Shattered Dreams

by Mariah

Disclaimer- Nothing is mine, yada yada (don't sue).

Rating - NC-17 (part 2), and the rest is like the show.

Summary - To sum it up - the day that wasn't was.

Note#1 - I've been writing this series for like forever (as in months), facing one writer's block after another, so I only think I know how it's gonna unfold, but I can always add or take down something. BUT...there will be a happy ending. EVENTUALLY (there ALWAYS is in my fics!:)). In the meanwhile, I guarantee angst, fluff and smut altogether, and more angst...

Have I mentioned angst?

Note#2 - 'Hero' never was, which means Doyle isn't dead. Hell, in my fics Doyle's never dead, and I still hate those morons for killing him out of the show. Are they actually going to kill EVERYTHING that's good there? (first go B/A relationship, then goes Doyle, what goes now? Actually, on second thought, what's left there?)

Note#3 - In this fic, Spike is a good guy. A very good guy, even. He's Buffy's closest friend eventually (but don't be scared - NEVER her lover!). You'll understand more about his character throughout this series as you read it.

Note#4 - Willow isn't a lesbian, and there is no Dawn, and no Darla, and there is no End of Days, and no Joyce dying.

Note#5 - This series is foreboding a very fluffy end, but major angst before that, because it deals with genuine death. It's my first fic on the subject.

Part One

"So, any final words? Comments? Anything?” Xander prompted as they were sauntering down the street.

"What about?" Willow asked.

"The movie, what else?”

Willow gave him a look. "How sucked?"

Xander turned to Buffy and Riley for salvation.

"I liked it," Riley said evenly.

"You barely saw it," Buffy noted, "you were way more interested in trying to make out with me."

Riley put his arm around her shoulders and smiled. "Which was unbelievably hard without a cooperation from you, and which I received none of."

Buffy said nothing, but Willow received an 'I'm NEVER sitting next to him again, and I'm NEVER letting you convince me into going out with him ANYWHERE' glare from her.

"I think that was a lesson type movie," Xander pointed.

"Yeah," Willow agreed, "never, and I mean NEVER again we're letting you to pick the film."

Xander smirked at her. "We're just so extra funny tonight, aren't we, Will?"

She smiled. "Thank you. I'm doing my best."

“We didn’t hear Buff’s saying," he looked hopefully at Buffy, ”you’re my final hope for appreciating a very good art.”

She shrugged. “It was okay.”

Riley smiled and kissed her on the cheek. “Well, honey, if I knew that was your style, I would take you to see it myself.” He turned to look her in the eyes. “Maybe if we were alone," he hinted, but trailed off as she snubbed him, flouncing him off her.

“Don’t call me that," she hissed.

Riley was stunned, but mainly puzzled. “Not to call you how?”

“Honey. Don’t call me that. I asked you a thousand times not to. And keep your hands off me, Jesus, we just went out on a movie, it's not like we're married!”

It was obvious that the solemnity in her harsh tone hurt him. “I thought you were over with whatever that was,” he murmured.

She wasn’t anywhere near changing her attitude. “Well, I guess I wasn’t,” she snapped. It looked recently like she had been doing pretty much everything in her power to craze her ’boyfriend’ . “Just don’t do that. I’m not YOUR honey, and I hate it when you call me that. And I hate it when you're allover me, because, newsflash! We're not even an official couple outside of your dreams!”

Riley was now more than a little hurt. The three of them stared at her in astonishment, wondering what else was she gonna pull out of the sleeve. “What’s wrong with you?” Riley inquired.

Buffy averted her eyes from him. She didn’t enjoy it. She knew he didn’t deserve it. He did nothing wrong, after all. It was HER mess. He just happened to get stuck in the middle, and she was too much of a coward to get it over with. *When am I gonna stop caring about what THEY might think?!*

“Buffy, what’s wrong?” he repeated the question. “What’s happening? Have I done something that I’m not aware of? Is there some other reason why I’m getting the cold shoulder from you all the time? I thought there was something going to happen here, between us. Was I leading myself on? Cuz, if I was, I’d very much like you to tell me now. Well, was I?”

Buffy looked up at him again. This conversation started sliding onto more personal levels, and they had an audience. She couldn’t do it when they were alone. How could she do it when they weren’t?

“I should go," she said, “I got…slaying.”

Willow and Xander shot her skeptical stares.

Riley was even more confused by her insensate comportment. “Damn it, Buffy!” he yelled. “Can’t you for once have that conversation without bailing?!”

She was far out of earshot, or pretended to be.

Once Willow stepped into the mansion, a strange sensation washed over her. She knew she would be there. She knew even before she got there, but that wasn’t it. There was something else. Something…that prompted her that there was something she didn’t know, but should have.

She looked around her, admitting to herself it was a while since she had last visited the place. A long while. It was weird to be here. Weird, but not scary. And she had thought it would be, she'd thought it’d scare her to come here once she would have to, and she didn’t even know why.

This place was ‘Angel’s place’ . Maybe that was what scared her. And really, one of the strongest memories she had from here was watching over him while he was dying. She reminisced briefly, of what he’d told her then. Up until today, she wasn’t sure whether she should or shouldn’t tell Buffy about all this. Several months ago, she would go with shouldn’t. Buffy and Riley were heading somewhere, something was budding there; she could see it. But now…the relationship between Buffy and Riley were way beyond futile. There seemed to be no chance at all for whatever they once cold have had. She even began doubting whether they ever really could have something. Buffy was so cold to him now; she never wanted him around…she never wanted him at all. It was hard enough for Willow to pull Buffy out of the hopelessness and the twinge she was in after Angel had left. She thought she'd succeeded. The last evidences had been pointing otherwise though. *Why did she have to ruin it with Riley?!* Willow was subconsciously mad at her best friend. She wanted her to have a life, to forget. *Why the Hell didn’t she? Riley's good for her. He's human. He can marry her, bring her children, a house with a damn white picket fence, grow old with her…he is what she needs. Why can’t Buffy see what is so clear? Why is she so oblivious to what she has? It was so good with the two of them, on the exact right track, then there was Thanksgiving, Buffy went to LA, and…BOOM!!! It all extinguished as if it never was. She became cold towards him, cruel, withdrawn…*

She didn’t even tell anything to Willow. She wasn’t talking to her like she used to. Okay, Willow knew it was a lie. She was talking to her exactly like she used to, it’s just that this time, Willow had this annoying feeling that there was SOOO much she hadn’t been told. There was this side of Buffy she couldn’t reach; no matter how much she tried. She knew what it was. It was Angel’s part. No one could ever reach the whole Buffy but him, and Willow hated competing him all the time, especially now, when she felt Buffy needed her, but wasn’t talking to her because she was talking to him. *Stupid!* she berated herself. *How could she be talking to him, he’s not even here. Still…so why would she rather to be all alone?*

Too engrossed in her cogitation, Willow didn’t even notice how her feet brought her to the mansion’s bedroom. She found there exactly what she had expected to.

“Hi,” she greeted Buffy, who was naturally folding her cloths in the closet next to…to his. *Why the Hell is she keeping his stuff?!* Willow speculated.

“Hi,” Buffy greeted her back and went on with her doing, like it was her everyday routine.

“You’re not going to say something other than ‘Hi’?” Willow asked.

Buffy didn’t understand what she meant by that. “Hello?”

“Okay, I’ll rephrase. Would you like to explain why you were here, obviously, instead of for example, in the classes you had this morning? I’m pretty used to you splitting every weekend or so to spend the night here, but you were never skipping classes before. What was that?”

“Me skipping classes," Buffy stopped folding, and walked over to Willow. “I didn’t feel like studding today.”

"Really? Was it that or you didn't want to face Riley today?"

Buffy sighed and cast down her eyes.

Willow sighed too. “Something you might wanna talk about?” she asked hopefully.

“No," the Slayer grinned at her best friend. “I never thought you’d come all the way over here to look for me though.”

“I guess…I was worried about you. You’re spending too much time away these days. I presume at least half that time you’re here, which I have no idea whatsoever why, but I guess you do. Then the other half you're suddenly trying to rebuild your relationship with your father by going to LA every second weekend..." Willow took a deep breath. "Anyhow, I just wanted to see if you were okay. After last night…”

“I’m sorry about last night.”

“It’s not me you should apologize before.”

“Look, Will, let’s not start the ‘Riley talk’ again, okay?”

“What ‘Riley talk’?! There’s nothing to talk about! You’re being completely irrational!” Willow bawled.

“Okay, then why do I feel completely hated right now?” Buffy asked in a still restrained voice.

“Why are you giving him a hard time? I thought you two…”

“Then you thought wrong! God, Willow, can I PLEASE be the one to dictate my life?”

“You’re not being fair to him,” Willow observed more calmly. “Are you going to ultimately solve this problem, or are you gonna continue being a bitch till he hates you?”

“THEN I’ll solve the problem,” Buffy retorted.

Willow nodded in frustration. “Okay. I see this talk isn’t going anywhere. I take it for granted I won’t see you until tomorrow, so I just want to remind you you still have classes to attend. Bye.”

“Bye,” she whispered sadly as Willow walked off.

Buffy was simply standing there, eyes on the spot Willow had just occupied, when two hands rested gently on her shoulders from behind.

“Honey, you will have to tell them eventually,” he said softly.

Buffy smiled and brought one of his palms to her lips to kiss it tenderly. “I know,” she replied, and spun around into his embrace. “I only whish it were easier,” she whispered into his chest, as he was soothingly stroking her hair.

She drew back a little, and took his both hands into hers. “You know, I didn’t want to do this all over again,” she looked at him as he returned her a gaze of understanding, “you have no idea how hard it is to keep you a secret, especially when I feel like screaming so that the entire world will know just how lucky I am. The thing is that I’m afraid to tell them. I’m not even sure what exactly I’m afraid of anymore, I’m just…not sure how they’re gonna take it. They might not accept you, and I won’t have that. It’s just…you know, it’s so much like that time when you first…came back, and I should have learned by now everything about these secrets.”

He smiled in empathy, fondly brushing the hair off of her face. “I know,” he said. “I know, but you can’t hide it forever. Sooner or later…and sooner would be easier. Not just for them, but for the two of us as well.” He glanced down at her abdomen and put his palm there. “Soon, it will be the three of us.”

Buffy put her hand on top of his. “After you left…it had been so hard...painful, everything just looked so purposeless and inane. At first, Willow was there for me, she saw how I felt, and she tried to help and to make it better. In her own way, which sometimes was done by making you the very bad guy," she chuckled, reminiscing of Willow’s attempts to make it all his fault, “but after a while, she stopped. She didn’t see that smarting in me anymore, or maybe she held it had been enough time and that I’ve moved on. So, she put her entire efforts in fixing me up with…Riley. She didn’t perceive I still missed you, that you were all I wanted, and so didn’t anyone else. They saw Riley, a human guy, and decided he’s the one who should be with me. Sometimes it even seemed as if it was for their benefit that they did it, not for mine. That THEY felt better not having you around. Around me. And what happened was that I stupidly gave in to them, and built those stupid so called foundations with Riley, and now I can’t…and don’t know how to get out of that mess.” Buffy pulled away and sat on the bed, as he did the same. She looked into his eyes. “I even called you out of the blue like that, in the middle of the week, because I wanted you to be here when I tell them. I thought I resolved to do that, but I guess I overestimated myself. I’m not ready; because I constantly think of what would it be like, they not accepting you back in my life. I keep worrying about what they would think in this and that case and I hate myself for that. It’s not fair for neither of us that we have to sneak around like that, but especially for you. It’s only that I recall the last time they…found out. I wish I knew what to do, or how to do that. I’m so tired of pretending. Pretending with them, pretending with Riley. Mainly with Riley.” She leaned into his arms, seeking for the solace and the love that had always been there, and this time was no exception.

