Like I Used To Do

by Jill

Disclaimer: Could I be as evil as Joss? Certainly not. Result: I do not own them. The title is a song of the great Seàn Keane, my favourite Irish Singer from his album "No Stranger".
Distribution: If you want it, take it. But please tell me where it goes to.
Rating: I am not good at that, but I think pretty much like the show
Spoilers: The whole BtVS- and Angel-series
Timeline: sometime after season 5 / 2 (or maybe in these seasons - I don't really know)
Summary: Giles brings Angel back to Sunnydale to help fighting the slayer's last battle.
Feedback: please!!!!
AN: Sorry for any incorrectness about the slayer's last battle. I try to keep this story to the Buffy verse as much as possible. The slayer's last battle has only been mentioned, so I do not really know what is going to happen there. Probably something really dramtic and horrible - let's not forget Joss is writing it. But this is my universe and so I will write my idea about that battle.
AN 2: None of us knows what will happen between Darla and Angel in the future. So I made my own story about the whole confrontation and it's solution.
AN 3: I have left Dawn out of the story as I have never seen an episode with her so far and cannot really relate to her. So sorry to all of you who like her.
AN 4: For this story the Spike - Buffy relationship is pure friendship! Otherwise it would be much too complicated although I might get Spike dreaming about the slayer.

Part 1

"Angel, phone," Cordelia cried through the closed door of Angel's new office.

The vampire looked up to get an idea who would call him, but the brunette did not
look at him. The blinking of the red button on his phone told him that the call
had already been directed to him. Sighing he took it: "Angel here."

"Oh, good. I am glad you are there," the voice on the other end sounded urgent.

"Giles?" Angel sensed an uneasy feeling rising in his guts. "Is something
wrong?," he asked.

"I ... uhm ... yes, you can say that. Buffy is fine," the watcher told him
quickly , answering the unasked question. "Well she is at the moment. This is
difficult to explain on the phone. Angel, could you come to Sunnydale?"

"I ... don't know," the vampire answered honestly. "Buffy and I have promised to
keep our distance. I do not want to intrude her privacy."

"I know, but this is different. She is in great danger, Angel. I think it is more
we can handle. Plus her mother is very ill, so she is distracted."

"Her mother is ill?," Angel asked with an alarmed voice.

"Yeah, she's got brain cancer. The prognosis is not good. But I would really
like to explain that in person. So, can you come?"

"Of course I come, but I want Buffy to know about this. I am not going behind her
back again," he replied. "I also want her involved in any decision."

"That's fine with me. But you'll be aware that Riley will be there too then."

"Of course, he is her boyfriend. He is supposed to be involved too." Angel
shortly closed his eyes, hoping the wave of pain would wash over him quickly.

"Could you be there at nine - tonight?"

"I will be there - oh, and I will bring Wesley and Cordelia."

"Fine. See you then ... and Angel."

"Hmmm."

"Thank you."

*********

"You did what," Buffy shouted.

Giles sighed and leaned back in his chair: "I already told you. I called Angel to
come to Sunnydale. He will be there tonight with Wesley and Cordelia."

"And you decided to do that without asking me, right?" She had the sudden urge to
smash something on his head. Why on earth did everyone think they could make her
decisions.

"We are facing something very dangerous Buffy. Something you will not be able to
handle on your own. You do not have to come tonight. I mainly wanted Angel here
to discuss this with him and Wesley. Honestly I am only telling you this because
Angel insisted on it."

The slayer's eyes went wide: "Angel insisted on it?"

"Yes. He said something about never doing anything behind your back again." Giles
told her, getting up and pulling another book from the little shelf behind him.

"Wow. He really has improved," she said sarcastically. Seeing her watcher's look
she appologized: "Sorry, I didn't mean it that way. I am glad he did. It's just.
I am not sure if I am looking forward to face him. I haven't seen him for over a
year and I honestly don't know how we will act around each other. Plus Riley
still has problems even thinking about him and I don't want to hurt his feelings.
He is insecure enough the way it is, you know, the fact, he is loosing his
strength and all."

"Then he has to get over it," Giles answered angrily. "He is not a teenage boy,
Buffy. This is a serious danger for your life. Angel is your best shot for
surviving it. If he can't see it ..."

The slayer sighed: "Fine. We'll come tonight."

******

"I cannot believe you said yes," Cordelia shouted standing in front of her boss,
hands at her hips.

"They need my help," Angel replied for the sixth time. "Maybe you remember. I am
supposed to help people."

The former may-queen rolled her eyes: "That is not helping people. It means
helping *her*. Angel, you had a hard time with the whole Darla-deal, Wolfram &
Hart are still on your back. Seeing Buffy won't help you to feel better."

"I appreciate your concern," he said, smiling at her. "I really do. But Giles
would never call me, if this wasn't big. You do not have to come."

"As if I would let you come near her alone. No way, mister. I am your friend and
someone has to pick up your pieces after she shatters them on the floor - again.
Pick me up at my apartment at seven." She headed out of the office but turned
again in the door: "I am leaving now. After all I will see the gang again, that
means I have to pack carefully." With a last grin she was gone.

Angel leaned back in his chair and sighed. He desperately hoped he was strong
enough for this and it was not his physical strength he was concerned about.

*********

"Riley," Buffy said, when she saw her boyfriend coming towards her. She and
Willow were sitting on the lawn outside, enjoying the warmth of the sun.

He sat down beside her. Grinning he leaned over and kissed her gently on the
lips. "Hi," he greeted her. "Hi Willow."

"Hi Riley," the red-head greeted back.

The slayer took his hand: "It is good you are there. I was looking for you
before. There is something I have to talk to you," she turned to Willow. "And to
you too." When both looked expectantly at her she continued: "I spoke with Giles
before. You know we were researching about the slayer's last battle and stuff."
Both nodded. "Obviously Giles has found something last night. He thinks it is
going to be big and ... he's called Angel."

"WHAT," came Riley's angry shout. Willow only looked at her with big eyes.

"Please calm down. I didn't know about it and I was angry too. But I have to
admit he might be right. If this is big, we might need Angel's help."

"I do not trust him," the ex-commando hissed through gritted teeth.

"But I do," Buffy told him quietly. "He will come tonight - only to talk to
Giles, but maybe he might stay."

"Oh man," Willow said. "If Giles calls Angel this has to be big. Somehow I do not
like this."

"The same here," the blonde replied. "He didn't tell me what he found out, but I
am sure he will do tonight when we are all together." She turned back to her
boyfriend: "Riley, are you okay?"

He swallowed hard: "I am fine. You are not going without me."

She smiled at him: "That was never my intention. I just want you to be civil
around Angel. He is only coming because Giles called him. Try to remember that."

He tried a slight smile: "I promise to try."

"Good," suddenly the slayer grinned. "Didn't you say someting about ice-cream
yesterday."

He grinned back and looked at Willow: "You come?"

"Oh no," she said with a smile. "You two go. I am just staying here enjoying the
sun. Have fun." She was glad Riley could distract her friend for a while. She was
sad enough all the time with her mother in the hospital.

The couple stood up, their hands entwined and waved goodbye to her. When they
were out of sight, she sighed heavily: "Oh boy!"

Part 2

Giles almost jumped out of his chair when he heard the knock on his front door.
He glanced at his clock, 8.30 it said, so maybe it wasn't ...

"Angel, Cordelia, Wesley," he nervously greeted the three persons standing before
him. Wesley and Cordelia greeted back with a simple nod, while the vampire
smiled: "Hello, Giles."

"So, do come in," the watcher invited them and stepped back. He followed his
guests to the living-room: "Can I get you anything, tea, coffee?"

"Tea would be great," Wesley smiled. Giles nodded and disappeared into his small
kitchen. While waiting for the water to boil he looked over to the vampire who
was sitting on the sofa talking to his employ es, also laughing from time to
time. This was a new side of Angel, Giles had never seen before and he could not
stop but wonder what else was different now in him. There was also a certain look
in his eyes... It would be interesting to talk to him tonight, that was for
certain.

The door to his apartment opened again and Willow's voice sounded in his ears:
"Hello, anybody there? We're here!"

Giles had given up the hope they would ever knock on his door again. It seemed as
if his apartment had become everybody's home. The watcher stepped out of the
kitchen to see Willow, Anya and Xander standing in the living room. All of them
staring at the three guests. "Hello," he greeted the three of them.

"Cordy," Xander exclaimed looking at his ex-girlfriend, who only raised an
eyebrow:

"Xander," she said. "It's good to see you. Willow. Anya," she greeted the others.

"Hi Angel," Willow smiled at the vampire, who had gotten up when they'd entered
the room.

He smiled back: "Hi Willow. It has been a long time."

"It has," she replied and surprised everyone by stepping over to him and
embracing him in a warm hug. The bigger surprise however was that the vampire
returned the hug without hesitation.

"I am just getting the tea," Giles told them and returned into the kitchen.

"Tea," Xander's voice was full of disgust. He followed the watcher and opened the
fridge: "I remember having seen some juice here. Anya honey, can you look for
some pretzels and stuff," he asked his girlfriend.

"Sure," she replied walking over to a small cupboard, opened it and was looking
through the junk-food they kept in store for sessions like these.

"I am sorry," Giles said, when he returned carrying a tray. "It seems that my
apartment has become the official gathering place.

"I know what you mean," Angel replied with a grin while giving Cordelia a certain
look.

"Hey," she said in mocked offense, but a huge grin was on her face. "You better
be good or you have to look for another one who removes the bullets from you or
chains you to the bed."

The vampire only laughed which made the others look at him in astonishment.

"Besides," she added. "Wesley eats twice as much as I do."

"Hey, that is not true," the ex-watcher said.

"Yeah," Angel replied, still laughing. "But at least he doesn't leave wet towels
where they aren't supposed to be." Suddenly he felt the familiar tingling in his
gut and tried to concentrate where it came from.

"Who leaves wet towels," came the question from the door and everybody turned to
stare at Buffy and Riley who had entered without notice, well everybody except
Angel, who had sensed her presence before and was already looking in her
direction.

"Buffy," Cordelia exclaimed and glanced nervously at her boss who's grin had
disappeared almost immediately.

"Cordelia sometimes leaves them on my leather chair," he explained, surprising
the others again with his now calm and collected attitude. "Hi, Buffy."

"I see," she replied. "Hi Angel, Cordy, Wesley," she said almost casually and
turned back to her boyfriend who was glaring at the vampire. If looks could kill
Angel would have been reduced to a pile of ash. "Riley, I think you don't have
met Cordelia and Wesley?"

The ex-commando's head snapped up: "No. I haven't. Nice to meet you."

"Fine," Giles looked around. "As we know each other now, why don't we all sit
down and I can explain this little gathering."

"That would be a good idea," Riley said in an icy voice, while taking his seat
beside his girl-friend.

While everybody found a space and Giles served tea Buffy could not help but stare
in Angel's direction who didn't seem to notice her at all. He was laughing with
Cordelia and Willow and seemed totally comfortable. He was so different. One of
the last times she'd seen him he had told her she wouldn't know him anymore. She
had been hurt but now she had to admit it was true. He seemed much better in the
company of people and an unfamiliar air of self-confidence was around him. The
most interesting detail were his eyes. They still showed the haunted look, but it
was more hidden now and Buffy could swear he had smiled more in the last two
minutes then he had in his three years in Sunnydale. She almost started when she
felt Riley's hand on her arm. She turned to him: "Sorry, what?"

"Do you want some juice," he asked smiling at her.

"Oh. Sure, thanks." Stop that, what is the matter with you, she asked herself.
Here you are with your boyfriend, you lo... like and all you can think is about
Angel. It's normal another voice said in her head. You haven't seen him for a
while, you both were involved. It is completely normal you are interested in him.
Buffy shook her head to clear her mind and then looked at Giles expectantly:
"Now, Giles, why don't you tell us what you have found."

"Yes, uhm," the watcher began, settling his gaze on Angel. "I guess you have
heard about the slayer's last battle."

The vampire nodded: "I've read about it."

"Good. It seems it is something Buffy has to face very soon. It's called the last
battle because only very few slayers ever lived through it," he explained for the
others. "It's when a huge demonic energy is directed onto the slayer in order to
destroy her."

"Like the ultimate confrontation between good and ... well, evil?," Willow asked
in a tiny voice.

"Exactly," the watcher answered. "It's sort of an ultimate test for the slayer.
If she survives she is safe from demons for the rest of her live. She is also
free to decide if she wants to go on as a slayer or not. If her choice is not to
go on a new slayer is called."

"You mean, she could live a normal life after that, no more patrols. Just a
normal girl?," Riley asked with a happy expression on his face.

"If I survive," Buffy said, not really liking the expression on her boyfriend's
face. What the hell was going on in his head? And what was going on with her, a
normal life, that was what she'd always wanted. All of a sudden this option
didn't look as promising as she'd thought it would.

"You will survive." Angel's voice interrupted the both of them. He stood up and
paced the living room. "That is the reason we are here, right?"

"Right," Giles replied. "I think you will need all the help you can get. Maybe we
can also count on Spike."

"Spike?," Angel quirked his eyebrows in surprise.

"Long story," Xander said with a smile. "Short version: he cannot hurt humans
anymore, but can fight demons."

"He cannot bite?," the vampire could not help but grin.

The same moment the front door burst open again and the blonde vampire entered
the apartment. "Sorry I am late, but my mate ... hey Peaches," he greeted Angel.

"Spike," the dark vampire greeted back.

"Back on the slayer's lap, mate?"

"I hear you are on a hunt-free diet these days," Angel replied, ignoring the
other vampire's last comment.

Spike only raised an eyebrow at him, then shrugged and took the seat his
grand-sire had abandoned before, causing Cordelia to move away from him. The
blonde vampire grinned: "I don't bite."

She gave him a disgusted look: "You don't think I will touch a ... thing that
tortured my boss."

"Cordelia!" Angel's angry shout came at the same moment when the slayer yelled:
"WHAT?"

"Let it go, Buffy," the dark haired vampire said. "It was a long time ago."

"Long time ago," Cordelia snorted. "You were half dead when we found you. And all
this only to protect that stupid 'Gem of Amarra'. Wait a moment," she turned her
head at the slayer. "If I think about it, it was all your fault, sending the
damned ring, without a note as I want to recall, although you knew Spike was
after it."

"That's enough," Angel interrupted her, his voice low and dangerous. He turned
towards the other's: "I am sorry. That is really not important, we should go back
to the matter at hand." He shortly gazed at Buffy who gave him a sharp look as if
to say 'this is not over', but then her concentration was back at Giles.

