flops in anticipation of seeing her Angel *no, he’s not your Angel, dumbass!*

When she arrived at the mansion she was pleased to see that Angel’s car was parked in driveway. *Two point for Buffy* she said almost out loud with a smirk. Getting out of the car she walked up to the door, not even bothering to knock and crept inside. She figured he was probably still sleeping as he usually did during the day. Her plan was to go in and wait in the main room on one of the couches. Of course, she had to think up a reason as to why she came to him instead of waiting for him to come to her. *I’ll wing it, hopefully he’ll buy whatever I say* she told herself.

Upon entering the foyer Buffy was surprised to see 2 duffle bags lying on the floor. She wondered for a minute why Angel would just leave them in such a weird place, that was until she realized the bags were probably placed there for easy pick up on his way out. Angel was leaving. The thought struck a sour chord in her heart. She quickly tried to ignore it. He probably had an emergency in LA he had to take care of.

Just then she heard footsteps and saw Angel enter the room. He didn’t notice her there due to the fact that he was rooting around in a smaller bag that he was carrying. Buffy watched as he zipped up the back and placed it with the others which was when he finally looked up and saw here there. Her green eyes, full of questions, met his brown ones, saying the words she didn’t need to speak.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

“Buffy,” he spoke cautiously.

“Going somewhere?” she questioned, hoping her voice remained unaffected by the thought of him leaving.

“Uh, yeah, I’m going, uh, back to LA,” he stuttered.

“Oh. Is there an emergency?”

“No, not that I know of.”

Scrunching her brow, Buffy stood and studied him for a minute. Angel, fully conscious of her stare, shifted uneasily and quickly cast he eyes anywhere but at her. His actions caused a realization to hit Buffy squarely in the heart. A hit that echoed through her entire being.

“You were just going to leave weren’t you? Without saying goodbye…again! God! You think you can just waltz back into my life and then walk away like you were never here! I so don’t think so. I want answers and I want them now!” she spat out angrily. The idea that he could do this to her again was more than she could handle. Everything was going well for her. And then he shows up at her door causing all sorts of feelings to surge through her body only to just disappear. No. It wasn’t going to happen. Not if she could help it.

Somewhere in the midst of all this Buffy came to the conclusion that she didn’t want Angel to leave. Not now. Not ever. Even though they’d been apart for years she still loved him. He was still the only man that could set her insides on fire by just being nearby, or by an innocent look in her direction. No one else had given that to her, and she missed it. Riley had tried to give her normalcy. Spike gave her comfort and companionship. But Angel, and only Angel, gave her passion. And she’d be damned if she’d let him escape, again.

“Well, I’m waiting for an answer,” she reiterated after Angel had said nothing, not even lifting his gaze to meet hers.

“Yes, I was going to leave. Without telling you,” he looked up, shame filling his yes, and wearily replied.

“Damn you Angel! Damn you to hell! Is that all you know how to do? Walk away, not caring at all who you’re leaving behind? Remind next time your un-birthday comes around to buy you a pair of jogging shoes to make your running away easier,” Buffy shouted, oblivious to the tears that were no cascading down her cheeks.

“I’m so fucking sick of this. What was it this time? Just talking to you too abnormal for what you want for me? Huh? Ya know what? I don’t even want to fucking know! Whatever it is, it’s just another excuse. And I’m sick and tired of it. So just stay the hell out of my life from now on!” she screamed at him and then sprinted out the door and into her car, screeching the tires as she drove off.

Angel watched her flee and then sank down to the floor, unwanted tears pooling in his soulful eyes. He’d hurt her. Again. That was all he ever seemed to do to the woman who meant more to him than his own un-life.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^
Part 5 – Spike’s Say
^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

Conscious thought had left Buffy’s mind the second she’d heard him utter the words that he was leaving and wasn’t going to tell her. She remembered running out of the mansion. Nothing after that other than the thoughts that were screeching loudly in her head. Over and over she castigated herself for allowing herself to hope. She hadn’t even realized that somewhere inside that hope had risen. Somewhere between when Angel had showed up on her doorstep last night and now, a part of her she’d locked away for so long had awoken with the possibility that this might finally be their chance, their someday. And now, as it had in the past, it had ended.

In her head, she screamed at herself for allowing the hope to surface, even if unintentionally. When it came to Angel, the outcome always involved heartbreak. And she’d walked straight into it. She should have just let him walk away when he’d abruptly left after seeing her with Spike at the house. If she had, then, right now, she wouldn’t feel like someone had taken a dull, rusty knife to her chest, slicing in ever so slowly and ripping her heart out. Buffy told herself it was her own damn fault for allowing it to happen. She was stupid, so stupid, for allowing the hope to seep into her disenchanted soul. Her fault. Her fault. The phrase repeated itself in her head like a mantra.

When Buffy finally snapped out of the daze she’d been in since leaving the mansion she found herself standing outside of her car, having no idea where she was or how exactly she had gotten there. Looking down she found that her wrist was jutting out at an unnatural angle, blood dripping out of a myriad of cuts on her hand. It was then that she noticed that the driver’s side window of her car was shattered. *That answers that question then I guess. Note to self: not a good idea to take out one’s anger on their car* she attempted to joke to internally, but failed miserably.

Soft sobs began to wrack her small form, the injured arm she’d been clutching fell carelessly to her side. The pain of the action didn’t even register. Turning, she walked towards the spot that had become a safe haven to her the past few years. Somehow she’d ended up here which was not surprising since it was where she always went these days when a little quiet, alone time was needed.

Buffy seated herself on the grassy patch on the small cliff that overlooked the lake. The night sky had descended upon the world leaving everything dark and bleak save the glow of the moon so high above her. For a moment her mind drifted back to heaven and the peace that had existed there. Part of her still craved it, missed its mindlessness, the absolution it bestowed upon her battle weary body and soul.

A few minutes passed and her sobs began to recede then ended completely. There were no more tears left for her to cry. They couldn’t change anything. And she still had a life to live. A life that she’d been content with for the past few years. Tomorrow she’d go back to that life. Nothing had changed. But it had. The hope, however brief, had been there. It hurt. As much as she didn’t want it to, it hurt. For a moment, forever and someday seemed possible. What a joke. *Fate just loves to fuck with me* she laughed heartlessly.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

For two hours Angel remained slouched on the cold concrete floor of the mansion. The image of Buffy’s face, riddled with hurt that he caused, emblazoned in his head. Her beautiful, sweet face contorted in hatred and anger at him. He never should have come to Sunnydale. Never. If he hadn’t then she would be happy right now, probably enjoying a night with her friends, who were her family, her true family. Instead, he’d let some selfish dream take over. What had he been thinking? Did he really think she’d leap into his arms and uproot the life she now led. He hated to admit it, but that was what he had wanted.

He had let the dream of someday cloud his judgment, and now she was paying the price. The life she led was going fine until he showed up to screw it up. Wasn’t that what always happened when he was around her? Didn’t he always make things worse for her? It seemed like that was always the case. Almost nothing good came out of their pairing. That alone should have convinced him to leave the past in the past. The heart is a difficult thing to overcome though. It leads to places better left abandoned.

Finally lifting his head out of his hands Angel wondered what he was supposed to do now. His first thought was to throw his bags in his car and return to LA. Away from her where he wouldn’t be able to hurt her anymore. This idea was swiftly cast aside when the look she’d had on her face leapt forward in his head again. No, he couldn’t leave until he made sure she was ok. He’d never forgive himself if something had happened to her because of his stupidity.

Resigned to the fact that he’d have to see her again, Angel pulled himself up off the floor and strode out of the mansion, shoulders hunched. Without even thinking about the fact that he had a car parked in the driveway he began the walk to Buffy’s house.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

A knock at the door tore Spike’s attention away from the action flick he was watching. He glanced at the clock, saw that it was after 11pm and wondered who the hell it was. They usually didn’t get late night visitors. Grabbing an axe out of the chest, in case it was another stupid demon trying to take out the slayer, Spike ambled over to the door and cautiously opened it. The person he found behind it was the last one he expected to see, and really, the last one he wanted to come face to face with. He still feared being staked by his ‘sire’ for his current living situation.

Angel nervously glanced down at the axe the peroxide blonde was holding and dreaded what his childe seemed to have in store for him due to his latest actions toward Buffy. Not knowing what to do, he remained standing on the doorstep, and had yet to say a word.

“Gotta be careful ‘round here, never know who might be knockin’ on the door to the Slayer’s house. Just last week had some stupid ass vamp come ‘round,” Spike stated in response to Angel’s wary gaze at the axe.

With a slight nod, Angel only cast his eyes downward, realizing Spike obviously didn’t know that something had happened between him and Buffy. He wondered inwardly if maybe it was a mistake to come.

“So, did ya come here for a reason, or are you just going to stand out there and brood?” Spike asked, still cautious of the darker man’s intentions.

“I, uh, is Buffy here?” Angel stuttered out.

“Thought she was with you.” Spike narrowed his eyes at the fidgeting man.

“She was. She left,” spoke Angel softly.

“What did you do this time you great big poof?” snorted Spike in disgust as he turned and in walked into the house, leaving Angel to follow at his own will.

“I upset her,” was all Angel said in reply.

“Gee, couldn’t have guessed that,” the blonder answered sharply. “What the hell did you do?” he requested forcefully.

“She came mansion to the mansion right before I was about to leave for LA, saw my bags on the floor.”

“And?” urged Spike, knowing there was more.

“I told her I was leaving,” Angel said, avoiding the next part.

“That all?” Spike asked suspiciously.

“No. I told her I was leaving…” Angel then hesitated before he finished. “And that I hadn’t planned on saying goodbye or talking to he-“ Before the sentence even came to a close, Angel found himself flying backwards into the wall from a swift punch to the face.

“You bloody stupid, fucking bastard,” screamed Spike, seething with anger. “How could you do that to her?”

No reply came from the larger man who was still sprawled out on the floor. He couldn’t answer, he had no defense for himself other than that he was weak.

“Why the hell did you come back here if you were only going run off again? Just felt like seeing if the little woman you left behind was still pining after you and then go trotting back to your happy life? God, you disgust me,” ranted Spike furiously. He then turned and stormed out of the room and out the back door to have a smoke and get away from the other man. As much as he wanted to, it would do no good to beat him to a bloody pulp, and he didn’t know if Buffy would approve, no matter how angry with him she was. Her wrath was definitely not something he wanted to face.

Angel said nothing to dispute Spike’s claim, he felt he deserved all the harsh words as well as the punch. All the harsh words and punches in the world wouldn’t alleviate the guilt he was feeling. Maybe it was that sense of masochism that sent him to follow Spike after a few minutes of sitting on the floor where he had fallen.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

The sound of the screen door closing surprised Spike. He didn’t think Angel had the nerve to follow him out here when it was obvious how brassed off he was. He didn’t understand how the wanker could be so damn stupid. He had a girl that was painfully in love with him and yet all he did was tear out her heart and squeeze the life out of it. The poof was too damn noble for his own good. Nobody smart threw away the love of a girl like Buffy.

“Care to explain yourself?” Spike spat at the other man.

“It was wrong of me to come here in the first place,” Angel answered and took a seat on the step next to Spike.

“Still not getting it Peaches,” retorted Spike, anger remaining visible.

“What’s there to get? We’re not a part of each other’s worlds anymore. I had no business just showing up last night,” sighed Angel as he ran a hand through his hair.

“Bullocks. If anyone has the right to just pop up here, it’s you mate. Do you think that she doesn’t still care? Doesn’t still wonder? You two have too much of a past to just forget and move on,” explained Spike and then took another drag on his cigarette. “Why’d you come here in the first place then,” he added.

“I had…something…I wanted to tell her, thought she should know,” shrugged Angel.

Spike turned his head and looked intensely at the other man. He debated asking what exactly it was that drove him to come all the way to Sunnydale, but he realized whatever it was Buffy didn’t even know yet and there was no way Angel would tell him before telling Buffy, if he told anyone at all.

“Right. I’d ask what but I know you wouldn’t tell me. So what? You just changed your mind once you got here or what?” asked Spike, voice dripping with sarcasm.

