Forever... That's The Whole Point

Author: angellover

Disclaimer: Don't own it. It all belongs to Joss and Company. The only thing that belongs to me are the mistakes i the story.

Spoilers: AU. No demons, vampires, or any other evil. Angel is normal. Buffy is normal. And life is normal. Yeah, normal, right. Nothing's ever normal where our beloved couple is concerned. Stay tuned and you'll see what I mean. Now, with that said here's the deal. Eighteen year old Buffy Summers falls for rich Angel O'Conner, but she has a secret that may tear them apart.

Rating: NC17

Feedback: Love it.

Distribution: Notify if archived

Music: Completely by Jennifer Day

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CHAPTER 1


"Come in!" Buffy Summers called out in response to the knock on her bedroom door, and turned around just in time to see her older brother Doyle enter the room.

"Hey, Munchkin. Whatcha doing?"

"Trying on this new outfit." She replied, as she turned back to her Chevelle mirror to look at the outfit she was wearing again. "What do you think? Do you like it?"

Doyle moved to her bed, and sat down. "Well... I uhh... Is it one of your creations?"

"Just the top." She smoothed her hands over the purple and black corset style top, and tugged at the matching black leather pants. "And you never answered my question, Doyle. Do you like it?"

"Well, uhh..." He met her gaze in the mirror. "It's a little revealing, don't you think?"

"No. Everything's covered, Doyle. And for your information, this happens to be the style right now, and I have to keep up with the styles. Especially now that I'm getting OLDER." She turned around to give him a funny look. "I want to look like the woman I'm becoming."

"Am I missing something here, Sis?" Doyle asked, doing his best not to smile.

"No, I guess not." Buffy mumbled before moving to her bedroom window.

"Munchkin?"

"What?"

"Happy Birthday."

She spun around excitedly to find Doyle standing behind her with a big smile on his face, and a gold wrapped box in his hands. "You remembered!" She yelled, taking the present from him and launching herself into his arms at the same time.

"Of course, I remembered." Doyle laughed, and returned her hug. "How could I forget my baby sister's eighteenth birthday?" He pulled away to look at her. "Especially when..."

"I still can't believe you remembered." Buffy cut him off. "I mean, I hoped you would, but I wasn't sure. You've been so busy lately." She moved over to her bed and sat down. "I barely see you anymore. Between the new job and the new place... We never spend time together anymore. Not like we used."

"We see each other at school everyday, five days a week, Buffy." Doyle walked back over to the bed and sat down beside her.

"I see Mr. Summers, the sophmore English teacher, at school five days a week, Doyle. Not Doyle Summers, my brother. And even when I do see you it's just in passing." She looked down at the present in her hands to keep him from seeing the tears in her eyes. "Damn that dickhead Snyder. I don't understand why he won't let me hangout with you. I mean, what's the big deal? It's not like I take your class, and what is the difference between my hanging out with you and my hanging out with Giles? He's practically family, too. He's sleeping with our mother for christ's sake!"

Doyle nervously cleared his throat. "You don't know that, Buffy."

Buffy's head shot up, her eyes locking with her brother's flustered ones. "Oh come on, Doyle! I'm a virgin, not an idiot. Do you honestly think I don't know what goes on between Mom and Giles when they go on their all night dates? And good god, what the hell are you blushing for? It's not like you and I've never discussed sex before. In case you've forgotten, big brother you were the one that told me about the birds and the bees in the first place."

"Telling you about the birds and the bees and actually discussing our mother's sex life are two completely different matters, Buffy."

"So are you admitting she actually has one?"

"No!" He jumped up from the bed. "And even if I were I wouldn't be discussing it with you, Buffy!"

"Oh, I see..." She muttered. "This is that whole *I have to protect Buffy for her own good* thing again. You and Mom... I swear the two of you act like I'm totally incapable of talking about sex much less having it."

"Buffy..." Doyle gave her a pained look.

"Oh, forget it..." She flopped back on the bed. "I give up. I might as well just give up talking to either one of you period. It's not like either one of you are around that much to listen anyway."

"I'm here whenever you need me, Munchkin. All you have to do is pick up the phone and call me, or get in the car and drive to my apartment."

"Newsflash, Doyle! I don't have a car, remember? And that little red convertible... The one I've been dreaming about since I was sixteen isn't going to just magically appear in the driveway. Especially since Mom can't afford to buy me one and totally refuses to let me work."

"Ahhh..." Doyle crawled back on the bed and laid down beside her. "I think we're finally getting to the root of the real problem here."

"What problem?"

"This mood you've been in for months. You're still angry at Dad."

"I'm not mad at you or Giles."

"I was talking about Hank, Buffy. Let me guess, he didn't call, did he?"

She looked up at the ceiling. "Nope. And why you would even think he would is beyond me."

Doyle reached over to brush a lock of hair of her forehead. "I'm sorry, Munchkin."

"Sorry for what, Doyle? I got over that dickhead a long time ago." She looked over at him. "Besides, you got the more shittier end of the stick than I did. He just forgot about me. You... He basically tortured you for years, then forgot about you."

"People get messed sometimes, Buffy. Did you ever stop to think that maybe he has serious problems. Problems he can't talk about with anyone."

Buffy sat up. "I don't fucking believe this! You're defending him?"

"No, I'm just saying..."

"That maybe he has problems. Yeah, yeah. I heard that part, Doyle." Buffy exploded. "And my reply to you is what problems? He's rich! He lives in a million dollar house with his latest flavor of the month, drives a fancy car, and travels all over the world while Mom's here working her ass off seven days a week just trying to make ends meet because he's too fucking tight with his money to help raise us!" She shot of the bed. "But I guess you forgot about Mom, right, Doyle? Forgot it was her that raised you... Loved you."

"I havn't forgotten anything Mom has done for me, Buffy"

"Then why are you defending him?"

"I'm not defending him. I'm just saying I don't want to waste my time hating him anymore. Life is precious, Buffy. You taught me that, and I don't want to waste one second of my time hating him. Especially when I don't know the reasons why he did the things he did. Why he does the things he does."

"Money!" Buffy screamed. "Money is the root of all evil, Doyle and he's a self centered bastard who's obsessed with it! Gods! I can't believe you're stupid enough to think that there's another reason for him being the way he is! I can't believe you don't hate him! Especially after the way he treated you and Mom!" She spun away from him to try and get her rage under control.

"Do you really want to know why I can't hate him, Buffy? It's because of Mom. It's because of you. He gave me the both of you. When my real mom died the only reason he took me in was because of Mom... Joyce... She told me she fell in love with me the very first time she met me. It wasn't long after her and Dad got engaged. I came for a weekend visit. I was only two years old, but I can still remember how loving she was. How she always made me feel special everytime I visited after that, and things didn't change after her and Dad got married. She let me pick out my own bedroom when they bought this house, and she even let me help decorate it. She told me that this was my home too, even if I couldn't be here seven days and week, and gods if she hadn't been there for me after me real Mom died I don't know what would have happened to me. She may not be my biological mother, Buffy but she is my real Mom. That fact became even more true the day her and Dad went to court for the divorce. I will never ever forget what she told the judge when he asked her what she wanted from the divorce. She told him all she wanted was her kids. Not kid, Buffy. Kids. She told him she wanted you and me, and I couldn't have loved her anymore than I loved her at that moment." He stood up and moved up behind her. "And then there's you, Munchkin. He gave me you, and I know all the experts say that an older child usually hates the younger sibling, but not me. I adored you from the very first moment Mom and Dad brought you home from the hospital. I was only four years old, but I can still remember how Mom let me sit on the couch and hold you in my lap. God, you were so tiny... So tiny... And I was so terrified you would break, but then you opened those big beautiful eyes of yours and looked at me with so much trust, and I swore right then and there that I was going to be your protector. And okay, maybe I haven't always done such a great job at my duties, and yes, maybe I am a little overprotective at times, but it's only because I love you. I love you so much, Buffy and it's because I do love you and adore you that I can't hate him. Whether you like it or not he helped give you life and I could never hate anyone that gave me one of the most precious things in this world to me."

"Oh, Doyle." A sob tore from Buffy's throat, and she turned around to throw herself in his arms again. "I'm sorry. S-So sorry. I... I just... Things are s-so messed lately. S-School... A-And other stuff... I'm s-sorry."

Doyle stroked her hair in comfort. "It's not easy growing up, huh?"

"Uh uh..." She sniffled.

"It gets better, I promise." He pulled away to look at her. "Now do me a favor and dry up those tears of yours. You know I can't stand to see you cry. Besides, it's your birthday and you still have to open your present from me."

"O-Okay." She swiped her tears away and let him lead her back to the bed to sit down. "Go on." Doyle urged, gesturing to the present. "Open it."

Buffy did as he instructed, and gasped when she opened the lid to box that had been underneath the wrapping paper. "Oh my god, Doyle!" Her stunned eyes flew to his. "You shouldn't have..." She picked up the check from inside the box with shaking hands. "This is..."

"For the little red convertible fund." He grinned.

"B-But.."

"No buts, Munchkin." He leaned over and kissed her cheek. "Happy Birthday."

She hugged him. "Thank you. It's the best present ever. You're the best brother ever. I love you."

"I love you, too." He patted her back, then pulled away. "So... Do you have any plans for this special occassion?"

She shook her head no. "Not really. I'm just Bronzing it." She stared at the check in her hands. "I don't really want to go, but I didn't have the heart to say no to Will and Xand. They have their hearts set on helping me celebrate. What about you? Do you have any plans?"

"Actually, I do. I figured you'd have plans, so I sorta made a date with someone."

"W-What?" Buffy's startled eyes flew back to her brother. "You have a d-date?"

"Mmm..." He smiled. "My first one in over a year. I'm actually nervous."

Buffy was happy for her brother. She really was, but at the same time she couldn't help but envy him for doing what she wanted to do. Date... Have a significant other... Someone to love, and who would love her equally as much. But that was never going to happen to her, and she had finally come to terms with it. Or at least she thought she had. Especially since... And okay, she wasn't even going to go there. "A d-date. Wow."

"I know." Doyle glanced over at her. "I just I hope I remember how to do it."

"I'm sure you'll do fine." She patted his knee. "But if you're really that nervous about it maybe you should cancel. You could be my date tonight instead."

"Uh uh, Buffy. The last thing you need is your older, very overprotective brother tagging along with you tonight. Besides, I said I was nervous, not crazy. This woman... She happens to be gorgeous."

"And you're saying I'm not?"