He saw the expectant eyes resting on him and cleared his throat: "Yes, well. I
was just saying that Buffy will need protection for the ultimate fight. That is
the reason I called Angel. With he and Spike fighting with the slayer her chances
are certainly up."

"I will fight with them too," Riley told him, squeezing his girlfriend's hand in
assurance and giving her a smile.

"Well," the watcher began, when Spike interrupted him.

"Sorry, fishboy," the vampire said. "But I don't see you in a fight for life and
death. See the truth, without the drugs you are just a plain, weak human boy.
Time out for playing the super-hero." He grinned in contentment when he saw the
anger in the blonde man's eyes.

"I am trained fighter," Riley replied. "I was trained to fight demons. I am
fighting with Buffy and I will certainly not follow orders from a hostile."

Spike shrugged and raised his hands: "Sorry, mate. I just wanted to give you a
good advice, who am I to hold you back when you go to get yourself killed."

Riley jumped up and glared at the vampire: "I will fight with Buffy and you will
see I can protect her."

"Shut up, both of you," came Angel's angry voice. Everyone looked at him taken
aback. Cordelia and Wesley grinned inwardly but none of the Sunnydale gang had
ever seen him like that. "This is no time for childish games or bickering. We are
discussing a serious matter. If you cannot leave your personal problems at home
then we do not need you here." He glared at Spike and then at Riley who wanted to
give him a reply but was too surprised to say something adequate. So he just
glared back. "Good," the dark haired vampire said, his voice now quiet again.
"Giles would you please go on."

"Thank you, " he gave Angel a grateful look. "Well. The problem of the whole
situation is that we will not know what we are going to fight. We do not know
which demons we are going to face, maybe also witchcraft." He saw Willow's face
lighten up and smiled at her: "Yes, maybe we will need your help," he assured
her. Giles reached behind himself and put a book on the table to show the group
the different possible demons that would maybe come to Sunnydale.

Buffy looked at Angel again. He leaned at the doorframe, his eyes closed. He
really never ceased to amaze her. The way he had been able to command the whole
group was another new side of him and she liked it. She liked the whole new
attitude. The broken, guilt-ridden man was almost gone and there stood someone
who surprisingly seemed comfortable with himself, it was amazing. She could not
help to compare him to Riley, who sat beside her, holding her hand and staring
into the book on the table, sometimes commenting a demon he had seen during his
time at the Initiative. No, stop that. It will do no good, to nobody. Angel is
the past and he can ever only be a dream. Riley is reality, he is nice, caring
and he loves you. When this is over, if it is, Angel will go back to LA, out of
your life. You must not feel for him again, it will only lead to heartache.
Besides you don't even know if he still cares for you. Sure, he came to help, but
that's his job, it's his *job* to help people. She swallowed and squeezed Riley's
hand who looked at her lovingly. He was such a nice guy, but oh when just her
soul would stop crying out for it's other half.

Part 3

I was quiet on our way to the mansion. I still owned it and so we were heading
there although I didn't really know if it was clean enough to use it. I could
just imagine Cordelia wrinkling her nose in disgust and smiled inwardly.

The rest of the time I thought about *her*. Buffy. God she was still the most
beautiful woman I had ever seen, she's even more beautiful than before. Ageing
gave her more female maturity. Her face had lost the expression of the innocent
teenager she's been.

There was no more innocence her eyes and most of it was taken by me or my demon.
I think we both did our fair share in her. He broke her heart by being cruel and
torturing her, I did mine by leaving her without really explaining my reasons. I
had planned to talk to her again and explain but after I drank from her I
couldn't be near her anymore, somewhere in a small room, the demon inside craving
for her blood, the man in me for her love. I would not have been sure which one
would have won the battle. I also knew than my doubts and guilt were something I
had to deal with on my own, I could not burden her with this. But this was only a
part of the reason. The bigger part was my fear, the fear one day she would be
fed up with the brooding vampire hanging at her feet, keeping her back from life.
The mere thought of Buffy hating me was worse than all the centuries in hell. So
I left. And broke her heart.

And then there was the totally unimportant fact that I wanted her and she wanted
me, the day I was human was proof enough that we weren't able to keep our hands
from each other. A simple touch had been enough to jump on a kitchen table.

I have always doubted if I'd made the right decision for us by erasing the day,
but not anymore. I see Riley in my mind and know it. I would have been him,
sitting beside her, holding her hand and insisting on helping her only to get
pityful glances from our friends because they knew I would not be able to. This
would have killed me, inside. I would have never been able to forgive myself for
this and it would have killed our relationship, our love. Whatever I do it always
comes back to my own insecurity or to be frank to my father who did nothing but
tell me how disappointing I had been for him.

This way I can fight beside her, protect her ... and leave her to be happy with
Riley. It really sucks. But then I think about the alternative of sitting there
and holding her dead body in my arms - no, there was no alternative at all.

I was interrupted in my thoughts by Cordelia: "I just knew it," she told me, her
voice sounding slightly angry. I looked at her with a questioning gaze and she
smiled slightly: "We are back in Sunnydale for only an evening, you have seen
Buffy for only two hours and you are brooding non-stop already. I told you she is
not good for you."

I smiled back: "I can handle this, don't worry."

"But I worry, I am your friend. Friends worry," she insisted, looking back at
Wesley who had been dozing off in the back.

"And I appreciate it. I really do, Cordelia. I admit it is hard to be around her,
but I can deal."

She sighed loudly: "Fine. Fine. Hopefully this battle will be over soon and we
can go back home. The sooner the better."

I smiled at her when I pulled the car up to the mansion.

********

"Why are you so angry?," Buffy wanted to know. She and Riley had just come back
from Giles and they were now sitting on the bed in his room.

"I am not angry," he replied averting his eyes.

"Don't lie to me," her voice was rising. "I can see it. You barely talked to me
on our way over here. I don't understand you. The evening went smoothly I think."
Too smoothly, she thought. Angel hadn't even once tried to talk to her in
private. Will you stop that, she scolded herself.

He stood up and began to pace his room: "It's him. He deeply annoys me. This way
to think he is in charge of everything. He is arrogant, he is here to help not to
tell us what to do."

She looked up at him: "He is used to give orders, Riley. He runs his own agency.
I am sure he didn't mean it that way."

"Oh, now you are taking his side," he turned and stared at her. "I really dreamed
about this."

Buffy jumped up and put her hands on her hips: "What the hell is wrong with you?
Why are you behaving like this? We met at Giles for a business meeting. It wasn't
as if I went on a secret date with him."

"Would you have prefered it?," he shot back.

"What? Are you crazy? I think, I'll better leave now," with this she turned and
was about to go when she felt his hand on her arm. She looked back: "What?"

"I am sorry," he appologized. "It's just. I am not comfortable around a hostile
and your friends. How they were looking at me, especially Giles. As if he thought
I would not be able to fight with you. It drives me crazy. But it gave me no
right to behave like this towards you. Can you forgive me. I don't want you to
leave tonight."

She was studying his face for a while, then she smiled: "Alright. But you have to
come to terms with this. Angel will be here for a while."

"I will. I promise," he said, pulling her in his arms.

*********

"This was an interesting evening for sure," Xander said while he, Anya and Willow
were walking away from Giles' apartment.

"I can think of many things more exciting," his girlfriend replied, rubbing the
back of her hand up and down his arm, making him blush immediately.

"Uhm ... well, maybe," he stuttered.

"No, you are right. It was. Interesting I mean," Willow assured him. "Especially
meeting Angel. He sure has changed. I never thought he could be like that."

"You mean all tall, dark and gorgeous," Anya remarked. Xander shot her a look.

"That's not what I mean," the witch shook her head. "He is so different. First of
all, he talks to everybody. Some time ago he would hardly say a word to us, he
would only talk to Buffy. And now he smiles. A lot. And he laughs, it is almost
scaring. But in a good way," she added.

"Scaring in a good way?," Xander asked his friend. "Now was that a sentence that
makes any sense?"

Willow playfully hit her friend's arm: "Oh, you know what I mean. And Cordelia
has changed too. She's so ... mature. And she really seems to care for Angel."

"As much as Cordelia can care," Xander replied. "Yes. I guess your are right.
They seem to be friends. Who would have ever thought. Riley on the other hand was
behaving like an idiot."

"Xander!," the red head explained.

"But it is true," Anya supported her boyfriend. "All this talking about fighting
with Buffy. I almost laughed out loud."

"There you see," he looked at Willow. "He has to get over this. He is only going
to distract Buffy in battle. She cannot fight if she has to worry for him."

"Yeah, you are right," the witch sighed. "He really seems to get more and more
insecure. And I think Angel being around Buffy doesn't help. Have you seen the
look on his face when Giles told us, Buffy might be able to retire from being the
slayer after the battle. I didn't like it and she didn't too. I could tell."

"I really thought he was good for her, you know, moving on, getting dead boy out
of her head, but I am not so sure anymore. They seemed happy, but if this whole
thing endangers Buffy..." he trailed off.

"Well, then we have to have an eye on him," Willow looked at the others who
nodded in response.

********

When Buffy woke up the next morning she was a little bit disoriented until she
realised she was laying in Riley's bed. She sighed inwardly and looked to her
side, he was still soundly asleep. Good, she thought. She got up from the bed,
still fully clothed and slipped out of the room. He had been a bit disappointed
when all she wanted was lie down beside him the previous night, but understanding
as he was he did not press.

She looked at her watch, it was only seven and her first class was not before
ten, so enough time to get back to her room, to shower and change. Her mind was
going back to the previous night. Just as Riley had started to unbutton her
blouse something in her head had snapped. This is not right, a voice had shouted
out loud. A voice she had never heard before. What was wrong with her? She cared
a lot for him, he had given up so much to be with her, he had touched her before,
more than once and all of a sudden it felt wrong?

Willow was still asleep when she entered the room. Buffy sat down on her bed and
pulled her shoes off. Sighing she laid back and stared at the ceiling. She could
feel Riley's doubts about himself. With his strength dwindling more and more his
doubts seemed to grow. Just two nights ago she had to save him from a vampire he
had attacked obviously overestimating his own abilities. The slayer could also
see his jealousy towards Angel. Ever since their confrontation more than a year
ago it had been there. Deep inside, burried in the depths of his soul, but now
with Angel being so near it seemed to surface. It was a bad moment for this. She
had to face a battle and no time to deal with the problems of her boyfriend.

Plus there was her mom, still laying in the hospital in a coma after her brain
surgery. The doctors had removed the tumor, but Joyce was not waking up. They
didn't know what was wrong with her. The surgery had been without problems, the
tumor had been benign. The only explanation was that the pressure the tumor had
caused before it's removal had damaged more than expected. All they could do was
wait. Buffy saw her mother once a day and talked to her. It had become a routine
over the last four weeks, sometimes Riley came too.

"Hey, you are there," Willow said from behind her and Buffy started a little bit.

She turned to lay on her stomach and faced her friend: "Morning, Willow. Yes, I
came some minutes ago."

The witch smiled: "Nice night with Riley?"

"Not really," the slayer sighed. "We only slept, nothing else. He wanted ... but
... all of a sudden, well never mind."

Willow sat up in her bed: "No, come on. Tell me. What all of a sudden?"

"I don't know Wills, it just didn't feel right anymore. Being near him, I mean. I
cannot explain."

"Does a certain vampire have to do with this?"

Buffy rolled her eyes: "Don't be ridiculous. He is here to help. We didn't even
talk. It is over between us."

"Sure," her friend smiled.

"What are you smiling at?," the slayer asked.

"Oh, nothing. I know you two are over, mainly because there can never be
anything, but that doesn't mean you don't have still feelings for him, does it?"

"I thought you were happy I was with Riley," Buffy exclaimed. "Why are you
bringing Angel up again."

"I am not bringing him up, you do, as much as you refuse to accept this. However,
you two will have to work together the next days, for your own sake mostly.
Enough of this," she changed the subject. "When do you have the first class?"

"Ten," the slayer replied.

"I have to be there at nine, so I shower first." Smiling she got up and
disappeared in the bathroom.

********

"I am heading for Mr. Giles now," Wesley told the others while getting up from
the breakfast table. "What about you two?"

"I am going to see my parents," Cordelia said. "I am not sure if they will be
happy, but while I am here I can stop by. Then I am going to join you, help with
some research. What about you Angel," she turned to her boss.

He shrugged: "Working out mostly. It's not that I can run around anyway. And I
will look through the books I brought with me."

"Can I have your car?," she asked with a pleading look.

He sighed: "Fine, but be careful."

"Thanks," she grinned and jumped up. "Come on, Wes," she laid her hand on the
ex-watcher's back. "I'll give you a ride. Have a nice day. See you at Giles
later." She gave Angel a last smile and then both left.

The vampire was glad to have the mansion to himself for a while. He really cared
for Cordelia and Wesley, but having them around for 24 hours a day could be a bit
exhausting. He stood up and went for his bag with books he had brought with him
from LA. He looked at his watch, he should call Gunn at the agency, see if
everything was alright, but then the boy had the number of his cell phone and
could contact him in any case of emergency.

Angel carried the bag to the great hall and put it onto the sofa. After opening
it he put the books on the table. The slayer's last battle. He had heard rumors
about it, but never seen one in all his years. All he knew was that it was going
to be tough and that it could be deadly for the slayer. But no, Buffy was not
going to die. After all he had sacrificed his humanity for her life. To be able
to fight by her side and keep her safe. With this thought firm in his mind he sat
down and opened the first book.

Part 4

AN: I made my own story about Oz, because I need him in the story. So his story
is not true to the the Buffy verse.

The room was white and sterile, the typical hospital room. Buffy came here
regularely but she'd never get used to the atmosphere. Hospitals scared her, now
more than ever.

Her mother was laying in her bed, hooked to several tubes, one of them pumping
air into her lungs. Joyce was pale and Buffy sometimes had the feeling she was
smaller now, but that was certainly only her imagination. She was so still,
almost like dead and she was pale. Buffy had never been very close to her mother,
mostly because of the slayer thing. It didn't help a relationship when you
always had to hide something. It's a little bit like Riley and you. Where did
that come from, she asked herself. He knows all my secrets. Does he really, the
voice said again. She took a deep breath and blocked the voice out.