“She doesn’t need me here,” came Angel’s curt reply.

“And how exactly do you know that? I don’t suppose you bothered to ask her?” an exasperated Spike said.

“Why would she need me here? Everything’s going so well for her. She’s got her friends, a job, a destiny…she has a life. She’s happy. I have no business ingratiating myself back into it,” explained Angel.

“You just don’t get it do you, you bleedin’ poof. You always were a stupid wanker,” exclaimed Spike in response.

At Angel’s silence, Spike continued. “You’ve been back here for what? A day? And you think you know all about her life now? Anyone ever tell you that you jump to conclusions? Things may be working out for her right now, she may be content, she may be comfortable, she may NOT be unhappy, but at the same time, she’s not quite happy either. Or at least the kind of happy she should be.”

“What do you mean?” queried Angel, confused at the blonde’s words.

“She doesn’t have that passion for life she did a long time ago. She lives, she laughs, goes out with her friends, goes to work, does everything she should, and its not that she doesn’t enjoy it, but that fire in her eyes just isn’t there. She’s learned to make due with what she has.” When Spike saw he had Angel’s full attention, he explained further.

“The Scoobies and I talked about it one weekend when she was away visiting Dawn. What we came to realize, was that she doesn’t have anything she lives for that’s just hers. She slays because it’s her destiny, she works because she needs to make money, she took care of Dawn because her Mum died, but she doesn’t have anything for just herself.”

“She told me she was dating,” Angel said, more of a statement than a question.

“Pfft…” scoffed Spike. “That what she told you? More like she accepts the invitation because she is supposed to, then finds a way to break the date off early and never calls the blokes again. She ain’t had a serious relationship since Captain Cardboard…Riley,” he clarified at Angel’s confused look.

“What’s that got to do with me?” Angel asked solemnly, he hated hearing about the soldier that had been with Buffy.

“It’s always about you, mate. Don’t you get that? Even after all these years you’re still the one she wants. She won’t admit it to anyone else, I don’t even think she admits it to herself, but we all know. Once you’ve had a taste of perfection, you don’t want anything else,” said Spike as he reclined back against the stairs.

“Our relationship was hardly perfection,” snorted Angel.

“No shit, but it’s not about all that bloody drama you two went through. It’s about the feelings between you. She can’t forget that, even subconsciously. And I’m guessin’ neither can you,” the blonde answered, a lasting look directed toward the other man.

“No…” Angel responded softly.

“Thought so. She tried to make a go of it with Mr. Corn-Fed, but she just couldn’t give herself to him. Did she ever tell you why he left?” At the slight horizontal nod of Angel’s head, he went on. “The wanker couldn’t handle not having all of her anymore. Even had the balls to bring you up to her, saying he didn’t feel like she was giving all of her to him. He gave her an ultimatum, all or nothing. He left.”

“Just another way I’ve ruined her life,” Angel closed his eyes and shook his head.

“God you’re bloody dense. This isn’t about anything you’ve done to her. If she couldn’t make it work with the commando on feelings alone, do you think she could have made it work with the commando if you’d never been around? Not likely. Some things just aren’t meant to work, you two though, have that whole bloody soulmates deal. It’s kind of sickening ya know?” divulged Spike with a chuckle.

“Since when are you so insightful?” Angel posed, the full impact of the fact that he was having an actual conversation with Spike finally dawning on him.

“Yeah…well…came with the whole soul-having package,” Spike answered, suddenly looking away as a few singular images of his past flashed in his mind.

“I heard about that.” Angel knew full well what it was like to be in his place.

“Not what I thought it would be,” Spike revealed quietly.

“Buffy says things are better now,” Angel stated, happy to stray from the topic of his relationship from Buffy for a few minutes.

“It’s…easier…than it was. Drove me crazy for a while, probably still would be if it hadn’t been for Buffy,” Spike replied, trying to sound casual.

Angel only nodded in response, knowing exactly what he meant. His memories flashed back to a night on a hill years ago when he’d almost given in to the guilt. But she had saved him, given him a reason to continue.

“So what are you going to do now,” Spike asked, dragging them back to the original topic.

“I don’t know,” was all Angel could think to say.

“You owe it to her to stick around. To at least talk to her. It’ll kill her if you just up and disappear,” Spike said, the level of protectiveness over the blonde Slayer clearly obvious.

“I don’t think she’ll want to talk to me,” spoke Angel, eyes cast downwards.

“No, I don’t suppose she will after what you did. But you’re going to anyway, even if I have to tie both of you to the chairs in the living room,” the blonde avowed with a laugh, and then stood up and walked toward the door into the house.

Angel remained seated on the steps after Spike went inside. As much as he hated to admit it, Spike was right. He owed it to her to at least talk to her. He’d started all this by coming here, it was his fault she was hurting. She didn’t deserve what he had planned to do, leaving without a goodbye. Angel bashed himself internally for even considering doing that. But he was determined to make things right, or as right as they could be. He couldn’t let them be left the way they were, even if they just went back to they way things had been between them the past few years.

Inside, Spike was about to go over to the refrigerator to get some blood when he heard the front door close. He knew it had to be Buffy since the other occupants of the house were all upstairs asleep but he asked if it was her anyway.

“Buffy? That you?” he spoke softly enough not to disturb anyone.

When he didn’t get an answer he turned and looked toward the entranceway of the kitchen, and was presented with the sight of the broken hearted slayer cradling one of her arms against her chest.

“Bloody hell Slayer! What happened to you?!?!” he nearly shouted, full of worry and rushed over to her.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^
Part 6 – Waiting Game
^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

Buffy heard Spike ask her if she was okay, but she didn’t answer. The shock of the night’s events was still causing an overload in her head. Things had definitely not gone as planned. Somewhere earlier in the day she’d begun to nurture a vague hope of a future with the one man she’d loved with all her being, and that hope was abruptly quelled by a certain heartless vampire. And to top it all off, she now had a severely throbbing, bloody arm. Spike’s concerned voice broke her out of her reverie.

“Buffy? Are you all right? What happened?” His voice held a surprising softness to it.

“Huh? Oh, the arm, yeah, I’m fine,” Buffy answered, a careless tone to her words.

“It doesn’t look fine. What happened? Did you run into some demons?,” Spike said sharply.

“No, no demons.” She only wished that her troubles of that night revolved around demons, or at least not certain soulful demon.

“Then what was it?” he questioned impatiently.

“If you ask my car, it’d tell you that it’s window got in the way of my fist, but if you ask me, I honestly wouldn’t know the answer. I don’t exactly remember.” At Spike’s utterly confused look, she elaborated, but only slightly. “I was upset about something, somehow I ended up at the lake, standing next to my car with my arm like this. That’s all I can tell you.”

Spike’s eyes narrowed, his anger once again rising at his sire in realization of what had caused Buffy’s injury. Instead of lashing out, he focused on Buffy. It would do her no good if he went out there and beat Angel to a bloody pulp. Or maybe she’d enjoy it, he didn’t want to take his changes though. “Sit down, luv. I’m gonna get the first aide kit. We have to get that cleaned up and bandaged.”

Reluctantly, Buffy sat herself on the stool and waited for Spike to return. She was just happy that he wasn’t demanding she go to the hospital like the time she’d gotten her back slashed open by a knife wielding vamp. All she wanted right now was a long hot shower, a mug of cocoa, and the silent warmth of her bed. A dreamless sleep would also be preferable but Buffy knew better than to hope for something she wouldn’t receive.

A minute later Spike reentered the kitchen with the first aide kit and began to take care of her arm. He washed all the cuts out thoroughly, making sure to get any dirt out, and a few small specks of glass from the broken window. After he finished he ordered Buffy to go take a shower and then he would apply some antibiotic cream and set the arm in a splint. It was surely broken, but due to her slayer healing abilities it would be back to normal within a few days at the least.

Outside, once Angel had snapped out of his oblivious brood he had heard Spike speaking to someone. Out of sight he watched them, saw Spike’s concern for his love, heard Buffy explain her injured arm, and witnessed Spike’s careful tending to the wounds. Her words and the cause of her injury further enhanced his guilt. More pain. He’d caused her more pain. Dejected, he quietly entered the house.

Just as Buffy got off the stool she heard the back door open and closed. She turned to find herself eye to eye with her ex-lover. Pain wracked through her heart and soul, a scowl implanted on her youthful face.

“What the hell are you doing here?” she ground out through a clenched jaw.

“I came to talk to you,” Angel spoke, unable to look her in the eyes any longer.

“I don’t WANT to talk to you, damnit. I told you to stay the hell away from me!” she screeched at him.

On the sidelines, Spike watched and kept his mouth shut. As much as he wanted to beat Angel over the head with a shovel, or just knock some sense into the both of them, he knew that this was a personal battle between the two of them and they needed to work it out on their own from here. In the back of his mind, the remnants of his former self mocked him for his softness, but he ignored it.

“Buffy, we need to talk about this,” Angel pleaded gently.

“Oh. Right. NOW you want to talk about it. What changed your mind? It was okay to just up and leave without telling me as long as you didn’t have to see my reaction?” yelled Buffy, her tone glaringly accusing.

“Buffy, I…I, I was wrong. I shouldn’t have even though of leaving like that. I’m sorry. I know you’re upset. You have every right to be. But we need to talk, we…I, can’t leave things like this. Please,” he requested softly.

The sincerity in his voice weakened Buffy slightly, but she was in no mood to deal with him tonight. Her emotions were still raw, and she was still furious with him. Now was just not the time for a heart to heart. “Angel…not tonight, please. I just need some time, and some sleep. We can talk…but later, please.”

“If that’s what you want. We can do later. Just let me know, I’ll be around, at the mansion.” Angel hoped his words enforced that he meant he would be staying in town and not leaving…yet, or…maybe he hoped, not ever.

Although she didn’t show it, Buffy understood the implications of his words. Part of her was overjoyed to know this, but the part of her that was still raw with pain from the nights events wished that he would leave, or better yet, had never come, so that things could go back to the way the were, back to less confusing, simpler times.

Hope. Hope for a future. One that included the strong wonderful man before her. Hope. It was what her soul was pleading with her to feel, what it, erringly or not, craved. But she couldn’t feel it, she refused to feel it. Her current pain, and the ever-possible chance for future heartbreak wouldn’t allow for it. Hope had no place in her life. She’d always known that. It was why she never bothered to allow herself to feel it. Until today when for a few fleeting hours she had, only to have it shoved back in her face and mocked. No, hope had no place in her life.

With a steely gaze, and a cold voice, she submitted to her request, knowing that it was the only way to put this episode behind her, move on, and get back to the life she’d become so comfortable in. The sooner she got this over with, the better.

“Fine. Meet me tomorrow night, around 7, at the Magic Box.”

Without waiting for a response, or bothering to say goodbye, Buffy turned and left the room silently. For the moment, she wanted only to be as far away from Angel as possible. He was just not something she wanted to deal with, yet.

“I’d say you’re lucky she didn’t stake your ass to a tree,” Spike relayed to a guilt-stricken Angel and then followed Buffy’s lead and left the kitchen.

It took Angel a minute to gather his bearings in the aftermath. Despite his actions, Buffy’s extreme cold shoulder surprised him. To him, she seemed as though she couldn’t wait to get away from him. *Maybe I’ve ruined things for good this time* he thought to himself as he left the house and started the long, silent, lonely walk back to the mansion.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

Underneath the dangerously hot spray of water, Buffy leaned her head against the ceramic tiles. The blistering steam seemed to caress her fatigued body, easing the knots of tension that had settled over her well toned muscles. With a yawn she scrubbed herself clean of the days dirt and grime, and also cleansing her wounded arm. She winced a bit as the soap seeped into the cuts that were beginning to close. When she finally finished her shower routine she dried herself off in one of the fluffy extra large towels that Willow had given her for her birthday last year and then slipped into some warm pajamas.

With a tired sigh, Buffy exited the bathroom and moved towards her room. Upon entering she found Spike waiting, sitting on the bed holding a mug of hot chocolate for her. He always knew just what she needed. She accepted the steaming mug and directed a grateful look in his direction. Instead of crawling into bed, though, she crossed the room and climbed out the window and onto the roof.