"No, I'm not saying that, Sis. You know I think you're gorgeous, but this is a woman..." He swiped a hand through his hair. "She's a woman, Buffy. Not that I'm saying you're not a woman... And okay, how can I put this in terms you'll understand, and that won't hurt your feelings?"

"I understand perfectly, Doyle." She looked away. "I may not be an expert when it comes to the dating thing, but I do understand."

Doyle eyed her warily. "Then you're not mad?"

"No." She turned back to him. "Just a little disappointed that's all. I was sorta hoping you'd be my dance partner."

"What about, Xander?"

"He has Anya, and Will has Oz, and m-me... I'm just the fifth tire."

Doyle couldn't help but chuckle. "I think you mean fifth wheel."

"Whatever." She mumbled. "You know what I mean, Doyle."

"Don't worry, Sis. I'm sure you'll find someone else to dance with."

"I don't want someone else, Doyle." She pouted. "I want you."

"Uh uh. No way, Buffy. That's not going to work."

"What's not going to work?" Buffy asked innocently.

"That pout of yours. You know I hate it. Which is exactly why I'm leaving before I give into it." He stood up and headed for the door. "I'll call you in the morning to see how things went at the Bronze."

"You mean you'll call me in the morning to check up on me since mom's out of town." She muttered.

"That, too." He opened the door then turned around to face her. "Don't forget to deposit that check in your savings account, okay?"

Buffy looked back down at the check in her hands. "I won't."

"Happy Birthday, Munchkin. Love you." He started to leave, but then he remembered something and turned back to look at her again. "Oh, and Buffy... Just one more thing before I leave."

"What?" She stood up.

"That outfit..." His gaze traveled over her again. "It does make you look older... Like a woman... But don't you go and become a woman on me just yet if you know what I mean? Give me time to digest that you're growing up first, or we just might have a problem on our hands." With that said he disappeared out the door, leaving a blushing Buffy staring after him.

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CHAPTER 2


"Here."

"What's this?" Angelus O'Conner asked looking up from the file just thrown on his desk to the woman standing in front of him.

"You asked me to check the schools around here to find out what they lacked in funding, so I did." Cordelia Chase, Angelus' best friend, replied as she sat down in the chair behind her.

Angelus began to leaf through the papers in the file. "I can't believe you were able to do this in just a couple of days."

"Well, I did, and you are not going to believe the things I found out while I was doing it. Do you have time to listen?"

He shut the file and sat back in his desk chair. "I'm all ears."

"Well, it turns out that all the schools in Sunnydale lack funding in one way or the other, but Sunnydale High is the most desperate. They haven't had new books or computers in over five years, and the school board claims the school won't get them again this year either because there's not enough money in the budget. But that's not the most interesting part."

"What do you mean?" Angelus crossed his arms over his chest.

"Well, the board claims there's not enough money in the budget to buy much needed materials, but it appears they do have the money to buy new uniforms for their football and basketball teams every year, and pay the principal of Sunnydale High a huge salary."

"How huge?"

"The largest in the state of California. Maybe the largest in the entire United States."

"You're kidding?"

"I kid you not, my friend. It's all there on paper."

"How did you find all this out, Cordelia?"

"I found a source. A very reliable source."

"And are you going to tell me who this source is?"

"Nope. Later. I'll tell you later. Right now you have to go get ready."

Angelus eyed her across the desk. "Ready for what?"

"To take me out. We've been in this lovely city for a whole week, and all we've done is work, work, work. It's time you and I got out and acquainted ourselves with this town and the people in it. Especially since we're going to be residents here."

"I'm not going out, Cordy." Angelus picked his pen back up, and returned to working on the notes in front of him.

"Oh come on, Angelus, please! I'm totally wiped out from the move and getting the houses and office set up. I need a break, and so do you. And it just so happens that the cashier at the grocery store was nice enough to tell me about a great place where we can go and unwind. It's a club called the Bronze."

"I hate clubs. You know that, Cordy. There loud, full of drunks, and all you find there besides the drunks are a bunch of horny women looking to screw and snag a rich husband."

"So? Maybe that's what you need, Angelus." Cordelia stood up and snatched the pen from his hands. "Maybe you need to get laid to help you get that little witch bitch of an ex-girlfriend out of your system."

"I am not going to discuss Darla with you, Cordelia." Angelus swung around in his desk chair to stare at the wall. "That is one subject I refuse to discuss with anyone."

"Oh, that's right. I forgot. You don't discuss her because you'd rather spend your entire time brooding about her."

"Change the subject or go home, Cordelia."

"God damnit, Angelus!" Cordelia slapped her hand down on his desk. "I'm sick of this! I'm sick of you wasting your life brooding over some big fat ho, and that's exactly what she is, Angelus. She's a whore! She slept with your brother. Your brother for christ's sake! But if you ask me she's the one that should be brooding because she was the one that fucked up when she picked him over you! He's a loser, Angelus. And you... You are the sweetest, kindest, most loving person I have ever known. And let's not forget goodlooking, and rich to boot. Any woman would be lucky to have you, and not all of them are like her. Whether you want to believe it or not there is someone out there just waiting to love you, Angelus. Not your money. You. And maybe it's hard for you to believe that right now, but I believe it. I believe it with all my heart. That's why all this brooding upsets me. Your brooding your life away over someone who was never worthy of you to start with when you should be out there finding the woman you deserve."

"I just came out of a relationship, Cordelia. I am in no way ready to jump into another one."

"Okay, fine. Don't jump. Just look. Look while you're taking me out, and don't you dare so no to me again, Angelus because you owe me. I covered your ass with that little witch bitch for the last six months. You owe me, mister and you're going to start repaying me by taking me out tonight for a couple of mixed drinks, and some Buffalo wings."

"Buffalo wings?" Angelus turned back around in his chair to look at Cordelia.

Cordelia nodded. "You know I get the munchies when I drink, and I heard this place has the best Buffalo wings around. God, I can't wait. A night out on the town. How long has it been? A year? Two?"

Angelus could feel the guilt began to wash over him. "What time?"

"9:30 sharp." She beamed, and leaned over to kiss him on the cheek. "The address is on my desk. I'll meet you there." And then she disappeared out of the office, leaving him muttering to himself about drunks, and horny women.

****

"Jesus, Angelus. Would you please lighten up. We've only been here fifteen minutes and you're already in serious brood mode."

"I'm sorry, Cordy." Angelus swiped a hand through his hair. "It's just..."

"Yeah, yeah. I know. You hate these places." Cordelia finished. "And I also know exactly what you need to get over that hate. You need a drink to loosen you up."

Angelus couldn't help but chuckle. "Is that a hint?"

"It is if you're buying." She smiled.

"Don't I always buy?" He stood up. "Okay, my lady. What does your heart desire?"

"A margarita with extra salt."

"One margarita with extra salt coming up." He turned to walk away.

"And don't forget the Buffalo wings!" She called after him.

Angelus weaved his way in and out of the crowd to the bar. He had just placed his order and sat down to wait for it when suddenly his senses were filled with vanilla, and a blur of black and purple blew past him to lean over the bar. "Oh, bartender!"

A her. It was definitely a her. He could tell by the sweetness in her voice. And the view... Gods, it was just as sweet. She was tiny. Really tiny because her feet wasn't touching the floor. And that hair of hers... It cascaded down her back in golden waves. Beautiful... Somehow Angelus just knew she was beautiful. The beauty radiated from her, and he was dying to see all of it, but he couldn't because her face was turned towards the other end of bar and the man that had taken his order just moments before.

As Angelus watched over the top of the girl's head the old man in question broke into a huge grin upon spotting her, and began to make his way back up the bar.

Angelus held his breath in anticipation as the girl's head began to turn, following the old man, but to his disappointment all he got was a peek at her beauty before she was almost completely pulled across the bar into the old man's arms. "Buffy, I've missed you, sweetie. Where have you been hiding yourself lately?"

Buffy her name was Buffy, and Angelus barely had time to digest that piece of information before he heard her sweet voice mumble into the old man's shirt. "School. School hard."

The old man laughed. "It's not that bad, is it?"

The girl pulled away, still only giving Angelus a peek of her face, but it was enough to hook him. He was completely blown away by her.

"Bad enough." Buffy muttered. "Thank god I've only got five months to go. I don't think I could put up with Snyder another year. He's a dick."

Angelus nearly laughed out loud, but caught himself just in time. "Buffy..." The old man warned. "If that brother of yours heard you talking like that he would wash your mouth out with soap."

"No, he wouldn't, Tony. He knows it's true. Besides, I said a whole lot worse to that brother of mine today, and he never said a word."

"Uh oh. Did you two have a fight?"

"You could say that." She looked down at the bar.

"What happened?" The old man tugged at the end of her hair. "Come on, little bit. You can tell ole Tony. What did you two have a fight about?"

"The bastard." She muttered.

"Ahhh..." Was the only reply the old man gave her, and Angelus could tell that whoever his little goddess was talking about, he was a very touchy subject. And okay, his little goddess? Where the hell had that come from? But once again, before he even had time to think about it his attention was immediately drawn back to her as her voice broke through his reverie.

"Just so you know, I'm not mad at him anymore. How could I stay mad at him when he says really sweet things to me that make me cry, and then to top it off gives me a thousand bucks?"

The old man whistled. "Wow, a thousand bucks. I take it that was your birthday present?"

"Uh huh. For the little red convertible fund, and as I was saying how could I stay mad at him after that?"

The old man smiled. "Honey, you never could stay mad at that brother of yours very long, and I don't think I've ever really seen him mad at you."

"No, he's just annoyingly overprotective."

"He loves and adores you, Buffy and you know it."

She sighed. "Yeah, I know."

The old man patted her hand. "So how have you been? I got worried when you quit coming around."

"I'm fine, Tony."

"Really?" The old man eyed her face.

"Really." She gave the old man a smile, and even though it was a beautiful sight, Angelus could tell it wasn't her best. Something was wrong. He could feel it. And the urge to comfort her over whatever it was that was bothering her was overwhelming him.

"If you're fine, then how come you haven't been around?" Angelus heard the old man ask her. "Did you up and get a boyfriend on me?"

"Yeah, right." She snorted. "Like that's ever going to happen in my lifetime."

The old man reached up and brushed a lock of hair from her forehead. "He's out there, honey. You just have to let go and find him."

"I don't have to let go to know there's only three men in this town worth dating. One of them happens to be my brother, and since I don't want him to go to jail for incest, and Giles is already taken by my mother that just leaves you. What do you say, Tony? Let's runaway and get married. I'm available, and I'm not jailbait anymore."

"Trust me, sweetie. You don't want me."

"Why not?"

"Because I'm not husband material. Just ask my three ex-wives."