Looking at her mother she began to speak: "I hope you are not in pain. I truly
hope so," she said. "The doctors say you feel comfortable, they say your
heart-rate is a proof of it and I want to believe them. Classes were boring
today, psych isn't really what is has been. Pro Walsh was a loony case but she
knew how to teach. I have a battle ahead of me. Angel came to help. He has
changed a lot. I like it." She let out a short laugh. "Maybe it is good you
cannot hear me, because you would freak if you could. I am talking to you about a
vampire, and *that* vampire of all means." She leaned forward and kissed her
mother gently on the cheek. "I have to go now. I want to see a friend. Will be
back tomorrow."

With this she stood up and left the room and headed for her car. She opened the
door and slid inside, breathing deeply. She had to go and see him. Talk to him.
About the battle of course, she told herself. Maybe she could sparr with him for
a while. She'd only worked out with Riley the last months and he really wasn't a
match for her anymore. Starting the ignition she was heading for the mansion.

********

"Oh dear, oh dear," Giles muttered absentmindely, sipping at his cup.

Wesley looked up from the book he was reading: "Found anything interesting?"

The other man stared at him for several seconds and then shook his head as if to
clear his mind: "Pryce, oh sorry. Yes, I have found a passage. Here in a watcher
diary. He describes the last battle of his slayer." He paused for a moment. "She
died."

"Oh," the dark haired man replied. "Did you find anything about a slayer
surviving it?"

"Besides the one we found before? No. And that really worries me." He took his
glasses off and rubbed the bridge of his nose.

"If a slayer can survive this, it is Buffy. She is the strongest slayer ever and
she has Angel by her side. He would do anything to protect her," Wesley assured
his collegue.

Giles nodded: "I know. That is the reason I called him. I know Riley is her
current boyfriend and he would do anything, but I am afraid he will be more a
liability to her than a help. He used to be strong and has difficulties to deal
with his new state."

"New state?," the other man asked.

"He used to work for this organisation called The Initiative. They gave their
fighters drugs and stuff. Dangerous stuff. The organisation doesn't exist anymore
and the drugs seem to loose their effects more and more. He is a normal human boy
now and cannot deal with it."

"I see. Then maybe we should talk to him," Wesley suggested.

"I talked to Buffy about this, but she didn't let me. She says she doesn't want
to hurt him," Giles sighed deeply.

"This is irrational," his collegue exclaimed. "If I am reading all of this right
it is not only the slayer's life that is endagered by the battle. I mean loosing
a slayer like Buffy could have unpredictable consequences."

"Exactly," came the reply. "But then I don't want to act behind Buffy's back
here. After all he is her boyfriend. Well, we should really go on reading and try
to get as much information as possible."

Wesley gave the other man a last look, then he put his eyes back on the book.

*******

Angel was surprised when he heard a knock. He didn't expect anyone and Cordelia
wouldn't knock. She'd just come in as she did it in LA. He stood up and moved to
the door, he was about ten feet away when his gut told him who was waiting on the
other side. He took two deep unnecessary breaths and opened.

She looked at him and was lost in his eyes. Yesterday night it didn't happen. She
had been able to neglect it with all the people in the room, but now she was
alone with him, nobody she had to fool. His gaze was unreadable, friendly but
more in a business sort of way. A gaze you would trust at once. No wonder his
agency runs so well, shot in her mind. I bet all the women fall for him, the
handsome, caring stranger. She snapped out of her thoughts and tried to smile:
"Hi."

"Hi," he greeted back, but no smile was on his face.

"I am sorry to disturb you, but I wanted to talk to you," she said, feeling
suddenly insecure.

"I see," he replied, stepping back to open the door completely for her.

She entered the house and was immediately flooded with memories. Good and bad. In
her mind she saw the spot where Acathla had once stood. She saw the wall she had
chained him to after he'd come back from hell and the spot where he had drunk
form her. She swallowed hard and tried to collect herself not to get lost in the
past. She looked up and saw Angel's eyes looking at her with concern.

"Are you alright," he asked. "Maybe you should better sit down?" He pointed to
the sofa, the same sofa he had told her on he'd only loved her in his long life.
She shook her head and immediately regretted coming here. She should have met him
somewhere else, somewhere without memories. But then they were almost everywhere
in Sunnydale. "No, I am fine," she replied, taking a seat. "I just. I was with my
mom."

"How is she?," he asked taking a seat opposite to her. Seeing her questioning
gaze he explained: "Giles told me about the brain cancer."

She nodded: "She had an operation about four weeks ago, but she is in a coma and
nobody knows if she's going to wake up again."

"I am sorry," his voice sounded truly compassionate. "But she is strong," he
smiled at her. "After all she is your mom. I am sure she will make it."

Buffy could not help but smile back. The first time in four weeks she was really
believing her mother might survive. "Thank you," she said.

He looked at her for a moment and then asked: "So. What did you want to talk
about?"

Her gaze wandered to her lap where her hands were playing nervously with each
other: "I am not sure," she admitted. "Maybe I just wanted to see you. Talk to
you for a while. We haven't seen each other for over a year."

"What should we talk about?," he wanted to know. His voice sounded casual and
curious. "We do not really share things anymore, but if you want to know
anything, just ask."

Buffy stared at him as if he was a complete stranger. She couldn't believe what
he had just said. Was this really Angel? Was this the man who could see in her
soul, who always took her in his arms and made her feel better. This stranger who
was treating her like a client. She felt tears threatening and closed her eyes.
No, she would not cry in front of him. Never. "I shouldn't have come," she said
hoarsly and was about to get up when he reached out with his hand and caught
her's. A shock went through both like fire and Angel let go of her hand
immediately.

"Don't go," he pleaded. "I would enjoy talking to you."

She nodded and settled down again. "I just. I thought it would be good to talk a
while, in private, you know. We have to fight together again and maybe it is good
to get rid of the ... tension."

"Okay." He smiled again, this business smile she wanted to punch his face for it.

Why was he acting like this? He moved on you idiot, a voice said to her. Like you
did, with Riley. "So, how have you been all this time?"

"Good," he answered, leaning back on the sofa. He couldn't belive how cool he was
able to act. It really pays to be that old, he thought, and to have played poker
for so long, he added silently. "You?"

"Fine," she smiled. "I hear your business goes well. Giles talks to Wesley
sometimes," she explained.

"I know," he told her. "You had some tough demons to face."

She nodded, slowly they seemed to beable to talk with each other: "Yeah. But you
too, I guess."

"Some," he shrugged. "It wasn't too bad." Liar, think about Darla. That was more
than tough. Far more. But he wouldn't tell her. How could he tell her that he'd
actually dreamed of making love with another woman. No, not making love, having
sex, he corrected himself immediately. And he hadn't been dreaming it, his demon
had. He was glad, he hadn't lost it during this little episode.

"You have changed," she said suddenly.

"That's what Cordelia tells me," he grinned. "But I am still brooding too much
for her taste."

"Brooding, you?," she joked.

He laughed. It sounded wonderful, it sounded relaxed and ... human. It sounded
good. She couldn't remember having heard it ... ever before. Or maybe she had?
Somewhere in the back of her mind she remembered something, she shook her head:
"How is Faith," she asked.

He looked surprised: "You really want to know?" The last thing he'd ever expected
was her asking for Faith. After the last confrontation he'd expected her
screaming at the mere mention of the name.

"Yeah," she nodded. "I can deal with it now."

"She is good. I think she will make it. I see her from time to time."

Suddenly she became serious: "Angel, how tough is this battle going to be. I
asked Spike about the two slayers he killed, but it wasn't really conclusive."

He grinned: "I wouldn't expect Spike saying something smart or conclusive for
that matter, although he had hidden depths. Honestly, I don't know. I have only
heard stories about it. I never participated in any of these things. My demon
never had a thing for gatherings like these."

She looked surprised. He had spoken about his demon without hesitation and he
didn't seem to have a problem with separating it from himself. "How are my
chances," she asked.

"You are not going to die," he answered firmly. "I am here to watch your back."

"Angel, I am the slayer. Slayers die. I've read about it - recently. They die
when their time comes. It was freaking me out for years but now I can live with
it." Her voice was quiet and firm. "I have to accept my destiny."

He shook his head emphatically: "No, you are not going to die. I swear. It wasn't
the deal," he added and then stared at her in shock.

"What deal?", she demanded.

"Nothing," he stood up and walked over to the wall. She stood up as well and
followed him.

"You have a something face, Angel. What deal?" She wouldn't let him get away with
it.

Slowly he turned round: "I sometimes talk to the Oracles," he explained. He
couldn't tell her the truth. He hated to lie to her, but hadn't he told her once
that some lies were necessary. "They are dead now, but some time ago they told me
I could protect you in a final confrontation."

No it was her turn to stare: "You talked to them about *me*?"

He nodded: "I did."

"Why?" Buffy was totally confused. She didn't really understand who the Oracles
were and what this all was about but she had a very uncomfortable feeling in her
gut that there was much more to it Angel would admit.

"I wanted to know about my fate," he lied. "So they gave me a hint."

She wasn't really content, still having a very odd feeling, but nodded
nevertheless: "I see. So you are my protector, hmm?" She smiled at him.

He smiled back: "Sort of," he answered and both went back to sit down again.

"It's like old times," she joked and looked at him. She was astonished to see a
sad look cross his face, but it was gone quickly.

"Where is Oz," he asked suddenly.

"Oh, well, he left over a year ago. First he wanted to learn to control the
werewolfe thing. It's a long story. Willow and he separated over it and she fell
in love with a girl, Tara. But she wasn't what everyone thought. So they
separated some months ago. But coming back to your question, I don't know where
Oz is."

"It's a pitty. He was a nice guy," Angel commented. "But I can understand his
urge to control his change."

She nodded: "I guess you can, better then anyone else. Do you still have your old
office?"

He shook his head: "No, some demon blew the building up."

"What?," she asked shocked. "But you were not hurt, I hope."

"No, only Wesley was there. Fortunately it was not serious. However, we had to
find a new place. We are now at an old hotel. It kinda serves the purpose."

"A hotel?," she asked incredulously. "Isn't that ... well, too big?"

He chuckled: "You would think so. No, but seriously, there are some people living
with me now, they are kids, hunting demons. Speaking of it, one of them, named
Gunn is in charge of the agency at the moment and I truly hope it still exists
when we come back."

Buffy felt a pang in her chest at his words. 'When we come back', of course he
would go back, that was part of the deal. Why would she even think about him
staying here. Riley, her head said. You have Riley now, stop thinking about Angel
all the time. He doesn't seem to be interested anymore. He is friendly but
distant. Suddenly she remembered something: "What was the story Cordelia was
talking about. With Spike coming for the Gem of Amarra?"

He shrugged: "He was looking for it, but we managed to keep it away from him. One
of the reasons I destroyed it. Too many vampires would be interested in it."

"You destroyed it?," she asked with a rising voice. "But I wanted you to have it!
I sent it to you."

"Well after I was tortured with hot pokers for about a day it lost it's
attraction for me," he replied quickly only to realise that he had told her the
whole story.

"Spike was doing that," she whispered and looked at him fearfully.

He nodded: "Yeah, well, actually he hired someone. But thanks to Oz everything
went fine. So no need to worry." He studied her face for a moment: "Don't go
against Spike now, Buffy. We will need him in the battle. Obviously he wants to
fight with you. This is more important now than personal problems."

She nodded: "I know. Riley wants to fight too," she suddenly blurted out. "I
worry about him."

Angel took a deep breath, he *so* didn't want to talk about her boyfriend, but
she cared about him, Riley was important for her, so he asked: "I thought he was
able to fight." He would never let her know that Cordelia had already told him
about Riley's problems. Willow had told her in a phone call. And Spike's remarks
the last night had been more than obvious.

"Not anymore. Well, technically he has learned to do it, but his strength was not
natural. It was induced by drugs and they seem to wear off. He is almost normal
now but he still wants to protect me." Her voice sounded worried.

"You have to talk to him, Buffy. When we fight you could be distracted, it would
be dangerous," his voice now sounded worried too.

"But he is so touchy about it. I don't want to hurt him," she told him.

She was started when he suddenly slammed his fist on the table: "Dammit Buffy,
this is a fight for life and death. It is no time for childish behaviour. We
already had enough of it yesterday. If he cannot be mature he'd better stay
away." He took a deep breath: "I am sorry," he lowered his voice again. "I didn't
want to shout."

"It's okay," she smiled. Actually it was more then okay because for the first
time it seemed like he did still care for her. His emotional outburst was enough
of a proof. "I ... I feel the same," she admitted hesitantly. "But I just don't
know how to tell him. He really is a nice guy, Angel. And he loves me." The same
moment the words were out she wished she could take them back. The look that
crossed Angel's face was almost more then she could bare. It came only short and
was hidden immediately but it was a look of despair, pain and longing, so deep,
she wanted to cry.

The vampire's voice was almost cold when he replied: "If he really loves you
he'll understand. He would not want you in danger."

She looked at him for a long time. His eyes were bare of any emotion now, but
there was something behind that wall, she didn't understand. Something she had
seen only for a second before. It was the look of someone who had lost
everything, all his dreams and wishes. Angel's eyes had always looked pained and
guilty before, but this was new too and Buffy had no explanation. "I guess you
are right, but not all people are so reasonable."

"He should be," Angel replied coldly. "He is old enough."

"You still don't like him," this was more a statement then a question.

But he felt about to answer nevertheless: "No," he simply said.

"There was something else." She decided to change the subject and continued when
she saw his eyes resting on her. "I wanted to know if we could have a work out.
Together. If you want that is."

He nodded and was about to get up when his phone suddenly ringed.

Part 5

AN: I have also left out Olivia, as I do not know her either. It is also not
important for the story if Giles is on his own or not.

Riley greeted Giles with a short nod when he entered the watcher's apartment
around seven. He looked around and saw Wesley, Cordelia, Spike, Xander and Willow
already assemebled there. Anya was missing and ... "Where is Buffy?"

Xander shrugged: "Don't know. She didn't call. She'll probably come a little bit
later."

"Maybe she is with her mom," Willow suggested.

But Riley shook his head: "No, she isn't. I am coming from the hospital."

The red head looked at him for a moment, frowned, but didn't comment it.

"It is good you are here," Wesley turned at the ex-commando. "We can need every
pair of eyes we can get. We are trying to read through all the watcher diaries to
learn about the slayers who survived the battle."

"I hope she is alright," Riley said, mostly to himself. Wesley sighed loudly and
Giles gave the boy a sharp look:

"Buffy is the slayer. She can take care of herself."

"Maybe she is with Angel," Anya suggested innocently. She was just coming back
from the toilet.