AN - The timeline here is several months before this series begins. I know it might look out of place in a way, but it has to be there, and it kinda has to be the second part and not the firs in a way (just call it a flashback of sorts). THIS is the real beginning.

The following 2 parts (3&4) are set after this one, but before the first. The first part is the fic's present, and only the forth part takes of from there. I know it's confusing, but just try to go with it. Maybe it'd look less confusing as you read it.

Part Two

There's no where to run
I have no place to go
Surrender my heart, body, and soul
How can it be you're asking me to feel
The things you never show
You are missing in my heart
Tell me why can't I be there where you are

- Backstreet Boys, "Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonelly"

Buffy watched Angel. It seemed to her as if he was doing everything not to meet her gaze. *Should I play this game? Should I pretend everything has changed? Should I profess as if I'm feeling nothing and that the fact of being in the same room with him alone, and not being able to actually BE WITH HIM doesn't tear my heart to pieces? How can I just put on…as if nothing happened? Everything happened!* And yet…

“So, then let's just stick to the plan. We’ll keep our distance until a lot of time has passed, and given enough time, we should be able to…”

“Forget,” he whispered, in such dejection she hadn’t ever recalled hearing in his voice.

“Yeah. So…I'm gonna go. Start forgetting.” *Why aren’t you saying something, you moron?! Are you really going to just let me leave?!*

He didn’t want her to go. He didn’t want her to forget. It was so perceptible in his eyes. The disillusionment…that she didn’t forget, the frustration for that she did. *She pledged she wouldn’t. She swore she wouldn’t…and she did. But I won’t say anything. I won’t break. It will be better…it'll be better…right! Who am I kidding? It will always be hard, but not as hard as it is now. Now, it’s not hard, it’s practically intolerable. It’s more than intolerable. I can just reach out now, and…feel the silk of her hair, smell her so mellow fragrance, caress her soft skin, kiss her passionate lips…* he reminisced of how those lips were hungrily retorting his kisses…Angel shook these memories out of his head. *It's no use anymore. She forgot.*

Screaming, the Mohra demon crashed through Angel’s window.

Buffy almost allowed a cry to escape her lips when he smashed the demon’s jewel with the clock. *Why?!!! Why did you do that?!!!*

But she kept her cool. “That was...unreal. How did you know how to kill it?” Yeah, as if she didn’t know.

“It's a Mohra demon. I…I had a lot of time to catch up on my reading,” he excused lamely.

*I get it you couldn’t come up with anything better in such short notice,* she observed. “Yeah. Okay. So, I guess we've covered it, right?” *Say something!*

“I guess we did.”

*Great.* “And that's all there really is to say,” she prompted, but he remained oblivious…

Angel looked sadly at the smashed clock. It stopped at 9:02. Only a minute ago they were…*But it doesn’t matter now,* he thought. *Of course, it matters! It matters the world to me…* “Yeah. It is.”

And now she was gone.

Buffy rebuked herself as she was slowly walking out of Angel Investigations. *Why was I so stupid? Why did I have to blow everything? We had a chance. We had a real chance to make it all right again, and I blew it. Why?! Why did I lead him on into believing I forgot? I didn’t. I can’t. I remember everything. Every touch, every kiss, every breath, every heartbeat…everything. Why did I just leave? And he, why did he let me to just leave? Why didn’t he say something?!*

Angel beheld the clock again. Tears started in his eyes and they wouldn’t stop. Then he looked again at where Buffy was just a minute ago, and now she was there no more. *She forgot.* Had he really expected her to remember? Even his Buffy couldn’t stand against the will of the Powers, and they said she would forget.

Abruptly, Angel felt something. Something he had been too abstracted to detect before. His revealing almost knocked him off his feet. He had a heartbeat. He was breathing. He was human. Nothing had changed. He was human…and Buffy was gone. But all he had to do to prove himself wrong was to revolve and see her…standing right in his office’s entrance, looking at him.

As she saw she got his full attention, she immediately started to speak, not letting him utter a word.

“I was wrong,” she said, her tone grave, “we haven’t covered it. We CAN'T just cover it!” She began edgily pacing his office. “You know, Angel, it’s never been easy with us, so let’s not start now. I’m sure it’s a piece of cake for you, but hey! Guess what, for me it ISN'T! It’s not EASY to give you up, it’s not EASY to just walk away from you, and it’s not EASY to just forget! What the Hell were you thinking?! You’ll go and do your twisted accords with these Oracles, whoever the Hell they are, turn back time and it’s all bed of roses again? Can you actually tell me you can step right back into your life as if nothing happened? Did it mean nothing to you at all?!”

Angel opened his mouth to speak, but she stuck her palm out at him, implying she didn’t want to hear him.

“Shut up!” she yelled irately.

He flinched at her tone. It perceptibly stung him more than she could envisage, having her so mad at him, unless she did it calculatedly, to hurt him. *No, that'd be worse…*

She peered at him and controlled herself a little. Hurting him wasn’t as simple as she made it seem. “You will listen to me now. I’ll be talking, you’ll be listening. I’d say it’s about time, wouldn’t you? You know, it just looks like I never get the chance to say anything to be concerning my future. And besides, what more do you possibly have to tell me, Angel? Actually, I can guess. I’m sure you have reasons. Yeah, of course, reasons! How can Angel do something without having his just reasons?! So, what was it this time? What kind of a sick joke was this? What, you like torturing me like that? That's gotta be big fun, isn't it, Angel? Making a fool out of me one time after another? One minute, we practically throw ourselves on each other, and then the next minute, you’re making a deal with these Oracles to make it ‘The Day That Wasn’t’!” She averted her gaze. When she looked back at him, there was anguish in her eyes that wasn’t there before. “Do you think I love it that much?” she asked quietly. “Do you think I love being hurt by you? Sorry, Angel, but you're definitely alone in that. You. You, of all people. You're…always the one I turn to when I'm in a jam, when I need help and protection, you're the one I rely on and trust with my eyes closed. You're the one I know will protect me even if his life is depended on it. You're the only one I know will never let the slightest harm come to me; you hurt me the most. Do you know why I feel so maltreated? Not just cuz all that has happened – altogether, is causing me pain, but mostly because this pain comes from you.” Tears immerged in her eyes, trickling slowly down her cheeks, as her wounded gaze met his once again. “I can't stand it, Angel. Not when it's from you,” she whispered.

He made one step over to her, but she recoiled.

“Why do you do that? Why do you like hurting me so steadfastly? I love you. Despite what you've done, I love you. Do you know how you kill my heart repeatedly, part after part, by hurting it like you do? Can you even imagine?” Her voice slowly died away as she came across his gaze again. Her eyes mirrored her thoughts. *This conversation is leading nowhere,* she sighed. The despair vanished from her orbs, and she stared at him with much more boldness this time. “Now, I’d say we’ve covered it. Consider me out off your life.”

And again, she left. Before Angel could say one word to her.

Angel merely kept standing in his office, still taking in what she had said. She was so right. He had no right at all to do half the things he had done to her, due to his so called ‘just reasons’. But his stupid reasons had lost all justifiability. He didn’t want her to be away from him. Never. After the time shifted twenty-four hours back, and he still possessed his humanity, and all the more, she remembered everything from a day that really technically never was, the only thing he could think about, was that he would NEVER do it again. These last seconds in her arms, he was praying for something, or someone, to stop the time, to do something, anything but not to take it all back. He didn’t care that he lacked his strength. He thought he did, but he didn’t. He recalled of what he had told Buffy once, and knew it was as true concerning him. Once he had lived without it, he could do it again. All he wanted was Buffy. His Buffy. The girl he wanted to spend his life with, and now could. Somebody had heard his prayer. He could be with her for eternity now, just like he always wanted to. He was given another chance. He wasn’t even going to ask the Oracles why they did whatever they did. He wanted his happiness back. He wanted Buffy, and Buffy he would have.

Angel knew she hadn't gotten too far. He knew she hadn't really wanted to leave. It wasn’t over between the two of them. It could never be over, and she knew that as well as he did.

He found her sitting on the steps, outside the building. She was clearly waiting for him. Somehow, she knew he'd come. One glimpse at her tear streaked face, revealed him that.

“Hey,” Buffy whispered.

Angel beamed somewhat and sat by her side, staring off into space. “Will I get yelled at if I tell you something?” he asked ultimately, still looking away. “Something I should have told you that day, and didn’t?”

She smiled. “That depends. Will I get yelled at if I tell you something too?”

They finally locked eyes.

“I love you,” they said in unison.

Angel wrapped his arms around her tightly, pressing her strongly against him. “I’m sorry for all I have done to you. You have no idea how sorry I am,” he whispered.

“I know,” she replied, “I’m sorry I burst like that. Besides," she smiled impishly, "I've done my share of hurting myself, you know."

He smiled, then cast down his eyes. “You were right. I deserved it. I deserved even more,” Angel looked up, staring intently into her eyes. “You think you could forgive me one last time and give me one last chance?” he asked expectantly.

“You got a chance,” she perceived, reposing her palm on top of where his heart was beating, “somehow, you got it.”

Angel nodded. “But did I get it from you?”

Buffy turned her back to him and leaned into his embrace. “Do you need an answer for that?”

Angel kissed the top of her head and smiled, pulling her closer. “I love you,” he murmured.

“I love you too,” she nestled in his lap and closed her eyes as his lips gently met hers.

Angel carried her in his arms into the bedroom, and gracefully reposed her on the bed. He paused to look at her once he put her down, as if engraving the sight of her in his memory for all times. He knew why he did it. It never ceased to amaze him, just how beautiful she was, how passionate, and in the same time so fragile. Every time with her was like the first time. Buffy knew that too. Every glance in his mellow dark eyes made her appreciate even more how much she loved him. She could never completely become accustomed to the enormous wave of wondrous emotions that had been washing all over her every time he was around. One glimpse at him now, let her know of that the same thoughts were crossing his mind as well. He smiled down at her, and tenderly brushed his fingertips down her cheekbone, and then her neck, and her collarbone, until they reached her shirt. While pulling it up with one hand, he leaned down to catch her mouth in a sweet kiss, burying his other hand in her hair as he was angling her head up.

They broke apart for him to pull her shirt over her head, and the kiss heated up when she started swiftly working on his, and he began undoing his belt. Their fingers were proficiently accomplishing divesting them off the redundant clothes, while they were fervently attached in the lips.