"Okay then, we won't run away and get married. I'll just settle for us being boyfriend and girlfriend instead."

"I don't think so, honey. You know I love you, but you need someone better than me."

"There isn't anyone else." She buried her face in his chest. "Not in Sunnydale anyway. You were my last chance."

"I don't believe that, Buffy. I believe with all my heart that there's someone out there that can love and treat you the way you deserve." Angelus watched the old man kiss the top of her head then pull away to look at her. "Now, put that pretty smile back on that beautiful face of yours. It's your birthday, and I couldn't take it if you were unhappy on your birthday. And speaking of your birthday, I dropped a little something in the mail today for you. It's for the little red convertible fund."

"Tony, you didn't..." Buffy started to say, but he cut her off.

"Yes, I did." He smiled. "You and Doyle are like my kids, and I never forget my kids."

She hugged him. "Well, thank you. It means alot to me, and I promise you that you'll be the very first person I take for a cruise when I get it."

"I'll be waiting." He smiled at her. "So... What will it be? You know I always buy the birthday girl her drinks for her special night."

"Hmm..." Buffy stuck a finger to her chin in thought. "How about one of those sweet nectary drinks? You know? The kind with the little umbrellas in it?"

"You're eighteen today, Buffy not twenty one."

She giggled, and the sound of it was like music to Angelus' ears. "I was just testing you, Tony. A club soda is fine, and while you're at it could you throw in a buttery croissant?"

"One club soda, and one buttery croissant coming right up." He patted her hand again. "Have a seat, sweetie. I'll be right back."

A goner. He was a goner. Angelus knew it the moment the golden blonde sat back in the stool beside him. And Gods, he couldn't help but stare at her because she was indeed a goddess...

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CHAPTER 3


Buffy knew the moment she sat back in the stool that she was being stared at, and at first she thought it was him... But it only took her about two seconds to realize that the sensation shooting up her spine was a good tingly kind of sensation, and not the bad kind of sensation she always got whenever he was around. That's why it didn't take long before she sent her eyes seeking out the source that was behind the intense feelings rushing through her, and the moment she connected with the person behind it she instantly turned to mush. He had the most incredible eyes she had ever seen. Chocolate. They were like rivers of chocolate, and she could feel herself drowning in them. But gods, it wasn't just his eyes. It was all of him. He was beautiful. That's the only word she could think to describe him. He had brown spikey hair, marble skin, and his body... He had a body that any woman would die to get their hands on. And okay, stop it, Buffy. This guy is a total hottie. Way out of your league, and probably an asshole jock to boot. But then again, the way he was looking at her... It was almost like he was looking into her soul, and even though she kept telling herself he so wasn't her type, there was still something about him. That's why she started to speak to him, but before she could even manage to find her voice someone else's voice snapped her back to reality. "Here you go, sweetie."

She tore her gaze away from the hottie, and turned back to look at Tony, who was removing her drink and croissant from a tray. "I uhh... Thanks, Tony."

"You're welcome, sweetie."

"Well, I uhh..." Buffy stood up, and motioned behind her. "I guess I should go. The gang is waiting." She picked up her stuff. "I'll see you later?"

"You bet." Tony grinned at her.

Buffy's eyes quickly darted to the hottie, then back to Tony. "I... Okay, bye." She squeezed away from the bar on the other side of her stool, and Angelus couldn't help himself, he swung around on his own stool to watch her walk away.

"She's a real cutie, isn't she?"

"E-Excuse me?" Angelus turned back around to find the same old man setting his order down in front of him.

"The little blonde you were just checking out. She's a real cutie, don't you think?"

"Well, I uhh... I don't think cutie is quite the word I would use to describe her." Angelus answered a little flustered.

Tony couldn't help but chuckle. The stranger looked like a child who had just gotten his hand caught in the cookie jar. "It's okay, you know? You're not the first male to check her out. Almost every high school and college male in this town has been doing it since she was sixteen. Hell, even the older and married one's do it. They're just less conspicious about it. Not that it matters though. She wouldn't have them. Any of them."

Angelus took a sip of his club soda. "Is she... You know?"

Tony laughed. "God, no! She's as straight as an arrow. She just doesn't date. Especially jocks, and that's a problem considering a vast majority of the male population in this town are just that. Oh, don't get me wrong. She has male friends. Especially the brainy types, and they adore her because not only is she a true friend to them and looks out for them, she also serves as their escort when one of them needs one for an important social function."

"So do you know why doesn't she date?"

Tony leaned against the bar. "There's a couple of reasons. Alot of which she doesn't talk about, but I can tell you that one of them has to do with her bastard father. He up and ran away with his young secretary leaving his wife with nothing but two kids to raise on her own. Last I heard he was living the high life in LA."

"He doesn't help out?"

"Nope. Doesn't support them, see them, or talk to them. Doyle, Buffy's brother, worked for me for four years to help pay for his expenses at college. That's how I know her so well. She started hanging out here while he worked, and I grew to love the both of them like they were my own. But Buffy... I love her even more so. She's just got this quality about her that hooks you. She's not just pretty on the outside, she also has a great big heart. She's a good kid."

"Buffy? Buffy what?" Angelus asked, liking the way her name rolled off his tongue.

Tony eyed Angelus warily. "Why are you asking? Are you interested?"

"Maybe... And I can tell by the way your looking at me that you have your doubts about telling me, but I can assure you I'm not some homicidal maniac. I would never hurt her or anyone else for that matter. I'm new in town. Just moved here last week, and my best friend insists I need to get out and meet the people of this town since I'm going to be living here." Angelus extended his hand to the old man. "I'm Angelus, by the way. Angelus O'Conner."

Tony shook Angelus' hand. "It's nice to meet you, Angelus. I'm Tony. Tony Martin, and this is my fine establishment."

"Nice place, Tony." Angelus smiled. "For a club that is."

"Don't like clubs much, huh?"

"Hate 'em. But like I said before, my best friend insists that I need to get out and meet people, so I finally relented and agreed to come with her tonight." Angelus stood up. "And speaking of my best friend, I should get back to her. She's done nothing but talk about your Buffalo wings since we got here, and I'm sure she's probably dying to sink her teeth into them right about now."

"And you never keep a lady waiting."

"No. Never." Angelus withdrew his wallet, fished out a hundred dollar bill, and handed it to Tony. "Here, just keep the change."

Tony eyed the hundred dollar bill. "That's an awful lot of change, son. Are you sure?"

"Yeah, it's just money. Besides, I got more than my money's worth talking to you about your friend."

"Summers." Tony replied, eyeing Angelus. "Her name is Buffy Summers, and just remember I know what you look like and who you are now, so if anything should happen to her you'll be the first person I come looking for."

Angelus chuckled. "And I don't doubt that you would one bit. I'd definitely feel the same way you do if I were in your shoes...."

****

"Buffy... Hello... Earth to, Buffy." Xander Harris replied, waving a hand in front of Buffy's face.

"Huh? What?" Buffy tore her gaze away from the hottie she had been eyeing at the bar earlier, who was now sitting at a table across the room with a beautiful bruntette, and focused on her best friend. "I'm sorry, Xand. Did you say something?"

"Well, yeah. I've said alot of somethings, but apparently all of it was lost on you." Xander reached across the table and laid his hand on top of Buffy's. "What's going on, Buffy? You haven't been yourself for months, and you hardly ever hang out with me and Will anymore." His eyes glazed over with concern. "Are you..."

"No. No." Buffy shook her head. "I'm fine. It's just..."

"It's just what?"

"Alot of things. School, my mom's been on my case, pushing for me to make a decision about college, and then there's this stuff with..." Buffy realized what she was about to let slip, and quickly shut her mouth.

"Stuff with what?" Xander squeezed her hand. "Come on, Buffster. Talk to me."

She couldn't tell him tell him the secret she had been keeping for months, so she decided to tell him about something else that had been bothering her. "I feel like I don't belong here with you guys." She swallowed against the lump in her throat. "Will has Oz. You have Anya. Mom has Giles. And me... I guess I'm feeling out of place because I'm guyless. And yes, I know that it's my fault, but honestly the choices in this town... There's not one single guy that appeals to me." Okay, it was a lie. There was someone, but she didn't have a clue who he was, and from the looks of it he wasn't available. Not that she would act on her attraction to him even if he was available. She was too afraid he would turn out to be just like all the other assholes in this town.

"You need a guy."

"Maybe... No... Yes... I don't know." She muttered. "I mean, most of the time I'm perfectly happy with being guyless. Especially with all the complications in my life. But then there's my dream... Our dream. Do you remember when we were little how we used to plan out our futures?"

He nodded. "Yeah, and you were always the one that said she was going to find Prince Charming, have a fairy tale wedding, and live happily ever after."

"Yeah, but then reality set in. I grew up, and now... Now I'll be lucky to make it through college and that's what's so upsetting. I want a guy. I want what Will has with Oz, and Mom has with Giles. Hell, right now I'd settle for what you have with Anya. Do you realize I'm eighteen years old and I've never really been kissed? And I want it, Xand. I want to be kissed. I mean, knees wobbling, earth shattering, take my breath away kinda kissed. But I know it's not going to happen even if I let my guard down enough to let someone in, it would end badly. You know that."

"I know no such thing, Buffy and neither do you. I believe with all my heart that there is someone out there that can love you equally as much if not more than you would love them. You are an incredible girl, Buffy Summers and if a man can't see that then it's his loss, not yours." He squeezed her hand. "Just hang in there. You're going to find him. I know it."

Buffy blinked back tears. "How did you get to be such an expert on love?"

"My best friend taught me all about it." Xander grinned. "She's one terrific girl. In fact, you just might know her. She goes by the name Buffy."

"Xand..." Buffy started to say, but just then someone came into her line of vision that halted her words. Someone she would have given anything not to see ever again, and she felt a cold chill wash over her the moment she made eye contact with him and a big grin spread over his face. "I gotta go." She blurted out, standing up.

"What?" Xander asked in surprise as he watched her jump up from her seat.

"I gotta go, Xand. Curling iron. I just remembered I left my curling iron on and you know what that means. Curling iron, fire, house, poof. Mom will kill me if the house goes poof. I'm sorry. Tell Will, Oz, and Anya I'll talk to them later." Without another word she practically ran for the exit, but she barely made it outside before someone was grabbing her, and shoving her up against the wall of the building. The back of her head hit the brick pretty hard, and she saw stars as she slowly opened her eyes to look at her attacker.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

CHAPTER 4


"Going somewhere, Buffy?"