The room fell silent almost immediately and everyone looked at her and then at
Riley, who seemed to have frozen. Only Cordelia tried to suppress a giggle, but
unsuccessfully. She pressed her hand on her mouth, but everyone could hear it.
Spike looked up and grinned at the brunette.

The ex-demon looked around: "What?," she exclaimed. "Buffy and Angel are not
here, so they might be together. Why don't you see the obvious?"

"Honey," Xander took his girlfriend's arm. "Why should she be with Angel? They
will only fight together, there is not need for them to meet. I am sure she is
somewhere else."

She shrugged, not at all realising Riley's boiling anger: "If my ex would look
like that I would try to meet him."

Riley tried to suppress his anger and not to yell at Anya. As a result his face
contorted and it was enough to bring Cordelia over the edge. She began to laugh
out loud and everyone turned to stare at her. She saw the looks, but wasn't able
to stop.

The same moment the front door was opened and only a second later Buffy and Angel
stood in the living-room. Both seemed a little bit exhausted. Buffy greeted them
with a smile: "Sorry guys, we are late, but we ... got a little bit distracted."
She looked at Angel, who smiled back.

Everyone turned to the ex-lovers except Riley, who simply stood in the middle of
the room, his body shivering in anger.

Anya turned at her boyfriend and said: "See," which made Cordelia laugh even
harder. Spike grinned smugly, the look on the commando's face was priceless.

Buffy and Angel who had no idea what was going on looked at each other and
shrugged. The slayer turned at her former watcher: "What is the matter? Did we
miss something? I am really sorry we are late, but Angel gave me a work out. I
thought it would be a good idea regarding the next days." She seemed oblivious to
the fact that her boyfriend was still standing in the middle of the room.

"It was a very good idea," Giles told her and looked at Angel: "I think he is the
best choice to work out with."

Suddenly the slayer seemed to realize Riley's presence and went over to greet him
with a kiss, but he pushed her away, slowly turning around. She was taken aback
by the look on his face. "Riley, are you alright? Did something happen," she
asked.

"Why didn't you tell me," he hissed at her.

"What?," she tried to take his hand but he pulled back.

"Was there a reason you didn't tell me you would go and see your ex?" His voice
was rising now.

Buffy sighed: "Why should I tell you. I went to see Angel, we talked a bit, then
he gave me a work out. No big deal," she shrugged, trying to sound casual. She
didn't see the worried look Cordelia directed at her boss. But his face was
unreadable.

Riley took a deep breath: "I was worried for you. Please let me know where you go
in the future."

She looked at him for a moment: "Fine, I'll try to think about it." Then she
turned to gaze at the others: "So, any news?"

"Not really," Willow answered, glad that the tension seemed gone. "We are reading
through the watcher diaries, but they are not a great help."

"Why," the slayer wanted to know.

Silence settled over the room once again and everybody was looking to the ground.

"Why," she repeated her question. "Come on, I can handle it." She looked at
Wesley, somehow knowing that he wouldn't lie to her. He did not disappoint her:

"I am very sorry, Buffy. But it seems that most of the slayers didn't survive the
battle, so far we have only found one. A girl in the middle of the sixteenth
century named Mathilda."

She nodded and closed her eyes for a moment. When she looked up again she seemed
relaxed: "Fine, so you are reading through the books. It's not really my cup of
tea. I could go on patrol," she suggested.

"Yes, that is a good idea," Giles said. "But I don't want you to go alone. Why
don't you take Angel?"

Cordelia began again to giggle but was silenced by a sharp look of her boss. She
only rolled her eyes and shrugged.

"I am coming too," Riley exclaimed and was already heading for Giles' weapons. No
way he would leave his girlfriend and her ex on their own again.

"We could really need more help with the reading," Cordelia said, not liking the
idea with Riley, Buffy and Angel on patrol, especially with a crossbow in the
ex-commando's hand.

"She is right," Wesley supported her. "I think Angel and Buffy are capable of
patroling on their own."

"It's not as if they didn't do that before," Spike muttered, but Riley didn't
hear him. He felt great seeing the blonde boy fume. It was almost as good as the
image of beating him up. Almost.

"No, he can come with us," Buffy said. "Maybe we will meet some nasty demons and
we can use a hand," she smiled at her boyfriend who came back with two crossbows
and several stakes. Angel on the other hand was busy with fixing something on his
wrists, the slayer couldn't see it clearly and wondered what he was doing.

"Ready," she looked at both men. "Fine, then lets go."

*********

"I would give something to be a little mouse on that patrol," Spike grinned.

"Oh, that boy is priceless," Cordelia exclaimed. "Did you see his face when Buffy
and Angel burst in?," she asked, a broad grin on her face.

"You mean all worked up and sweaty," Anya grinned smugly.

"How can you enjoy this?," Willow exclaimed. "Poor Riley, that was so
embarrassing."

"We enjoy it," Spike explained. "Because we don't like fishboy. Don't expect me
to feel sorry for him. He put the chip in my head."

"And this is bad because," Xander wanted to know.

"He hunted demons," his girlfriend told him. "I was a demon once. I see the looks
he gives me from time to time. No, I don't like him."

"Honey, you are human now."

"I know, but still I feel connected to the demon population. I have to be
supportive." She sat down and poured herself a glass of juice.

"Children, please, can we go back to research," Giles tried to get their
attention. "This is a serious matter and we need any information possible."

They gave him appologetic looks and put their eyes back on the books.

******

Buffy could feel Riley was still tense and angry, although Angel did everything
to make him feel safe. He stayed behind them and didn't talk at all. He just
watched her back, she thought. As he had so often done before. It was strange,
but she felt absolutely safe with him by her side. She had not felt that safe for
a *very* long time. And as a result she was relaxed almost against her will.

"I was at the hospital today," Riley broke the silence. They had reached the
first graveyard and were walking inbetween headstones.

She looked at him in surprise: "You were?"

"Yeah. Actually I was looking for you," he explained.

She only nodded and was about to answer when she heard a noise. She felt Angel
tense behind her and knew he'd heard it too. Her eyes were wandering around when
Riley said: "Buffy, I just wanted to tell.."

He was interrupted by the slayer's angry whisper: "Be quiet."

"Buffy, what," he began again.

"Shhh," she hissed at him giving him an angry glare. She looked over at Angel who
had turned in the same direction. "How many," she whispered.

"Five or six," he whispered back.

"Vampires or other demons?," she wanted to know.

"Both," he told her and she nodded. She knew he could smell the difference.

She turned to her boyfriend: "You stay here. Wait," she commanded, while she and
Angel started to approach the noise.

Riley was angry. She'd never told him to stay behind. He was supposed to help
her, not that vampire, although he had to admit they worked fluently with each
other and seemed to have a sort of silent understanding, he had never seen
before. He checked his crossbow and followed the pair.

******

"Oh, I have found something," Willow exclaimed happily. "There is another one. A
girl named Sophia. She survived. She was severly wounded, but survived."

Giles nodded at her: "Very good. Could you please write down as much as
possible."

"I will."

"I hope they don't kill each other," Cordelia sudddenly said.

"Why should they kill each other," Wesley sighed.

"You never know," the brunette told him. "If he hurts Angel I am going to kill
him, painfully," she added with a destined look on her face.

"Maybe they could kill fishboy," Spike suggested. "Purely by incidence of
course." Seeing Xander giving him a look, he shrugged: "Can't a vampire hope?"

Giles only shook his head, but suddenly he had a bad feeling.

*******

When Riley arrived the others they were already in the middle of a fight. For a
short while he simply watched them, both moving fluently and he could see they
were used to fight together. It seemed so natural and familiar. As if the one
always knew what the other would do. He felt a little pang of jealousy in his
gut.

Buffy and Angel each dusted a vamp almost simultaneously, when two big ugly
demons jumped from behind and a vampire approached them at the same time.
Riley aimed him with his crossbow and the vamp was dust in no time. Angel killed
the one demon after a short while with his axe, he had taken with him, but Buffy
seemed to have more trouble. Riley could see Angel watching her but not helping.
He became angry, the vampire was supposed to watch her back not standing by her
side to see her butchered. He was so furious he didn't realize Buffy didn't
really have a problem with her demon. She had the thing in a firm grip and was
about to pull a knife when her boyfriend decided to intervene in the fight. He
loaded the crossbow again, aimed and fired, the second the demon spun around.

Angel's eyes widened in shock when he realized what was about to happen. "Don't
fire," he yelled but it was too late. The moment Buffy killed the demon the arrow
left the crossbow.

Part 6

The moment the demon was dead and let go of her Buffy felt herself pulled down by
a force she easily identified as Angel's body that came flying through the air.
Both fell to the ground, Buffy lying on her stomach, Angel on top of her. For a
short moment she was just laying there enjoying the feeling to be so near to him,
but then her senses kicked in and she muffled: "Okay, I think we can get up now."

That was exactly the second she realized Angel didn't move.

*******

"I have another one," Xander raised his head and grinned. "It was about eighty
years ago. She was called Emma."

"So we have five now alltogether. Maybe we can find something they have in
common. We have to go through their cases very carefully," Giles said. "I want
everyone of you to read every case. We must not miss a single thing."

"Aye, aye G-man," Xander grinned back. Giles only glared at him.

*******

Riley was frozen. He only stared at the scene before him. His girlfriend was
laying on the ground, the vampire on top of her, the arrow he had fired
protruding from Angel's back. Riley couldn't move, one picture played again and
again in his head, he had almost killed Buffy.

"Angel," Buffy tried again. "I really want to get up now. As nice as this is,"
she tried to joke, but still no reaction. Then she heard a pained moan and fear
was rising in her. "Angel," she said, this time a bit louder while she tried to
wiggle herself out from underneath him. "Riley," she cried, now almost in panic,
but he didn't answer too.

When she finally managed to free herself from Angel, she sat up and looked
around. Riley stood some feet away, his arm hanging down still holding the
crossbow, staring at her but not really seeing her. His body shook. Then she
dared to look down and gasped loudly. The vampire was still laying on his stomach
with an arrow in his left shoulder. "Oh God," she whispered and reached out for
him, stroking the back of his head his head: "Angel, can you hear me." When he
didn't respond, she looked at her boyfriend: "What happened," she demanded, then
immediately looking back down. "Angel, please talk to me," she pleaded. Getting
no answer from Riley she faced him again and yelled: "Will you now tell me what
happened."

His head snapped up: "Buffy, are you alright," he asked.

"I m fine," she yelled. "But he s not," she told him, tears were now running
down her face. "Tell me what happened," she demanded again.

"I ... I thought the demon w-would kill you and t-then I-I fired. Oh God Buffy,"
he suddenly rushed forward to her side, clenching her arm with his hand: "I
almost killed you."

She angrily shook his hand off: "And you almost killed him instead," she shouted.

"I am sorry," he told her in a broken voice. "I could only see the demon that
had you in his grip."

Buffy didn't listen to him anymore. There was no time for this. Instead she
turned her full attention at the vampire: "Angel, please hold still. I am going
to pull the arrow," she informed him, hoping he could hear her. "Riley, you will
have to hold his shoulder, while I remove the thing."

He nodded and put his hands left and right of the arrow. Buffy carefully touched
the front of Angel's shoulder to see if the arrow had gone through and swore
when she didn't feel anything. "Angel listen to me, this will hurt a lot, but I
cannot cut off the front, as the thing doesn't come out. Do you understand?"

"It's okay," came his whispered reply and the slayer sighed in relief to hear his
voice again.

"Okay Riley," she looked at her boyfriend. "Press the shoulder to the ground."
She held the arrow firmly in her hand, closed her eyes and pulled. Tears sprang
in her eyes when she heard Angel's muffeled cry of pain. She took a deep breath
and slowly turned him around so that she could look in his face: "How do you
feel," she asked.

"It will be okay," he assured her and tried to sit up, his face contorted in
pain and his hands were trembling.

"Easy," she said and tried to support him as good as possible. When Riley stepped
forward to help she hissed: "Stay away from him, I think you did enough for one
night."

"Buffy, he only wanted to help," Angel remembered her while he was looking at the
confused boy.

"Angel, we have to get you to the mansion," she told him, ignoring his last
comment. "Can you walk?"

"I am not sure." He closed his eyes for a second when he felt another wave of
pain running through his body. He felt weak and realised he had lost a lot of
blood. Then he looked at her again: "We could call Cordelia." When he saw her
puzzled look he smiled: "I have my cell phone." With his good arm he reached for
the pocket and pulled the phone out handing it to the slayer.

She gave him a short look and grinned: "Wow, Angel is living in the modern times,
who would have guessed." He could not help but grin as well, ignoring the pain
for a moment. Riley only stared at them.

Buffy dialed Giles' number and waited: "Oh Xander, hi. Could you get Cordy on the
phone... Thanks. ... Hi Cordy. Could you take Angel's car and come to the 'last
rest'-cemetery. ... Angel was shot ... NO ... he will be fine, but we have to get
him home ... Cordy please, can you just come and pick us up. I'll explain then.
Thanks." She looked at Angel: "She's on her way." Then she saw that there was
still blood coming from the wound in his back and she turned at Riley: "Remove
your shirt," she told him, her voice cold.

He only nodded, pulled it off and handed it to her. She ripped it into strips and
pressed the first on the bleeding spot, which made Angel hiss again. "Sorry," she
gave him an applologetic look. "But I have to stop that."

"It's okay," he assured her. "I just have to feed, then it will heal quickly."

"Angel! Buffy!," they heard Cordelia's voice.

"Over here," the slayer yelled back. Only seconds later the brunette and Willow
had reached the little group.

"Oh god," Cordelia exclaimed, seeing her boss laying on the ground his head and
chest leaning against Buffy. "How is he?," she demanded to know.

"A little bit better," the slayer informed her. "He needs to feed."

"What happened," Willow asked and kneeled down to check the wound.

"Riley shot him," Buffy told them, her voice sounding cold and angry.

"WHAT?," Cordelia shoutet, glaring at the ex-commando.

Angel reached out for her hand: "Easy, Cordy," he said. "He didn't want to do
this, it was an accident. He thought Buffy's life was in danger."

"Did he think you were about to kill her or what," she asked sarcastically.

The slayer sighed and saw she had to explain the situation: "No, he thought this
demon," she pointed at the dead body laying some feet away: "was about to kill me
and shot. The same moment the demon spun me around. The arrow would have hit me,
but Angel decided to play the hero and jumped inbetween." Her voice sounded
angry but then she looked at the vampire and gave him a grateful smile, silently
telling him that her anger wasn't directed towards him.