Angel unzipped his pants and let Buffy remove his shirt, exposing his chest. Buffy arched up, so that Angel could pull her tank top over her head, and hurl it away, following his shirt. Her bra instantly went after the tank top. He bit at her nipples, his hands relishing the swell of her breasts. Buffy curved up in gratification as he slithered his hands down her sides and hips, tagging along her panties in the process, kissing her breasts and abdomen while he was pulling them off her.

Buffy enclosed her arms around him, lowering his body down on hers, and enfolded her legs around his pelvis, sliding both his slacks and trousers off him with her toes.

Angel pressed himself against her, setting her hips to straddle his, sliding his hands down on her legs and back up, ultimately clutching her ass and pushing it up sharply, as he entered her.

Buffy groaned contentedly and closed her eyes, tilting her head back, and discharging her arms around him, draping them sideways on the bed, as she felt his length filling her inside.

Angel reached for her hands, weaving their fingers together, concomitantly thrusting deeper into her, impelling their pace. Buffy rose and fell back in concert with him driving in and out of her. Time to time, their lips met together for a brief but passionate kiss. As the tempo increased, their hands clinched tighter together and sheen of perspiration covered their naked bodies. Abruptly, Angel rolled ever, without disconnecting himself from her, and shifted her on top of him. Buffy ascended above him with a quiet moan, and disentangled her hands from his, pressing them into his chest. Angel sighed as she deepened her fingers into his flesh, moving to his shoulders and seizing them firmly when he urged deeper and she stretched all over him concurrently.

He wrapped his arms around her, running his hands down her back, then the curves of her ass, as he accorded her rocking with his, while her hands slithered down his waist to his pelvis, encouraging him deeper. And he collaborated, spilling his seed into her.

Finally, Angel stopped, after finishing into her, but still hadn't pulled out. He leisurely shifted her on his chest and swathed his arms protectively around her. They were both breathing heavily, holding each other close, and Angel was punctuating his inhales with gently kissing Buffy’s neck and rear. She was resting silently on top of him, her face burrowed in the camber of his neck. Her eyes shut, and her fingertips gently trailing his chest.

“Promise me something,” she murmured.

“Anything,” he gently averted the disheveled hair from her neck to kiss it.

“Promise me this day will keep happening.”

Angel cradled her face with his both hands and kissed her lips lovingly. “I promise, my love,” he whispered, “I swear.”

AN1 - The timeline is sometime after part 2 and before part 1.

AN2 - For the sake of my story, pretend that the first meeting between Angel and Kate happened under different circumstances than those of the show.

Part Three

Cordelia descried Buffy the moment the Slayer set foot in Angel Investigations. It looked as if she was anxiously anticipating for her to come.

"Hey!" she greeted the Slayer, instantly quitting filing her nails. "Thank God you're here!" she exclaimed, standing up from her chair and walking around her desk to meet Buffy. "He was nagging me 24/7 about 'when's Buffy gonna come?', and like I actually know. Call me stupid, but I don't get that. What's that whole secrecy needed for? The guy's practically pacing a hole in the floor around the phone, and he can't even call you, and what's worse, you're not calling him either. Do you know he actually went out yesterday and bought you a cell-phone? Now, why don't I get a free cell-phone? I deserve it, after being his babysitter while his precious Buffy was busy fighting demons in the infamous Sunnyhell. And now, he was getting like all hopeful you were gonna come this weekend, and then you call him in the last minute, telling him you can't. It's not enough he slipped right back into brood-mode, and may I remind you he's my boss, so that's me who had to put up with him, but he also was worried sick. So now, right next to 'when's Buffy gonna come', I needed to listen to 'why didn't she call me sooner, I could have come to help her, what if something happens to her?' and it really started to annoy at some point..."

"Poor Cordy," Buffy shook her head sympathetically, after she got tired of listening to Cordelia's typical set of grumbling and just had to cut her. "You have no idea how truly sorry I am for your perpetual misery."

Cordelia eyed her for a spell, a few seconds in which Buffy inwardly thanked God she had nothing to say. She'd come to like Cordelia, but the problem was that there were certain occasions in which when the brunette opened her mouth, it was nearly unfeasible to close it. And the worst thing was, as far as Buffy was concerned, that Cordelia was sure everybody wanted to listen to whatever she had to say. "Yeah, whatever," she said eventually, waving her hand at Buffy.

Buffy grinned. "Anyway, what, you think I didn't want to come? I was waiting the entire week to come here, and then I get that. Trust me, that demon faced a VERY pissed off Slayer."

"So, what are you doing here now? It's Tuesday. Don't you have classes or something?"

Buffy shrugged, and leaned closer to Cordelia to whisper in her ear. "Don't tell my mom I skipped school today."

Cordelia burst into laughter and playfully shoved the Slayer off of her, as she laughed too.

"Ahm," they both heard a cough coming from the entrance to the agency, and turned to the direction of the voice.

Cordelia instantly rolled her eyes to Buffy's obvious misunderstanding. "Here comes the pain," she whispered in her friend's ear.

Buffy still had no clue what she was referring to. "Is she a customer?" she asked Cordelia.

"If she were a customer, she'd go away in some point," Cordelia replied hastily, before the other woman neared the two.

She smiled at both Buffy and Cordelia, and Buffy returned an equal smile, while Cordy put on her best smirk.

The woman extended her hand for Buffy. "Hi, nice to meet you. I'm Kate."

Cordelia mimicked Kate's every word with her mouth, thinking the detective didn't see her.

Buffy clearly didn't understand the reason. "Buffy. Nice to meet you too," she shook Kate's offered hand. Then she turned back to Cordelia. "So, where's your cute boss hiding?"

Cordelia motioned towards the office. "Office. He's going through some files, or something."

Kate smiled knowingly at Buffy. "So, are you another client with a helpless crush on the handsome detective?"

Buffy chuckled. "A crush?..."

Cordelia beamed slyly. She could already forecast her huge opportunity to reduce Kate's ego to dust. "Kate has a crush on Angel," she pointed out before Buffy.

Kate smirked at her. It was obvious the two fully shared their feelings towards each other.

Buffy was more than just surprised. "On my bo...?"

Cordelia shushed her. NO ONE was going to spoil it for her. "Kate thinks Angel is single. She thinks he likes her too, even if he doesn't admit it, and that they have a chance." She grinned triumphantly at Kate and added sweetly. "Kate's dreaming."

"Oh, really?" Buffy grinned, facing Cordelia and resolutely, folding her arms on her chest. *Why the Hell didn't he tell me about her?* "And what does Angel think about that?" she inquired her friend.

Cordelia shrugged. "I think we both know what Angel thinks about that," she turned to Kate again, "and Kate will know too once she'll believe me that the picture he's staring at in his office all the time is his girlfriend's."

"Okay," Buffy smiled steely and faced Kate. "Kate," she began in a menacing, yet placid tone, "I don't want us to be best buddies, and you REALLY don't want us to fight, so for the sake of us both, stay away from Angel."

Kate raised her eyebrows and folded her arms, challengingly advancing upon the Slayer, who didn't seem to budge. "Why, you're afraid from a fair competition?"

Buffy had to subdue an imminent snigger. "Excuse me?"

The other woman really seemed to be getting into defense mode. "You don't really expect me to back off just cuz you say so, do you?"

Buffy chuckled. "Just stay away from him, okay, Kate?" With that she headed towards the office, leaving no more room for discussion.

Everything that was transpiring in there, could be viewed clearly by those standing outside, which were Cordelia and Kate, therefore they both were focused on Angel's office. Well, to be exact, Kate was. Cordelia was way more interested in the cop's reaction to everything she was about to see. "If you only knew how much you have humiliated yourself just now," she quipped.

"Oh, shut up," Kate dismissed her.

Cordelia smirked triumphantly. "Sure. Watch ahead. Behold the PDA, hun," she patted on the cop's back and left to continue her nail filing.

Buffy quietly entered the office, and found Angel sitting in his large leather chair, talking to someone on the phone, and in the same time leafing through some papers. He was with his back facing her, therefore couldn't see her come in.

She crept up behind him and gently reposed her hands on his broad shoulders, her fingers roaming leisurely to the first three buttons of his representative black shirt, and rapidly undoing each one. When she was done unbuttoning, she peeled the shirt off of him, only enough to expose his shoulders, and started gently massaging his bare muscles.

Angel closed his eyes the second her hands lay on his shoulders, and his entire body seemed to be reacting to her touch, giving in to her. Angel instantly put the files aside on the desk and was suddenly more than eager to finish that conversation.

Buffy kissed his crown, kneading his shoulders more thoroughly, frowning slightly. "You're so tense," she observed.

Angel inclined his head backwards a little, and Buffy bent forward, now randomly kissing his throat and collarbone, in addition to the massage.

Angel finally finished with the phone, and put it away.

Buffy's hands left his shoulders and snaked around his neck, as their mouths met each other in a passionate kiss, during which Angel somehow managed to shift his position and wrap his arms around her, pulling her into his lap. Their lips somehow succeeded to remain connected the entire time, until their mutual need to breathe became too demanding.

They smiled at one another, their lips still blushed from the kissing.

Angel brought his hand up to her face, stroking it mildly. "I missed you," he whispered softly.

Buffy covered his hand that lay on her cheek with her own and brought it to her mouth, to kiss the inside of his palm. "I missed you too," she said. "I hate this. I hate that we have to wait for the weekend whenever we wanna see each other. It's like, before, I could just walk a few blocks and I would be in your place, and now, you're...couldn't you have picked a closer spot, I mean, did you really have to go all the way to LA? Do you know what it's like to spend an entire week without you?" She rested her head in the crook of his neck and curled in his arms.

Angel smiled, gently rubbing her back with one hand and her arm with another. "I have a pretty good idea, love." He suddenly looked down at her. "By the way, not that I'm complaining, but what are you doing here in the middle of the week?"

Buffy straightened up and smiled at him. "Missing my boyfriend?"

Angel chuckled. "Well, then it definitely makes it okay, doesn't it?"

Instead of answering, Buffy placed a soft kiss on the tip of his nose.

Angel beamed.

Suddenly, Buffy frowned, and sniffled his neck. When she raised her head back to peer at him, the look in her eyes was as if she had just found an answer to a very substantial dilemma. "I knew something was different."

Angel gave her a misunderstanding look.

"You're using a new cologne," she detected.

He smiled. "You like it?"

She nodded, also smiling, and lay her head back on his shoulder, mildly kissing his throat. "I always like the way you smell," she whispered between kisses.

"I was thinking," he pondered, "how about you stay the night?"

Buffy's head jumped up happily, and she placed a gentle kiss on his lips. "You read my mind," she whispered throatily.

Angel laughed, shifting her in his lap so that her legs were now straddling his sides and she was fully facing him. Buffy leaned backwards against his arms, encircling hers around his neck. "No, honey, I think that in this case, I read mine," he told her.

She beamed. "It doesn't really matter," she contemplated, "considering we share the same very nutty thoughts."

Angel giggled. "So, does it mean you're staying? I can drop you back in Sunnydale tomorrow first thing in the morning, before your classes begin."