For a few moments she just sat there holding the warm mug between her chilly hands, gratefully thinking about nothing at all. Despite the fact that night held many dangers, not just for her but for the world as well, it seemed to relax her these days. The air held a quality not found during the sun lit hours. It was more peaceful...serene…so much less harsh than the brightness and noise of the daylight hours. She was a person of the night, a hunter. She laughed almost out loud at that last thought. Angel had left her so she could have a life in the light, but she’d managed to find one in the dark on her own. It was what suited her, though, it was where she was meant to be. But Angel never understood that, almost as if he tried to deny the true nature of a slayer.

Buffy silently cursed to herself when she realized that thoughts of Angel had trespassed into her mind. The last thing she wanted to think about was him. Her day had already been taken over by the dark haired man and she was not about to let what was left of the night become his as well.

Her wishes were not to be granted though for she soon felt a warm blanket being draped over her shoulders and knew that Spike was about to sit down beside her. Buffy’s suspicions were soon confirmed when the peroxide blonde noisily plopped down to her right.

“You don’t have to tell me, I already know what happened. That wanker of a sire told me what he did.” His voice did nothing to hide the displeasure he felt at Angel.

“Oh,” was Buffy’s only response.

Sensing her desire to leave the topic alone for the rest of the night, Spike settled for pulling her body up to his and gently guided her head down to his shoulder. Buffy did nothing to object, and the comfort of his presence and care soon lulled her into a deep sleep.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

Throughout the following day Buffy managed to banish all thoughts of Angel out of her mind, though it wasn’t an easy task. She threw herself into any little task she could think of, even the ones she’d been putting off for weeks. Her office was now sparkling clean, files were labeled and alphabetized, phone calls returned, she’d even taken on the tedious task of dusting all of the display shelves. When she started to vacuum Willow’s eyes bugged out even more than they already had been. Buffy and cleaning were something that just did not mix, but she said nothing to the blonde haired slayer because Spike had filled her in on the previous nights happenings. If cleaning kept Buffy’s mind occupied then she wasn’t going to complain. And it did serve its purpose, hours flew by for her with nary a thought toward Angel and their upcoming meeting.

For Angel, it was an entirely different story. His night had been restless due to feelings of guilt over his actions and their consequences. When daylight finally arrived he begrudgingly pulled his weary body out of bed, settling for a hot shower instead of sleep. His day afterwards passed with an agonizing slowness. Nothing could quell the endless thoughts of Buffy. Every possible scenario for their meeting went through his head, some with wondrously happy outcomes, but most ended up with Buffy tossing him out on his ass with the specification to leave and never return. Angel prayed to whatever higher power there was that the latter was not what would happen.

When seven p.m. finally drew near Angel was almost giddy with relief. The wait was torturous. Even if she sent him packing, at least it would be over. He would know where things stood once the night had come to a close. Pausing momentarily on the way to his black convertible, Angel closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Visions of him and Buffy together swam into view. He reveled in the luxurious peace of the fantasy. That was where he hoped this night would end, with Buffy in his arms. It was his dream of someday. Shaking his head to clear the images, Angel slid into his car to drive to The Magic Box…to his destiny or to his nightmare, which of the two it was, he knew not.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

Angel’s nervous step led him to the entranceway of The Magic Box. He opened the door, causing the bell hanging just inside to chime happily. To Angel, the inside of the shop looked drastically different then he remembered it, but that was not surprising considering how long it had been since the last time he’d been there. It was a very homey atmosphere, though. Candles and incense scented the air with pleasing aromas, shiny wooden display racks lined the walls, myriads of trinkets and treasures were carefully placed on them. Overall, the store had a very professional, yet welcoming appeal.

Focusing his gaze off to the left and further into the store Angel saw a large circular table tucked into a corner, surrounded by matching benches. Seated on the bench closest to his position were Willow and the little girl he’d seen with Buffy. The child was intensely focused on a picture she was coloring, unaware of his presence. Willow, however, had been watching him since hearing the bell above the door signal his entrance.

“Willow…hi,” Angel stammered out with a great deal of uncertainty.

“Hi Angel,” she replied. The friendly, yet cool tone of the greeting was not lost on Angel, she’d obviously been briefed on his actions.

“Is Buffy here?” he questioned apprehensively while looking around the room for the little blonde Slayer.

“Upstairs. Through the door in the back, make a right, down the hall, up the stairs, make a left, last room at the end of the hall,” she explained and then turned back to coloring with the little girl.

“Thanks,” Angel murmured, gathering all his mental strength for the upcoming confrontation.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

Buffy felt his presence before even hearing his arrival at the door. The knots in her gut immediately untied and retied themselves repeatedly at the realization that she couldn’t any longer put off thinking about Angel and the past two days. She idly thought about making a mad dash out the back door and avoiding the whole thing altogether. It wouldn’t make it go away though. He’d only track her down. She just wanted it over. She was determined that tonight would be the final chapter in the ‘Buffy and Angel story’. Tomorrow she’d be able to go back to her routine, her comfort zone.

From the shadows of her doorway she peered down to the first floor of the lofted room and watched him as he studied the interior of the store. She smirked slightly at the way Willow spoke to him. The loyalty of her friends was something she could never doubt. When Buffy saw that Angel was making his way towards the stairs she quickly slipped back into her office, sat down at her desk and found some paperwork to make herself look busy with.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

After what seemed like minutes, but had really only been seconds, Angel finally arrived at the destination Willow had directed him to. He nervously fidgeted just outside the door. Fear ran rampant through his soul. It was his soul that recognized deep inside that this meeting could be the end of all that he wished for, and not in a good way. He wanted to hope for the best, hope that she’d understand, hope that she’d forgive him…hope that she still wanted him. The fear was overwhelming, though. It blocked out any ability to hope.

With a steel determination Angel finally forced himself to enter through the open door into the room that his love occupied. The sight that greeted him would have made him smile if he hadn’t been so worried and nervous. Buffy was seated at a large, dark mahogany desk that was adorned with personal mementos as well as what he guessed were papers related to The Magic Box. He realized that the blank stare she directed at some sheets of paper she was holding was a result of the fact that she knew he was there. Taking a deep breath once again, Angel finally spoke, initiating contact.

“Hey…if you’re busy I can come back later,” he said out of politeness.

“Huh? Oh, hey. No, I’m not busy,” she feigned to uphold the appearance that she was oblivious to his presence moments before he spoke.

“Oh, ok…” he trailed off, having no idea what to say and realizing that ‘I’m sorry’ wouldn’t quite cover it.

“You can sit on the couch,” she gestured toward it and continued. “And then you can explain to me why you decided to play out a scene from ‘Runaway Bride’ when you were gonna leave without even a ‘goodbye’,” she demanded, deciding to get right down to business. It would make the whole thing end quicker.

Angel sat down on the leather and mahogany couch, his elbows perched on his thighs, hands clasped tightly together. For a moment he didn’t know exactly what to do or what to say. He studied his hands in false fascination as he searched for the words to answer her question. After a minute he finally blurted out the first thing that came to mind.

“I’m sorry,” he yelled slightly, and then cringed at his tone. He hadn’t meant to say it that way.

“Well, good for you. And thanks, but that doesn’t change the fact that you were about to do what you were about to do. I think I deserve an explanation.” The last part of her plea came out softer than her previous angry, sarcastic words. As much as she wanted him gone so she could move on, she wanted to know why he did it.

“I know it doesn’t mean much right now, but I really am sorry. I never should have thought about just up and leaving like that without telling you. I can’t tell you enough how sorry I am for that.

I’m also sorry that I came here in the first place,” after her incredulous look he amended “what I meant was that I shouldn’t have just appeared on your doorstep like that. I didn’t mean to disrupt you life. That’s why I was leaving. Because all I’ve done since I got here is mess everything up for you. You’ve got a life now, a job, family, friends, acceptance of your destiny. And you’ve been living that life for a few years. I had no right to come here and mess everything up, make you upset. You’re happy now, and that’s the way it should be. Me being here…just…isn’t…right,” explained Angel, attempting to find the appropriate words.

Buffy sighed deeply as she listened to him speak. Same old Angel. Always trying to do what was best for her without asking, and only seeing things through his jaded eyes. He always had to be so noble, making her decisions for her. Wasn’t it her choice if he had a right to be here or not? And what did he know about her life anyway?

“Angel,” she started and then turned to face the window, staring out into the dark night sky. “You’ve been here for what 2, 3 days? And you think you already know all about my life? Regardless of whether you’re right or wrong, because that’s not the issue, isn’t it my choice if I wish to see you, or not? I’m not 16 anymore, I know how to take care of myself, I know how to make my own choices. You don’t have, and never did, have the right to make them for me, but you always did anyway. And just for your information, my life isn’t as perfect as you make it out to be.”

“I watched you,” Angel spoke softly, avoiding looking at her beautiful face and expressive eyes. “I sat in the tree outside your window and saw you and Spike together, and the breakfast in bed he made you. And I saw you with your daughter. You looked so happy, I couldn’t stand th-“ He was abruptly stopped by Buffy’s loud screech.

“My what? Daughter? What are you talking about?” she questioned, extremely confused.

“Your daughter. The little girl I saw you with, the one who was with Willow downstairs when I came in,” responded Angel, brow scrunched at Buffy’s reaction to his words.

“Angel, Sierra’s not my daughter, she’s Willow’s. What made you think she was mine?” Buffy asked in complete seriousness.

“I-I, don’t know really. Every time I saw her, she was with you, I guess I just assumed,” he stuttered in embarrassment.

“Assumed,” she reiterated for emphasis. “You’ve got a real problem with making assumptions, do you know that?” she teased slightly, but meant every word.

“Sorry, I guess I should have asked. So, Sierra is it, is Willow’s daughter? Now that I think about it, I can see the resemblance,” pondered Angel.

“Yeah, she’s a little darling, gonna be a smarty-pants just like her Mom,” Buffy beamed as she spoke of the girl.

“Who’s the father? Uh, sorry, I guess that’s not really a polite thing to ask.” Angel cringed at his rudeness.

“It’s ok. It’s not a big secret or anything. It’s Xander. Xander is Sierra’s father,” Buffy replied and then waited for the look of shock to register on Angel’s face. She wasn’t let down.

“But…wh-…Huh?” he finally settled on.

Buffy laughed lightly. “That’s the reaction we get from most people who knew them in high school, or at some point in their lives. It was a big shock even to me when Willow told me she was pregnant and then told me the how. They’re not together though.” She sat back in her chair, feeling a little more relaxed at having a conversation that didn’t revolve around their problems.

Angel felt the shift in her mood and was somewhat relieved. He was just happy that she was talking to him and that, for now, the conversation wasn’t centered on his stupid actions.

“They’re not? I don’t quite understand,” he stated, still a bit stunned by the news.

“It’s a little complicated, just as everything in our world always seem to be. I guess she wouldn’t mind if I told you. It’d make it easier for you to understand things that have gone on here. You remember I told you about Tara being killed right?” she questioned and when she received his nod she continued.

“And I also told you about what happened after that, how Willow fell into dark magic and tried to destroy the world. Tara was Willow’s world, at the time, she loved her so much. It destroyed her when Tara was killed, but eventually she started to recover. Giles and a Wiccan coven helped her to learn how to control the magic and she was doing good with that. It took longer though for her to start to reclaim her life without Tara, but ever so slowly, it happened.

About a year after Tara’s death, Anya left Sunnydale. Her and Xander were apart for a while after the wedding disaster, but then she decided to give him another chance. It seemed like they were making some progress at getting their relationship back on track, and all the sudden Anya said she couldn’t do it and was leaving Sunnydale. Xander was devastated.” Buffy shifted in her seat, pulling her legs up to sit cross-legged and continued on.