"Yeah, as far away from you as possible." Buffy muttered as she blinked the stars from her eyes and stared at the blonde headed jerk standing in front of her. And he was a jerk.

"I don't think so, Buffy. You and I have a little unfinished business."

Buffy began to struggle. "Let go of me, Riley."

"You know, Buffy. I'm really getting tired of you playing so hard to get. Especially when I know for a fact you want me as much as I want you." Riley grinded his erection up against her. "I mean, take inside for example. Those eyes of yours were sending me serious signals." He reached out to run a finger across the skin exposed just at the top of her bustline. "And this outfit just screams fuck me, Riley."

"The only thing that's going to be screaming is me, Riley Finn. In about five seconds to be exact if you don't let me go."

One of Riley's hand went to Buffy's hair, and threaded threw it to yank her head back. "There are all kinds of screaming, Buffy. Good kinds." His lips inched closer to hers. "How about I show you exactly what I mean?"

His lips savagely took possession of hers, bruising. And she actually wanted to throw up from the invasion, but she couldn't. Her senses told her to fight back or something worse than him kissing her was going to happen. Without another thought, she did exactly what her senses told her to do. Her knee came up connecting with his groin, and the second he let go of her and doubled over in pain she took of running. Unfortunately though, she didn't make it very far before he caught up with her, and grabbed her in another vice like grip. "You're going to pay for that you little bitch." He muttered as he began to yank her towards the alley behind the club.

"Riley, please." Buffy begged. "Please don't do this."

No matter how hard Buffy begged and struggled with him, Riley wouldn't let go of her, and eventually he managed to get her into the alley. "I want you, Buffy." He shoved her against the wall again, and pressed himself up against her once more. "I want you, and I always get what I want. You know that. Now be a good little girl and do as your told."

Buffy closed her eyes, silent tears coursing down her cheeks as his lips and blunt teeth began to nuzzle at her neck. "N-No. Riley, p-please..."

"There you are, baby. I've been looking everywhere for you."

Buffy's eyes flew open at the sound of the voice, and she couldn't believe who it belonged to. It was him... The hottie from earlier, and apparently he was talking to her because his eyes were focused entirely on her.

"Beat it, buddy." Riley muttered, spinning around to face the owner of the voice. "Can't you see the girl and I are kinda in the middle of something?"

Angelus crossed his arms over his chest. "I'm not going anywhere, boy. Especially since the girl in question happens to be MY GIRL."

"My g-girl?" Riley sputtered. "B-Buffy's your girl?"

"You're god damn right Buffy's my girl." Angelus' angry eyes nailed Riley to the spot. "And I'm waiting for an explanation from you, boy. What the hell were you doing to my girl that has her so upset?"

Riley ignored the stranger and spun back around to look at Buffy. "Buffy? Is it true? Is this guy your boyfriend?"

At first, Buffy couldn't speak. Not until her eyes flew back to the stranger's and she saw the look in them. It was like before. She felt like he was looking into her soul again. Only this time, she could almost swear she could hear him asking her to trust him, and reassuring her that everything was going to be okay if she would. And God, for some reason, she didn't know why, she knew it was true. Somehow she just knew that as long as he was here, whoever he was, everything was going to be okay. That's why she finally found the courage to speak. "Y-Yes. Y-Yes, he's my boyfriend."

"Liar!" Riley practically yelled at her.

"Okay, that's it..." Angelus took a step towards Riley. "Now you're really asking for an ass kicking, boy. It's one thing to touch my girl, but to call her a liar on top of that..."

"No!" Riley held up his hand to stop the stranger in his tracks. "I mean, I'm sorry, buddy. It's just... I didn't know Buffy had a boyfriend. How come I've never seen you before? How come no one at school knows about you?"

"Because Buffy and I like to keep our personal lives very private. And just so we understand each other and make sure that there's never another mistake made like the one you just made let me go ahead and tell you this so you can go back and tell all your little friends. Up until last week I lived in LA, but I couldn't take being away from Buffy all the time so I packed up everything and moved here to permanently be with her. And that's exactly what I want to do now. Be with her. I haven't seen her all day, and I kinda get cranky when I haven't. More than cranky. And it just so happens that I have a tendancy to take my crankiness out on whatever obstacle it is that's in the way of my being with her. Do you see where I'm going with this, boy? Disappear. Now. If you don't things could get really messy for you ." His eyes returned to Buffy. "Isn't that right, baby?"

Gods, Buffy thought, swiping at her tears. Those eyes of his... They were hypnotizing her. "Uh huh..." She finally managed to utter.

Riley stepped away from Buffy, and watched the heated exchange between her and the stranger. Intense was the only word to describe the way they were looking at each other, and it angered Riley beyond belief. But he couldn't do anything about it. Not yet anyway. "I'm sorry, buddy. There was just some miscommunication here. It won't happen again. I'll just go so you two can..." He began to inch past the stranger, but the stranger's next words halted him in his tracks. "Stay away from her, boy. I mean it. If you don't I'll kill you. And that's not a threat, it's a promise."

Angelus watched the stranger leave, and made sure he was really gone before he turned his full attention back to the terrified woman in front of him. "Are you okay? Did he hurt you?"

"I-I umm..." Buffy wanted to say something, she really did, but the shock of what had almost just happened finally hit her and she felt her stomach lurch. "S-Sick... Oh, God I think I-I'm going to be sick." She barely had time to spin away from him before losing the contents of her stomach.

Angelus couldn't take it. Seeing her like this. And any thought of going after the little prick that had done this to her completely flew out the window as that overwhelming need to comfort and protect her took hold of him again. He closed the distance to her and without thought placed his hand at the small of her back to soothe her until she had finished and straightened up. Instantly a hankerchief appeared before her face. "Maybe I should take you to the hospital."

"No!" Buffy screamed in panic, and stumbled back away from him.

He pointed to her arm. "He hurt you. You should see a doctor."

"No!" She continued to back away from him until she met the wall again and couldn't go any further. "No. N-No hospital. I hate th-them."

"Look, Miss uhh..." Angelus took another step towards her. "If you won't let me take you to a hospital, will you at least let me call the police?"

"I-I can't go t-to the police."

"You don't have to." He reached inside his jacket pocket and pulled out a cellphone. "I'll call them from this."

Buffy's panicked gaze flew to his. "W-Who are y-you?"

"What?"

"W-Who are y-you? I-I know you said you w-wasn't from a-around here but I thought y- you were lying to g-get rid of... W-Who are y-you?"

"What does any of that have to do with my calling the police?"

"Y-You really don't h-have a c-clue, do y-you?"

"I really don't have a clue about what?" Angelus asked her in confusion.

"Oh, God... Y-You really don't. Y-You don't have a c-clue." A hysterical half laugh half sob tore from her lips, and once again the urge to protect her overwhelmed Angelus. "Buffy..."

She held up her hand to cut him off. "H-His name is R-Riley Finn, and not only is his father the m-mayor of th-this town, he p-practically owns it. S-Some people s-say he even owns the p-police department. Y-You c-can't call the p-police."

"You're scared."

Another hysterical laugh tore from Buffy's throat. "Uh huh. That's me. S-Scared Buffy. I w- was trying to r-run away and hide w-when..." She had been staring at her feet, but suddenly her head shot up, her eyes locking with his. "Y-You... H-How did y-you know?"

"I had just stepped out to get some fresh air when I saw him jerk you into the alley. I knew he was going to hurt you and I couldn't let that happen." Angelus answered honestly. "I'm just sorry I didn't get to you sooner." He pointed to her arm again, and the angry red welts that were visible even in the dimly lit alley. "You really should see a doctor for that."

"No." She held up her hands and wiggled her fingers for him. "S-See. N-No broken bones here. I-I'm fine."

"Liar." He murmured.

Her eyes widened in surprise. "E-Excuse me?"

"You're not fine. You're shaking like a leaf which is a tell tell sign that you're still in shock from the whole incident. It's okay though, I assure you." He shed his leather jacket. "You don't have to put up a brave front for me. Men like him..." He cautiously closed the distance to her and draped his coat around her shoulders. "I should have killed him. Men like him don't deserve to live."

At first Buffy was a little shocked at the fact that he had just given up his jacket for her. His very nice leather and sandalwood scented jacket, but it didn't take long for his words to filter through her shock, and once again her eyes flew back to his. "A-Are you for real? 'Cause last I heard k-knights in shining armor died off a long time ago."

"I can assure you uhh... Buffy... I'm no knight in shining armor."

"Th-Then who are you? D-Do you have a name?"

Her question brought a smile to his lips. A smile that at any other time would have taken Buffy's breath away. "Angelus. My name is Angelus."

"W-Well, I guess that explains it." Her gaze traveled over him.

"Explains what?" Angelus asked a little huskily, doing his best to hide what her eyes traveling over him was stirring up inside of him.

"Why you said you're not a knight. Angelus... Angel. You're an angel. Apparently my guardian angel, am I right?"

Angelus was a little shocked at her words, but he quickly recovered. "Trust me, Buffy I'm not an angel either."

"I know y-you probably think you're way too studly to be called Angel, but I really don't care. I like it, and that's what I'm going to call you."

Oh, he liked it, too. He liked the way it sounded on her lips, and that brought another smile to his face. "My mom calls me Angel."

"W-Well, there you go then. Why else would your mom call you Angel if she didn't think you were one?"

"Okay, you have a point. And I never argue with a lady. Especially my mom."

"Smart man." She gave him a weak smile, but even that slightest movement made her head feel like it was about to explode, and no matter how much she tried to hide her pain from him, it didn't work. His face quickly sobered, his concerned eyes meeting hers again. "He did hurt you."

"J-Just a little." She said, reaching up to rub the bump on the back of her head. "B-But hey, It could have been a whole l-lot worse. I-I'll live, and from now o-on I'll make sure I don't g-give him another opportunity to do it a-again. Which is exactly why I'm going to get going now while the g-gettin' is good. H-He'll be back, and he'll bring his friends with him when he does, so I suggest you go too. His buddies have a tendacy to be even meaner than him sometimes."

"I'm not scared of any of them. My father was a cop, and he made sure I knew how to protect myself and others if necessary. He won't hurt you again."

Buffy closed her eyes. "This has to be a dream." She murmured, then quickly opened her eyes to look at him again. "Why are you being so incredibly sweet? If it had been anyone else they wouldn't have bothered to help me. But you... You not only saved me, you stuck around even after I made a fool out of myself and puked my guts out in front of you. Why? I don't understand why you stuck around."