She grinned. "Yes, honey, I'm staying." Buffy glanced at her wrist over Angel's shoulder. "I assumed it'd be at least noon already," she shook her head, dismissing that thought. "It's a little past nine now, which means we have the entire day ahead of us," she locked eyes with her boyfriend, "whatever are we gonna do?"

Angel smiled. "How about we just take a walk on the beach first, or something? We can decide what we're gonna do later. And besides, two days ago, I found this new jewelry store, and I spotted something very very nice there, so if you're good today, it might be bought for a certain very special lady."

Buffy gave him a knowing smile. "You already bought it." It was a pure statement.

Angel chuckled. "Wouldn't you like to know?"

"You got yourself a date, handsome," she kissed him, smiling, "and I got myself a present." She leaped off of his lap, and stood before him, stretching out her hand for him.

Angel laughed and took it, standing up as well, and they both headed to the door.

"By the way, sweetie, how come I wasn't informed about Kate?"

Angel looked at her naturally. "She's just a cop I help to sometimes. What about Kate?"

"Well, for example, that she has the hots for my boyfriend?"

Angel gave her an honest look. "Buffy, you really shouldn't worry about Kate. She can have whatever she wants, it doesn't mean I share her feelings. I already belong to somebody," he showed her the Claddagh ring on his ring finger.

Buffy smiled and kissed the ring, then stood on her tiptoes and kissed him, just when he was about to open the door into the main office.

Angel's hand left the knob and slithered around his girlfriend's back, while his other hand was buried in her blond hair, his mouth collaborating with hers, deepening the kiss.

After a few minutes, they were finally out of his office, pacing hand in hand towards the amazed policewoman and the seemingly bored Cordelia, who was still busy with her nails, and lifted her head only for a second to glance at the couple and sigh dramatically.

When the Slayer left her boyfriend's side and leaped on her desk, Cordelia knew it was time. She raised her eyes to meet her boss' expectantly.

"What?" Angel asked her finally.

"I'm waiting."

"For what?" he still hadn't grasped.

Cordelia rolled her eyes. "For you to tell me I can have the day off."

Buffy giggled to herself and Angel too. "You can have the day off, Cordelia," he told her.

The brunette jumped off her chair and grabbed her purse. "Did I ever mention how much I love it when you're visiting, Buffy?"

Buffy grinned. "I bet you do. Say hi to Doyle for me when you won't meet him today."

Cordelia smirked at the Slayer.

"By the way, where is Doyle?" Angel asked.

"He couldn't come today," then she turned to look at Buffy, "he probably received a vision that you were coming so he just thought why bother."

This time it was Buffy's turn to smirk.

"Have fun, lovebirds!" Cordelia waved her hand, while retreating from the office. "Oh, a word of advice," she stopped in the doorway, and turned around, "clean the lipstick. Both of you." Then she smiled innocently and left.

Kate peered at Cordelia, and after she had left, slowly turned to Angel, and then to Buffy, then again back to Angel. "Why didn't you tell me?" she inquired.

"Told you what?" he asked simply, picking up the bag Buffy had brought with her, obviously counting on staying the night even before he had requested her to, and heading with it towards the elevator leading down to his apartment.

"About her!" Kate hissed as they both stopped near the elevator and gesticulated towards the Slayer, who was still sitting on the edge of Cordelia's desk, looking deeply interested in something she was reading.

"I didn't think I had to answer to you about my love-life, Kate. I think that's something I have my girlfriend to discuss with about." He sighed. "Look, just between the two of us, I'm sorry if in some way I led you on into believing something that could never be had a chance. I love Buffy. I have loved her since the moment I first saw her, which was over three years ago."

"All this time you were..."

"Yes, Kate, all this time. And I always will be in love with her, only her. You're my friend, Kate, I don't wanna lose you as a friend. But if our friendship is going to endanger my relationship with the woman I love, I won't have a choice. Buffy and I went through obstacles you can't even imagine through the years we've been together, and we have always survived, so a minor like jealousy will never come in between us. But it doesn't mean that if the hurdle is petty, we won't mind facing it. So, basically, what I want is for you to see me as nothing more than a friend. Can you do that?"

Suddenly, Buffy stood up, and approached them, her eyes still roaming over some file she had been reading before.

Angel peered at her, waiting for whatever she obviously had to tell him, forgetting about Kate. It wasn't every day he saw his girlfriend with a serious expression on her face. "What is it, love?" he prompted.

Buffy showed him the file. "You don't have to do that," she said.

Angel quickly read it. "What do you mean?"

"It's not how you kill that demon."

"It's not?"

She shook her head. "Please tell me you haven't done it yet, cuz it's a waste of time."

"No, I haven't. I was actually about to try it tomorrow."

"Then don't. I also thought this spell was the only way to kill it, but then Willow tried, and it didn't do anything...anyhow, it's a long story. Just do it the old fashioned way."

Angel quirked a brow.

"Use a sword."

"But it can't be killed with a sword."

"No, it actually can be very killed with a sword, and believe me, cuz that thing was the exact one that kept me tied up this weekend, so since I killed it, I should know. The hitch is that you gotta hit the heart, and its heart is not in the center of its chest, it's actually in its right side. Hit the heart, and our boy is out of the picture."

Angel considered it. "Are you sure?"

Buffy nodded resolutely. "One-hundred percent."

"Okay," he agreed, "by the way, Buffy, and I'm serious this time. The next time there's a demon you have to fight, you call me. Even when you SUSPECT that you MIGHT have a demon to fight, you call me. It's not that I don't trust your strength, but even thought I'm human, we still work best as a team. I'm not risking anything happening to you, while I'm not there. The fact that I live in LA doesn't mean I can't make a two hours drive back to Sunnydale to help you fight. Promise me you'll call me next time."

Buffy smiled, and kissed him. "I promise. But really, this time it just was at a last minute..."

"Buffy," he interrupted her.

"Alright, alright. I call you next time before I have any serious demon related problem."

He gave her a look.

"Before I have ANY demon related problem," she rephrased, "happy?" she smiled.

Angel leaned down to kiss her. "Elated."

"How do you know this?" Kate asked Buffy out of nowhere.

The Slayer turned to her. "Know what?"

"How kill demons?" Kate seemed to be having genuine troubles in getting the last word out.

"Maybe you wanna tell me first how do YOU know about demons?" Buffy suggested instead.

Kate opened her mouth to answer, but Buffy suddenly cut her short. She turned to Angel. "Does she...did she know about you?" she asked carefully.

"Yes," he confessed.

"Are you crazy?!" Buffy yelled at him. "What are you doing telling everyone who wishes to know what you are?! Don't you understand it puts you into constant risk? God, she could have staked you!" she gestured towards the obviously stunned cop. "Are you insane?!"

"Buffy it wasn't really planned, you know...she was attacked by vampires, and I saved her, and..." he tried to excuse, but also saw her point.

"You think I care?! You think I care how it came about?! I've just found out that my boyfriend was walking around with a 'stake me' target sign for months before becoming human! Do you know how it makes me feel?"

Angel sighed, and reposed her bag, which he was holding the entire time, down on the floor. He reached out for her and wrapped her in his arms. "Honey, it's okay," he spoke softly, "nothing happened."

She remained in his embrace for only a short while before jerking away from him. "I trusted you, Angel. I trusted you to take care of yourself, to be a LITTLE smarter than letting EVERYONE know what you were. You could have been dead by now! You can't trust EVERYONE!"

He embraced her again, and this time she hugged him back.

"You're a moron," she whispered against his chest.

Angel sighed and kissed her head. "I know," he replied.

"An idiot."

"Definitely," he kissed her head again, holding her tighter.

"I love you," she looked up at him, "if I find out something like that again, I..."

He didn't let her finish, locking their lips in a sweet kiss, after which she was miraculously calmer. "I love you too," he smiled. "How about we have that walk now, ha?"

Buffy nodded silently.

"Good," he kissed her forehead, then faced Kate. "Did you want something urgent, Kate, or can it wait?" he asked her.

Kate looked at them in confusion and discomfiture. ", no, I guess it can wait," she stuttered.

He nodded. "Come here tomorrow, then. Today's my day off," he wrapped one arm around Buffy and they both left the office.

AN - The timeline is sometime after part 3 and before part 1.

Part Four

"We HAVE to think about something," Buffy murmured in Angel's arms, "I just SOOO can't do that anymore. I mean, you're gone the entire week, just cuz I have school here, and you got work there, and there's nothing in between," she took a deep breath, "and I know that in this point I'm sounding like a spoiled brat, but I really can't stand it sometimes."

Angel kissed her neck. "You think I can? If it weren't for your college, you could have moved to LA ages ago. And if it weren't for my agency, I could just go back to Sunnydale."

"You save people's lives. I do homework."

Angel chuckled at her bright illumination. "It doesn't mean your school is any less important, and besides, it's not like it's the only reason you're staying here."

"There are colleges in LA."

"There is no Hellmouth in LA," Angel gave her a knowing look, "as I said, it's not the only reason."

Buffy sighed. "I know, I know. Slayer, Hellmouth. My little wonderful life. These are the times when I most wish I could be born as a normal person."

"You don't really mean that."

"I know I don't mean that, but it sucks sometimes. Most of the times, on a second thought. I can't move in with my fiance cuz my destiny's tied me to the Hellmouth. What fun. I wish all the demons were just...well, dead would be nice."

Angel laughed. "That's what we're here for, sweetie."

"There are demons in LA," Buffy pointed out, "can't I just tell everyone that the Slayer moved town?"

Angel chortled. "You're just full of ideas, aren't you?"

Buffy finally smiled and faced him. "Love me for that?"

He beamed. "I love you for everything. I love you for those eyes," he kissed her both eyelids, "for this nose," he kissed her nose, "and those lips," he kissed her on the lips. Before he could say anything else, Buffy cradled his face in her hands and returned his kiss.

"I want a dog," Buffy contemplated, snuggled tightly in her love's arms.

Angel gazed at her with misunderstanding.

"Don't tell me you don't know what a dog is."

He giggled. "I know what a dog is, Buffy, I just don't understand your sudden need for one."

She shrugged. "There's nothing to understand. I just feel like I want a dog."

"Aha. And where exactly will you keep him? In the dorm?"

"In your office, actually," she grinned.

"You want me to raise a dog in my office? You understand it involves Cordelia having a heart attack, or a nervs breakdown, don't you?" he asked with an amused smile.

"It's your office. Our dog. She'll deal. I hope," the same smile now flikered on her face.

He chuckled. "So, it's OUR dog now."


"Right. So, what kind of a dog do WE want?"

"Ummm...a white dog," she decided.

"A white dog," Angel echoed obediently, as if making a list in his memory.

"Right. And it has to be adorably cute."

"A cute dog."


" has to come with a huge red ribbon around his neck."

Angel eyed her and chuckled. "What's the ribbon for?"

Buffy beamed. "To make him cute."

"I thought he already was cute."

"Then to make him even more cute."

"Oh, okay. So last question."

"Ask," Buffy nestled in the crook of Angel's arm, shifting herself into a more comfortable position, as he was tenderly stroking her back.

"What's gonna be his name?"

"Okay..." she pondered, ", name, name, name...ummm...that's it. Snow."

"Snow?" he asked with disbelief. She had never stopped to astound him. "You actually want to name a dog 'Snow'?"