“I don’t know exactly what happened after that, Willow didn’t tell me about it until she found out she was pregnant. Spike and I had gone to visit done at college one weekend, Willow and Xander were supposed to come, but decided not to. I guess they ended up having a movie fest one night and it just happened. Willow was dealing with Tara having been gone for a year, and Xander had just lost Anya for good. Willow said it was a comfort thing, a moment of mutual need. So they were there for each other. I can’t fault them for that, I’ve been there myself.

The next morning, I think, they both realized that it was a one time thing, that it wasn’t where their friendship was supposed to be. So they just went back to their lives. Oddly enough, it didn’t change anything about their friendship which I think they are both grateful for. About 2 months after that, Willow told me she was pregnant, and then told me what happened.” She sighed as she thought back to the time when she’d found out her two best friends had slept together. It had definitely been a shock.

“In all honesty, Willow was happy about it. At the time I don’t think she could envision a future with another person. And then she was pregnant. It gave her back a piece of her life. Something to make her feel connected to the world again. When she told Xander he was…shocked…to say the least. He fainted. We still like to laugh at him about it. But then he was ecstatic. It was his chance to be a good parent, to prove that he wasn’t his Mom and Dad.

They talked about being together for the baby’s sake, but both agreed it was the wrong thing to do. They didn’t love each other that way, and to force a relationship like that for the sake of a child only makes things worse in the long run. So they decided to raise the baby as friends, but they didn’t want to do the alternate weekend thing and pass the kid around. In the end, we had Xander’s construction team do some work on the attic to turn it into a livable apartment for Xander so that we could all live there together. And that’s the way things have been since. Neither one of them regrets what happened because they have a wonderful daughter. I couldn’t be happier for them.”

The last sentence stuck in Angel’s head. He could tell she was honestly happy for her friends and that things had worked out for them, but there was also a sad quality to her voice. And an almost envious tone, as if she wished for something that they had. It made his heart ache to know that there were still things in her life that she hadn’t found yet. For the first time, Spike’s words to him the night before truly took meaning. That she may be content, but she wasn’t quite happy either.

“But you wish you could have a bit of what they have, don’t you?” Angel verbalized his internal thoughts.

“Maybe. Is it wrong to want some of that happiness? I watch them with Sierra and sometimes it just makes me jealous. They have so much. Not that I don’t have anything. I’m grateful to have them and Spike in my life. But, its just…not enough,” responded Buffy softly, looking away from Angel’s penetrating gaze. Inside, she was kicking herself for letting him sneak past the walls in her heart. She didn’t want to let him in. She’d only end up hurt in the end. But it was so hard to keep him out. He was the only person who could ever truly see into her soul and warm its chilled core.

“I know the feeling,” Angel sighed, matching Buffy’s soft tone. He then decided to shift to another topic, feeling that this one was treading on waters not yet navigable. At them moment, he and Buffy were on a weak truce and he didn’t want to set things into another tailspin by going too deep too soon. “So this is where you work. I have to admit I’m a little surprised,” Angel stated about her office in The Magic Box.

“Yup, this is Buffy’s great venture into the working world. Actually, I really like it. I wasn’t too sure of it at first, but it’s worked out perfectly,” started Buffy with a genuine smile on her face. “About 4 months after Anya left Giles came to Willow and asked if she’d be interested in running the store until school started back up. She agreed and spent the summer doing that while going through the fun of being pregnant. I spent a lot of time helping out, learned a quite a bit about being a business woman. Then right before the semester was going to start she decided she wasn’t back to school, it just wasn’t what she wanted anymore I guess. So Giles offered to sign part of the store over to her…and offered me a share of the partnership as well. Shocked the hell out of me, but I accepted. I liked the work, or at least parts that were interesting to me, Willow took care of the businessy type stuff. And it was good money which I needed for taking care of Dawn.

Once everything was settled with the legalities we took the insurance money from when the shop was almost leveled, plus some of Giles’ money and expanded to include the 2 stores next door. Xander remodeled the interior, we opened a Wiccan Center for Willow to run, there’s gym area where I teach self defense classes, plus the magic store part. In the end, it worked out great, we all have something we love to be involved in, we’re our own boss, Willow can bring Sierra to work, plus its helpful for Apocalypse time, got everything right here,” she finished with a wave towards to the area with the books in the store below. As she finished, she suddenly became aware of a feeling inside that there was something she was missing, a little detail she’d neglected to notice in the earlier conversation that had occurred, but as much as she searched her memory, nothing was coming to the forefront.

The pride in Buffy’s voice toward her job was evident to Angel. He was immensely glad that there was at least one part of her life that was fulfilling enough to make her somewhat happy. He’d be lying if he said it didn’t surprise him that she was working here. Business woman was not something he equated with Buffy. But it obviously worked for her. People were always full of surprises and when it came to Buffy, he should always expect them.

“It sounds like you have a great opportunity here. I’m happy for you,” he replied in complete seriousness.

Buffy hadn’t really heard what he said. She was too busy going through the things he had said, searching for the little detail she knew she was missing. It had to be there. Her conscience was screaming that she needed to find it. That it was of dire importance. And then it dawned on her. Her eyes widened at the realization she’d come to. She threw her head in his direction, staring straight into his deep brown eyes and verbalized her thoughts.

“Daylight. You said you were watching me. It was daylight. H-How is that possible?” Buffy spoke and continued to stare straight at him.

Instead of answering her, he slowly walked over to her, holding her stare with one of his own. Gently he picked up his hand and placed it onto his chest where his heart resided. He watched as her eyes grew even wider than before.

“Y-you’re h-heart…it’s b-beating,” she whispered, eyes glistening with unrealized tears.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^
Part 7 – Do I Still Have A Reason?
^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

Beating. His heart was beating. That seemingly small detail had been the focus of so many of her dreams from the moment she first realized that she was in love with him. And it was also something that she never thought she would ever get. The first emotion that played across her own heart was an enormous feeling of joy, but not for her…for him. If anyone deserved to have this gift, it was him. He’d suffered so much for actions that he had no control over. This was the way things should be for him.

The joy quickly passed, however, replaced by an overwhelming confusion. The ‘how’ and also the ‘what does this mean’ reverberated in her mind. The words were so deafening in her ears that the room seemed to begin to spin at a nauseously fast pace. She closed her eyes and tried to shake the sickening feeling in her stomach, but it wouldn’t go away. Hastily, she pulled her hand off his chest where it had been lovingly place and backed slowly away from him only stopping when the backs of her thighs hit the edge of her desk knocking over some pictures with a loud thud.

Her equilibrium slightly righted itself by the distance now between them, but her confusion was still overpowering. She found herself staring at the hand that had felt his beating heart only moments ago as if trying to figure out if it had been a trick of some sort. Cautiously Buffy raised her eyes to his.

Angel watched as she discovered the reason that he had come to Sunnydale in the first place: the existence of his now beating heart. The bewilderment in her eyes made him want to wrap his arms around her and ease her pain, but he couldn’t. He could tell that any type of physical contact at the moment would be too much for her. So he forced himself to stay where he was and where the only way he could touch her was with words.

“Buffy? Are you all right?” he asked out of genuine concern.

His question fell on deaf ears for she had one of her own that more pressing at the moment. “How?”

“It was part of my redemption from The Powers That Be. They said I was ready for a reward for my work, for atoning for my…my demon’s…sins, for helping those in need and fighting evil,” relayed Angel, thinking back to a week prior when he had been summoned to The Powers messengers.

Something flickered briefly through Buffy’s mind before she spoke again. “Human…they made you human…” she trailed off softly.

“Sort of,” began Angel as he turned and took his seat once again on the couch and then looked back up at Buffy. “A few weeks ago we finally managed to take down Wolfram and Hart, for good. We’d been battling them almost since I arrived in LA seven years ago. They wreaked all sorts of havoc by allying themselves with the demon world, but we finally brought them down.

A week ago, The Powers summoned me to see two of their messengers, Oracles, who pass on information for them. They said that I’d help win a major battle for the forces of good and that I was now ready to receive part of my redemption, but that I was still needed as a fighter for good. So my reward was not to be turned human, but more a part demon. The evil influence of the demon is no longer present, but its strength, healing ability, and enhanced senses are still there. My body is mortal for the most part, I can go in the sun, touch holy objects and such, I’ll age, and I need regular food to survive, but I also still need blood occasionally to keep the demon part strong. The Powers said that by doing this they were giving me a reason to believe in my redemption but also keeping me as one of their warriors at the same time.”

After Angel finished his speech, the one that held the answers to his sudden trip to Sunnydale, he remained seated on the couch staring intently at the ground. He was too afraid to look up at Buffy for fear of what he would see. He was afraid that she wouldn’t care that everything had changed for him…for them. And that would hurt him more than any stake to the heart could. When minutes passed by and he had still yet to receive any response from Buffy he ventured to cast his eyes upwards toward her.

Buffy absorbed every bit of his explanation, silently repeating it almost verbatim to herself until the full impact rose inside her. She turned away from him, steadying herself by placing her hands on her desk. Angel was human, for all intents and purposes. He was human, like her. He could go out in the daylight, he could enjoy human food…he could finally have some peace in his soul with the knowledge that he’d redeemed himself in the eyes of the higher Powers. And he was…here…in Sunnydale…to tell all this to her.

Without turning around she at last spoke, barely able to form the words, her mind reeling at the implications of Angel’s new state of being. “This is why you came, isn’t it?”

“Yes. I-I thought you deserved to know,” he answered honestly.

Buffy almost wished he’d said no, that there was some big evil he needed help fighting. She couldn’t face the real answer and what it meant, what he hoped it meant. It was too much. Just…too much. She stumbled away from her desk, almost falling.

“I-I need a-air. I-please-I just need-,” she didn’t finish, but turned and dashed out of the office, not noticing Willow standing eyes wide, mouth open just outside her door.

Angel stood quickly and yelled for her to stop, but she was already down the stairs before the words left his mouth. He found himself standing in the doorway watching Buffy run out the front door to the store. It wasn’t until Willow placed a gentle hand on his arm that he realized she was standing there. One look at her face and he knew that she must have overheard part of their conversation. All he wanted to do was chase after Buffy and make sure that she was all right, but he knew that she needed some time on her own right now. He’d just dropped a major bomb on her and she just needed some time. At least that’s what he hoped, he didn’t even want to consider the possibility that she was rejecting him.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

An hour later Willow and Xander found themselves seated at the research table in The Magic Box drinking hot chocolate. Sierra was asleep on a couch in the back of store. After Buffy had run out Willow had talked to Angel for a little while and convinced him to go back to the mansion, assuring him that she would call when Buffy returned so he would know that she was ok.

Xander had arrived not long after Angel left and Willow filled him in on what had happened and what she, as well as Buffy, now knew about Angel. Since then the two had been just sitting around chatting, hoping that Buffy would show up. They both knew she was completely capable of taking care of herself, but it didn’t stop them from worrying. When the bell above the front door sounded both eagerly turned to look in that direction, hoping to see their favorite blonde slayer. Instead, they were greeted by the site of another of their blonde friend, Spike.

“Willow, Xander,” Spike greeted the two. “Is Buffy here? She was supposed to meet me at Restfield for a quick patrol, but she didn’t show.”

The two friends exchanged a glance and both sighed thinking about the events that had taken place. It seemed to them that Buffy never got a break, that she was always fighting a battle of some kind whether it was with something evil or something more personal. The only thing they wanted for their friend was for her to be happy and both recognized that she might now have that chance if she could get past her fears.

“No, she left over an hour ago. She was kinda upset,” Willow answered and poured a cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows for Spike.

The blonde vampire shook his head and took a seat opposite Xander. “Let me guess, the great poof did something…again.”

“No…well, yeah sorta. He didn’t really do anything, just told her something and she took off afterwards,” explained Willow.

“I swear those two could be the stars of their very own sappy TV show. So what is it this time?” he questioned and then listened intently as Willow told him about Angel’s visit, and what she had overheard.

When she finished Xander was the first to speak. “Why do you think she ran?”

“Xander, come on. Wouldn’t you be kinda freaked if you just heard that the vampire, ex-lover who you’ve never really gotten over had just told you he was more or less human?” said Willow with a slight glare at Xander’s cluelessness.