"It doesn't look too bad," Willow informed the others after inspecting Angel's
back. "It should heal quickly. Hopefully. For the coming battle we need him at
full strength, not laying in bed." She shot Riley a look.

"I - I am really sorry," he spoke up for the first time now. He was still in
shock but deep inside he was getting annoyed with their behaviour. He never
wanted to shoot him and after all he was just a vampire for god's sake.

"That doesn't help at all," Cordelia didn't care at all how he felt. All she saw
was that Angel was wounded and that Riley was still standing without a single
bruise. She looked at Buffy: "We should get him up now and to the car."

The slayer nodded and slowly they managed to get the vampire into a standing
position. They waited for a moment, so that Angel could get used to it. He was
swaying a little bit, but straightened after some seconds. "I am okay," he told
them.

"You are not okay," Buffy said firmly. "But we have to get you to the car, then
into bed and soon you will be okay - hopefully." She handed Willow the cell phone
she was still holding in one of her hands. The witch took it and followed her
friends who were supporting the vampire, one on each side. Riley looked at them
for a short moment and then followed as well.

When they were near the car, Willow opened the door, Buffy let go of Angel and
slipped in the back seat, Cordelia managed to get Angel in and the slayer pulled
his head in her lap. He tried not to show his pain, but could not help but hiss
or moan from time to time.

"You do not have to play the hero, Angel. We all know this is painful," Cordelia
scolded him gently. "I sometimes think he has a thing for pain. He refuses to
take pain killers when I remove bullets," she tried to joke and cover the anger
she felt towards Buffy's boyfriend.

The slayer's eyes widened: "Do you get shot a lot?"

"It's not too bad," Angel tried to comfort her.

Taking care that her boss was safely in the back seat, Cordelia closed the door
and run around the car to slip behind the wheel, Willow got in beside her. That
was when the former may-queen noticed Riley still standing with them. She
shrugged: "It seems the car is full. You have to walk."

"But I want to help," he insisted, getting angry again.

"Yeah, you wanted that before and we've seen where that led to," she shot back.
Angel was wounded because of Riley and that was enough to score thousand bad
points in her book. "You better stay far away from us," she shouted and drove
towards the mansion.

Buffy had heard all this and it came like a shock to her that she didn't care at
all how Riley felt at the moment. She didn't care anymore that he felt guilty or
bad or insecure. The only thing important for her was the wounded man who's head
was laying in her lap and who was in pain for saving her life, not from a demon
but simply because Riley had fired a crossbow when he should have stayed out of
the fight. Reality hit her full force. It was her fault, she had insisted Riley
could come with them.

She started when she felt Angel's hand squeezing her own gently. She looked down:
"How do you feel?"

"Okay," he said, but his voice was trembling from pain and exhaustion. "Don't."

"Don't what," she asked confused.

"Don't blame yourself. He fired the crossbow. He was trained to fight demons, he
should have known what to do and what not." He took an unnecessary breath, he
really needed to feed soon. His voice was weak and tired.

"I should have told him to stay at Giles'," she argued. "I should have seen he
felt this way." Dammit Angel could still read her mind, she made a mental note to
be more careful.

"As much as I like to see you feeling guilty at least for something," Cordelia's
voice came from the front: "but I have to go with Angel this time. It's not the
first fight he's been into. He should have known."

The car stopped - they had reached the mansion. As carefully as possible they
helped Angel to his bedroom. Willow and Cordelia stripped him from most of his
clothes while Buffy went to get some blood he had brought from LA. When she
returned he was already laying under the covers looking paler than usual.

"The wound is closing already, the bleeding has stopped," Willow told them. "I
think we don't need to tape it. All he has to do is feed and sleep. I think he
will be at full strength again by tomorrow night."

Buffy nodded and approached the bed. The whole situation was only to familiar
to her. She could clearly remember another night where he had been laying in the
same bed and felt a shudder run through her body. The slayer took a deep breath
to get rid of these painful memories. There was no time for this now, this was
about Angel and he had to feed. She gently touched his arm and when he opened his
tired eyes she handed him the cup while supporting his back to help him to sit
upright. She turned to her friends: "I am staying here for the night."

"You don't have to. I am perfectly capable of caring for him. It's not as if I've
never done that before." Cordelia sat down at the other side of the bed and
looked at her boss.

"No, I am staying," Buffy insisted. "I am not questioning your capability, but I
cannot leave."

After drinking the blood Angel felt still tired but also a little bit stronger.
He took the slayer's hand: "There is no need for you to stay, Buffy," he told her
gently. "I will be okay in the morning." Seeing the sudden pain on her face he
added softly: "But if you want to stay ... I would be happy if you did, although
I am not going to be a good company. I guess I will sleep the whole night." He
gave her a warm smile.

It felt so good having her by his side and he wanted her to stay, also if it was
only for a night, also if it was only because he was wounded. It didn't matter.
All that mattered was that she was here and not with Riley. He knew that she was
angry with her boyfriend at the moment, but he also knew that she'd come around.
She would go back to him, but for one night she would be his, at least he could
dream about it, could smell her scent near to him.

"Fine," Cordelia stood up and sighed. "I will drive Willow to her room, get
Wesley from Giles and then go to bed. I can do with some sleep." She nodded at
Buffy and Angel, the red-head gave them a smile and then they were gone.

Buffy smiled at the vampire: "You should sleep now," she told him gently.

"I am going to," he replied. "I am so tired, I couldn't fight sleep even if I
wanted to."

"I will stay here in the chair. You know - to keep an eye on you."

"You could also sleep here," he patted beside him on the bed. Seeing the look on
her face he smiled: "It is really safe. As I said before, I will be asleep in no
time." He sighed when she still didn't move: "Buffy, you also need your strength,
the bed is large and much more comfortable than the chair. If you insist on
staying then I insist on you sleeping in the bed."

"Okay," she finally gave in, stood up and laid down in her clothes. "Satisfied,"
she looked at him.

"That's not the word I would use, but it is much better," he told her before the
sleep overwhelmed him.

Buffy smiled and made herself comfortable on her side of the bed. He was right,
there was no reason why she should feel bad sleeping like that. She was tired and
needed her strength. And it was a welcome excuse to spend a night by his side.

Part 7

There was a knock on the door. Willow muffled something into her pillow and
pulled the covers over her head, it was too early and who would come anyway. Then
it knocked again. She sighed deeply and wiggled herself out of the sheets,
blinking into the bright morning sun which was streaming into the room. A look at
the clock told her it was already nine, but her mind told her it was Saturday and
for that no need to get up. She yawned, no she wasn't a morning person at all. It
knocked a third time and a voice said: "Please, open the door, I know you are
angry with me, but I am really sorry. Please I want to talk to you."

Riley.

I shouldn't be bothered at all, Willow thought and was about to wake her,
obviously ignorant, room-mate when she suddenly rememberd that Buffy wasn't
there.

Oooops.

The slayer was in the mansion, with Angel, with her ex, and the present boyfriend
was standing at the door, demanding entrance.

"Buffy, please, I am so sorry. We have to talk about this. I am not leaving until
you will talk to me," Riley said through the closed door.

Willow sighed again, oh, Buffy owed her one for this. Now she had to deal with
him. What should she tell him? It could be such fun to be a best friend, she
thought sarcastically. She looked down at herself, pyjamas, well, Riley had to
deal with that. "I am coming," she shouted and patted over to the door.

********

When Angel woke up the first thing he realised was that his shoulder didn't hurt
anymore. Good, he thought. He was positive, that he would be at full strength
again tonight. He slowly opened his eyes and blinked. The face of the woman he
loved was only inches apart from his. Was this a dream? He searched his mind and
suddenly rememberd that Buffy had insisted to stay over for the night and he had
invited her into his bed.

Her eyes were closed and she was still fast asleep. She looked relaxed and a
small smile played around her lips. She was so beautiful and immediately his mind
went back to the last time they had spent a night together in a bed. They had
been so happy then. Angel smiled and without thinking he leaned over to catch her
lips in a kiss.

********

"Buffy, I..," Riley started when the door finally opened. When he realised it
wasn't his girlfriend standing before him, he was surprised. "Willow," he said
lamely.

"Morning Riley," Willow didn't mind that her voice sounded annoyed. "What do you
want, it is early."

"I have to talk to Buffy, I couldn't sleep the whole night. I am so sorry about
what happened." He craned his neck, only to see that Buffy's bed was empty. "Is
she in the bathroom," he asked the red-head.

She sighed and stepped back: "Why don't you just come in," she invited him. "But
I have to disappoint you, Buffy isn't here," she informed him.

"Where did she go," he wanted to know, closing the door behind him and suddenly
realising that the bed hadn't obviously been touched the whole night. "Maybe I
should rewind that and ask where did she stay?," his voice was a little bit
rising now.

Why lie to him, Willow thought. "She stayed with Angel," she said
matter-of-factly.

"She did what?," he asked disbelievingly.

"She stayed with Angel," the witch repeated. "She wanted to be sure he was
alright. Maybe you remember, you shot him," she added in a sarcastic voice. There
was no need to be nice, she decided. He had interrupted her perfectly peaceful
slumber only to ramble about his guilt to his girlfriend. No, no need to be nice.

"And so she decided to hold his hand? The whole night?" His voice was truly angry
now.

Now Willow had had it: "Hey, I am the wrong person for this. If you want to yell
at someone then go and find Buffy. Personally I think you have no right to yell
at all. It was your own stupid fault you shot Angel."

He took a deep breath and tried to calm down: "I am sorry, Willow. You are right.
I should not have been so angry with you. But how would you feel if you hear your
girlfriend spent the night with her ex?"

"God dammit, Riley. He was wounded, what do you think they are doing? He is weak
and she takes care of him, he took an arrow that would have hit her. Besides the
fact that he is still cursed, she is with you now. What do you think, that they
will seize the moment and give in to passion? Grow up," she shouted the last
words, not sure if she wanted to convince him or herself.

********

Her body felt as if it was on fire. The only thing she could feel were the cool
lips on hers and instinctively she opened her mouth to invite his tongue. She
moaned happily, this was the best dream she'd ever had. The dreams about Angel
had been vivid, but never like this. She reached out and found his head, pulling
him closer, not willing to let go of this overwhelming feeling.

Angel moaned as well, all he had wanted was to kiss her good-morning but it
immediately run out of control. He should have known and resisted, but having her
so close had been too tempting, a chance to feel her, he could not let pass. Deep
inside he knew it was wrong, not because of the curse, but because of the pain it
would cause afterwards. He tried to pull away, but then her hands found his head
and he was lost in the feeling being so near to her, holding her and so he
continued kissing her.

*********

"Morning Cordelia," Wesley greeted the brunette, when she entered the kitchen of
the mansion.

"Wesley," she greeted back. She looked around: "Angel been up," she wanted to
know?

He shook his head: "No, he's still asleep I guess. Buffy too and I don't want to
disturb them. They must be exhausted."

"Hopefully that's all," she muttered under her breath and then said aloud: "We
didn't really talk yesterday night. Did you find anything helpful by now?"

"Indeed, we did. We found five slayers who survived their last battle, which
aren't many, I fear. But still. The fact there are some who survived gives us
hope. Buffy is very strong after all. Mr. Giles wants us to cross-check the
diaries now."

"Wesley," she said, her voice sounding a little bit annoyed. "I knew about the
five girls, remember, I was there! What I wanted to know is if you found anything
else after Willow and I left."

He stared at her for a moment: "Sorry, yes. I forgot. Well, we didn't do a lot.
We were too concerned about Angel, to be honest."

Cordelia gave him a small smile: "You are actually going to tell me Xander was
concerned?"

"Well, I wouldn't go that far," he replied grinning. "No but honestly, he seemed
to care, if not for Angel then for Buffy, because he sees how important he is to
help her."

The former may-queen poured a cup of coffee and seated herself opposite to the
ex-watcher: "Buffy better get this boy-toy of hers to stay away from us or I'll
guarantee for nothing. He tempts me to remove the chip from Spike's head and
leave Riley to him."

"Cordelia," Wesley exclaimed.

She waved with her hand: "I am not saying, that I will do that. He just annoys
me. Buffy and I never got along well, but I would have thought she'd show better
taste in men."

"We hardly know him, Cordelia. We shouldn't judge this."

She shrugged: "Maybe." Then she looked at her watch: "I give them another ten
minutes and then I am going to wake them up."

********

Reality kicked both at the same time and they abruptly pulled back, staring at
each other in shock. The room was still dark but they could clearly see.

"Oh god," Buffy breathed.

"Buffy, I..." Angel began, but she held up a hand to stop him.

"Don't," she whispered. Her heart was racing and she could still feel the shivers
running down her spine.

"I am sorry," he said, ignoring her last request. "I shouldn't have done this."
He was sitting up in the bed.

She swallowed hard: "You didn't do anything I didn't want to do too," she replied
honestly. "And that is the problem. I have a boyfriend, I shouldn't enjoy kissing
you and it certainly shouldn't leave me breathless like this." She stood up and
paced the room. "That is always the problem. I try to move on, I try to live my
life, the way you wanted me to and then you come back and I see it's all a lie.
We cannot go on like this."

Angel looked completely stunned. He could only stare at her. This was certainly
not what he had expected.

"Don't think I do not appreciate your help in this and I am perfectly aware of
the fact that you only came because Giles called you." She paused and took a deep
breath. "But that is not important. The fact is you are here and all I want is to
kiss you and be near you."

Angel was completely confused. She had told him, she'd moved on, she'd told him,
she loved Riley: "What are you trying to say," he asked cautiously.

"I am trying to say, that I can fool myself for a while, obviously I have become
quite a professional in this, as it seems I have also been able to fool you. But
every time you are near me, I can feel I am lying to myself, unless I can be
angry, but even then it is hard."

The vampire ran his hands through his hair: "I am so sorry, I never meant to
bring so much confusion in your life. I should never have come, I should never
have kissed you. I had no right to do this. It seems all I can do is hurting
you," he sighed desperately.

"Did you even listen to me," she shouted angrily, came over to the bed, sat down
and looked him straight in the eye. "I am not angry with you. The only person I
am angry with is myself. Because I gave in to your stupid request of keeping our
distance, because I let you walk away from me without fighting. Because I tried
to move on and fell for someone like Riley although I didn't love him, because I
will have to hurt him and he does not earn that, because he is a nice guy."

"Buffy," he sighed again. "What are you talking about. Nothing has changed."
Suddenly it was to him as if he was repeating an old record and somehow it did
not feel right anymore. As if he was saying the words because it was habit and
not because he believed in them anymore.