"Why not? He's white anyway."

"Okay, you do know that naming a dog 'Snow' borders animal abuse, right?"

She gave him a look. "He's white," she said firmly.

Angel couldn't hold his laughter in anymore, but altogether with that, he knew there was no point in arguing with a pregnant woman when she said she wanted something. "Yep. You definitely raised a point there."

Buffy laughed too. "So, are we buying a dog?"

He sighed but kept his smile. "We're buying a dog."

She tilted her head up to kiss him. "Great," she murmured.

He embraced her tightly and pressed her to him, deepening the kiss.

Suddenly she broke off to retrieve something out of a drawer, with her back facing him.

Angel rolled on his side, and enveloped his arms around her, placing his hands on her belly, and his chin on her shoulder, so that he could see what she was holding.

Buffy smiled and pressed his cheek against hers; holding up the ultrasound pictures in her other hand. "Look," she told him, and pulled her hand from his cheek to leaf through the photos, dwelling upon each, for him to see all of them, here and there pointing on a scarcely discernible shape of a baby.

Angel gazed at the pictures, awe and delight franked on his handsome features. At times, it was still hard for him to believe he indeed was that lucky. One look into his beloved's eyes was enough to make him realize his dream was also his reality, but sometimes, like now, it was so good that it could hardly be classed as a dream, because it was beyond any dream he could ever have. He was looking at pictures of his son, who will in six months be born into this world. The son of his and the woman he loved. He couldn't have possibly asked for more.

A part of him felt sorry he had been too busy with a case to come to Sunnydale the previous month. Buffy's ultrasound appointments were only a part of what he had missed.

Angel realized his thoughts were elsewhere, when he caught Buffy at mid sentence.

", I saw this names' book, and I though, why not? I could skim through it. I don't have to set my mind on a name or anything, cuz I didn’t want to decide without you, I can just look through the options,” she finished showing him the pictures, returned them back into the drawer, and put her hands on top of his.

“Did you find anything you liked?” he asked.

“Yes. Actually, I did. I liked ‘Liam’. You know what it means? It means protector, or…defender…I don’t really remember. I just know it caught my eye immediately. It has a beautiful sound too. It’s Gaelic, did you know that? Wait, of course you knew that. You are Gaelic. Okay, now I’m rambling. Do you like ‘Liam’?”

Angel sniggered.

Buffy revolved her face to look at him and he detached his cheek from hers to allow her head a full turn. “Did I say something funny?” she asked innocently. She had no idea at all what had he found so funny.

Angel just kissed her and smiled, reposing his head next to hers on the pillow so that only their foreheads touched.

“I have a feeling that my father is finally proud of me,” he said, a little sarcastically.

“What did you do?”

“He always used to say that having a son like me was same as being doomed to remain nameless.”

“Sounds like he wasn’t the loving type.”

Angel giggled. “No, believe me, I wasn’t something to write home about when I was young. And since I was his only son, I was naturally expected to eventually get married, settle down, have a son, and secure the continuation of our line. And as I said, having me as a son, it wasn’t likely to ever happen.”

Buffy smiled and glanced at the striking diamond of the engagement ring on her finger. “Seems to me like your father was wrong.”

“If you met me over a couple of centuries ago, you’d see how much he wasn’t. I was the most disrespectful, irresponsible, and brutal man you have ever seen. No wander I was a disappointment as an only son. I was spending my days and nights at taverns and whorehouses, getting awfully drunk and God knows what else, instead of actually finding a decent woman to build a life with.”

“What changed you, then? I’ve never known of this side of yours.”

Angel reinforced his embrace. “Most likely, you did. I already told you this once. I was honest then and I’m honest now. In all of my years, I’ve never loved anyone before you, and but you. Love changes the person. I’m a living proof of that.”

Buffy beamed, and brought her hand up to caress his cheek.

Angel planted a tender kiss on her lips. “My name was Liam O’Connor.”

Buffy was clearly amazed, to say the least. “Are you serious?”

Angel nodded and grinned. “Very.”

“You…you never told me.”

“You never asked.”

“So, that’s what you meant when you said your father's proud of you.”

“Yeah. I finally made his wish come true. He’s finally gonna get his grandson. Better late than never, I guess.”

“So, you want to? You want to call him ‘Liam’?”

Angel brushed her cheek tenderly. “Do you want to?”

Buffy beamed. “Now that I know that it was your name, I want to even more.”

Angel kissed her. “Then can I suggest a middle name?”

“You can,” she affirmed with a brisk nod.


Buffy repeated the name in her head. “Allan. I like it…hey! Isn’t it…”

“It’s Doyle’s name,” Angel confirmed, "it’s Celtic for ‘handsome’, and it’s the name of the best friend I ever had." At Buffy's playfully offended gaze, he chuckled and corrected himself. "Best male friend. I really would like my son to carry his name, even if it’s only as a middle name.”

Buffy grinned. “I’d like that too,” she leaned forward for a sweet and passionate kiss, and he enveloped her in his arms, drawing her on top of him.

Part Five

I know I dreamed you a sin and a lie
I have my freedom but I don't have much time
Faith has been broken, tears must be cried
Let's do some living after we die

- The Sundays, "Wild Horses"

Buffy had been strolling alone through the cemetery. She had already been several months along pregnant, yet still patrolling. She was sometimes wondering what exactly had been driving her to still continue putting hers and her unborn child’s life under a constant risk, and most of the times she really couldn’t figure it out. It just was a part of her, something she couldn’t do without. Buffy knew it was dangerous. While pregnant, she wasn’t as spry and strong as she used to be, and if the wrong vampire crossed her path, she could easily be added as another name on the ‘Departed Slayers’ List’.

Buffy was knocked out of her drifting thoughts with a strong blow from behind. Before she could react, the vampire hit her again and tossed her to the ground. When he jumped after her, she magically managed to get out of his way. It gave her a few seconds to catch her breath and get into a fighting stance. Buffy was scared. She was really scared, which seemed stupid because it was merely a vampire. As if she had never slayed one before. It was already obvious to her that THIS was the wrong vampire. A horrible sensation came upon her, one that said she wasn’t going to get out of this in one piece. Buffy felt like her entire strength had abandoned her and that there was nothing she could do to defend herself. She felt helpless. Buffy had felt it many times before, when she was thinking about the baby instead of concentrating on the battle. It made her distracted, she knew it, just as she knew how precarious it was. And now it was a bad time. A very bad time.

“Buffy!” she heard Riley’s cry from afar and turned to glance in his direction.

It took her attention off of her attacker for one second only, and it was enough for him to pin her to the ground.

A part of her hoped that maybe Riley would give her a hand, but her reason contradicted it. How could Riley defend her? If he were to face a vampire alone, without his war toys, he could never defend HIMSELF…

But someone did pull the vampire off of her, and in a matter of seconds, he was dust. Buffy took a deep breath as two strong arms delicately picked her off the ground.

Buffy glimpsed at her rescuer and smiled with relief as he hugged her close.

“Are you alright?” Angel asked worryingly, examining her head to toe for any possible injuries.

She nodded. “That was close.” She smiled up at him. “You mind to just go patrolling with me next time to spare me the first attack?”

Angel was nowhere near to being amused. “There won’t be a next time,” he stated, “and this…this is NOT funny. You promised me you’d quit patrolling. What were you thinking? If I weren’t here…” his voice softened as he looked into her eyes. “I don’t know what I’ll do if something happens to you,” he cupped her face gently, “you scared me up to death, do you know that?”

Buffy kissed his hand tenderly and looked at him earnestly. “I’m sorry. I know, you…you’re right. But…I’ve been patrolling for over four years. I mean, that’s what I do. Patrolling. I can’t just stop. You know, it’s just like you. Remember when you first turned human, you didn’t have your strength, and we were doing all sorts of training and stuff, and…and we eventually even got some of it back. I mean, you're fighting in LA, and just look at how you handled this one… It was hard for you at first, and dangerous, but you didn’t just…quit.”

Angel tried to protest. “It’s not the same…”

“Yes, it is. It’s exactly the same. It’s our lives. It’s our routine, you can say. It’s what we do best and what we do always. We can’t just quit, neither of us. That’s why it’s very much the same.”

Angel grinned. “I’m not pregnant.”

“Don’t even go there, mister!” Buffy raised her finger at him menacingly. “You were there, if I’m not mistaken. It takes two to Tango, honey. The fact that I’m the one who got to eventually carry it was a…a…” Buffy cogitated an argument, “mistake. An accident. That’s it. An accident. Next time, you’ll get to carry the baby and I’ll get to nag you 24/7 about not being careful.” She tried to remain solemn, but soon gave in to Angel’s laughter.

“I don’t think that would be possible, love.”

Buffy faked a serious face again. “Don’t tempt me, or else I’ll make it very possible.”

Angel just smiled and stretched out his hand for hers. “Home?” he asked.

Buffy gave him a pleading look, but since that didn’t work… “Oh, okay,” she admitted defeat and put her hand in his as they started heading towards the mansion.

“So, what are you doing here anyway?” she inquired. “I thought you were going back to LA.”

“I was, but then I thought…if there was something really important waiting for me there, Cordelia would call me. And believe me, I did tell her to call ONLY if there was something important. In any rate, she hasn’t, so I decided I’d stick around for the meantime.”

Buffy smiled. “And play the role of my guardian angel of the night?”

Angel returned her smile. “I AM your guardian angel of the night.”

She snuggled closer to him as he kissed her crown. “You always have been.”

Riley gazed at the couple. Millions of thoughts, assumptions, and possibilities flew altogether through his mind.

Why hadn’t Buffy come to him? He knew she knew he was there. He didn’t know about the other man, but Buffy had defiantly heard him calling her name. *Why hasn’t she responded? And more importantly, this other guy...* Riley could have sworn he hadn’t seen him before in his life and he thought he knew all of Buffy’s friends. And yet…Buffy was acting around him so…friendly. He even was afraid to use the definite word. He thought, perhaps if he didn’t reflect upon it, it wouldn’t be true…

She looked as if she had known him all of her life. Riley was definitely jealous. And he…he was so protective, so caring. He acted like…in those few minutes Riley saw the two of them together, it was too easy for him to reach the very just conclusion that this man was in love with her, that she was the only and the most dear thing in the world to him. “Who is he?” Riley asked himself as he kept watching the couple walk off.

A second later, without even noticing it, he was running after them.

“Buffy!” he called, as he attained them. He didn’t overlook them dropping each other’s hands as he halted before them.

Buffy looked awkwardly at her and Angel’s intruder. “Hi,” she said strangely, “what are you doing here?” It was just now that she’d remembered that he actually WAS there. *ALL THE TIME…* A strange look crossed her face as she looked up at Angel. Riley saw them. Now it was definitely time to explain…but how? She hadn’t had lines prepared for that one.

Angel put a supporting hand on her back.