“Well, yeah, but don’t you think she’d be excited about it? I mean, I know I’ve never been a fan of Angel’s, but that was a long time ago. I want Buffy to be happy and we all know he’s probably the only one who can truly make her happy. I just don’t get why she ran,” clarified Xander. His years with Anya, plus being around Spike for so long had softened his stance on the Angel issue, plus he wasn’t chasing after Buffy anymore. After all she’d been through, he felt she truly deserved a chance at ‘happily ever after’.

“She’s afraid,” Spike stated with a shrug. Both Willow and Xander turned to look at him, waiting for him to say more.

“Ever since he left...actually, probably before that, since he came back from hell…she’s been forced to believe that she could never truly have him. Even when he came back from hell and they were together she knew in the back of her head that they could never truly be together in the way both of them wanted.

I remember when I came back and kidnapped you and Red and they were trying to be ‘just friends’…I knew, and I know they did too even if they wouldn’t admit it, that they could never be friends. They also could never been lovers anymore either. And then he left. Since then she’s over and over convinced herself that as much as she wanted him, and he wanted her, that it could never happen.

And the last few years I think she’s convincer herself that she’s not going to have love or romance period, just as she isn’t going to have Angel. She’s believed that for so long, and then in comes Mr. Tall, Dark and Brooding puttin’ the idea in her head that maybe she can have it. I don’t think she can believe…or wants to believe it. She’s too afraid to believe because for so long she told herself not to.” Spike finished, took a swig of the cocoa in front of him, and realized that both Willow and Xander were still staring at him.

“What?” he asked, annoyed.

“Ya know blondie, even though I’ve been around you for a few years now I’m still not used to you being all…” he trailed off with frown, unable to find the right word.

“Perceptive?” filled in Willow.

“Exactly,” Xander responded.

“Yeah well…,” started Spike, but not really wanted to get into another discussion about how the soul had changed him so he avoided the subject adeptly. “You know I’m right though.”

“Ya got me there,” answered Xander with a goofy grin. “So what do you think will happen now?”

“Who knows. Nothing is ever predictable when it comes to those two. I wish we knew where Buffy is. I don’t like her being out there when she’s upset, she could get hurt,” Willow stated worriedly.

“I think I know where she went, I’ll drive over there, have a look around, see if I see her, make sure she’s all right,” offered Spike as he stood up and walked toward the door.

“Ok, I’ll give Angel a call see if he’s heard anything and let him know you’re gonna look for her,” Willow said in response and picked up the phone.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

Spike’s vintage Ford Mustang pulled into the stone lot by the lake in the park. He turned off the engine and shook his head slightly at the sight of the Tazmanian Devil air freshener Buffy had hooked onto one of the radio knobs. She had told him it was so she didn’t have to be suffocated by the smell of cigarettes every time she was in the car. The mustang itself had also been her idea. He would have been happy with any old piece of junk but she had said he looked good in it and that she didn’t want to ride around in a car that looked like it was about to fall apart at any second. So he caved in and got it, plus doing some restoration on it gave him something to do since there wasn’t much to fill his time with.

When he got out of the car he heard sounds of fighting coming from the area where he knew Buffy liked to go to be alone. It definitely sounded like somebody was getting their ass kicked, he just hoped it wasn’t the Slayer. Quickly Spike made his way to the clearing on the little cliff and found Buffy beating a vamp to a bloody pulp while two others began their charge toward her from opposite sides. Sensing that she seemed to have things under control he hung back and watched. Buffy swiftly stake the vamp under her and jumped to her feet, swinging her right leg up to kick one vamp in the head while plunging her left hand out to stake the other vamp. As he crumbled into dust she turned and kicked the remaining one again before staking him. Looking around and seeing all the vamps were gone she started to brush the dust off when Spike finally spoke up.

“Feel better, luv?” he said as he swaggered out from the shadows he was hiding in.

“They were intruding on my quiet time,” she retorted with pointed look at him hoping he’d catch her meaning.

“Stupid vamps, not smart to cross a brassed off Slayer,” he replied, ignoring her hint that he should leave.

“What are you doing here?” she shot out angrily. All she wanted was to be alone and think about…stuff. But it seemed as if people were intent on bothering her tonight.

“Just wanted to make sure you were okay, and that you weren’t gettin’ yourself into any trouble,” shrugged Spike and glanced around at the piles of ashes. “Shoulda guessed you’d found some, you’re a magnet for trouble.”

“Not my fault they were trying to take over my spot.” Buffy plopped herself down on the grass after realizing that Spike wasn’t about to leave her to brood in peace.

Her bleach blonde companion had no intention of leaving her alone to talk herself out of giving his annoying wanker of a sire a chance. He knew she was just afraid and fear is a powerful force. No matter what rational thought tells you, fear can make you believe otherwise. He remembered back to when he’d just gotten his soul and all the guilt he was feeling. He’d been so afraid to live then, been afraid that he would never be forgiven, by her especially, even though he knew that if anyone understood the difference between the demon and the soul, it was her. She’d been there for him, and now it was his turn to help her.

Spike sat himself down opposite her, feeling the need to be able to look her in the face while talking to her.

“Heard you went runnin’ from The Magic Box and left Angel all by his lonesome.” He looked at her waiting for a reaction as he lit his cigarette. He knew his words would get a rise out of her. And that was exactly his intention. If he was going to get her to open up he needed to play off her anger. It was probably the only way to get past the walls she had erected.

“I did NOT run,” at his incredulous look, she hastily amended. “Ok fine, I might as well have been running a marathon.”

“Thought so. Ya know for someone who hates it when people run away from her, especially certain poofy haired wankers, you seem to be doing just fine with that one your own.” As soon as he finished he waited for the explosion that was about to come.

“What the fuck do you know? Huh? Tell me? What the hell was I supposed to do? Just leap into his arms and forget about the past, all the pain he’s caused me? I SOO don’t think so. He can just go the hell back to LA and leave me alone.” By now she was standing and angrily pacing. When she spoke again her voice had lost its furious tone, replaced by one laden with hurt and fear and weariness.

“Why did he have to come back here? Everything was fine before he came. I just can’t deal with this. What does he want from me?” She sank to the ground, shoulders shaking from the violent sobs now emanating from her.

Spike gathered her up in his arms and stroked her hair. His heart broke from the pain radiating off her. As much as he wanted to, there was no way to ease the hurt.

“I can’t answer that question, luv. There’s only one person who can,” he said softly.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

It was nearing 9pm when Buffy found herself sitting in her car in front of the mansion on Crawford Street. The black convertible parked in the driveway assured her that he was inside which she wasn’t quite sure made her happy or not. Regardless, Buffy was resigned to the fact that she’d have to speak to him.

For the better part of an hour she’d talked and cried with Spike. Unfortunately she hadn’t really figured anything out and really had only made herself more confused. Spike had laughed at her when she posed out loud that part of her wondered if the only reason that Angel had come to tell her about his new demon state was so that she wouldn’t be surprised and that he could now be with some hypothetical woman he had waiting in LA. After he’d finished laughing at her, he told her that even a blind person could tell that Angel was still head over heals for her. His words didn’t help soothe her fears one bit. The only thing that came out of their talk was Spike convincing her that she need to see Angel, that it was the only way she’d know what he wanted from her. So that’s how she found herself now standing at the front door trying to work up the courage to knock.

Inside the mansion Angel was seated by the lit fireplace feeling utterly confused over Buffy’s actions. He didn’t know exactly what he had been hoping she’d do, but running hadn’t crossed his mind. Not for the first time since he arrived in Sunnydale, Angel wondered if he had finally lost her for good.

His brooding was abruptly interrupted by a familiar tingling along his body. He instantly knew that SHE was nearby. Standing quickly, Angel attempted to clamp down on the joy he felt inside at knowing she was at least ok and hadn’t gotten hurt after she’d run off. Slowly he made his way to the front door. The feeling inside increased and he knew she was very close now. He nervously opened the door to find Buffy standing on the other side, hand poised ready to knock.

“Buffy…hi,” Angel spoke lamely.

“Hi. Can I come in?” she questioned in a business-like manner.

“Uh, sure,” he replied and stepped out of the way so she could enter.

Once over the threshold, Buffy stopped and faced Angel. She took deep breath, steeling herself to ask the question that was foremost in her mind. “I need to know what you want from me.”

“W-what?” he asked, confused.

“You came here to tell me about your redemption for a reason. Was it just to tell me so I’d know? Or was there another reason?” Internally, she didn’t dare admit that she wanted him to say that he still wanted her after all these years, and that this time, it was for forever.

“I-I wanted you to know. I knew you’d be upset if I didn’t and…” he turned away from her before finishing, his voice barely audible. “and I couldn’t help but hope.”

“Hope for what?” Buffy whispered, still too afraid to see the light at the end of her proverbial tunnel.

“Hope that you’d still want me,” Angel’s own whisper replied. He wanted nothing more than to wrap her up in his arms and love, but he knew she wasn’t ready for that yet, if ever.

“Oh.” It wasn’t what he was hoping she would say, and she knew that, but it was the only thing her mind could think to say at the moment.

Angel had yet to turn back around to face her which he was glad for at the moment because she would be able to see the tears streaming down his cheeks at her relative lack of response. It broke his heart to think that she no longer wanted him.

“Do I still have a reason to hope?” he choked out faintly.

“I-I…Angel, I can’t give you an answer to that…yet. I just need some time, please,” she pleaded before turning and soundlessly leaving the mansion.

By the time Angel turned around she was already gone, possibly forever, he thought.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

At the house on Revello Drive, Buffy was focusing on her current task with determination. She had a list in her hand of the things she needed to do and take care of. As she was checking over the items written Spike entered and threw a questioning look in her direction. Once she had filled him in on her plans she asked him to do a favor for her, to which he reluctantly agreed. After he left she set about finishing the last few things on her list and hoped that she was doing the right thing. But at the moment it was the only thing she could think to do.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

Spike approached the mansion with trepidation. He wondered how he got suckered into doing this for her. It was probably that damn pouty puppy dog look she cast at him. This was definitely the last thing that he wanted to be doing, but he was going to do it anyway.

The front door was still open so he entered without knocking. With a shake of his head he strode into the main room, knowing exactly where the broody sorta-vamp would be, and he was right. Angel was seated near the fire, legs drawn up, forearms resting on his knees, and his head bowed downwards.

“Don’t mean to interrupt your brooding, but the Slayer asked me to deliver a message to you,” he said casually. Angel didn’t respond, just looked up at him, a lost look in his eyes.

“She’s going away for a few days, up to San Francisco to see Dawn…which is really only an excuse to get away so she can do some brooding of her own. But she wanted me to tell you so you’d know, for whatever reason,” Spike explained with a pity-filled countenance directed at his sire.

“Oh…okay…thanks,” Angel replied sadly.

“If you want my advice, which you probably don’t, I’d stick around. If she comes back and you’re gone…well I just wouldn’t do that,” warned Spike before turning and leaving the mansion.

Angel barely heard his warning. All he could think was that she was gone.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^
Part 8 – To Live The Dream
^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

A week of deafening silence and solitude passed by for Angel. He’d left the mansion only once to retrieve some food and supplies. Since then, however, he’d kept himself locked away from the world. Willow came by once to check on him, but Angel suspected that Spike had sent her to see if he had stayed in town. He had. Even if leaving was what he wanted to do, he just didn’t seem to have the energy to do it. It was like the life force had been sucked out of him the moment Spike told him that Buffy was gone.

Day after day, and night after night he sat and replayed the series of events with Buffy over and over again in his head, trying to figure what he could have done differently so that Buffy would now be in his arms rather than off somewhere…else. He chastised himself repeatedly for the things he had done. If only he hadn’t attempted to leave without telling her. Then things might be different. If only…

But they weren’t different. And he couldn’t go back and change the things he did, no matter how much he wished that he could. Now, he would just have to wait for her to return…if she returned. This, of course, led Angel to imagine a multitude of scenarios of what she might do when she came back. Most of them involved her sticking a metaphorical stake into his now beating heart. A scant few, however, gave him hope, and fueled his dreams for the future.