"Oh, but everything has," she objected. "Can't you see that? I told you before,
we cannot go on like that. There are only two alternatives. One is you leave now
and never ever come back, two is you will stop being so stubborn and noble and
see what's right in front of you and try to make it work."

"I-I," Angel was a loss of words. He had kissed her and now he found himself in
the middle of a hurricane he was not able to stop. He had not understood her at
the beginning, but now her words began to sink in. And surprisingly all he could
feel was joy.

"Obviously you are not able to make a decision," she went on. "So I am the one
making it and looking back on our relationship it is is only fair, because until
now you have been the one to make all the important decisions. I am not willing
to choose number one, because the idea of never seeing you again makes me feel
cold and lost and I know I cannot live like that. That leaves us with number two.
All you have to say is 'yes'." Suddenly her voice became pleading: "Angel I know
we can make it work. I know it because we love each other. I am not saying we
should live with each other, I know the temptation would be too strong. But we
could phone and mail and see each other from time to time. And we could kiss, I
could stay in LA sometime for a weekend. I remember having seen a sofa there and
you could come and stay in mansion. We could spend time..."

He stopped her rambling with pulling her in his arms and kissing her. His mind
was crying out this was wrong, his mind was telling him, that she should have a
life with a normal, human boyfriend, with a boyfriend who could make love to her,
but it was of no use. All he could hear was the little voice that was
consistently telling him she wanted to be with him, that she loved him and that
she said all these things after she had tried said normal relationship. And the
same voice was telling him he was worth being with her. Surprisingly he suddenly
felt he was much better for her than Riley, because he could be her adequate in
battle and in life and because he could truly understand her feelings. He pulled
back and smiled at her: "You are the most amazing woman I have ever met," he told
her.

She smiled back: "Is that a yes," she asked hopefully.

"You know they are going to shout at us," he said instead. "Well maybe not all of
them but Xander and Giles won't be happy, I can say that."

She waved her hand: "Details. After all this is my ... our ... life. It's time I
am making decisions for myself and stop listening to all my friends telling me
what is right." Suddenly she stopped and stared at him: "You are not going to
fight this?"

He laughed: "No, I am not."

"I cannot believe it," she laughed now too. "But why?"

"Because I think you are right," he replied matter-of-factly.

"You really have changed. Maybe it wasn't wrong to be separated for a while,
maybe we both have grown up. I would have never said something like that to you a
year ago. And I am sure you would have never reacted like this."

Suddenly he became serious: "Buffy there is something else you should know. Some
time ago Wesley translated an old prophecy for me. It says that if I continue
helping people, saving souls and things like these, well that I will become
human." He looked at her and carefully watched her reaction, would she be angry?

"Human," she whispered. "Oh god, Angel!," she exclaimed and threw her arms around
his neck, holding him close. He hugged her back. Then she pulled back again:
"Don't think this would change anything. I am happy for you, because I know you
hate your immortality and all but I would take you any way I can get you, vampire
or not."

"I know," he replied smiling again. "But it would help, don't you think. I mean
we could be an *almost* normal couple."

"We will never be a normal couple and you know that."

"You are right," he answererd. "And I also don't want you to dream about it,
because nobody knows when this will happen. The prophecy doesn't exactly give a
time table."

"Angel," she changed the subject. "I have already told you I will take you any
way I can get you, but there is one thing. Could we maybe try to find a solution
for your curse, I mean for the clause in your curse. Take it out, get rid of it,
something like that."

He grinned: "You are only thinking about your pleasure, Miss Summers."

"Well," she grinned back. "What can I say. It is really depressing to have such a
nice boyfriend and not being able to use him properly."

He laughed out loud and kissed her again. "Maybe we should get up now. I mean go
down and have a cup of coffee or something. As much as I like being with you this
way, but the curse is still there and ..."

"Yes," she stood up. "You are right." Suddenly she sighed loudly: "And then I
have to talk to Riley."

"Is there anything I can do?," he offered.

She shook her head: "No. This is something nobody can do but I. And after this we
need to work out, because I am desperate to survive that battle now." With a last
loving smile she left the bedroom.

Part 8

Buffy shut Angel's bedroom door behind her and paused for a moment. She took a
deep breath, closed her eyes and leaned her back against the door. Her mind was
racing, but her soul was completely at peace. It was one of the most confusing
experiences she'd ever made.

She had told Angel she loved him, that she wanted to be with him. Was she out of
her mind? She had a nice normal (ex-)boyfriend, she was at peace with her watcher
and friends, even her mother liked Riley and she threw it all away. She had to be
crazy! As far as slayers went she had an almost normal life ... and that was the
problem. For such a long time she had wanted nothing but a normal life. Sure she
had told her friends again and again she would never have something like said
normal life, but deep inside she'd hoped. It had been this tiny little voice that
prevented her from fighting for her love, because deep inside she had believed
his words that she earned something beside darkness and slaying, that she earned
light and life.

The result had been anything but nice. More than ever she had tried to proove
that she could be Buffy the slayer by night and Buffy the normal girl by day and
she had found Riley, the perfect match for that plan. The blonde, smiling,
*normal* boy with the hidden identity.

But the picture was askew, Willow would say. What had Kendra once told her,
slaying isn't a job, it is what you are. And she was Buffy the vampire slayer
7/24. Period. It was her destiny and now she had accepted it. She knew this had
not happened over night, it had come on gradually. Thinking back she could almost
grasp all the little signs by now, but the final push had been Giles' telling
her about the last battle. This is when every slayer faces her destiny, he had
said. But it was wrong, the slayer faced her destiny the moment she was called,
the final battle was only something like the ultimate test.

And with accepting her destiny it had suddenly become so clear that Angel and her
belonged together. Honestly she had to admit that his kiss had cleared the last
clouds in her head, but deep inside she had known it before.

But the most amazing thing was that Angel wasn't fighting it, he wasn't arguing.
Obviously he had learned something as well. Growing up was the key word. Yes,
they both had done the growing up and found each other in the end.

Buffy smiled and with a song on her lips headed for the kitchen.

*******

Willow could not believe her eyes when she came back to her bedroom. Riley was
still sitting on Buffy's bed staring into space. The red head was completely
dressed now and had a towel round her head: "You are still here," she stated, her
voice not sounding very friendly.

First he didn't seem to hear her, then he suddenly shook his head but he still
didn't look at her: "Oh, Willow. I didn't hear you come in. Sorry, I was just
thinking."

She wasn't really interested, but talking was better then to stare at each other,
so she asked: "What about?" She bowed her head, loosened the towel and began to
rub her hair.

"About Buffy," he answered.

Willow sighed inwardly, she had known the answer in advance: "Anything special or
only in general?"

"Both. I feel so sorry for my fault yesterday night, but on the other hand he is
only a vampire for god sake and they treated me as if I shot a human being -
purposely." He made a desperate gesture with his hands and sighed loudly. "Look
what Buffy has done to me. Riley Finn talking about a vampire as a person," he
added with a short laugh.

"He is a person," the witch's head shot up and she shortly glared at him. "He is
Angel, he has a soul and for this he is a person. And he is a friend." She
thought for a short while and added: "Most of the time." Then she thought again:
"But what you told me is about Angel and has nothing to do with Buffy."

"No. I mean yes. Well." He tried to collect his thoughts and then he continued:
"I know they have been together, as hard as it is for me to accept it, but
everyone has a past and Buffy's just more colourful, but then she is the slayer
and it explains a lot."

Willow groaned inwardly, this was really not what she had dreamed for her
Saturday morning. Buffy already owed her much more than one.

"But why on earth did she have to go and hold his hand." He turned round and
finally faced the red head: "Can you explain that to me? He wasn't dust so he was
going to heal, what could be so important that she spent the night by his side
and not... I mean, we should have talked about last night." He looked at his
watch: "It is half past ten and she didn't even show up. I am not sure how I
should feel about this."

And I am not sure how I should feel about spending one and a half hour with you,
Willow thought, searching for her hair-dryer. But she didn't tell him, instead
she said: "Riley, you should really go and talk to Buffy about this. Why don't
you just go to the mansion." When she saw his disbelieving eyes she sighed:
"Look, you feel bad about the whole thing and I am sure she does too. You both
need to talk. Obviously you have already realised it is up to you to make the
first step. The only thing you have to do now is knock on the right door."

********

Cordelia looked a bit taken aback when she saw the slayer coming into the
kitchen, humming quietly. "I take it he is alright," the brunette said, frowning
a little bit.

Buffy flashed her a glorious smile, which made the former cheerleader raise her
brows. "He is fine. The wound is closed," the Chosen One informed the two people
sitting at the table. "Morning Wesley," she added greeting the ex-watcher.

"Good morning," he gaver her a slight smile. "Did you sleep well?"

"Oh, like a rock," she informed him and poured herself a cup of coffee. Then she
took a chair and sat down with the others. Sipping at her mug she looked at
Wesley: "I would have thought you were at Giles' already. I doubt he has done
anthing but reading the whole night."

"We will leave in a few minutes," he replied. "We just wanted to know about
Angel." He looked at her seriously: "You should train, Buffy. This is a serious
matter."

She sighed: "I know. And I will. Angel and I will work out later on."

Cordelia nodded: "What is your boyfriend going to say about the fact that you
spend all the time with your ex, not forgetting you stayed for the night." The
former may queen gave the slayer her most innocent smile.

Buffy frowned: "Well technically he is my ex, although he does not know yet."

"Buffy, Angel knows he is your ex," Cordelia reminded her with a sigh. "Has
something happened with your head. Do you have amnesia?"

"Not Angel," the slayer replied impatiently. "I talk about Riley. I have broken
up with him, all I have to do is tell him," she smiled a bit sheepishly.

"What happened?," the brunette seemed really interested now.

"I.." she began, but was interrupted by Angel who entered the room, wearing sweat
pants and a white shirt, his hair still wet from the shower and ... a huge grin
on his face. He also poured himself some coffee and then casually leaned at the
counter. "Morning Wes, morning Cordelia," he greeted his friends.

"Okay. Will anyone now tell me what happened?," Cordelia asked slightly annoyed.
"I haven't seen that sort of grin on you since ... ever, to be honest. No, wait.
It is not what I think," she looked back and forth between the couple. Then her
eyes widened: "But you are not evil, are you?"

Buffy and Angel burst out laughing simultanously while Wesley looked completely
confused. The vampire was the first to calm down and still smiling he said: "No I
am not evil, Cordy." He exchanged a lookd with the slayer. "If I was you would be
already dead," he added dryly.

"Well that is a relief," she replied. "But if you and her are going to be
together that means constant danger which means," suddenly her face lightened up
in a sweet smile. Angel rolled his eyes, this could never mean anything good.
"Increasing danger," she continued. "You have to give me a raise."

Buffy almost choked in her coffee and raised an eyebrow looking at Angel: "Is she
always like that? How much do you pay her?"

"Too much," he sighed.

"Hey," Cordelia shouted, but they could clearly hear the amusement in her voice.
"Only because you are all mush-mush with each other now does not mean you can
insult my great work for Angel's buisness. I am an important part of Angel
Investigations." She turned at Wesley: "Go on. Tell them."

The ex-watcher was still in total confusion: "Could anybody tell me what is going
on here?"

This time Cordelia laughed as well.

*******

"Hey G-man," Xander greeted, when he and Anya entered the apartment of the
ex-watcher.

Giles groaned inwardly but did not comment Xander's use of his "nickname". There
was no time for this. "Good you are here. Has anyone of you heard from Angel?"

"No," the boy shook his head. "But he is dead-boy, he will survive," he said
matter-of-factly. "Where is Buffy?"

"I don't know," the former watcher replied. "Maybe with Riley. I wish the mansion
had a phone so I could reach Angel."

"He has a cell phone," Anya reminded him. "Remember, yesterday night. Buffy
called from the cemetery."

"I know, but I do not have his number," Giles told her. "Well, Wesley and
Cordelia promised to be here around noon, so we will soon know. I truly hope
Angel's injury wasn't too serious. Buffy will need him, I have discovered the
date, Buffy's last battle will be coming soon, probably tonight or the night
after."

Xander's eyes widened: "So soon? Then we should really hope Riley did not hit any
important vampire parts."

********

Riley stopped in front of the door of the mansion. He had never been to the home
of a vampire before. It was a strange feeling. He truly hated Angel, because he
was a vampire, because he was trained to hate them, but mostly because he knew
that his girlfriend still had feelings for Angel. He also knew that she did not
love him, certainly not the way he loved her. A fact that did not make him feel
safe. He knew Buffy and Angel could not be together, not completely, but he would
feel much better if she'd been the one who dumped him and not the other way
round.

He took a deep breath and knocked.

********

"She spent the whole night with Angel?," Giles asked disbelievingly.

Willow nodded: "Yeah. She decided to stay and watch him. Don't look like that,
Giles. He probably saved her life yesterday."

The ex-watcher frowned: "When will she be here," he asked changing the subject.

"I don't know," the witch told him, taking a seat on the sofa beside Spike who
had his full concentration on the television screen.

"She didn't show up until now," Giles' voice was sounding angry by now.

"Calm down watcher," Spike looked up. "Peaches is too much of a softie to
endanger anyone. Bloody fool, I'd say, I would not hesitate to shag her."

"Shut up," Xander yelled at him. "Nobody has asked for your opinion."

The vampire shrugged and turned back to his favourite soap opera.

"Maybe we should go there and check if they are already dead," Anya suggested.

Giles and Willow sighed, while Xander only leaned back and closed his eyes.

*******

Cordelia opened the door and raised her brows: "Riley. What a surprise. What do
you want?" She did not step back. She had no intention to invite him, she would
never forgive him for shooting Angel, and Buffy had dumped him, well technically,
so in her eyes there was no reason for him to be here.

"Hi Cordelia," he greeted. He hesitated for a moment, then he straighened up: "I
would like to talk to Buffy. I assume she's around?" He tried very hard to sound
casual, but the former cheerleader could hear the jealousy in his tone.

"Buffy?," she asked innocently. "Yes she stayed the night. Angel needed a lot of
care, you know," she told him, shooting him a certain look.

"Cordelia, who is it?," came the slayer's voice from behind her and the brunette
stepped aside to allow her to look at the visitor.

"Riley," Buffy said simply. "Why are you here?"