Riley glared at Angel. He saw him for the first time now. He did see him a minute ago, but then it was just someone in the far distance; a shadow of a man, talking to a shadow of a woman he recognized to be Buffy. He couldn’t even hear what they were talking about and he wished he could have heard…

But now he saw him clearly. Before, he could at least hope this opponent was ugly, stupid, or anything else that would assure Riley the upper hand, but now...Riley hated to admit it, but he was impressed. *This man looks perfect,* his jealousy spoke again. Angel's broad shoulders, upright posture, and muscular body appear just right next to Buffy's tiny feminine frame, and he was handsome too… Oh, Riley was jealous. He was so jealous he couldn't control his own thoughts. In fact, if to sum it all up, the guy was pretty much every girl’s dream…and he was standing right beside HIS girl…and so close to her…too close to her… Riley’s jealousy sprung to levels yet unknown to him.

He turned to Buffy again. It irritated him a lot more than he would ever be willing to admit. She looked so comfortable and cozy around this man. This feeling Riley had had, like Buffy was the only thing in the world for this man, it only strengthened itself. But now, he also opened his eyes to something he refused to see before. It was reciprocal.

“Are you…” he mumbled, “going to introduce me to your friend?” *Why do I get the impression he’s more than JUST a friend to her?*

Buffy looked even more uncomfortable. “Umm…Angel – Riley, Riley – Angel,” she gestured between the two, “Riley is a friend,” her eyes contained a much more extensive elucidation when she peered at Angel.

The last statement shocked Riley more than the previous one. *First, shouldn’t she be introducing him to me, and not the other way around?! Second, wasn’t I, the last time I checked, her BOYFRIEND?!*

Angel offered his hand to shake Riley’s. For some reason, Riley despised the content grin on Angel's face as he shook his hand. It was clear they both were ‘civilized for Buffy’, but unlike Riley, Angel seemed to be enjoying the awkward situation. The only difference was blunt between the two. One of them was eaten with jealousy and had every reason to be that way, and he knew that, and the other didn’t care less about his so called ‘challenger’ and he knew he had no reason to.

Abruptly, Buffy spotted Willow and Xander advancing in their direction.

“Guys, is this the ‘follow Buffy wherever she goes day’ or something?” she asked as the two reached their destination.

Willow was puzzled. She looked first at Angel, then at Buffy. “We were around…we heard Riley screaming your name and we…” her voice faded gradually as she shot Angel a ‘What are you doing here?’ glare.

“Well, you know him,” Buffy rushed to explain, “always skulking,” she beamed at Angel, “in the right place in the right time,” she added. He smiled back and they seemed to be lost in the eyes of each other until Willow spoke again.

“And you’re okay with that? I mean, don’t get me wrong, but you were all BUT ‘okay with that’ the last time he was…skulking,” she briefly reminisced of the last time she saw Angel, when he came to Sunnydale at Thanksgiving months ago. She looked back at Angel. “Am I missing out on something here?”

Buffy beamed innocently. “Come on, Will, you know me better than that. Have you actually thought I’d truly stay mad at him because he was here to protect me?”

Willow looked even more confused. “I guess not…but last time, you were really…oh, never mind,” she waved her hand dismissingly.

Xander glanced between Angel and Riley. “I see you two have met,” he pointed out playfully.

Buffy shot him a frown that clearly said ‘Shut up!’ and he decided not to suffer the consequences of defiance.

“I think Buffy and I should get going,” Angel suggested, “we haven’t seen each other in a while. I’m sure there are lots of things we have to talk about. It was nice seeing you all.”

“Angel is right. Demons, and stuff…that’s what we talk about. Demons. I’m sure there were many interesting new…demons, in LA for the past several months, so that…he could tell me all about them. I’ll see you later, guys.”

They turned to walk away when suddenly Angel’s cell phone rang.

“Excuse me,” he addressed the others, and paced a few steps away to talk in private. After a minute, he was back. The apprehensive look on his face couldn’t be missed by anyone, especially Buffy.

“What’s wrong?” she queried.

He didn’t answer, just looked at her.

“Angel, who was that? What’s wrong?”

“Buffy, I…” he was seeking for the right words.

“Was that Cordelia?”

He took a deep breath. “Yeah. Listen, I can’t stay. I have to go back. Tonight.”

Buffy didn’t understand. She felt there was something he wasn’t sharing with her. “That’s all?” she smiled reassuringly at his still anxious expression. “Well, I will still see you next weekend, right?”

Angel looked down. He wished he could talk freely with her. He wished she had told everybody by now.

Willow was amazed. It in fact took her a while to actualize what had just come out of Buffy’s mouth. *There is no other way to spell it out than…’Okay, my-ex-boyfriend-I’ve-been-striving-to-get-out-of-my-life-for-the-past-months, I’ll see you next weekend.’ Did she really say it? And if there is a 'next' weekend, that means there also are 'previous' weekends, and that means...what's going on?*

Buffy was carefully examining Angel's face. “Is there something else?” she asked ultimately.

He nodded. “I haven’t told you everything,” he took her hand and began leading her away from the rest. The three discerned how their holding hands became slowly into her arm, wrapped tightly around his, as they walked farther away.

When Buffy and Angel thought themselves to be out of earshot and sight, they stopped, and Buffy hoped on a large tombstone, as Angel stood in front of her, both his hands leaning on both sides of the tombstone.

They were wrong. They were definitely out of earshot, but Riley, Willow, and Xander could witness very clearly every motion of the two. Sometimes, the body language said more than any words ever could…

Buffy raised his chin to level their eyes when she saw he was looking down instead of looking at her. “What was it you haven’t told me?”

“When I told you that…Cordelia was supposed to call me, if anything important happened…I didn’t tell you what that important thing was,” he hesitated.

Buffy smiled, to ease more herself than him. She wrapped her legs around his waist and pulled him closer to her. “You’re making me nervous,” she encircled her arms around his neck.

Angel gazed up at her with sadness in his eyes. He untangled her arms off his neck and took her hands in his. “I’ll have to go away for a while,” he said, “a long while. A week or two…maybe more.”

Buffy lost all will to pretend being cheerful. “What? Where? W…why?”

“A very long time ago, I found out some cult was trying to resurrect a very powerful demon. I only knew it was somewhere in Ireland. My source wasn’t really reliable, he acknowledged me in a point when I was too late to cut it short in the outset. I had to wait until I could fight the demon itself and then kill it once and for all. Cordelia has just called to say that…it’s now. I have to go now.”

Buffy was shaking with yet unshed tears, as her eyes widened more and more with every passing second. She removed her legs from his waist. “But…but you can’t,” she pleaded, “you can’t fight…”

Angel smiled bitterly. “Well, I wasn’t building on turning human anytime soon when that came up.”

Buffy wiped away the tears that already started to stream down her cheeks. “You can’t go,” she whispered.

He just beamed at her sadly. “Honey, I have to. Besides, I pretty much think I can pull it off,” he wiped her tears with his thumbs. “I’ll come back to you. In one piece. I promise.”

Buffy leaned forward and wrapped her arms tightly around him, as he did the same.

Angel picked her off the gravestone and held her in his arms as she was sobbing into his black coat. “It’s okay,” he whispered soothingly, while stroking her hair. “Everything will be okay, love. I promise. I’m coming back. I’m always coming back.”

He drew away slightly, just enough to meet her heartbreaking gaze. “Take it like this, when I’ll come back, I’ll be missing you so much I’ll never leave again.” He gently brushed her soft cheek with his finger. “What do you think about that?”

Angel was on the verge of crying himself. It was so hard pretending around her, so hard lying to her. He knew exactly where it was leading. Pure and complete happiness wasn’t allowed in his case, human or not. He could never be truly happy. In the end of his road, there had always been awaiting the inevitable heartbreak. That was the only thing his two hundred and forty five years had taught him. He hated the fact that their lives were like this. He hated living in the shadow of ‘too good to be true’. Saying goodbye before he had to leave...they had already been once through that scenario. It had ended badly then, even very badly. Was there any reason why it wouldn’t end the same now? Angel knew he had to leave, he knew he had to go and fight that thing, whatever it was. The cause he served alone was worth it. Buffy was right when she said to him that this was what they did best and this was what they did always. They couldn’t just quit. The fact that it cost them their lives…was something to live with. Buffy was also right about another thing. He couldn’t fight. Yeah, sure, he was strong enough to slay vampires, some everyday demons too, he had to give himself at least that, but how could they resemble THIS demon? He didn’t want to leave her. Especially now, he couldn’t leave her. How could he leave, when he knew he most likely wouldn't be coming back?

“I should be doing that,” Buffy said all of a sudden, “I should be doing that, not you. I’m the damn Slayer…I can’t let you go…” she blubbered as she hugged him again, “I can’t let you leave me…”

Angel let his tears run free, holding his beloved close to his heart, whispering in her ear promises he knew he wouldn’t be able to keep.

Finally, they drew away from each other. “I should go,” he said.

Buffy nodded, wiping her tears, along with his.

Angel wrapped one arm around her, and she nestled closer than was possible to his side. She didn’t care anymore that she had a life-long news to break to her friends before they could see them together like that. She just wanted to feel safe in her love’s arms…before he'd leave. They slowly started making their way back towards the others.

Even though they could see something horrible was discussed between Buffy and Angel by their body language, they couldn’t hear the words, therefore were clueless about the actual thing. But when the couple came back, their visibly teary faces told them that ‘horrible’ was an understatement. Them embracing each other so tightly was another strike, but it seemed to be a side issue at the point, at least as far as Willow was concerned.

“What happened?” she asked them.

Buffy sniffled. “Nothing,” she fastened her grip around Angel's waist.

His cell phone pealed again.

“What?” he asked, anger and anguish reflecting in his tone.

“Are you on your way yet?” they heard Cordelia’s voice. “I booked your tickets to…”

She hadn’t finished when Buffy snatched the phone from Angel. “He’ll be there, Cordelia!” she shouted and hanged up.

Angel stared at her wretchedly as her quivering hand handed him back the cellular.

“I’m sorry,” she mumbled.

Angel hugged her, relishing the smell of her hair, and the feeling of her body snuggled against his…

“I love you,” Buffy whispered softly.

The hearts of their audience skipped a beat due to these three words. And in the same time, two of them knew exactly just how much these words were true.

“I love you too, honey,” he replied, and pulled back to meet her lips in a bittersweet kiss.

One of his hands slid down to rest on her abdomen. Once he smoothed the fabric of her oversized shirt, her pregnancy became evident to the eye. One of her hands lay on top of his. “I can already feel him inside of you,” he whispered, his tears choking on his voice.

Buffy angled his face up to meet her eyes. “We’ll be there,” she vowed, “both of us. Weeks, months, even years. It doesn’t matter. It’s not that long. Not as long as I know you’re coming back.”

Angel kneeled down and softly kissed her stomach. That only brought another tear rolling down Buffy’s cheek. Then he stood back up, and leaned forward to kiss Buffy on her temple.

Then he turned away, her hand stretching out after him, and not letting go until his fingertips reluctantly slid through hers.

Buffy looked down, and subconsciously brought her now empty palm to her abdomen, as her other hand covered her mouth, muffling her heartrending sobs, as Angel's shadow was swallowed in the night.

Riley intended to open his mouth to speak, when she suddenly looked back at the three of them. “Not now,” she told them, it was more a request than a command, and walked away.