For now, though, he just had to wait…and he idly wondered where all the patience he once possessed had gone.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

<a few hours away…somewhere in California>

The moon was full and high in the sky, bright stars twinkling all around it. For a moment she wondered where Oz was, and how he was doing. It was one of the few moments when Angel hadn’t occupied her every thought. It had been a week since she left, and still, the answer to the all important question of ‘what does Buffy do now?’ had yet to be answered.

After leaving Sunnydale, Buffy went and spent a day with Dawn, neglecting to tell her the reason for her surprise visit. This was a decision she needed to make on her own. And although Dawn had always liked Angel, Buffy thought that she still had hopes that her future would be with Spike.

From Dawn’s she traveled to a quiet spa in the mountains that the gang had sent her to for her birthday last year. It was an amazing place, but of course when she’d been there before, a little demon problem had arisen. That, however, had had an upside. After disposing of the demon, the spa’s owner had told her she could return anytime, free of charge. A nice little perk for just doing her job.

So that’s where she now was…sitting on the private balcony of her suite. Her days had been spent enjoying the activities of the spa: mud baths, massages, manicures, facials, and the like. And her nights spent relaxing in the comfort of her room. Despite the peacefulness of her surroundings, she found herself in inner turmoil. With Angel at the center of it.

She could still hear him asking her the all important question the last time she’d seen him…”Do I still have a reason to hope?” That was the deal breaker, in relative terms. Did he still have a reason? Did she want to give him a reason? COULD she give him a reason. Part of her wanted so badly to give him a reason. Years ago, a real chance to be with him was all that she had ever hoped for. But that was so long ago…many broken hearts ago, before it had become too hard to hope. Before he’d walked away from her. And now…she just didn’t know. She didn’t know if she could once again put her heart out there knowing that there was a chance that it could once again be torn to shreds. She just didn’t know if she could do it. She wanted to…but she was just…afraid.

Sighing, Buffy settled further into the lounge chair on the balcony and pulled the lightweight blanket tighter around her shoulders. It had been a week, and she was still no closer to knowing if she was willing to risk it. She wondered if the spa owner would let her stay until she decided because she wasn’t going back to Sunnydale until she knew what she wanted.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

<back in Sunnydale…a few days later>

“Have you heard from here?” Xander questioned as he, Willow, and Spike sat around the table at the house.

“No, nothing since she called from Dawn’s to say she got there,” informed Willow.

“And Dawn called later to let us know that Buffy had only stayed a day and then took off without saying where she was going,” added Spike.

“Dawn called me again too. She said Buffy seemed really quiet but wouldn’t say what was wrong so Dawn asked me. So I told her, didn’t see why she shouldn’t know. She offered to come kick Angel’s ass for Buffy,” relayed Willow while Spike grinned at Dawn’s offer. He certainly wouldn’t mind seeing to poof getting his ass kicked by the littlest Summers.

“So basically we have no clue where Buffy is?” responded Xander while reaching for his mug of hot chocolate.

“That’s what it comes down to,” answered Willow. “I hope she’s all right.”

“I’m sure the Slayer’s fine. She just needs some time off by herself,” Spike said barely hiding his worry.

“Yeah, she’s fine…” agreed Xander unconvincingly.

“What about you Spike? How are YOU doing?” asked Willow, looking straight at the peroxide blonde.

“What do you mean? What have I got to do with this?” questioned a confused Spike.

“Well, you are kinda Buffy’s live-in non-boyfriend. If she gets back together with Angel…that kinda leaves you…well…,” trailed off Xander. In the past few years the annoying vampire had become more or less a friend and he shared Willow’s worry about how things might affect Spike.

“I want the Slayer to be happy. That’s what it all comes down to. Doesn’t matter what happens to me,” shrugged Spike.

“Yeah, but Spike…you two are practically together all the time, you share a room, and we know that you’ve well…been…’sleeping’ together…occasionally. You can’t tell us that you can just brush all that off if she goes back to Angel,” said Willow softly.

“Like I said, doesn’t matter. Not really. The poof is the only one who has ever made her truly happy. I love her, yeah…but…we’re not…‘in love’ with each other. I knew this wouldn’t last forever. I figured someday he’d be back,” spoke Spike, tamping down on the sadness and slight jealousy he felt deep down inside. He’d never admit it out loud, but as much as he wanted Buffy’s happiness he hated the idea of having to let her go. And he knew he would have to, maybe not right now, but he knew that eventually she’d go back to him.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

<2 weeks from when Buffy left Sunnydale>

“Yes, Cordelia, I’m fine,” gritted out Angel. “No, I’m not brooding…I don’t know when I’ll be back…No, I can’t just leave…Cor-…Fine, I’ll call you tomorrow…Bye.”

Angel tossed his cell phone onto the table a little harder than he normally would have, unconsciously hoping the modern contraption would break so he wouldn’t be able to call her back. As important as Cordelia was to him, she had a way of grating on his, and others, nerves with her tactless persistence.

It was Sunday night, two weeks since he’d last been in Buffy’s presence. Part of him was beginning to believe that she wasn’t coming back…or at least coming back to him. For all he knew, she could already be back in Sunnydale and he just didn’t know. Angel had kept himself secluded in the mansion, alone with his thoughts. Willow had been by again, to see if he’d heard from Buffy since apparently none of the gang had either. When he found out that nobody knew where she was, it worried him immensely. Now he just wished that she would return, even if it was to tell him to go to hell, only so he would know she was safe.

With unhurried steps, Angel made his way into the kitchen and retrieved a bag of blood. Since he was still partially a vampire, he still needed the blood on occasion and he hadn’t had any in weeks. Without even bothering to warm the red liquid he vamped out and sank his fangs into the bad, unenthusiastically gulping down the coppery tasting substance. The blood didn’t hold as much pleasure in his new demon state as it once did. When the bag was drained he tossed it into the trash can and glanced around the kitchen. He’d have to go out for more food tomorrow. That was a task he was not looking forward to.

Angel wondered back into the main room and absent mindedly tossed another log on the fire. For a few minutes he just stood there staring into the bright orange-red flames as they consumed the untouched wood. Fire was such an interesting element. So simple, yet so powerful and deadly. Breaking his gaze, he stepped to the right and sank down to the ground next to the fireplace. With his knees pulled up, forearms resting against them, and head resting back against the wall, Angel settled in for yet another night of what those who knew him would call brooding.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

With a slightly unusual determination Buffy drove past the ‘Welcome to Sunnydale’ sign on the outskirts of town. For two weeks she’d spent hours upon hours trying to determine what she wanted, which direction she wanted her future to go in. She had thought about it from every angle possible, but the answers to her questions never came to her. Then, this afternoon, as she sat in one of the spa’s hot tubs, sipping at a deliriously wonderful strawberry daiquiri, it had come to her with a surprising suddenness. At that moment she hadn’t even been debating her various options, she was just idly letting her mind roam to whatever. That’s when it hit her. It was then that she knew what it was she wanted, and needed to do. And that was why she now found herself driving down the ever familiar streets of Sunnydale once again.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

Maybe it was the intensity of his brooding, or the unexpectedness of it, but Angel didn’t even notice that someone had entered the room until he heard the silence around him broken by a softly spoken word. His head snapped up and found himself eye to eye with the blonde haired focus of his thoughts.

“Wh-what?” he asked unsteadily as he took in her appearance. She looked radiant. Wherever she had gone, it must have been an utterly relaxing place.

“Yes,” Buffy repeated confidently the word she had spoken just moments before. When Angel only stared at her, brow scrunched, mouth agape, and a look of hopeful confusion in his eyes she spoke again. “You asked me a question two weeks ago, right before I left. And now I have an answer for you. Yes.”

Angel continued to stare at Buffy, bewilderment filling his eyes as he recalled the question she was referring to…Do I still have a reason to hope? His expression softened instantly at the realization of what she was saying. He wanted to say something, but all the words that came to mind seemed inadequate of what he wanted to express to her. Instead he slowly stood from where he had been seated and cautiously walked toward the one woman that he could call his true love.

After she had spoken, Buffy watched as the emotions flashed across Angel’s face. She knew she was perhaps the one person who could ever truly read his feelings from just looking at him. The look of utter joy in his eyes when he figured out her meaning reaffirmed the choice she made. The choice that if Angel wanted her, then she would, once again, give herself to him.

His slow steps brought him only inches from her before he stopped. Words had yet to cross his lips but he knew she understood what he was feeling.

Neither moved for minutes, content to stare into one another’s eyes, letting them do the talking. Relief flooded through Angel at knowing that it wasn’t too late, that he and Buffy would finally have a chance. A real chance to be happy, without all the clauses and meddling friends and family that were there before.

For Buffy, the feeling was one of hope. Hope that she’d long ago buried deep inside herself. She’d long believed that Angel, and love in general, was out of reach for her, that the companionship that she had with Spike, or even someone else in the future, was all that she would ever have. But now, hope was alive again. And maybe this time all of her dreams…their dreams…wouldn’t be violently crushed as they had in the past.

The mere inches separating them soon became too much for Angel and he swept her up gently against him, wrapping his arms around her small body. Just the feel of her form pressed against him made his soul scream out in happiness. It had been missing its mate for far too long. Angel reveled in the sensations that arose in him, the smell of her hair, sweet vanilla combined with an earthy floral scent, the warmth of her skin, which now matched his own, the sound of her heart, beating rapidly as was his. It was almost more than he could handle, but he cherished every second of it. Some part of him never expected his dreams to become reality, that he would have her love again, but the sight before him told otherwise. Tears began to slowly creep down his cheeks, in relief, in joy, in peace, because of the golden goddess cradled in his arms.

Angel’s arms pulling her forward came as a surprise, but the moment she was settled against his strong body, every tense muscle within her ceased to exist. She’d forgotten how safe and all encompassing it felt to be in his arms. It had been so long. She never expected to have this feeling again. With him, she didn’t always have to be the strong one, with him she could let go and let him take care of her. She loved the way her body seemed perfectly molded against his. Some would think his large, masculine frame would feel threatening, but to her, all it ever felt like was home. As she laid her head against his chest, she heard the steady thumping of a heart once long dead, and tears flowed from her eyes at the precious miracle before her, one that she’d almost thrown away, but now knew she’d never again be apart from.

Together, the lovers, reunited for what they hoped for good this time, held each other tightly, relishing the return of something that both thought long gone, as they cried silent tears that held a multitude of meanings. The foremost of which being promises to each other, that this time, they wouldn’t let anything tear them apart.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

Just outside the entrance to the main room of the mansion, three unexpected guests stood in awe of the reunion they had just witnessed. At Cordelia’s urging, Willow, Xander, and Spike had gone to the mansion to try and get Angel to go out to dinner with them. But when they arrived they saw Buffy entering the front door and quickly hurried in after her. The two warriors were oblivious to their presence just feet away as they were lost in each other. The three knew that what they were witnessing was a private moment, but none of them could find the will to leave.

Willow felt tears moisten her eyes watching estranged soulmates reunite. Long ago she’d harbored such romantic fantasies for the star-crossed duo, but Angel’s abrupt exit from Sunnydale and the ensuing pain emanating from her best friend had left less than nice feelings toward the once-vampire. For years she’d pushed Buffy toward other men, willing her friend to move on with her life. But Willow’s own personal losses had made her realize that true love could not be pushed aside and she found herself smiling and happy for her friends renewed chance at love.

Alongside Willow, Xander was also captivated by the scene. He’d not so long ago recognized that Angel wasn’t the bad guy he’d always thought him to be, but now, for the first time, he really understood the love between his blonde haired friend and her cradle-robbing-creature-of-the-night boyfriend. How he could have missed it when he was younger escaped him. The love radiating off the pair now was palpable, even Xander knew those most cynical of romance would be hard pressed to deny its existence after witnessing this scene.