He was still standing in the garden, somehow Cordelia's attitude prevented him
from just stepping in although all he wanted was to embrace his girlfriend. But
the look on her face wasn't inviting too. He sighed inwardly, she was still
angry. "Buffy I want to talk to you, please. I have already been at your room. I
am so sorry for yesterday night." His voice sounded pleading now.

She sighed: "Fine, why don't we talk outside. There is also something I have to
tell you." Buffy had hoped she could wait a little bit longer with breaking the
news, but maybe it was better to do it now. She gave Cordy a small smile and
closed the door when she stepped outside into the bright sunlight.

Part 9

When Cordelia returned to the kitchen she saw two questioning gazes looking up to
her. Angel was now sitting on the chair Buffy just had left: "Who was it," he
wanted to know.

"Riley," she gave him a smile. "Buffy is going to talk to him."

The vampire nodded: "I see. I wish I could help her. This will be hard."

The brunette shrugged: "Well, I would be glad to get rid of him. Just look at
him, I mean he is not too bad, but his clothes, that's just no taste." She looked
at her boss: "Besides the fact that yours are mostly dark they are at least
fitting."

He grinned: "Thanks Cordelia, that means so much to me."

"You're welcome," she gave him a nod. "On the other hand she can have sex
with him," she paused for a while. Seeing the look on Angel's face she
quickly continued: "It's nice to have sex and all, but what do you with someone
like Riley the rest of the time? Hide him, so that he will not embarrass you? No
sex can be that good."

Wesley rolled his eyes and looked at the vampire: "I am waiting for the day when
she will actually think before she talks."

Angel gave him a slight grin: "But then she would not be Cordelia anymore and
what would life be without her."

"Damn right," she replied.

********

Buffy looked at Riley for a moment and then pointed to the old fountain in the
middle of the garden: "Why don't we just sit down there."

He nodded and they walked over. The moment they sat, Riley turned to her taking
her hand: "You have to believe how sorry I am. I never wanted to shoot him. I
behaved like a fool."

"You did," she replied, looking at his hand on her's which made him pull his back
quickly.

"Buffy please. All I could see was that demon who held you, I thought he was
going to kill you. And he didn't even try to intervene. I was so angry that he
only stood there watching you fighting that creature." His voice pleadingly first
became now louder and more angry.

The slayer raised her head and looked him straight in the eye: "I think it would
have been appropriate if you would have asked about his well-being first." Her
voice sounded cold, and she actually was angry that he started to ramble about
his feelings and didn't think about the man he had injured.

His gaze wandered down, then he met her eyes again: "You are right. That is
unforgivable. How is he?"

"He is fine, thank you," she replied coldly. "We should be happy he is a vampire,
otherwise he would now lay in a hospital fighting for his life. And for the the
rest, Angel did not intervene because unlike you he has faith in my skills, he
could see I didn't need any help. This special kind of demon is not very strong.
You have no right to be angry with him, no right at all."

Holding her gaze for a moment he stood up and began to pace the garden: "So you
are still angry with me." He threw his hands in the air: "But what else can I say
but I am sorry. I acted like a fool. My only excuse is that I love you so much
and I feared for your life." He returned to the fountain and got seated again.

Buffy took a deep breath: "Yes, I am still angry. But I will get over it
eventually."

He flashed her a brilliant smile: "I am so happy. And I will also go and
appologize to him," he promised.

"You should do that. But Riley..."

"No," he interrupted her. "You do not have to say anything. I have seen that I am
not as good as I have been anymore. In combat I mean. So I will try to stay out
and promise to be content with helping like Xander and Willow do." He smiled and
went on: "And then, when this is over and done you will be able to have a normal
life, the life you have dreamed of. We can just be a normal couple in love." He
took her hand and kissed it.

She closed her eyes for a moment. He looked so happy and she had to hurt him, but
there was no way out of this. Especially after his last comment. How could he
know that she no longer dreamed of the normal life, he was offering her. "Riley,
this all sounds very tempting...," she began and was again interrupted by him.

"But it will be true. I promise. You will survive that battle and then..."

"Will you just shut up," she yelled at him and jumped up. "Shut up and listen."

His head snapped up and he simply stared at her. She took a deep breath and now
it was her who was pacing the garden: "Riley, I did a lot of thinking," she began
again. "I know I told you I wanted something normal and safe. And I really
thought that would be my dream, but I have changed. I am not sure what changed my
mind, but the fact is I am no longer looking for a normal life." She stopped and
faced him: "I. am. the. slayer," she said very slowly, pointing each word with a
pause. The she repeated: "I am the slayer. This is not some hobby or something I
do because I am bored. It is part of my life, it is part of my personality. It
made me the person I am today. Without it I would be a spoiled little girl only
caring for shoes and dresses."

"And I love the person you are," he said, but became silent again when he saw her
glare.

She cocked her head: "Do you really? Do you love the fact that I am the slayer? I
don't think so. Did you even accept it? I don't think so. Remember what you said
just before. That we will be a normal couple then. But we will never be. Because
I will still be the slayer. Sure they have offered me to retire and some years
ago I would have been thrilled by the idea, but not anymore. I know what happens
in the night, Riley. I will never be able to just lay down and ignore that,
especially when I have the power to help. How can I lead a normal life when
someone might die because I am not out there to prevent that. It would drive me
crazy."

"You think that now," he said, standing up as well and walking in her direction.
"But think of the relief. You could marry, have children."

"I know. But I can't," she sighed. "Nobody ever accepted my calling, Riley, not
my mother, not Willow, not Xander. I didn't accept it for a long time, I felt
betrayed and hated it. The only two people who did were Giles and Angel. They
both just knew there was no way out." She broke his gaze and went back to sit
down again: "I have accepted it now and finally I feel at peace. I know who I am
and that feels great. All the time it was as if I was fighting a part of me. So
what I want to say is: If I am going to survive this, I will not retire as a
slayer. At least not completely."

Riley stared at her for a long moment. Then he came over and sat again by her
side: "I understand. I really do. And if this is important for you, I will
support you. It's not as if I am totally ignorant about what goes bump in the
night."

She slightly shook her head and then looked at him: "That sounds nice, but it
would not work. And that leads me to the second part of this conversation. Riley,
if I am the slayer I cannot have a normal relationship. It would never work." She
saw him opening his mouth but silenced him with a movement of her right hand. "It
would not work, believe me. I would endager the person I am with and I could not
live with that either. But more importantly," she paused for a moment trying to
delay the final blow. Then she took another deep breath: "I am not in love with
you Riley. I will never be. I like you, I care for you. You are a great guy, but
I do not love you. Not the way it should be. We would end up hating each other
and this is the last thing I want. I would never be satisfied in such a
relationship and you would get hurt. So in short: I am breaking up with you,
Riley. It is over."

He shook his head in disbelief: "No, you don't mean that." His voice was
pleading now: "You are still confused. I love you and ..."

"I am not confused," she interrupted him. "Actually I wasn't that clear for a
long time. Suddenly it seems as if I know what I want. And I don't want to be
with you anymore. You have to accept that, because I will not change my mind."
She thought for a while and then she added: "I am in love with Angel, I have ever
been and we both have decided to give it another try." She had not been sure if
she would tell him, but he would find out anyhow and so it was better she would
be the one breaking the news, she decided.

He jumped up: "WHAT?," he shouted. "You are back together with ... with ... that
thing."

Buffy flinched slightly by his last word, but it made her only more positive
about her decision. She would never ever be happy with Riley. Riley with his
narrow-minded head, she thought in disgust. Her voice was firm and quiet when she
said: "That's what I said. And I would appreciate if you would not call him a
'thing', for he is none. He is a person. He is a vampire with a soul which makes
him very special and I love him. He understands me, he is my adequate and he can
back me up. I will never have to worry for him in a battle and he believes in me.
He is my other half and nothing you will say will change that." She closed her
eyes for another moment and then she looked at him again: "I am very sorry you
got into this and got hurt. I never wanted that and will have to live with the
guilt, but by ending it now I do the only reasonable thing." She stood up and put
a hand on his arm: "Maybe someday we will be able to be friends again. Until
then, I wish you only the best." Then she turned and walked away. Closing the
door of the mansion from the inside she began to smile. She was free.

Part 10

After Cordelia and Wesley had left for Giles' to help with research Buffy and
Angel were finally alone and looking at each other while sitting opposite on both
sides of the kitchen table.

"Are you okay?," he asked after a while.

She nodded: "Yeah. I am fine. Surprisingly much better then I'd thought." Seeing
his disbelieving gaze she admitted: "Okay, yes it was hard. I mean he is hurting,
but there was no way. Even if you'd rejected me I would have broken up with
Riley. You know, when I came back from LA, after Thanksgiving I talked to Willow
about this. I was just on the edge of a relationship with Riley and I liked him a
lot." She paused and took a sip from her coffee. "Willow asked how it had been to
see you. I told her it was painful."

"I am sorry, I never..."

She raised a hand: "No, it's not that and I know you never wanted to cause me
pain. But that's not the point. I told her, that my feelings for you were so
intense, although we had only talked for five minutes."

Angel inhaled sharply and he swallowed hard and Buffy looked at him worriedly:
"Are you okay?"

He closed his eyes for a moment, but opened them when he felt her hand on his: "I
am fine. Sorry. Go on."

"Well, I asked her if love wasn't meant to be this way and if pain wasn't a part
of it. I mean secure and safe is nice, but I felt dead inside or at least not as
alive as I do today," she smiled and looked at her hand which was still lying on
his: "Holding your hand is more intense then having sex with him. Other people
might think this is ridiculous, but I know you understand."

"I do," he replied, caressing the back of her hand with his thumb. "When I left
you I truly believed you would earn something better, more solid, more normal."
He suddenly laughed: "When I saw Riley at Thanksgiving talking to you," he looked
to their hands for a moment and then back into her eyes: "I thought he was a
solid guy although I was so jealous. Later when I came to see you I began to have
my doubts, of course I didn't like him, but I also doubted he was the right
partner for a slayer. He was clearly overestimating his skills and I just knew
this could be dangerous. It was the first time I thought, I might have been the
better choice for you."

She grinned: "I cannot believe you just said that. It took you quite some time to
see it. I knew it all along."

"Yeah, well. You were so young when we met and maybe I couldn't believe that
someone so young could be so wise," he grinned back.

"Wise, hm?," she joked. "I suppose Giles would not agree. He thinks I am still
behaving very immature," she stood up and without letting go of his hand she came
over to his side and placed herself in his lap, looking deeply in his eyes: "so I
say we behave immature for some minutes before we go all wise again and start to
work out. What do you think?." She gave him a seductive smile.

"Sounds like a plan to me," he replied, catching her lips with his.

*******

Willow was surprised to see Riley standing in front of Giles' door. She raised
her eyebrows: "Riley," her voice sounded annoyed. "Can I help you, Buffy is not
here?"

He shook his head: "I know, I just talked to her. I need to talk to you."

Oh no, what have I done to earn this, she thought, but said: "Didn't we do this
before?"

"No, I mean I want to talk to all of you. I need to talk to Giles too," his voice
was sounding urgent now.

"Fine, come in," she invited him and closed the door again.

The others looked up and Spike grinned: "By the look on your face, I'd say the
slayer's still angry with you, mate."

Riley shot him a look but ignored his comment: "I have to talk to you, all of
you. I need to know why they broke up. Buffy and that vampire."

"Hey, you're talking about my yoda, be careful," Spike warned. He didn't like
Angel, but everything was okay to give Riley a hard time.

Willow coughed slightly: "I think it is not our place to tell you that. You
talked to Buffy, why didn't you ask her?"

"Because she would never tell me, but I need to know."

"Why?," Willow's voice sounded sharper than she had intended.

"Because she broke up with me," Riley said with apparent pain.

The group stared at him while Spike began to laugh: "The slayer came to her
bloody senses. I never understood why she took you in the first place." He
studied the ex-commando's face for a second. The boy wanted to know about Buffy
and Angel that could only mean: "She dumped you for him," he suddenly shouted.
"Hell, this is much better than anything. Commando-boy is dumped for a vampire."
He couldn't stop laughing when he saw the others now staring at him in complete
shock.

Giles was the first to find his voice again: "What do you mean," he glared at the
vampire, who had tears in his eyes because he laughed so hard.

"Look at him," Spike pointed at Riley. "Look at his face, oh, bloody hell it is
priceless."

"Stop that," the ex-watcher shouted. Then he looked at the former commando: "Is
it true?"

Riley nodded: "Yes. And for that I need to know what happened. She told me that
she's always loved him. Is that true?"

Willow was about to answer him, she wanted to tell him that this wasn't his
business anymore, especially after Buffy had dumped him, but she get no chance to
speak as Xander's outburst stopped her: "They are together again," he yelled.
"Giles, we have to do something. I mean, is she crazy? Will she ever learn? He
broke her heart and she takes him back, besides the fact that we will all die if
they get pelvic again."

"Xander Harris I cannot believe you are still the idiot you've ever been," came a
female voice from the doorway. Unbeknownst to anyone Wesley and Cordelia had
entered the appartment and the former cheerleader was now staring at her former
boyfriend with her hands at her hips. "And let me add that it is none of your
buisness, what Angel and Buffy do together." She closed the door behind her and
came to stand beside Willow: "Riley, I really thought you were a looser, but you
are worse. You are a grown up man and go to Buffy's friends to whine in their
ears. You are a pathetic little whimp. And now I think we have more important
things to discuss then our *friend's* lovelife or did you forget about the reason
you called Angel in the first place." She stared at Giles now.

Everyone stared at her, Xander and Giles in total shock, Willow smiled, she'd
never thought she would like Cordelia one day, Anya looked bored, while Spike and
Wesley had an amused smile on their lips although their reasons for it were
obviously different. Riley on the other hand was ready to kill the brunette girl
standing before him: "I think," he began. "You are misjudging the situation.
Buffy is *my* girlfriend, I have a right to know."

She turned her head to look him straight in the eye. Her voice was like ice: "No
you haven't. Buffy dumped you, you almost killed her last night and you would
have succeeded if it wasn't for Angel. You all," she gazed around: "should thank
him on bended knees that she is fine." When she still saw anger in Giles' and
Xander's face she waved her hands: "God, I cannot believe you. He came to help
her, he would die for her. What the hell is the matter with you, you all know
they love each other, he even..." gave humanity up for her, she wanted to say but
stopped the last possible second. There was no need these people should know
about it. She sighed dramatically: "Can we now stop that nonsense and research."