"What's so hard to understand? I saw some jerk about to take advantage of a very beautiful woman, and if there's one thing I can't stand it's for a woman to be mistreated. And as for the you making a total fool of yourself by puking your guts out in front of me, I say who gives a shit. I think you're handling things pretty damn good considering what you've been through." Angelus' eyes softened. "Besides, it's not like I've never seen anyone get sick before. Hell, even I've got sick before. I wasn't leaving you alone."

"Well, th-thank you. F-For everything. I uhh... Thank you."

"There's no thanks necessary, Miss uhh... Buffy."

"Summers." She gave him another weak smile. "My name is Buffy Summers."

Angelus knew that, but he didn't want to tell her for fear he would scare her. She'd already been through enough. "It's nice to meet you, Buffy Summers."

"Gods..." Buffy mumbled. "You really are sweet. Especially when you lie and tell me it's nice to meet me after what just happened."

"It's not a lie."

Okay, there it was again. Those damn eyes of his were hypnotizing her, and she could feel herself being drawn into them like a magnet to metal. Down, Buffy. He is way out of your league. Trouble with a capital T. "G-Go." She pointed to the exit out of the alley. "I r- really have to g-go."

"I really don't like the idea of you being alone, Miss uhh... Buffy. Why don't you at least let me walk you to your car."

"Sorry, Angel I'm afraid I can't let you do that, seeing as I don't have a car." She pointed to her feet. "All I've got are these babies."

"You're walking?" He frowned.

"Uh huh. But it's okay. I've done it lots of times."

"That was before." He muttered. "You're not walking. Let me take you home."

"W-What? N-No!" She couldn't let him take her home. That was a bad idea. A very, very bad idea. "N-No!" She shook her head, ignoring the pain in it. "I mean, no. It's uhh... It's okay, really. I c-can walk."

Buffy could almost swear she saw a hurt look pass across his face, but it was gone as quickly as it came. "I'm not a seriel killer or anything, Buffy. I would never..."

"No, that's not what I meant when I... I don't think you're a seriel killer, Angel."

"Then what's the problem? Why won't you let me drive you home?"

"Because... There's uhh... Girlfriend... What about your girlfriend?"

"Girlfriend?" He asked, confused again.

"Brunette, gorgeous, modely type girl I saw you sitting with earlier."

"OH... You mean Cordelia."

Buffy nodded. "I bet she's wondering where you're at right about now." I know I would be if you belonged to me, she added silently to herself. If you were mine I'd never let you out of my sight. And okay, Buffy there you go again with those bad, bad thoughts. Stop. Stop it now.

"She's not my girlfriend."

Oh boy, so not what I needed to hear Buffy muttered silently to herself again. "Sh-She's not? I-I mean, OH... Uhh... Your uhh... Wife then. You shouldn't keep your wife waiting."

"She's not my wife either. She just acts like she is most of the time." Angelus said then couldn't help but chuckle when he took note of the surprised look on Buffy's face. "She's my best friend. My very bossy, annoying best friend."

"OH... I mean, Still... Y-You shouldn't keep her waiting."

"She'll understand once I explain to her what happened. And I will..." His dark orbs locked with hers again. "Just as soon as I see you home safely."

Buffy sighed. "You're not going to let me walk are you?"

"You can walk if you want, Buffy. I won't force you to ride with me, but if you do walk I want you to know I'll be following closely behind you in my car."

"Well, this is just great." Buffy muttered under her breath. So much for trying to make a clean get away before she got reeled in by him. It was too late, she had already fallen for the dark stranger hook, line, and sinker.

"I'm sorry, what did you say?"

"Fine." Her eyes darted back to his. "I said fine. You can take me home."

"Then shall we go?" He motioned to her.

She nodded, and let him lead her out of the alley, but once they started across the parking lot she realized that had been a huge mistake as well because his hand at the small of her back was burning a permanent imprint into her skin. It was just another sign that she was in very big trouble, but if she thought the tingly sensation in her spine was bad, nothing could have prepared her for what came next...

A fucking Ferrari... When he fished his keys out of his pants pocket, and pushed the button on what she assumed was a remote to disarm the security system to his car, the headlights to a fucking Ferrari flashed, and she halted in her tracks. "Th-That's y-your car?"

"One of them." He answered, leading her to the car, and opening the passenger side door for her.

"O-One of them?" She squeaked in total shock as she slipped into the passenger seat. "J-Just exactly how many cars do you o-own?"

"Three. This one, a Mercedes Benz SUV, and the limo, but I don't drive that. Oh, and then there's my Harley Davidson motorcycle, but it doesn't really count as a car." He shut the door on her stunned face, and moved around the car to climb into the driver's side. "Okay, Miss. Summers, where to?"


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

CHAPTER 5


"Okay, Angelus Liam O'Conner this had better be good." Cordelia flopped down on the sofa in Angelus' living room, and stared at her best friend's back. "It's two o'clock in the morning, you up and disappear on me, leaving me at a strange club all alone, and then when you finally call me two hours later it's only to tell me to get my butt over here. What the hell is going on, and so help me God, if this is about that little witch bitch I will strangle your fucking neck."

"I met someone." Angelus murmured, staring into the fire in his fireplace.

"W-What?" Cordelia stared at him in disbelief, not quite sure she had heard him correctly.

"I met someone, Cordy." He finally turned around to look at her. "She's incredible."

"Uh huh, okay, if she's so incredible then how come you're standing her talking to me instead of off getting laid by her?"

"Buffy's not like that, Cordy. She's different."

"Buffy? What the hell kinda name is Buffy?"

Angelus' eyes darkened. "It's a very nice name thank you very much, and I happen to like it. I happen to like her. Alot... So from now on you'd better never ever badmouth her around me, understand?"

Once again Cordelia was stunned. Angelus had never threatened her before, and she had badmouthed Darla all the time. "You're serious, aren't you?"

"Very..."

She shook her head. "I don't believe this. You've been bitten."

"Bitten? I haven't been bitten by anything, Cordelia."

"Oh yes, you have, my friend. You've been bitten by the love bug. Why else would you be sitting here at two o'clock in the morning threatening to kill me over a girl you just met? You've fallen for her."

"I haven't fallen for her, Cordy. I'm just..."

"Just what?"

"Intrigued..." He swiped a hand through his hair.

"Intrigued how?" She sat back on the sofa. "Come on, Angelus. Tell me all about this intriguing girl. You know you want to."

"Well, I first saw her inside the club..." He came over to sit down on the other end of the sofa. "At the bar when I went to get our drinks, and I swear, Cordy I knew before I even saw her face that there was something about her. She's beautiful... And I don't just mean on the outside. There's beauty on the inside as well. It radiates from her. I could feel it."

"Wait a minute..." Cordelia shifted on the sofa to look at him. "You said you saw her at the bar. She didn't happen to be about this high..." She gestured with her hands. "Golden blonde, and wearing a killer outfit? She wouldn't happen to be the same girl who's ass you were oogling, would she?"

"I umm..." Angelus actually blushed. "I wasn't oogling."

"Uh huh." Cordelia grinned. "Sure you wasn't. And your eyeballs weren't about to pop out of their sockets either."

"Like I said before, Cordelia, she's beautiful. I couldn't help but stare."

"Stare, oogle, whatever, you were doing it, Angelus and I still saw it. I also noticed that there wasn't a whole lot of talking going on between the two of you, so how did you go from not talking to being smitten by her."

"I saw her again in the parking lot when I went outside to get some air. Actually, it was in the alley behind the club. I went after her when I saw some guy jerk her into it."

"She was attacked?"

"Yes. And thank God I got to her in time. If I hadn't... I don't even want to think about what would've happened to her if I hadn't gotten to her in time."

"Is she okay?"

"She claims she is, but I know she's not. He roughed her up pretty good, but she refused to let me take her to the hospital." Angelus swiped a hand through his hair again. "I wanted to kill him, Cordelia. And I very easily could have, but I was more concerned with

getting to her and making sure she was okay than I was with going after him."

"So how exactly did you manage to get rid of this prick if you didn't kill him?"

"I told him I was her boyfriend and promised him that if he so much as looked at her again I really would kill him."

"O-kay..." Cordelia snickered.

"It's not funny, Cordy" Angelus growled. "He was going to rape her."

Cordelia quickly sobered. "I'm sorry, Angelus. I wasn't laughing at that. I was laughing at you. I never seen you like this before. In fact, I never ever figured you as the jealous type."

"I wasn't jealous."

"Yeah, right." Cordelia snorted. "Come on, Angelus. Don't lie to me. You've never lied to me before."

"Okay. Maybe I was a little jealous, but it was more than just jealousy. I don't know how to describe it, but the need for me to protect her was so overwhelming. I wanted to be the one to comfort her, Cordy and I know it sounds crazy. I barely know her, but at the same time I feel like I've known her forever. It's like there's this connection between us, and it only grew stronger as the night went on."

"She threw you."

"She more than threw me, Cordy." Angelus murmured. "She totally blew me away. When I dropped her off at her house I didn't want to leave."

"By chance, did you happen to ask her out before you did?"

"Are you crazy, Cordelia?" Angelus shot to his feet. "The poor girl had already been through enough. I didn't want to spook her even more by coming on to her." He walked back over to the fireplace. "Besides, even if I had taken the chance she probably would have said no."

"How do you know, Angelus? I thought you said you felt a connection with her? Maybe she felt it, too."

"Oh, she felt it alright. I know she did. But it spooked her. That and the fact that I have money."

"You told her?"

"I didn't have to. My car sort of tipped her off. She took one look at it and barely said three words to me the rest of the way to her house. She wouldn't even let me walk her to her door."

"How do you know the fact that you have money spooked her, Angelus? Maybe she was still in shock from everything that had happened to her."

"I know it was the fact that I have money, Cordy. The bartender... The one she was talking to when I first saw her... He caught me uhh... He caught me looking at her, and it turns out he's pretty close with her and her brother. He was nice enough to share a little info about her with me, and it turns out her father is rich, but he doesn't like to share his money with others. Not even his kids. He ran off with his secretary and left her mom to raise her and her brother on her own. The bartender didn't really go into full detail, but I could tell things haven't been easy for her. I could tell that what her dad did left a big impact on her, and it doesn't help matters that the little prick that tried to... She wouldn't let me call the police because it turns out he's the mayor's son, and rumor has it that the mayor has the entire police department in his pocket because he practically owns the whole town."

"Oh, boy..." Cordelia groaned.

"Oh, boy is right." Angelus muttered before turning around to face her again. "What am I going to do, Cordelia?"

Cordelia sat up on the sofa. "What do you want to do?"

"There's something about her... In the few short hours I've known her she's made me feel things I've never felt with anyone. Not even Darla, and I was with her for three years. I want to get to know her, I do. But there's all this stuff with her. I don't handle rejection very well, Cordy. You know that."