Slightly behind the other two stood Spike, conflicting feelings surging through him. Predominantly, he was beyond happy for oft-tortured Slayer. She’d experienced so much loss in her life, she deserved some peace and happiness. And to anyone, it was obvious that Angel could give her that. But at the same time he felt an immense sense of loss for the person he’d come to rely on so much. She’d been his savior all those years ago when the restoration of his soul threatened to consume him. She was the light in the dark world that a vampire such as himself lived in. For the first time Spike realized just how true that statement was. Buffy was so much more than just ‘The Chosen One’. But she wasn’t his, never had been, and never would be. It hurt more than he thought it would and he wondered what this meant for his life now. Even so, he was happy for her, happy that she’d once more found the love she deserved.

The three stood there for a few minutes more, still entranced by the reunited lovers before they finally turned quietly left the mansion. Each held different feelings inside, but they all realized that it was finally Buffy’s time to be happy, to live the dream.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^
Part 9 – The Scenic Route
^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

Author’s Notes – Assume that between B/A’s meeting during Forever and the post Flooded/CN meeting, that Angel told Buffy the basics about LA (i.e. Darla, W&H, rescuing Fred, Cordy getting the visions, etc). I don’t feel like having him explain ALL that stuff, there’s enough more important stuff he has to explain. Also, I know many of you wanted me to include s7/4’s big bads and what has been going on, but I’m not going to. This fic is post s6/3, so anything after that is left out. It would have made things more complicated than I wanted to make them, and basically I have no idea where Joss is going with some of the ‘interesting’ events of this season on both shows. So just block out what has been happening on both shows. Also, Connor is included, as well as talk about A/C but I changed things slightly from actual happenings on the show, so just bear with me, and accept the changes for the purpose of creative freedom and storyline needs.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

For long minutes, history’s strongest Slayer, and The Powers That Be’s chosen Warrior remained locked in a hushed embrace. Tear tracks marred the face of each. But they were not tears of sadness. They were tears arisen from the restoration of a union that seemed forever doomed. Both had always hoped that this exact moment would someday come, but neither had really truly believed that it ever would. And now that it had, the emotions it triggered were overwhelming.

It was Angel who finally broke the silence with words softly whispered into his beloved’s ear.

“You’re back.”

“You noticed that huh?” she joked softly.

“I didn’t think you would.”

“I wasn’t sure I would either.”

“What made you decide?”

“Why don’t we go sit on the couch and talk, I guess there’s a lot we both need to say.” Buffy replied while forcing herself to pull out of the long held embrace.

The two walked hand in hand to the sofa in the middle of the room. Angel sat on the end while Buffy sat facing him with her legs cross, the need for physical contact remained and they continued holding hands.

“We were so worried about you, no one knew where you were,” Angel spoke, looking directly into her eyes.

“I’m sorry about that. I needed to get away, and I didn’t want anyone to know where. They would only try to tell me what to do, or talk in circles, I needed to decided for myself,” spoke Buffy with a sigh before continuing.

“They mean well, but sometimes they push me in certain direction just because they think its what’s best for me. Anyway, I went and saw Dawn, then I went up to this place in the mountains, a spa where they pamper you like you wouldn’t believe. But mostly I spent the whole time trying to figure out what I wanted. No matter how much I thought about everything though, I just couldn’t figure it all out.

“I guess you did decide, though, since you’re here,” interjected Angel when she paused for a few moments.

“I did. It’s funny, I wasn’t even really thinking about it this morning when it came to me. I was just sitting there relaxing, not trying to think about anything. Then these visions, or maybe they were dreams, started popping up in my head about us doing things together that we never had a chance to do before, walks on the beach, hanging out with the gang, waking up next to each other. When I snapped myself out of my little fantasies I realized how much I wanted those things with you, and that was when I knew what it was that I wanted to do. Which brings me to now,” finished Buffy with a slight hitch in her voice. She hadn’t meant to let it show, but there was still some unease in her decision, she was still afraid that he would break her heart again.

Angel recognized the hesitation in her voice and closed his eyes for a moment. He knew that he was still going to have to work to win back her trust after all the things he’d done to her in the distant and not so distant past. But he was willing to work at it. This time, he was not going to let her get away.

With a gentleness uncommon for a person of his size and bulk, he pulled her onto his lap and wrapped his arms around her once again. Buffy immediately relaxed in the new position, laying her head against the broad expanse of his chest while Angel rested his cheek on the top of her head.

“Just so you know, I want those things to…the things you dreamed about. There’s nothing I want more in this world than to have to moments with you,” he whispered soothingly to her.

“I know. I knew that before I left, but it’s not easy to forget the past. It’s always there reminding me of all the hurt and heartache,” Buffy replied in a soft voice.

“And I’ve caused most of that. You’ll never know how sorry I am for all of the things that I’ve done that have hurt you,” answered Angel sorrowfully.

“Angel, no. We’ve both hurt each other more times than imaginable. I’ve done things I’m not so proud of that have hurt you deeply.” Buffy lifted her head to look at Angel’s eyes before continuing. “I never did say I was sorry for the things I said to you in LA when I came because of Faith. I’ve regretted those words ever since then. I lashed out and hurt you because of it.”

“I won’t lie to you and say it didn’t hurt because it did. I felt like my heart was torn in two. Deep down I knew you didn’t mean it, that you were just trying to hurt me, but it still stung,” responded Angel as he stroked the back of her hair.

“I was upset and hurt. Faith had come out of her coma and reeked havoc on my life. She attacked me, switched our bodies, slept with Riley, and then I come to LA and found you protecting her. I just couldn’t understand it at the time. So I lashed out. And on some unconscious level I was punishing you. I couldn’t believe that Riley had been with her and hadn’t known it wasn’t really me. I knew you would have figured it out. But you weren’t there. You left me. And I wanted to punish you for that. So I said all those things to you, but I never really meant it,” explained Buffy in a tear stained voice.

“I know, baby. It’s ok. We were both hurting and we both did things we regret. For my part, I’m sorry too, for ‘stalking’ you that Thanksgiving, the things I said when you came about Faith, for all the times I haven’t been there for you in the past years, and most of all, I’m sorry for the way I left you. If I had it to do over again, I’d do it differently, but even so, I still would have left. I wanted what was best for you and I didn’t think you’d get that if I had stayed,” said Angel, hoping that she understood what he was trying to convey.

“I understand that now or at least I try to. I didn’t get it at the time and it hurt more than you could possibly know to think that you didn’t want to be with me. I was so young then, though I needed to grow up…”

“and I needed to find myself, to find my purpose in life,” finished Angel. “Maybe we had to be apart to be ready for now. We had to become the people that we are before we could look toward our future, together.”

“Maybe, but the short trip around would have been better than the scenic route. Would have saved on a lot of not-so-nice stuff that we did to each other,” replied Buffy in a sarcasm tinged voice.

“Yeah, it would have. But that’s all in the past now. We can’t change it, and we probably can’t ever forget about it all, but we can move forward from it. We can learn from out past mistakes and look toward a future, our future, together,” responded Angel, his voice soft and gentle.

“Together, I like the sound of that,” sighed Buffy while laying her head back down on his chest.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

“So tell me about LA. I told you what’s been going on here, tell me what’s been going on with your team,” questioned Buffy later that night after the pair spent much time just holding each other.

“A lot’s happened in the past few years. Some of it I probably should have called an told you about, but at the time there was so much going on that I didn’t have a chance, and then later I kept talking myself out of it, and there was some other…stuff going on. But please hear me out before you get upset about anything I say. I guess I’ll start with the less important stuff. Remember the girl Fred I told you about,” at Buffy’s nod he continued.

“Her and Gunn got married a few years ago, they still work for me. So do Wes and Cordy. We’ve basically just spent the last few years fighting evil, saving souls. We took down Wolfram & Hart, finally, like I told you. We’re still working from the hotel I told you about. Lorne, the demon who reads souls, re-opened Caritas last year, but we still see him a lot…” he trailed off not knowing how to tell her about the major things that had happened in his life.

“Angel, it’s ok. You can tell me anything. I can’t guarantee it won’t upset me, but I’ll try to understand,” reassured Buffy.

“I know, I just don’t want to hurt you anymore,” Angel sighed and rubbed his hands over his face. “Darla came back not long after the last time I saw you all those years ago. And she was pregnant. Which I know you’re thinking is not possible. But she was. And she said the child was mine.” The look of utter shock on Buffy’s face did not escape Angel.

“To make a very long story short, she got pregnant on that one night we spent together, the one I told you about. There was some prophecy about two vampires creating a child. So there was Darla, pregnant. In the end, she staked herself to save the baby, it would have never been able to be born otherwise. And all of the sudden I had a son, Connor. He was the light in my dark world.”

“Was?” repeated Buffy. Despite the shock of learning Angel had a son, and hurt that it hadn’t been her that carried it, she had noticed his use of the past tense.

“Everyone was after Connor, any evil group you could imagine wanted him. And there was Holtz, a man who time-traveled from long ago to exact revenge on me for killing his family. Wolfram & Hart was also playing some mind games. During all that Wes found some prophecy that said I would kill Connor and in the end he kidnapped him. But that played right into Holtz’s plan. He and this girl Justine almost killed Wes and took Connor. I watched as Holtz jumped through a portal to another dimension…with my son.” Tears burned in Angel’s eyes as he spoke of one of the most horrible events in his life.

“Oh Angel, I’m so sorry. I can’t imagine what that would have been like for you. And to have Wes take your son,” soothed Buffy. Any hurt she felt over the son she never knew about faded into the background as she listened to Angel talk about him. The love that radiated in his eyes for the child was obvious and she couldn’t help but feel glad that Angel had had a chance to be a father, even if it wasn’t with her.

“I felt so betrayed by Wes, I could have killed him. As it was, I didn’t want anything to do with him for months, but eventually we slowly started working our way back, it took a long time, though, to feel comfortable with each other again. It changed both of us. Wes became a bit…harder because of what he had done and the aftermath. And I’d lost my son, that changes a person,” said Angel sadly.

“I don’t know if I would have ever been able to trust him again. I still remember what he did when Faith shot you with the poisoned arrow. You were always better at forgiveness than me though,” smirked Buffy, thinking back on the things that had happened with Faith. “What happened with Connor? Did you try to get him back?”

“We tried, but nothing seemed to work, and then one day he just came back on his own, a few months later. A portal opened up in the hotel while we were all standing there and out dropped a teenage boy. Connor. In the few months he was gone on earth, he grew up years in a Hell-like dimension. He was so hostile. Holtz had fed him endless diatribes about me. He was taught to hate me. I tried so hard to convince him I wasn’t a monster. All I wanted was to be his father. I thought for a while I was getting through to him, but then Holtz struck again, killing himself and making it look like I killed him. Connor attacked me, locked me in a metal tomb and dropped me into the ocean. I was there for months until Wes rescued me. When I got out I told Connor that I loved him but that I never wanted to see him again. And I haven’t,” finished Angel, tears rolling out of his eyes.

“That must have been hard for you,” stated Buffy, saddened by the things she hadn’t been there to help Angel through.

“It was, but it was what I had to do. Nothing I did would make him understand that I’m not the monster that Angelus was. And I couldn’t let him continue to hurt my team, and me, the way that he was. I still think about him all the time. I keep my ear to the ground, and every once in a while I hear something about a kid fighting demons. So I know he’s still out there and ok. I guess I still hope that someday, he’ll be able to accept me, but I can’t force him to. If he does, it will be when he’s ready to,” explained Angel, not bothering to hide the hurt in his voice over the situation with his son.

“I hope someday he does. He’s missing out on having a great father,” stated Buffy, lifting her hand to lightly caress his cheek.

“Thank you, it means a lot to me to hear you say that, and thank you for being so understanding. I know it must be hard to hear about it,” replied Angel, reaching up his own hand to cup the one Buffy had placed on his face.

“It’s…strange, I’ll admit that, and it hurts a little. But I can see how much he meant…means…to you. Who am I to judge you about it? At least I already knew about what happened with Darla before. And it’s not like you’re telling me about a girlfriend or something.” The minute the words left her mouth, Buffy instantly recognized the guilt on his face and the sudden stiffness throughout his body.

“Angel?” she questioned nervously. When he didn’t reply and wouldn’t look her in the face she quickly scrambled out of his lap and came to a halt a few feet in front of him. “Tell me,” she demanded.