Giles took his glasses from his nose and rubbed them with his shirt, a true sign
that he felt not very well at the moment. He had been shocked to hear about Buffy
and Angel and he still didn't like it, but he was embarrassed that a girl like
Cordelia, who he'd thought to be immature and superficial had pointed out the
most important thing, the upcoming battle for Buffy and Angel. He put the glasses
back and cleared his throat: "Cordelia is right. We should concentrate on the
matter at hand. The situtation is too serious to get distracted."

"I wish Buffy would see that," Xander snorted, but shut up when everyone (except
Riley) glared at him.

"Uhm," Giles continued. "I have found out the exact date of the battle." He
paused for a moment and then said: "It is tonight."

Everyone's eyes widened and even the grin on Spike's face disappeared.

********

"You've improved," Buffy told her boyfriend with admiration in her voice.

He grinned: "Well, I had some tough calls. This way you stay in shape." He took
the water-bottle from the near by table and took a large gulp. They had been
working out for about two hours now and Angel had managed to win most of the
times.

"Yeah. And I trained with Riley who didn't even tell me his strength was
decreasing until three weeks ago." She took the bottle from him and grinned:
"It's a shame Spike's that chip in his head, he would be a good partner."

Angel stepped closer to her, giving her a certain look: "I hope you mean for
training."

She raised her eyebrows: "What else could I mean." Her grin grew even wider.

"Well, Spike has a special way with women," he replied, now only inches away from
her. She could feel her body responding immediately to his closeness. "They
always liked that bad boy look."

"Did they," she asked. She closed her eyes a little bit and looked at him through
her lashes: "Maybe I should try it."

He reached out and pulled her to him, she giggled when she heard the slight growl
escaping his lips: "Don't do this."

"What?," she gave him her best innocent smile.

He took a deep breath and grinned: "You shouldn't do this. If there wasn't
for this damned course you would pay for it, immediately."

She felt her heartbeat quickening and she pulled his head down for a kiss. Before
their lips met, she breathed: "God, I really hope Willow will find that spell
soon.

Part 11

Angel put his cell phone aside and gave the slayer a concerned look. Cordelia had
just told him the news about the battle. Buffy was sitting on the sofa in the
hall of the mansion, flipping through one of the old books Angel had brought with
him. She wasn't really interested, but needed something to entertain herself
for the time her boyfriend was on the phone. She smiled to herself, it sounded so
right, so natural to think of him as her boyfriend again.

After visiting her mother in the afternoon, she'd come back to the mansion
instead of going to join the group at Giles'. The doctors had told her that they
did not have much hope for Joyce ever going to wake up again. After that she knew
she could not be anywhere else then in Angel's arms. He held her and she cried in
his arms for what felt like hours, actually it were only twenty minutes, but
she'd never felt so safe and understood. She could strongly feel his love
wrapping around her and consoling her and she knew she would live through
anything with him by her side. How could she've ever lived without him, she
wonderd now. How could she ever forget how alive she felt when she was near to
him. Well, now she would never ever forget again, she vowed.

"That was Cordelia," his voice interrupted her thoughts and she turned to face
him.

"Any news?", she wanted to know.

He nodded slowly and approached the sofa, his eyes never leaving hers: "Giles has
found out about the exact date. The battle will be tonight."

He could hear her drawing in a sharp breath and he could almost feel her
beginning to tremble. In an instant he was by her side: "You do not have to worry
about this, I promise. Buffy," he took her face in his hands: "I will be with you
every minute. You will never be alone, never be unprotected."

She smiled weakly: "I know. It is funny, I wasn't really afraid when I first
heard about it. But it is different now."

He smiled back: "It is very near now, very threatening, I understand."

But she shook her head: "It's not that. Actually I read quite a bit in Giles'
books," she smiled: "Don't look at me like that. I can read. However. I began to
understand that a slayer is going to die, sooner or later. That's just fate. And
I began to come to terms with that. BUT now it is different. I don't want to die,
because we just got back together, I am afraid to loose what we've just gained
again."

He leaned forward and kissed her tenderly: "You will not loose it, Buffy. Do you
trust me?"

"I do, with all my heart."

"I promise, you will live through that. Even if..."

"No," she replied shaking her head frantically: "No, I don't want you to protect
me with your life. My life is worth nothing if it's not with you." She took his
hands and squeezed them tightly: "Promise me you will survive too. Promise me,"
she almost shouted the last words.

"I'll do what I can," he answered honestly.

She took a deep breath: "Okay," she tried to smile.

"We should go to Giles now, they are waiting for us." He gave her a last look and
then got up to check his weapons. After deciding for an axe and a sword he turned
back to her. She was still sitting on the sofa, but she seemed much calmer now.
He smiled at her: "Ready?"

"Yeah," she replied getting now up as well and reaching out her hand for him:
"Let's go."

*********

When they arrived at Giles' apartment, the whole gang was assembled there and
Buffy raised her eyebrows in astonishment to see Riley sitting beside Xander on
the couch. They all looked up seeing the couple enter the living room, Giles
slightly shook his head seeing their entwined hands but did not comment it. He
remembered Cordelia's words, it was certainly not the time for discussions.

"Hey my favourite slayer finally arrived," Spike exclaimed with a grin on his
face. He did not share the watcher's feelings and most of all he wanted to see
pain on Riley's face which would be there soon, he was sure of that. "And with
the great poof. Did you have a nice shaggin' day, you two."

Buffy only shot him a look while Angel growled deeply in his throat. It was
almost inaudible but Spike shut up at once, he'd heard that sound only once and
from Angelus and he knew it was dead serious. He could not help to look a Riley
though and seeing his face contorted in pain put the grin back on the vampire's
face. This boy was just too predictable.

"Uhm," Giles began. "I am glad you came. Cordelia has informed you the battle is
tonight. What we have to do now is go through all we've found out about the
slayers who survived and about the demons that probably will come forward." He
looked at Angel with a little bit concern: "How are you? Are you sure you're back
at full strength," he asked giving Riley a look, that stupid little jealous boy,
he thought.

Angel nodded: "I am fine," he suddenly grinned. "I think Buffy can assure you of
that."

The watcher looked uncomfortable: "Uhm .. I really don't ... want to know, I
mean."

Buffy giggled: "Oh Giles, you are so cute when you look like that. No, we had two
work outs today and Angel is really strong, he's much improved," she gave the
vampire an admiring look. "He won five out of seven."

Gazing at Riley, Cordelia shrugged: "Well maybe you just didn't have the right
partners to train with for a while. But as this has changed I am sure you'll beat
him very soon regularely."

"Yeah," Spike joined in. "Humans just aren't the right match for slayers."

Riley jumped up: "Shut up," he yelled. "Hold your dirty tongue. This is none of
your business, hostile." He approached the bleach blonde vampire, raised his hand
and was about to punch the hated face when his fist was caught in the air. He
whirled around to look into his ex-girlfriend's face. Staring at her he dropped
his hand again. "Why did you stop me?," he asked. "He earned it."

"Maybe," she replied, her voice sounding calm but very cold. "But he cannot
defend himself. Why don't you just try to beat me?"

He continued to stare at her, then slowly, sadly shook his head and went back to
his chair.

Buffy took a deep breath and then looked at Giles: "Now, can you tell Angel and I
what we are going to expect?"

"And me," Spike added. "I am going with you, remember!"

The slayer grinned at him: "How could I forget that."

********

The three of them stood in one of many cemeteries of Sunnydale, the one Giles had
found out was meant to be the battlefield for tonight. It had been agreed that
the others would stay away. All but Willow and Giles who sat in the watcher's car
with spellbooks and some herbs so that they might be able to help magically if
needed. Wesley had told the three fighters that he'd expect some vampires and
different sorts of demons and had shown them some pictures. There were Mohra
demons expected as well and when Wesley had opened the book to let them look at
the sketch of one Cordelia had given Angel a short look only to see him shake his
head ever so slightly, while Buffy had told the group about the one she'd seen in
Angel's office some time ago and explained how to kill it.

Now they were standing there and the slayer could feel her body hum in
aticipation of the battle: "I can feel it in the air," she whispered.

"I know. I do too," Angel replied, taking her hand and smiling at her.

Spike rolled his eyes: "Can you just stop with the googely eyes for a while. This
is bloody serious and I don't want my unlife to be finished so soon."

Buffy tried to suppress a giggle: "Why did you come anyhow?"

"You know me slayer, nothing to please me more than a good beating up."

"You will get a lot of that," a new voice came from behind them. They turned and
saw a large group of vampires approaching. There were at least 30 of them. The
leader stepped forward and grinned: "I see, a slayer with some friends. Now that
is new, but it just adds the fun, although it makes me gag to see our own folk
fighting against us."

Angel quirked an eyebrow: "You will come around," he said sarcastically. "On the
other hand," he added. "There will be no time left for heavy dreams, with being
dust and all."

And then he jumped the leader which was followed by a loud growl from the other
vampires of the group and soon they were all in the battle, staking vampires left
and right. They were desperately outnumbered and it was hard but they managed to
kill all but five and they finally ran away.

Buffy shook her head in disbelief: "That's it? It was so easy."

"It was a good fight," Spike grinned, trying to get the dust from his shirt.

Angel looked around and suddenly discovered something: "I think the vampires were
just the beginning, I would say," he informed them, pointing towards a crypt.

The slayer followed his gaze and her eyes widened in shock. One after one a large
bunch of different demons came into view, Buffy only recognised some of them. She
could see the Mohras, four of them and suddenly an image was in her head of the
demon she'd once seen in Angel's office added by another disturbing memory of her
and Angel lying on the floor on top of each other. Where did that come from? She
could not remember ever been in such a situation. She shook her head and focussed
back to the demons that were now very close. And then she saw nothing for while
but demon after demon approaching her and the others, she fought almost
unconsciously, purely on instinct.

They were three formidable warriors and demon after demon lost it's life. After a
while the ground of the cemetery was scattered with bodies and there were only
some left alive.

When Buffy was able to see something else than the battle she saw a huge green
demon coming on her. From the corner of her eye she saw Spike decapitating a
slimy yellowish creature and Angel with a Mohra, but they seemed to hold their
own and so she concentrated on the one right in front of her. He was much
stronger than she'd thought and Buffy was tired after all what had happened
before. She received a hard punch to her head and stumbled backwards, falling
down on her bottom and hitting her head on a head-stone while she could also see
Angel hitting the ground very hard, being attacked once again by the Mohra, but
hen he raised his hand and smashed the jewel. She sighed in relief, he would get
up soon, after all he was a vampire and strong. Feeling still slightly
disoriented she saw the demon in front of her rising a sword when suddenly a body
flew through the air and Buffy let out a shocked gasp when she realised who it
was.

The demon spun around and punched his attacker hard in the face. Riley fell to
the ground, the demon raised his sword again. Buffy tried to get on her feet
but a dizzy feeling prevented her. And then it happened very fast. She saw Angel
sitting on the ground, staring at Riley with wide eyes but but barely moving,
*why doesn't he move, he looks fine*, she thought, Spike coming up behind the
creature and stabbing it with a sword while the sword of the demon sunk into
Riley's chest the very same minute, killing him in an instant.

The large demon fell to the ground beside the human he'd just killed while Buffy
slowly stood up. She was not able to think, she wildly gazed around for some
seconds and then with a sob broke down beside her dead ex-lover, cradling his
lifeless body in her arms and rocking him. Riley was dead, he had tried to help
her and now he was dead.

Spike looked over to his grand-sire who was now standing as well. He sensed
something different about him, but he couldn't put his finger on in. All of a
sudden the strength radiating from him was less and Spike was wondering why. He
shrugged, he could think about it later. Suddenly he heard footsteps and saw
Willow and Giles running towards them, the witch kneeling down beside her friend
who was still holding onto the dead body.

Angel looked at Buffy. He felt nauseous all of a sudden, he knew what it was, but
there was no time to think about it. All he saw the pain coming in waves from
Buffy and as soon as he was able to walk again he approached her and laid a
comforting hand on her shoulder.

The same second her body seemed to come to life, her head shot around and she
screamed: "Don't touch me!"

Angel jumped back and stared at her as if he'd been slapped right into his face.
He slightly shook his head, he knew she was upset, of course she felt dreadful
with Riley dying right in front of her. So he kneeled down and said: "Buffy, I
am..."

"Don't," she screamed again and Angel was taken aback by the disgust he found in
her eyes. "Why didn't you help him?," she demanded.

He stared at her: "W... What?" He did not know what she was talking about.

"Oh, don't play dumb. I saw you. I saw you sitting over there and just looking at
him. Why didn't you try to save him? Did you hate him so much for having been
with me? God, I never thought you could act so low." Buffy knew she was confused,
but she'd seen it, she'd seen him just watching Riley to be butchered. It was a
deep shock to her.

Angel wanted to explain it to her, but how could he now, how could he explain to
her that he could not move, that it just not had been possible. "I --- I
couldn't," he just said. "I could not get up so fast."

"What?," she spat at him. "All of a sudden you cannot use your vampire speed.
Humor me! I think you better leave now, Angel. Go back to LA, save souls. I will
never forgive you, what you did today. He would not have been a threat to you, I
had made my decision, you know that. But now, all I know is how disgusted I am,
all you wanted was your revenge. Are you happy now? Go away, I don't want to see
you ever again." Then she turned her head back to the dead body still laying
partly in her lap.

Angel stumbled backwards, he felt as if he would faint any minute. Her words hit
down to his core. How could she think of him like that, how could she think he
would watch someone die deliberately. How could she think so low of him. He felt
hurt and he felt pain, more pain he'd ever thought possible. If she thought him
capable of acting like she'd told him, he felt there was nothing more to say.

Suddenly he felt a hand on his shoulder. When he turned he looked into Cordelia's
concerned face. He hadn't even noticed the others entering the graveyard. "She's
to upset right now," she tried to comfort him. "She'll come around."

He shook his head and Cordelia was taken aback by the amount of pain she saw hin
his eyes: "But I won't. How can she think of me like that? How can she believe I
would let him die if there had been a way to prevent it?," he asked his friend.

"Angel," she began. "She just needs time. She loves you, I know that."

"No," he shook his head again, this time more violently. "Cordelia, are you very
tired?"

"No, why?"

"I would like to go back to LA tonight," he looked again at the blonde girl still
sitting on the ground. "She doesn't want me here anymore and honestly I cannot
stand to be near her at the moment." Then he turned and left. His shoulders were
sagged and he was moving like an old man. Cordelia just looked at Wesley and they
both followed him without another word.

Nobody did understand what had happened, but none of them had seen the deep cut
on Angel's right arm.


NEXT