Part Six

Baby, can you feel me?
Imagining I'm looking in your eyes
I can see you clearly
Vividly emblazoned in my mind
And yet you're so far
Like a distant star
I'm wishing on tonight

- Mariah Carey, "My All"

Buffy wasn’t paying much attention to what Willow was babbling about. They were sauntering through the dark streets, on their way to Buffy’s doctor appointment. While Willow was excitedly blathering about something Buffy stopped listening to a long time ago, the Slayer’s mind was, typically, elsewhere.

The baby had been rapidly growing inside her, and one day she woke up...eight months pregnant. She quitted slaying after he'd left, like she'd promised, and the Slayerrets, Spike included, took over. She more or less was leading a, relatively to the Hellmouth, calm life. It was odd at first, to stop what she had been doing for so long, but it didn’t seem so substantial to her in the long run. Buffy became a mother. Perhaps, prematurely. She was only twenty, after all, but a mother. She became more cautious, more responsible, and more reliable. She swiftly understood that there was not only herself she needed to look after. It was a difficult adjustment to make, while also learning to count on no one but herself. Sure, she had her friends, but what could they do when she would really need someone? All they could supply was a shoulder to cry on, a few soothing words if she needed, and that was it. They were there for her now, even if none of them had the slightest impression of how she truly felt and what she had been going through. They hadn’t seen her cry. Or at least, she thought they hadn’t, because she tried her best not to expose her emotions before them. She chose to keep her feelings to herself, living under the premise that someone who hadn’t been through something would never fully sympathize with someone who had. To some extent, she was right. They had never understood why exactly she and Angel had loved each other so much. They’d never tried to get to the core of what made them inseparable ever since the moment they first lay eyes on each other. Initially, it was the big 'no-no' for a vampire and a Slayer to be together. Then, it was a definite no-no for a vampire to ruin a young girl’s entire future by pursuing an any kind of a relationship with her. What they felt never mattered to anyone. What mattered was what they were. And being what they were, and being together was unconventional. Unconventional was wrong. Period.

After the first shock, they actually took rather well the fact that their Slayer and ex-vampire were once again a couple. Willow was undeniably happier for Buffy than she had expected her to be. Xander reacted characteristically, but she wasn’t so flabbergasted. She knew exactly how he felt about Angel. He didn’t care if he were human or not. He could never be good enough for Buffy, as far as Xander was concerned. At least, one thing went well, his summarizing speech was ‘whatever makes you happy’.

As time was passing, Buffy became more and more aware of what was truly going on in her life, and she didn't like what she saw. Her friends, or those who were supposed to be her friends, weren't real anymore. Everyone was so preoccupied with their own lives, they paid very little attention to what was happening to her. She couldn't blame them. Not really, because even despite of her pain, she was aware of that she wasn't alone in the world, but she couldn't help but wishing to receive a little more compassion from them, instead of constantly being told how they 'couldn't believe she picked Angel over Riley'. Sometimes, Buffy hoped at least Willow would understand her. She always had, after all. But Willow had problems with Oz, and the little romantic red-haired witch seemed to be gone now. Buffy no longer felt she could call Willow in the middle of the night, telling her how she had a dream about Angel, or how she missed him, because for the first in their four years of friendship, Buffy didn't want to wake her up...

It was strange at first, but soon Buffy understood that her only real best friend was no other than Spike. Spike, of all people, the one she had thought so long ago to be her worst enemy, was now her best friend. To HIM, she could call, or even come, in any hour of the day or night, with no second thoughts about whether she should tell him or not, because she knew he'd always be there to listen, and will at least try to understand, even though most of the times it seemed to her he didn't need to try. Unlike with her friends, she had never had to think twice before crying in front of him, because she knew that unlike them, he'd never ask himself the question 'why is she crying if these are the choices she made for herself?'. he'd just hold her until she stopped. As surprising as it was, Spike always had time for her. Maybe it was because he didn't have relationship issues of his own to deal with, maybe it wasn't. But whatever was the reason - he always had time.

Buffy wasn't stupid. She knew that in some point, Spike had a huge crush on her. He even told her so himself. But she also knew it was over. He was her friend. Her BEST friend, as she could proudly say, but nothing more. And that was enough, and she was so grateful for that, because besides Spike, sometimes she truly felt she had no one.

And there was Riley. The poor guy had no idea what to expect for when he saw the one he thought to be his girlfriend, in the arms of another man, and not just in the arms of another man, but one who she said ‘I love you’ to, and who said it back. Furthermore, her best friends knew who he was. That could only mean one thing – he had been in her life before. He had been a BIG part of her life, because they seemed to know him VERY well. And there was no need to add to that Buffy’s own behavior.

When she finally told him who he was, Riley was understatedly shaken. It wasn’t enough she had a fiance; a fiance whose child she had been carrying, but that this fiance had just RECENTLY become human, after being a vampire, and not just a vampire but Angelus, for centuries?!

Only the thought of his face when she had told him, brought a little smile to Buffy’s lips. Only this smile faded quickly, when she reminisced of how he one day appeared on her doorstep, saying he didn’t care who her fiance was, and that he would love to restore whatever relationship they had, and that he would even raise her child as his own, if she took him back. Buffy only gaped at him, wide eyed, asking whether the fact that the child she was carrying was of the ONE man she loved and that HE was her fiance, had miraculously slipped his mind. To that, Riley only said that if he were still alive, he would be back by now, because it had been months. He immediately regretted saying that though, seeing the tears starting in her eyes. She slammed the door in his face that time, and really didn’t see him for a while, but he wouldn’t take 'no' for an answer and returned after a few weeks, with a more cautious approach this time. Buffy had it with him. If he liked so much making nonsense of himself, and following her around, it was fine by her. It was a free country. As long as at least SHE knew that NOTHING would EVER happen there, he could do whatever he wanted. She waited for Angel. She had promised him she would wait for him, and she was. If forever was what it took, she would wait forever.

Even as more time had flown by, she wouldn’t permit herself to even consider his death as an option. Faith and life had been mean to her, she couldn’t deny that. They had been mean to both of them, but even they couldn’t be so cruel to take him away from her when they were finally so genuinely happy. Even they couldn’t take from a yet unborn child the privilege of meeting his father.

Buffy looked down on her belly and smiled as she gently caressed it with her palm. The doctor told her it would be a boy, but somehow, she and Angel had already known before. Liam Allan O'Connor. Her and Angel’s boy. She still remembered how her eyes filled with tears when she first saw his little image on the ultrasound screen. She wished so much Angel could be there to see it too, and to be there so many times afterwards. She wanted him to be with her every step of the way; like he had promised. A small part of her was so angry with him for leaving, the other part understood. She occasionally pondered how would she act in his place? What would she do? She could never reach an ultimate verdict though.

The only thing Buffy knew was that she missed him, she loved him, and she needed him, and he wasn’t there. She had shed a lot of tears due to that. It was insufferable for her to live all these months, not knowing where he was, or what was happening to him. She was walking around with the cell phone he had bought her, never leaving the house without it, expecting for him to call, expecting to hear his voice, telling her he’s alright, that he’s on his way back… It was unfeasible for her to just sit there; knowing that maybe the man she loved needed her, maybe he was in pain, maybe he was…she wasn’t able to even suppose it. She dealt. She had to deal. Buffy didn’t want to face the world alone, she didn’t know how to. For as long as she could remember, she always had Angel to turn to, she always knew she could run to him if she needed anything. He was always there for her and she didn’t know loneliness. Even when they weren’t together, the mere awareness of that he was there, somewhere, was enough to convince her that she wasn’t alone. And now he wasn’t…

“Buffy?” Willow elbowed her arm. “Where are you?”

Buffy turned to look at her with a start. “Umm…here. You were saying?”

“No, actually, now I wasn’t saying anything. I was waiting for you to snap back into reality.” She seemed a little annoyed that Buffy hadn’t heard a single thing she'd said, but tempered when she saw her friend’s countenance. “You can’t keep doing that, Buffy,” she advised sadly, “I understand what you’re going through…”

Buffy gave her a cynical glare. “You don’t have a clue.”

Willow looked away, aggravated, then turned back to Buffy. “I’m trying, okay? I can’t help you if you don’t let me, and you don’t let anyone...but Spike,” she added quickly. "God, Buffy, you talk to SPIKE, but you don't talk to me?"

Buffy smirked. *I wonder why...* “Let’s not have that argument again, okay? This is entirely pointless, Willow, and please leave Spike out of this, because we both know it's not about him." She took a deep breath. "Despite what you think, you can’t help me. The only way in which you can help me, is by bringing him back. Can you do that, Willow? Can you bring him back?” Buffy felt the tears rushing out again. She struggled against them. She didn’t want to cry. When she cried in front of them, it made her look weak, and when she looked weak, she felt weak, and she couldn’t afford that, not when the uppermost goal she’d been endeavoring to accomplish daily was to remain strong, and somewhat sane, in light of the circumstances.

Willow wasn’t oblivious to that fighting was not exactly what her friend needed right now. “I know you love him,” she said, “I can understand it’s insupportable to lose someone you love.”

“Not like that, you can’t. And you should pray to God you'll never be able to.”

“Buffy, you can’t keep it up like that. You keep pushing Riley away all the time, when he practically offers you everything you can ever need. How long will you keep doing that? I’m sorry you have to face it, but it’s been months. Maybe not now, but this child WILL need a father figure in his life, and you…you will find someone else to love in due course.”

Buffy just stared at her. *How could she be so emotionless? She’s supposed to be my friend! * “This child has a father,” she asserted, “and I have someone to love. And I’m sorry to disappoint you, but there will be no one else. And if you love Riley so much, so you might as well go and marry him yourself!” She increased her walking pace, by that indicating the conversation was over.

Part Seven

And you can't fight the tears that ain't coming
Or the moment of truth in your lies
When everything feels like the movies
Yeah, you bleed just to know you're alive
And I don't want the world to see me
Cuz I don't think that they'd understand
When everything's made to be broken
I just want you to know who I am

- Goo Goo Dolls, "Iris"

Three years had passed by. Sometimes it seemed like the time stood still, and sometimes it was flying faster than Buffy could follow. She had graduated from college, and had her degree. Like she needed it, anyway. Had she actually expected to run a career, altogether with being a Slayer and a mother? No. She hadn't. She wasn't counting on her degree, or on anything else in her life, for that matter. Buffy took charge on Angel Investigations and it had become her prime and only income. It, and all the money Angel had left her was enough for her to buy a house in Sunnydale, and quietly raise her son there, doing daily drives to LA and back, to get to work. She didn't know why she hadn't just moved to the City of Angels once and for all, she just hadn't. Or maybe 'couldn't' would be phrased better...

Cordelia and Doyle were still working there. Cordelia's acting career had never taken off, as was expected, and she remained in AI. She and Doyle were involved in a very weird to the incognizant eye, but a strong and serious relationship, with a promising future.

In Sunnydale, everything had pretty much remained the same. All, but one least expected event, that is. Anya was abruptly notified she could recapture her demonic powers back, and her immortality. As soon as she found that out, she left Xander, to go back to her old life of a vengeance demon. He'd never imparted his feelings about the whole situation to neither of his friends, but they all knew his heart was broken. He loved Anya. He presumed she loved him too.