Cordelia was liking this Buffy already. No one had ever been able to make her best friend forget the little witch bitch. Not even his mother. This girl... Whoever she was, there definitely had to be something about her to have her best friend so intrigued. Something good... And anything that was good for you should never be passed up. "Just answer me one question, Angelus."

"What?"

"What hurts more? The thought of her rejecting you, or the thought of never seeing her again?"

"The thought of never seeing her again." He answered without hesitation.

"Then I think you know what you have to do. Okay, she has issues. But the good news is you know what some of them are. You know what to avoid. I suggest you go back to your roots. Show her that money isn't everything. Show her the simple stuff in life. Simple, but important. Stuff that will have a big impact. Show her the real Angelus O'Conner I know and love, and I almost guarantee that before you know it, she'll love you just as much if not more than I do."

"Love? That's jumping the gun a little bit, Cordy. I'm not looking to fall in love. I just want to get to know the girl better, that's all."

"No one ever really looks to fall in love, Angelus. It kinda just finds you, and when it does... Wow... let's just say it will definitely wow you."

*****

Buffy was exhausted. She hadn't slept a wink the night before. She couldn't. Between the nightmares and her new problem, sleep just wasn't possible. That's why she had finally given up on it right after the sun had rose, and decided to go for a run. She had taken up running last year. It was supposed to be for her health, but she had found here lately that it was also a good outlet to relieve her stress. Well, it relieved it to some extent.

It was hard to hide what was going on with Riley from everyone. No one knew except Angel, and oh God, there she went again thinking about him. Her new problem. And he was just that, a problem... She liked him. A little too much, and that was bad. Very, Very bad. He was major league, and she was minor. Hotties like him could have anyone they wanted, and there was no way in the world he would ever want her. She was only good for one thing. That's why Riley was so obsessed with her. She wasn't girlfriend material. Wife either. And she never would be. She knew that. That's why she never dated. What was the point? No matter how lonely she got, she knew being alone was for the best. Or at least that's what she had thought until she met Angel. And he was definitely that, an angel. Not only was he gorgeous, he was also sweet, and kind to boot, and those charms of his had snapped the chains around her heart clear into. He had totally, and utterly blown every argument she had ever had about why it was best for her to be alone, out of the water. He had given her hope that maybe just maybe she didn't have to be alone after all, but just as soon as she had gotten her hopes up, they had been dashed by a fucking Ferrari. Rich! Angel was rich! Just how rich, she didn't know. She didn't want to know. Money was money. Money is the root of all evil. It frightened her more than loneliness. More than death. That's why she had gotten so spooked after she had found out Angel was rich. That's why she had fought her attraction to him, and had barely said three words to him after she had found out. She couldn't or wouldn't fall for someone who had money. It would spell doom. Hers to be exact. And that's why she had pushed him away last night.

It had hurt. Jesus, it had hurt. She had really really liked him, and hated herself for the way she had treated him, especially after what he had done for her, but she couldn't help it. She was a coward. She knew it, and she always would be. And with that realization, she shook herself out of her reverie. She needed to forget about Angelus O'Conner. She had to. Besides, she would probably never see him again, and was stupid of her to think she would. She had totally blown him off last night, and she could almost bet he had left her house praying he would never ever have to see her face again. Too bad she couldn't have that same affect on Riley Finn. If she had she would have gotten rid of him months ago. And okay, she had vowed that she wasn't going to think of him today, and she was determined to keep that promise. The pain in her arm and her head was enough reminder of what had almost happened the night before, and it was the pain that finally forced her to turn around and head back home. A hot shower. She needed a tall glass of water, and a hot shower to ease some of the aches in her body away. Unfortunately though, all she managed to get was the glass of water, because someone started ringing the god damn doorbell, and the sound of it was echoing through the house and making her miserable. She was hot, sweaty, stinky, and miserable, and it was just her luck that the very last person she would ever want to see her in her miserable state would happen to be the one standing on the other side of the door when she opened it. "A-Angel?"

"Hey, did I catch you at a bad time?"

She grimaced. He must have been reading her thoughts. "I just got back from a run." She stepped aside, and motioned for him to come in. "So I guess if you can deal with a sweaty, stinky Buffy it's not a bad time."

"You run?" He asked, stepping into the front entrance and waiting on her to shut the door.

"Three miles a day, but today it was six, seven, or eight. I'm really not sure. My body and brain kinda zoned out for a while. Stress has a tendancy to have that affect on me." She closed the door, and turned around to lean back against it. The moment she did, she saw his eyes darken at the sight of the bruises on her right arm. "Sonofabitch." He growled. "I knew I should have killed that little bastard."

"I uhh..." She tugged the sleeve of her sweatshirt down. "I-It's nothing, so don't go all psycho on me, Angel. We have enough of those around here as it is."

"Buffy..." His pained gaze returned to her face.

Buffy pushed away from the door, doing her best to keep those chains around her heart locked up nice and tight as she did. "If you're here for jacket, it's upstairs." She went to move past him. "I'll uhh... I'll just go..."

"Keep it."

"W-What?" She spun around to face him.

"I didn't come here for the jacket, Buffy but now that you've mentioned it I want you to keep it. It looks much better on you anyway."

"A-Angel... I can't..."

"You can and you will, Buffy. I don't want it. It's yours. End of story. Now tell me how you feel today? Really? And I want the truth."

Her eyes narrowed. "You know, I beginning to think that maybe your the the bossy one instead of your friend."

"And I think you're avoiding my question, and I want to know why?"

"Because it doesn't concern you." She muttered, turning away from him and heading into the living room.

"And why exactly doesn't it concern me, Buffy?" He followed her. "Is it because you don't want me involved, or is it because you don't want me around period?"

Buffy halted in her tracks. "Maybe it's a little of both."

"I'm not like whoever it is that hurt you before. I mean, besides Finn."

"I never thought..." She spun back around to face him.

"Didn't you?" He locked eyes with her. "Whether you like it or not, I'm involved, Buffy. I want to be here. I want to help you."

"I see. So that's why you're here? You're here because you want to help me? Well, here's a newsflash, Angel. I don't want or need your help."

Angel muttered something unintelligible under his breath then before she could even blink, he closed the distance to her. "No. The real reason I'm here is because of this, Buffy..." He reached for her hand and brought it up to rest over his racing heart. "You feel it too, don't you?" He asked a little breathlessly. "That's why you're pushing me away. You feel and you're afraid."

"T-Terrified." She answered back shakily, and pushed away from him. "There are things... Really complicated things..."

"Like my money for one?"

"I uhh..." She turned away from him again. "S-So you do? H-Have money, I mean?"

"Yes. And it didn't take me long to figure out that you had a problem with it, but it's not who I am, Buffy. That's why I'm here. I like you. I like you alot, and I think deep down under all that fear you like me, too. You've got issues. I understand that. I do. But I'm not him, and I'm hoping you'll give me a chance to prove that to you." He closed the distance to her again and gently turned her around to face him once more. "Spend the day with me, Buffy. One day. Give me a chance to show you the real me, and if at the end of the day you don't like what you see I'll walk away. I'll never bother you again. You have my word."

"A-Angel, a-are you asking me out o-on a d-date?" She asked, searching his face.

"No, I'm asking you to spend the day with me. Let's get to know one another, and if at the end of the day you see that you like the real me the way I like you then maybe we can discuss a date. A real date. All I'm asking for is a chance, Buffy."

Buffy chewed on her bottom lip. She wanted to. God, how she wanted to. She was so tired of being alone. But it wasn't just that. He was right. There was this connection between them. Even now she could feel it. And it was an intense connection that even with her lack of experience she knew didn't happen to everyone. He was different. She knew it. Felt it. And that was only making it harder for her to say no.

"Buffy..." Angel took a step back away from her. "Do you want me to leave?"

"N-No." She whispered. "N-No. W-Wait." She answered a little louder. "Will you wait, please? I umm... shower. I need to shower."

He broke into that sexy lopsided smile he had rewarded her with last night, and this time it did take her breath away. "I'll wait. I'll wait for as long as it takes..."


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Thanks to Ryan, Christine, Court, Lauren, Kolumbyne, and Jade for their feedback on chapter 5.

CHAPTER 6


Two hours later, Buffy was standing, watching Angel spread a blanket out on the lawn of Weatherly Park. "Are you sure you don't need any help?"

"No thanks, I've got it." He finished up, and turned around to face her. "See." He smiled at her and walked over to take her hand. "Come sit with me." He lead her back over to the blanket, and helped her to sit down before taking a seat beside her. "It's beautiful here. The lady at the Chamber of Commerce said it was the best place to bring someone for a picnic."

Buffy pulled her knees up against her chest. "You know, I've lived here my whole life, and I don't think I've ever been on a picnic here. And one in January at that."

"But you have been here before, right?"

She nodded and stared out at the lake. "It's been awhile though. I think maybe the last time was when I was eleven. My mom... She used to bring me and my brother, Doyle all the time and let us hang out with other kids, and feed the ducks. When her and Hank...M-My d-dad... When they divorced she couldn't bring us anymore because she always had to work. Not that Doyle came that much there at the end anyway. He was a teenager, and thought he was too cool to hang out anywhere but the mall and the Bronze. There at the end... Before the divorce it was just me and my mom. God, I used to love those days. We would talk about everything from girl stuff to my dream of being a world famous gymnast. We very seldom get days like that anymore. She's always working, or off on a buying trip somewhere." She laid back on the blanket and looked up at the blue sky through her sunglasses.

Angel laid back beside her, then flipped over on his side so that he could look at her better. "You said you dreamed of being a world famous gymnast was that just a dream?"

"No. When I was two my mom enrolled me in gymnastics. I loved it, and I was actually pretty good at it. By the time I was ten, my coach, Mrs. Nuckols, told my parents she'd done all she could do for me. She said I needed a real coach. One that could teach me what it took to make it to the bigtime. You know, the Olympics? She really believed I had what it took and I was starting to believe it, too. Unfortunately things didn't work out though."

"What happened? Did you get hurt?"

"No, I quit. During that time Doyle wasn't doing so shabby himself. He was a baseball player. A pitcher. He really loved it and had potential, but then Hank... My dad... He got involved. Started seeing dollar signs. He began to push Doyle really hard. He wouldn't let him have any kind of life outside of baseball, and eventually it began to wear Doyle down. He began to hate baseball and everything that had to do with it. He became rebellious, and him and Hank... My dad... argued constantly. I could tell it was breaking Doyle's heart, and I hated my dad for it. I actually hated him for hurting Doyle so much. I guess I got scared that he would start doing the same to me. Take something I loved and turn it into something I hated, so I quit before he got the chance. I was eleven when I quit, and a couple of months later he left. Ran away with his young, blonde, secretary. A couple of months after he left I started thinking about going back to it, but in the end I didn't"

"Why? Because you didn't have the money?"