“There was someone…a few years back,” Angel replied guiltily. When he saw that Buffy was waiting for him to tell more, he went on. “I was lonely, Connor needed a mother, and she was always around. These feelings just started to arise that I didn’t understand. Everyone around us was pushing us together and she seemed to feel the same way. So we just kind of…got together. It didn’t last long though.”

Buffy listened to him talk about this other woman and felt anger building within her. She knew it wasn’t exactly fair to be upset about it. Angel had every right to move on with his life. She had. But at the same time, when she thought about the reasons he had left her for, it seemed she had every right to be a bit angry.

“Who was she?” Buffy bit out.

“It’s not imp-“ started Angel, but quickly realized he was going to have to answer the question. “Cordelia.”

“CORDELIA?!?! The Cordelia Chase? Queen C bitch of Sunnydale?!?!” she screamed out.

“Yes,” winced Angel.

“Oh, this is just great. YOU leave ME so I can have this ‘normal life’ you think I have to have, but you can hook yourself up with Cordelia?” Buffy yelled angrily.

“Which is exactly what she said,” responded Angel softly.

“Huh?” wondered Buffy as she stopped the pacing she’d started a few moments earlier.

“That’s the same thing she told me. A few months after we got together she came to me one day and said it wasn’t going to work. She said she wasn’t going to play second best to you,” explained Angel tiredly. He had known this topic was going to come up and that Buffy was not going to like it. Rubbing the back of his neck for a moment and then leaning forward to rest his elbows on his knees he continued.

“She gave me this big speech one day about how she knew why I left you, that I loved you so much that I left you to have better than me. And how I was afraid to stay with you for fear of releasing the demon again. Then she asked me how I thought that made her feel. I didn’t really understand why she asked me that so she spelled it out plain and simple for me. I left you to have a normal life and to keep myself from getting too happy, but I would let myself be with Cordelia. She told me that led to two conclusions for her, one being that I didn’t love her as much as you since I was willing to keep her from a normal life, and the other being that I didn’t seem to be afraid of getting too happy with her. So she told me that she wasn’t going to play some consolation prize since I couldn’t have you,” finished Angel, warily casting a glance in Buffy’s direction.

“That’s Queen C for ya, never one to stand for being second best,” joked Buffy lamely, not knowing what else to say at the moment.

“She was right, though. I was desperate, and lonely. And so much was going on at that point in time. I took whatever feelings I had for her and made them into love. There was a certain feeling a safety for me being with her, and she was there at a time when I really needed someone,” relayed Angel quietly as he prayed that Buffy would understand what he was going through.

“Angel,” started Buffy, running a hand through her long blonde hair. “I can’t say I’m not hurt that you let yourself be with her. It definitely stings a bit. But I can understand that need, to lose yourself in someone. My reasons for doing it may have been different, but that’s what I did with Spike after I was brought back to life.” As she finished the sentence, Buffy sat herself down on the couch next to Angel, pulling her knees up to her chest.

“Do you forgive me for it?” asked Angel with a cautious look in Buffy’s direction.

“No…because there’s nothing I have to forgive you for. As much as I hate the idea that you let yourself be with her, I don’t have a right to be mad, we weren’t together then. So we both did the best we could given our circumstances.” Climbing onto Angel’s lap once again, Buffy spoke in a tired voice, “we really know how to make a mess of our lives don’t we?”

“Yes, love, that we do,” chuckled Angel, a mirroring tiredness in his voice.

Without intending to, the two lovers were soon mired in a deep sleep, wrapped in each others arms. Buffy lay with her head resting over the steady beat of Angel’s newly awakened heart while her Angel rested his cheek against the top of her head, savoring the sweet scent that he’d missed for so long. Nothing could disturb the pair as they slept more peacefully than either had in a long time.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

Buffy was slowly awakened by a stray beam of sunlight caressing her smooth skin. The feel of strong arms still wrapped gently around her caused a silent sigh to escape her lips. This was exactly where she’d dreamed of being for so long. And it was blissfully perfect.

She knew without looking that Angel was also awake. The soft, lulling motion of one of his thumbs on the small of her back assured her of that. She shifted slightly to bring her left hand out from around his waist up on to his chest, content to feel the strong muscles beneath.

“I’ve only felt this way once before. Like a normal girl, falling asleep in the arms of her normal boyfriend. It's perfect.” She cooed in a quiet voice, afraid to break the peace of the early morning.

Angel instantly stiffened after hearing her words. Even now, so many years later, he still remembered every single moment of their lost day. The one he had taken back without giving her a choice. The one she still knew nothing about. He knew that he had to tell her, but he feared her reaction. They’d gained so much in the last few hours, he didn’t want to lose it all once again. But he had to do it.

The sudden change in Angel’s body language was not lost on Buffy. She debated for a moment about whether to push him to talk about it, and decided they needed to clear the air, about everything.

“Angel?” she questioned, finally picking her head up off his chest to look into his eyes.

“Buffy…I…there’s something I need to tell you about,” he stuttered out with a nervousness of epic proportions.

“Angel…I know,” Buffy responded in a steady voice.

“K-know? W-what?” he breathed out, confused at her words. He wondered what it was she ‘knew’. There was no way she could…

Buffy turned in his lap so that she could look directly into his eyes. She’d known, or at least she’d hoped she known, exactly what her words would trigger in Angel. And his reaction didn’t disappoint. But now it was her time to reveal what she knew.

“I told you I’d never forget, but I did. At least for a little while,” she divulged, her eyes moistened at the thought of what Angel must have gone through possessing those memories for so long.

“H-how? The oracles said you’d never remember,” asked a thoroughly shocked Angel. Her revelation had come completely unexpected.

“I know, and they were pretty much right. About a year and a half ago, this psycho warlock demon came to town. He thought he’d have a little fun messing with our heads, made us all a little crazy for a while, but I eventually killed him. Except that the head magic he used on us didn’t fully disappear after he was dead. Willow used some spell to clear out the haziness, when it was finished…there they were. I guess the spell unlocked the memories somehow,” explained Buffy with a shrug at the end. How the memories came back to her was still pretty much a mystery beyond the spell Willow did.

“I’m so sorry. I should have told you a long time ago…,” apologized Angel, quickly turning his gaze downward.

“Angel, I’m not mad at you,” Buffy stated firmly, cupping his chin in her hand and pulling his head back up to meet hers.

“You’re not?” queried Angel, stunned to say the least. He thought for sure he was going to have to face the wrath of an extremely pissed off Slayer, but he should have known by now that his Buffy was full of surprises.

“No, I’m not. At least not now. I was furious when I first put all the memories together, but funny enough, it was Xander that made me understand it all,” chuckled Buffy, thinking back to the talk she had with her brown haired friend. She moved around a little on Angel’s lap to get more comfortable before finishing her tale of events.

“After the spell finished, there were these flashes, images, in my head. They made no sense…just these short clips of you and me together that I was sure had never really happened. But the flashes kept coming. Everyone else went up to bed and I went out on the back porch to try and sort through what was going on. After a while, they weren’t just flashes, I had a complete memory of everything that had happened. I was furious with you for again making a decision without me, but I didn’t know what to do about it at the time.

Not long after that Xander came and sat down next to me. I guess he noticed something was wrong after the spell was finished so he came to check on me. I hardly noticed he was there, I just started sobbing and yelling and poor Xander just sat there and took it all. When I finally calmed down I told him what I’d remembered. I got up and told him I was going to go to LA to beat the crap out of you when he asked me a question…” Buffy left the sentence hang while the memory of Xander’s words washed over her.

“What did he ask you?” prodded Angel softly.

“He said ‘Wouldn’t you have done the same for him?’ It stopped me dead in my tracks. And I knew he was right. I would have done the same. But I was still mad, and furthermore confused because of all people, Xander was coming to your defense. I asked him why and he told me that any guy that would sacrifice his humanity, something that he’d probably wanted for so long, for a girl that he loved, was all right in his book. And my heart broke even more because I realized Xander was exactly right. You gave up your redemption, for me, so that I could live. That’s not something I could ever be angry with.” A faint sob escaped her lips when she’d finished speaking.

Angel pulled her body flush against his and stroked her long golden tresses. He’d never imagined that she would be able to forgive him for the decision he’d made back then. But she had, for which he was immensely grateful. And it only further proved to him how much she had matured as a person.

“Why didn’t you ever tell me that you knew?” he murmured into her ear.

“I wanted to, but it wouldn’t have changed anything. We still couldn’t be together and it would have only hurt us more to have to deal with it back then. So I kept it to myself, Xander was the only person who knew about it,” Buffy whispered in response.

For long minutes they remained as they were. Angel continued to place gentle caresses on Buffy’s hair and back, soothing away the troubles from their past. They’d cleared the air of everything between them, or at least Angel hoped that was everything.

“I think we’ve managed to dredge up every little thing important in the last few hours, don’t you? Unless there’s anything else you have to tell…” he spoke, somewhat in jest.

“No, I think that’s pretty much everything. We like to go heavy duty on the emotional torture don’t we?” she joked back at him.

“Can’t disagree with you there. But like I said before, it’s all in the past. We have a future ahead of us…one we will have together.” He kissed her softly, their first kiss, in what Angel felt was way too long. A loud rumble coming from the woman in his arms interrupted the sweet moment.

“I guess someone’s hungry,” laughed Angel. The unusual sound of his laughter brought a smile to her face.

“Gee, how’d ya figure that one out,” she playfully smacked his arm.

“Why don’t we go into the kitchen and I’ll make you some breakfast,” suggested Angel as he stood, still holding Buffy in his arms.

“Works for me,” she beamed at him. Her earlier sentiments echoed in her head. This was indeed perfect. A morning with her Angel. Nothing could be any better.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

They ate the French toast breakfast that Angel made in companionable silence. Being in the others presence enough to sate their needs. Angel marveled internally about the fact that the one woman that he’d ever really, truly loved, but always seemed so far out of reach, was sitting only a few feet away from him and wanted the same thing he did. A future together. He couldn’t keep his eyes off her. He loved the way the sun reflected off her hair and the rumpled look of her clothes from being in them all night. But really, there was nothing about her that he didn’t love.

She knew he was watching her and part of her reveled in that notion. After all this time, he still wanted her, was still hopelessly in need of her. It gave her a warm feeling all over to be that desired. She wondered if he realized that she felt the same way about him. Her heartbeat jumped slightly as she gazed over his masculine form. The dark green, obviously expensive, sweater he wore clung in all the right places. The muscular arms that always held her with such love were easily noticeable underneath the soft material. She licked her lips unconsciously as she thought about what was underneath that sweater.

Unrealized by either one, they had both ceased eating their breakfasts and were now staring intently at each other. And neither noticed the fact that they had risen from their seats to come rest standing face to face, only separated by mere inches. And neither consciously made the move that found them tangled in each others arms, lips locked in an expression of passion, lust, love and need, held in for years.

Hands groped while tongues intertwined in the warm recesses of their mouths. The need for each other completely overwhelmed the long separated lovers. The feel, the touch, the taste, the smell, they couldn’t get enough.

When Angel finally regained some sense of reality he realized that he had Buffy backed against a wall, her legs wrapped around his waist. He quickly pulled away, carefully placing her feet back on the floor.

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t ha-“ he started in a hoarse voice.

“Don’t be sorry,” she whispered, voice equally hazy.

“We shouldn’t. I don’t want to rush things,” replied Angel, his frustration not hidden in the least.

“Angel, we’ve waited long enough,” answered Buffy, pressing her body up against his, placing a hand on his face in a loving caress.

“Are you sure?” he turned his head to place a kiss on her palm.

“Make love to me, my Angel,” she requested, love shining in her eyes.

Her plea was all Angel needed. He swept Buffy up into his arms, placing a promising kiss onto her warm soft lips. With a swift turn, he strode out of the kitchen, his blonde goddess giggling at his eagerness. A few short seconds later, the sound of a door slamming somewhere echoed throughout the mansion.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^


GO TO:  Part 9.5 (optional NC 17 interlude ~ can be skipped without missing anything important)

OR GO ON TO:  Parts 10 - End