But to everyone's surprise, Anya showed up in his house a week later, begging for forgiveness, and telling him that she declined her chance to be a demon one more time, once she realized it would mean to never again be with Xander. He, of course, forgave her and took her back.

Willow and Oz had been having their own on-again-off-again relationship up until a year and a half ago, then they broke up and he left, because he needed to sort things out with himself, and couldn't do it in the middle of everything that had been going on between him and Willow. She had been having random dates while he was gone, but never a real lasting relationship. For the time being, she was alone.

Joyce had been diagnosed with a brain tumor, but several months later had a successful surgery to remove it. She was different after that. More open to new experiences, and a lot more cherishing and enjoying life. After spending over two months in traveling pretty much everywhere around the world, she had decided to start a new page in life. The first thing she did, in surprise to everyone, was to move out of the old Summers' house and back to LA, to reconcile with Buffy's father.

Giles had moved back to England, after the Council had asked him to come back, but not to become a Watcher. They had offered him one of the highest positions and with the utmost authority, which after many persuasions from the Scooby gang and Buffy, he'd accepted. They still kept in touch. They talked over the phone, exchanged letters, they even visited one another a couple of times. He was still her dad, after all, just as she was his only daughter.

And Buffy…

Well, Buffy had always been alone. She hadn't had a single date for over three years. Her heart remained as loyal to a memory and a ghost, as it had been once to the real person. Her Angel. She had never forgotten her Angel. She hadn't allowed other men into her life. She ignored her mom, Giles, and her friends, telling her she hadn't been leading a healthy lifestyle. She didn't care. Not anymore, she didn't. An unhealthy life. That was in a nutshell.

Buffy had had a drinking problem, which lasted for nearly a year, and began about four months after Liam was born. It wasn't only an alcohol addiction, but it had certainly started like one. One day, she simply sank into an overtly incurable depression. One day, the fact that Angel was gone, became too tormenting to hold up under. She had kept blaming herself for his death all that time. Yes, she had come to terms with his death. She had to finally accept it as an inevitable, she had no other choice. All the sleepless nights, all the tears, it was all vainly. Didn't matter. She knew that she could never cry enough tears to bring her love back. He was gone. He was gone for good. So, after the realization that tears weren't going to help in any way, she drowned her grief in alcohol. It was an easy escape. When she drank, she forgot. She forgot everything. She forgot his face, she forgot his touch, his smile, his eyes, his lips, his embrace, his kiss, his caress...all that was so dear to her shattered soul...she forgot. And then she could feign. It was so easy to feign. She would walk around drunk in a wretched and almost gruesome fashion, but at least her heart, in those hours, would be at a relative peace. She didn't feel anything. She didn't feel the pain. She wasn't exposed to the excruciating and intolerable woe, which coalesced with his loss. When she was drunk, she was free.

But this, as all the 'good' things, had to end eventually. Buffy was very soon forced to choose between her son and the booze, because it was clear to her she could never have both. He didn't deserve a drunken mother. She was all that child had had left. After losing his father without even the chance to get to know him, she was all he had. Buffy vowed he would never lose her too. It was slow, and it was painful, even a lot more painful than she presupposed it to be, but she managed to pull herself back together, and to collect the pieces of the crushed wreckage she had become. If only to honor Angel's memory, to honor the image HE preserved of her, she went back to being the old Buffy. She hurt, and she grieved, and she screamed with anguish, and without the drink it became even more unfeasible to cope, but she had to. She still had her son. Her and Angel's son.

Liam was born prematurely. Buffy was very sick at the time, and maybe due to the infirmity of her body, the child was born a couple of weeks before due. It was a hard delivery. The pain Buffy had felt was unrivaled. She was twisting, and squealing, and calling Angel's name helplessly, but his hand wasn't there to hold hers. Instead, there was the always loyal Spike, and of course, Giles. No Angel. Just a memory in her heart she couldn't let go, but still, no Angel.

And then, she was in her hospital bed, while Spike was slumbering in a chair nearby, seemingly more spent after the delivery than she. Tears were running down her cheeks, as she gazed down at the tiny infant cradled in her arms, who was staring up at her with his soft chocolate orbs. And then a nurse walked in cheerfully, handing her a blank birth certificate to fill.

Name: Liam Allan O'Connor. Mother: Buffy Anne...O'Connor. Father: Angel O'Connor.

Years flew by. And still, it's as if it had all just transpired. But no. It had been over three years. And the pain was nowhere near being over, if anything, with every passing day, with every passing minute, it would only increase.

It took her that long to resolve to come here. She hadn't been able to do it before. She just hadn't been strong enough. She wasn't strong enough now too, but she had made up her mind. She needed to see, needed to see with her own eyes. And more importantly, she needed Liam to see too. He was only three, she knew it, but for some reason, he needed to see.

So, she came. She looked, and she asked, and she found. She winded up in a small secluded hamlet, hidden somewhere in the Irish Mountains. A place that to a first glance, it looked like the civilization skipped it, or perhaps it looked like it to her, because the only other place she had ever known was America. But anyway, that's where she found herself in the end. And now, she was standing in the middle of a bustling circle of locals, who were all scrutinizing her distrustfully, and whose eyes widened with secret fear, once she told them the reason for her arrival. No one agreed to answer any of her questions. They had all been gibbering peevishly for the past maybe ten minutes, as Buffy was helplessly standing in between them, one of her hands tightly clasped in the small hand of her son. A burdensome cloud of dread and secrets hovered above these people, the interpretation of which, Buffy wasn't able to fathom.

All of a sudden, a girl paved her way through the crowd, approaching Buffy. As she did so, the people had quieted all at once, gaping at her.

Buffy's eyes also focused on her for some reason. She didn't look more than thirteen, fourteen maybe. She had an earnest, but a girlish face, and a long golden hair, just like Buffy's, only a little bit darker.

She paused right before the Slayer, taking a good long look at her, as if examining all of her features. "I know you," she said ultimately. Her youthful voice was grave. It was made out as a statement.

"No, you can't," Buffy replied, "you must be confusing me with someone else."

"No, I know you," the girl insisted, "your name is..." she frowned, as if trying to recall the name, "it's Buffy. It is Buffy, right?"

Buffy gaped at her with incredulity. She could swear she had NEVER seen that girl before in her life.

"Mommy, she knows your name," she heard her little boy's voice. "How?"

Buffy looked down at him, perplexity manifested in her eyes. "I don't know, sweetie." Then she looked back at the girl. "How do you know my name? Who are you?"

"My name is Julia, but everyone calls me Julie," the girl smiled, but it wasn't a happy smile. Buffy wondered why. But before she could think it through again, she was tugged away by Julie who took a grip on her free hand, with Liam still holding onto her other hand. "I'll explain everything," Julie whispered, while leading them away from the others.

After approximately fifteen minutes of walking, they were in the middle of a forest, and only then Julie had abruptly come to a halt.

"Well?" Buffy inquired her. "You haven't said a word the entire way here, can you please tell me what's going on now?"

Julie sighed. "I'm not allowed, no one is allowed, to talk about it back in the village. So, I couldn't say anything until we were out."

Buffy was now even more confused. "Talk about what?"

"Everything. Everything that happened here...three years ago. Nobody talks about it. Nobody reminds it, even as a lapse. They all want to forget."

Buffy's eyes widened. She listened carefully.

Julie perched down on a fallen log. "I was ten then. It wasn't that long ago. That haunted our village, it killed...ate, many people. Men, women, only several months, the village's population narrowed to a half. Then, HE came," her eyes locked with Buffy's. "He said he came here to help. No one had offered to help us before, he was the first one. Nobody took him seriously though, nobody believed him. He had nowhere to stay, so my mother invited him into our home, in exchange for helping her in chores like chopping wood, and everything else my dad used to do. My dad...died, several days before he came to help us. That thing took him. Angel agreed, and for about a week, he had been living with us. He became a family to my mom and me. Angel and I were spending a lot of time together. In the days I got to know him, he became my best friend. He could almost replace my dad sometimes. We talked a lot. That's why I recognized you, you know. He spoke so much about you, that I could picture you in my head without even having seen you once. He described you perfectly. I know I'm just a girl, that's why people usually don't take me seriously and don't share their feelings and secrets with me, but he wasn't like them. He talked to me, and understood me. He really was like my second dad." Buffy noticed a tear running down Julie's cheek. Only then, she noticed that her own face had already been completely wet.

"He loved you so much," Julie went on, "you were his angel, his only wish was to come back to you, for you. It was all he wanted. He was so scared he'd never see you again, that he'd never see his son," a small sob escaped both hers and Buffy's lips, and she spoke again. "After a week or so, he had everything ready, face that...that thing, so he left. Before he did, he told me to give you something, and to tell you that he loved you, incase he didn't come back. He knew you would come here eventually. I don't know how, he just knew." Silently, Julie rose from the chump she was sitting on, and paced to a nearest tree. She stooped there, and started digging for something in the ground. After five minutes, she returned to her seat, with a tiny ferruginous iron case in her hand. She gave it to Buffy. "I had never opened it. It's yours."

Buffy opened the box with trembling fingers. Inside, she found a silver Claddagh ring. She took it out and clasped it in her fist, pressing her hands to her forehead and sobbing quietly, as the box fell from her lap, to the wet ground. "Oh, God, Angel..." she cried.

"I'm sorry," Julie cried too, "I'm so sorry, I..." She stood up, taking Buffy's hand and pulling the still weeping Slayer after her. They reached a small meadow, where Buffy descried a large stone, with miscellaneous flowers scattered around and on it.

Julie stopped when they reached the boulder. "There was a fire," she told in a cracked voice. "Instead of the wrecks on that mountain you can see from the village, there was once a castle. It was old, and stories told it was haunted. That's where that...creature...lived. Angel went there. He hadn't come back after a few hours, and then the fire began. The fortress was burned to the core. There was nothing left. People came there later, but they found nothing but ashes, and burned wood and stones. No bodies. The creature has never come back. So hasn't Angel."

Buffy perched down on the grass, laying one gentle hand on the cold stone, so cold that it seemed to sting her palm, while her other hand remained pressed to her face as she sobbed, with the Claddagh clasped securely in it.

"This place," Julie continued, "Angel and I used to come here a lot, just to talk, or to do anything. He used to sit on this stone, and I would sit on his knees, and he would tell me stories. I've turned it into a memorial for him. No one knows about it but me. I...I come here now and then. He wasn't just the one who saved all of our lives, he was my closest friend. It's all I could do for him, even though it's so little," she cried. "I'm sorry you lost him because of us..."

Buffy covered her face with her hands, her body quivering with heartbreaking sobs. "I love you," she lamented silently, "God, Angel, I love you," she whispered again and again, shaking with every word.

"Mommy," a soft little voice called for her, and Liam put his small palm on her trembling shoulder.

She looked up only to see tears in his deep brown eyes too. The intelligence and the understanding in them were unlike anything she had ever seen before...except for those she would always find in his father's orbs. She wrapped her arms around him, rocking him as they both cried, in the memory of shattered dreams.

On to Dreams of Loneliness