"Yeah, that's it. My mom didn't have the money for my training." She turned her head away from him, and he could tell she didn't want to talk about it anymore, so he changed the subject. "What were you like as a child? I mean, besides the fact that you wanted to be a world famous gymnast?"

"I was a kid." She turned back to look at him. "A kid just like any other kid."

"That still doesn't tell me anything, Buffy. How am I supposed to get to know you if you won't tell me anything about yourself?"

"I'm sorry, Angel. It's just... my childhood... It wasn't all sugar and spice and everything nice."

"I'm not asking you to tell me anything you're not ready to talk about, Buffy. I'm just asking you to tell me something... anything."

She sighed. "I umm... I guess I could tell you that my real name isn't Buffy. It's Elizabeth. Elizabeth Anne Summers. I got dubbed Buffy because Doyle couldn't say Elizabeth. He was four when I was born, and like any child he had pronunciation problems, so my mom let him call me Buffy since it's a pet name derived from Elizabeth, and it kinda stuck after that. It's not the most original name, I know, but it's better than some of the other names floating around out there."

"Where you born here?"

"Mmm... I was born on January 19, 1981 to Hank and Joyce Summers."

So, Angelus thought to himself, her birthday really was yesterday. He took that little piece of infomation and stored it away with a secret smile. "That was yesterday. Happy belated birthday."

"Thank you." She smiled. "You know, it was my 18th?"

"Eighteen's a good age. Special." Angel returned her smile. "So did you get anything special to go along with the special day?"

"Yeah." The smile disappeared from her face. "I got felt up and roughed up in the alley behind the place that used to be my favorite place to go."

"Buffy..." He reached for her hand, but she sat up before he could take it. "Gods, I'm sorry, Angel. I uhh... I swore this morning I wasn't going to dwell on Riley Finn today. Especially since he totally screwed up my birthday yesterday, and the last thing you need right now is for me to dump on you again. I'm sorry. It uhh... It just slipped."

"Buffy..." Angel sat up beside her.

"I did get something special." She said cutting him off. "A thousand bucks. I got a thousand bucks from Doyle. It's for my little red convertible fund."

Once again she was changing the subject, and he knew it was probably not best to push her if she wasn't ready to talk about Riley Finn. "Little red convertible fund?"

"Uh huh. It's another dream of mine. To own a little red convertible. Nothing fancy like your Ferrari. I just want it to be a red convertible and driveable. I started saving for it when I turned sixteen. Birthday money, my allowance. It's taking forever because my mom won't let me work, but I'm getting there."

"Speaking of your mom, what did you get from her?"

"Nothing yet. She's out of town on a buying trip." Buffy laid back on the blanket again. "She owns the local art gallery in town. She started working there after Hank left, and a few months after she did the the original owner passed away. His family put it up for sale, and she couldn't pass up the opportunity to buy it. She loved art, and seeing as she had two kids to feed she went for it. She had to take out a second mortgage on the house to do it, and money's been tight sometimes, but at least she's happy and that's all that counts."

"What about your father? Doesn't he pay child support?"

"Why pay child support for kids you don't even claim? Besides, I'm eighteen now, remember? That means his child support days are over."

"Your mom could take him to court and get back child support from him."

"That takes money, Angel. Lawyers fees, court fees. Money I just more or less told you my mom doesn't have. Besides, Hank's a prick. A prick I don't ever want to associate with or need. I already have a father. Doyle... He's my brother, but he's also my father. My real father. He's done everything a real father is supposed to do for a child. He's been there for me since the day I was born, and I know with all my heart he'll be there for me as long as I live."

"So you two are close?"

A smile reappeared on Buffy's face. "Close doesn't even begin to describe us, and alot of people can't quite comprehend what we have. Especially considering in all actuality he's only my half brother. See, his mom and Hank were involved in college. She got pregnant the middle of their senior year, and they got married right away, but it didn't work out. After the divorce she took Doyle and moved to LA. My dad...Hank... got visitation on weekends and holidays, and when he and my mom started dating my mom met and fell in love with Doyle. That's why when Doyle's real mom was killed in a car accident when Doyle was three and a half, my mom convinced Hank that they should raise Doyle instead of Maria's parents. Hank wasn't too keen on the idea at first because by that time he and my mom were married and expecting me, but eventually my mom wore him down, and Doyle came to live with them. When Hank left there was never an issue where Doyle would stay, not until it came time to go to court for the divorce. I guess Hank didn't want to pay child support for two kids, so he was more than willing to take Doyle back, but the judge saw through him. He not only awarded mom full custody of Doyle, he also allowed her to legally adopt him. That was seven years ago, and although Hank was ordered to pay child support for both Doyle and I, we haven't seen one red cent. He doesn't help support us, call us, write us, and in the last seven years we've only seen him once. I was twelve and Doyle was sixteen, and all it took was a couple of hours of having to live in the real world to send him hightailing it out of town and our lives. I guess he finally realized he wasn't father material, not that he ever really was a real father to start with. If he wasn't working, or traveling all the time, he was screwing his secretaries. He was never my real father. Never. As far as I'm concerned he was just someone who donated their sperm to give me life." Buffy looked up at Angel through her sunglasses. "I hate him, you know? I hate what he did to Doyle, because even after everything he did do Doyle still loved him and wanted him to return his love. It took a long time for Doyle to finally accept that it wasn't going to happen, and went on with his life. He's a teacher now. At Sunnydale High where I go to school, and I think his students love him almost as much as I do."

"What about your mom?" Angel laid back beside Buffy again. "I know you said she owned the art gallery in town, but that's all I know."

"Umm... Her name is Joyce. She was born and raised here. Graduated from UC Sunnydale, majoring in Art History, and when she's not busy working at the gallery, or spending time with Doyle and I, she's with Giles."

"Giles?"

"Rupert Giles. Her boyfriend of the last three years. He's the librarian at Sunnydale High, and also my surrogate father."

"So I take it you like him?"

"Love. I love him. He's great. A little stuffy sometimes. Thinks real music is the Bay City Rollers, and that tweed is the answer to ever fashion statement, but I can forgive him for those little flaws because he's English and lived a very sheltered life. Besides, I sorta owe him for always being there ... And God, listen to me. I must be boring you to tears."

"You're not." Angel turned on his side to look at her better. "I told you, Buffy I want to get to know you better and the only way to do that is for us to talk."

"Then you talk. I just realized I know absolutely nothing about you. Tell me all about Angelus O'Conner."

Angel reached over to brush a lock of hair of her cheek, and let his fingers linger there. "What do you want to know?"

"Everything." She answered a little breathlessly as his fingers begin to send serious sparkage coursing through her.

"Everything?"

"Uh huh. W-Why? Don't you want to tell me about yourself?"

"It's not that I don't want to. It's just that..."

"It's just that what?"

"Well... The truth is right now I can't think about anything except how much I want to kiss you."

"K-Kiss me? Y-You want to kiss me?"

"Very much." He murmured as he reached to remove her sunglasses so that he could look into her eyes. "Can I?"

"I uhh..." She nodded nervously. "Y-Yes. I-If you want."

Oh, he wanted alright. And he did. His lips swooped down to claim hers, and God it went way beyond anything she could have ever imagined her first real kiss to be. It went way beyond, earth shattering, knee wobbling, take my breath away. It rocked her to her very core, and she couldn't help but whimper from the loss of that feeling when he pulled away. "W-Wow." She whispered. "W-Wow..." And apparently he was thinking the same thing because she caught the stunned look on his face just before his lips closed over hers again, and they completely lost themselves in each other.


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Thanks to Ryan, Carol Ann, Karin Marie, Christine, Shirley, Court, Nicole, Kolumbyne, and Linda for their feedback on chapter 6. CHAPTER 7


The ringing of the telephone woke Buffy up on Sunday morning, and she swore as she rolled over that she was going to tell whoever it was off because they had roused her from one hell of a good dream. Of course, her plans quickly changed right after she grumbled Hello and found out that the person on the other end was the exact same person she had been dreaming about. "You sound sleepy. I woke you up, didn't I?"

"A-Angel?"

"I did. I woke you up. I'm sorry. Go back to sleep. I'll call you back later."

"No!" Her eyes flew open. "Don't you dare hang up on me Angelus O'Conner!"

"My, my. Someone is extremely grouchy and bossy first thing in the morning."

"That's only because I haven't had my caffeine to jump start me yet. I need a mocchachino with extra whipped cream, but since I don't have a cappucino maker I guess I'll have to settle for coffee with cream and lots of sugar. I get much much better after I have my caffeine. I swear."

"You know, you have a tendancy to babble. It's really cute."

"It is?"

"Yes, it is." He murmured huskily. "Very cute."

Buffy glanced at her clock then flipped back onto her bed pillows. "So... Why exactly are you calling me at eight o'clock on Sunday morning?"

"Couldn't sleep."

"Why?"

"You. I realized after I dropped you off yesterday evening that we never got around to discussing whether you were going to give me a chance or not."

"Do you want me to give you a chance?"

"Buffy... You're killing me here." He muttered. "Are you going to give me a chance or not?"

"I want to."

"But? And I am sensing a but here, Buffy."

"I umm...Oh God, this is so embarrassing."

"What's embarrassing? Come on, Buffy talk to me."

"I know nothing about you except your name and that your dad was a cop, and that you have money, and yet I still let you kiss me yesterday. Lot's of times in fact, and I'm not going to deny that I enjoyed it... The kissing, I mean. Because I did. I more than enjoyed it, but now I'm afraid you might think I'm easy cause I made out with you in a public place of all places and I don't know anything about you. I'm afraid the only reason you want to go out with me is because you think I'm easy, and the truth is I'm not. The truth is I've never really dated anyone at all, and oh God, there I go again totally babbling and not making any sense."

"Buffy?"

"What?"

"I never thought you were easy. And that's not the reason I want to see you again. I thought I made that clear to you yesterday?"

"You did. It's just... I guess when it all comes down to it, I don't understand."

"Understand what?"

"Why the interest in me? I mean, you're gorgeous, Angel. Not to mention sweet, kind, and considerate. You could have anyone you want, so I guess the question is why would you want to go out with someone like me?"

"What do you mean someone like you, Buffy? What's wrong with you?"

"You mean besides the fact that I have a psycho loon who's been harrassing me for months?"

"Months!" Angel practically yelled into the phone. "You mean to tell me this guy's been beating up on you for months and you're just now telling me? Jesus Christ, Buffy!"

"Angel..."

"Stay right there." He growled.

"W-What?"

"I'm coming to get you. I'm going to cook you breakfast and then you and I are going to have a nice long talk."

"A-Angel, I'm still in bed."

"Then shower and get dressed. I'll be there in fifteen minutes."

"Fifteen minutes! Are you crazy, Angel? There is no way I can shower and get dressed in fifteen minutes. In case you've forgotten, I'm a girl. And it's absolutely impossible for a girl to look presentable in less than triple that."

"Trust me, Buffy. There is no way in hell I could ever forget you're a girl. And because you are I know that if I give you an inch, you'll take a mile. Fifteen minutes, my love. I'll be there in fifteen minutes, and you'd better by ready."

The line went dead after that, but Buffy couldn't move to hang it up on her end. My love? Now she definitely knew she needed some caffeine because she could've sworn Angel had just called her my love. No. Stop it, Buffy. Quit letting that overactive imagination over yours go jumping the gun. He's probably on his way over here right now to pick you up, cook you breakfast, then dump you. Then again maybe he's not. Maybe he really does just want to talk. Or even better, maybe he wants to kiss some more like they had yesterday. And okay, Buffy. Stop it right now. The clock is ticking, and you've only get fourteen minutes to look half way presentable for him. With that thought, she scrambled out of bed and ran into the bathroom.

She emerged from her room ten minutes later, and flew down the stairs and out the front door just in time to see Angel coming around a silver Mercedes Benz SUV, and if she thought he was tasty looking yesterday in his black slacks and black wife beater, then today he was absolutely delicious looking in body hugging jeans and a t-shirt. Hot. He was so hot. Absolutely gorgeous. And she could feel her body temperature rise, and her heart start racing as she slid to a stop and watched him walk up the sidewalk towards her. Oh boy... She drew in several deep calming breaths. Hormonal... She could already tell that today was going to be a very hormonal day.

"Hey, I see you made it with a minute to spare. Good girl."

She smiled up at him as he came to a stop in front of her. "Actually, it was four minutes to spare according to my clock, and for your information that has to be a world's record for me."

"Well then, I think the lady deserves a reward." He leaned over to feather a kiss across her lips, then pulled away and handed her a styrofoam cup with a Starbuck's logo on it. "Here you go, my lady. One mocchachino with extra whipped cream."

Buffy eyed the cup nervously. "What's wrong?" He asked, not missing her unease.

"I umm... It's just... Breakfast, a cup of coffee, and a long talk..."

Angel knew right away what she was getting at. "It's not what you think, Buffy."

She raised her gaze back to his. "It's not?"

"Your damn right it's not. I'm not going anywhere unless you're the one that tells me to leave." He leaned over to brush another kiss across her lips then rested his forehead against hers. "Do you want me to leave?"

She shook her head. "N-No."

"Good." He smiled. "Now let's go. I don't know about you, but I'm starving."

****

Buffy hopped up on the counter where Angel was chopping up green peppers on a cutting board.

"So... The Crawford Street Mansion. Wow."

Angel looked up from the cutting board. "You've already said that fifty times, Buffy. Are you uncomfortable being here? Because if you are I could take you out to eat instead. I just thought we could talk more in private here."

"I'm not uncomfortable, Angel."

He laid down the knife he was using to cut the peppers. "Then what's the problem?"

"N-Nothing. Honest. I umm... I'm just surprised is all. It's in really great shape. It was empty for a long time. Did you know that?"

"Yeah. Fifteen years. I know. The real estate agent told me."

She glanced around nervously. "Did umm... Did she happen to tell you anything else? Anything umm... interesting?"

"No." He picked the knife back up and resumed cutting the peppers. "I was to busy pointing out all the repairs that needed to be done, and because I did, I managed to get quite a bit knocked off the asking price."

He seemed so proud of himself, Buffy didn't have the heart to tell him what she knew about the house. "Well, that's umm... nice. So, these repairs... Is it alot?"

"It depends on what you mean by alot. It needs a new roof, some plumbing work, and I want to replace the heating system with a heat pump and central air. I've hired contractors to do all the repairs plus some remodeling. They start in two weeks."

"What kind of remodeling?"

"I want to enlarge the master bedroom. Make it a suite with a master bath that's equipped with a jacuzzi and seperate shower. I also want to redo the remainder of the bedrooms upstairs and turn them into guest rooms that have their own adjoining bathrooms. Down here I want to modernize the kitchen, redo the garden, and make the study a office."

"Wow, you're planning on turning this place into a real bachelor pad, aren't you?"

"No, not a bachelor pad, Buffy." He snapped. "A home. A home I plan to live in the rest of my life."

"I-I'm sorry, Angel. I d-didn't mean to..." She looked away, and he immediately regretted snapping at her. He laid the knife down again, and moved closer to her. "No, I'm sorry, Buffy. I shouldn't have snapped at you like that. It's just... I sense you think that just because I have money I live a jet set life, but the truth is I don't. The truth is I'm actually a very private person. I hate that life. I'd much prefer to stay at home then go to social gatherings. I even hate clubs. The only reason I was at the Bronze Friday night was because I felt like I owed it to Cordy. She's been working really hard lately."

Buffy turned back to look at him. "If that's the case then tell me. Tell me all about the real Angelus O'Conner, Angel."

He smiled. "Where do you want me to start?"

"How about at the beginning?" She returned his smile. "Where were you born?"

"LA. Born and raised. I was born on May 16th, 1977 and named Angelus Liam O'Conner."

"And your parents? Who are they?"

"My Dad's name is Liam O'Conner. He was born in Galway, Ireland and didn't move to the states until he was eighteen. He went to UCLA for awhile. That's where he met my mom. Her name is Katherine. She's a teacher like your brother Doyle. She teaches first grade. My Dad dropped out of college his junior year at UCLA to become a cop for the LAPD. Him and my mom were married two years later right before mom started her first teaching job. They were married four years when my brother William came along, and I arrived two years later. When I was six my dad got sick. It was cancer. An inoperable brain tumor the doctors said. They gave him three months to live, but he made it nine. I don't remember very much about my childhood before then, but I do remember every thing after he got sick. How hard things were... not just for him, but for all of us. Especially mom. You know, I never actually seen her fall apart, but I know she did from time to time, and when she did she would just disappear into the bathroom, and when she re-emerged a little while later the only tell tell sign that she had broken down would be her red rimmed eyes. When she re-emerged, she would paste this great big smile back on her face and pretend that everything was just wonderful. She always kept a smile on her face when she was around him. She had one on her face the day he died. She never broke down and cried in front of him or us. He was blind and almost deaf at the end, but you wouldn't have known it by her. I can still remember that day so clearly. The way she held his hand and whispered words of love until he took his last breath, and the whole time she had a smile on her face."

Angel cleared his throat, and walked over to the sink to wash his hands. "Honestly, I don't see how she did it. How she could sit and watch him slowly be eaten away by such a horrible disease. I don't think I could do it."

Buffy swiped at her tears, and stared at his back. "You don't mean that, Angel. You wouldn't just walk away from someone you loved. Not if they were dying and needed you, would you?"

"I don't know, Buffy." Angel dried his hands and turned around to look at her. "I'm not as strong as people think I am. Especially when it comes to the people I love."

She turned her head away from him so he couldn't see the pain in her eyes. "W-William... Your brother... What's he like? Are you two close?"

"No."

"Why not?" She glanced back at him.

"We're just not, Buffy. Not all siblings have a perfect relationship like you have with yours."

"I uhh..." She stammered. "O-Okay. What about y-your mom? Are you two close?"

The mention of his mom brought another smile to Angel's lips. "As two peas in a pod. She's incredible. She has this zest for life. I think that's why she loves teaching little ones so much. They keep her young. Not that she's old, mind you. She's just... Well, she's mom. I miss her, but it helps that I can pick up the phone and call her whenever I want."

"What about growing up? What were you like growing up?"

"I guess you could say I was a nerd." He leaned back against the counter. "I was picked on alot, and even though I was trained in martial arts at an early age, I was taught never to use it unless absolutely necessary, so instead of beating up the kids that picked on me, I turned to writing stories. It was also my outlet for dealing with Dad's illness. I wrote all the time. I loved it. I even wrote at school. Stayed in trouble for not paying attention in class, but I couldn't help it. I got bored very easily, and my teachers couldn't understand how I could do so well grade wise when I never paid attention. It turns out the reason I got bored so easily was because I was a little more advanced academically wise than my fellow students. My mom was the one that eventually figured it out and had me tested. After we got the test results, I jumped from eighth grade to tenth. I graduated from high school when I was fifteen, and accepted an academic scholarship to attend Harvard where I double majored in Investment, and literature. It was during my freshman year at Harvard that one of my professor's convinced me to submit one of my stories in a writing contest. The grand prize was a contract with one of the top publishing companies in the US, and to my dismay I won. Of course, the publishing company wanted me to lengthen the story to a novel, and make alot of changes that I barely had time to do. That's how I met Cordelia. I ran an ad in the paper looking for an assistant to help with the changes in the manuscript and type it up. She applied for the job, and at first I wasn't going to hire her. She had no experience whatsoever, and I even told her that, but then she told me that her family had recently lost everything to the IRS because her Dad had evaded paying his taxes for eighteen years, and she needed the money. She said she couldn't get a job anywhere else, and then she broke down on me and cried. When she did that, I didn't have the heart to say no to her, so I hired her, and I'm glad I did now. After my first book hit number one on the best seller's list, my publishing firm started making me do appearances and book signings. I had no experience with the public whatsoever, but Cordy... She had lots. She stepped in and groomed me for society I guess you could say. Over time we became friends. Best friends, and I couldn't imagine life without her now."

"You're an author?"

Angel nodded. "I write horror/occult books. I've wrote six to be exact, and all of them are based on one character and his group of friends, who are referred to as the *Fang Gang*. And once again to my dismay they all went number one."

Buffy gasped. "Y-You're Liam Angelus?"

"I take it you've read the books?"

Buffy shook her head. "No, not me. Not enough smut. But Doyle... He's obsessed with them. So obsessed, that I nearly got killed last month at the local Books-A-Million trying to get him your latest for Christmas."

Angel grimaced. "Uh oh. This doesn't sound good. What happened?"

"Like I said, I went to the local Books-A-Million to get him your latest book, and some really big proportioned woman tried to slice and dice me with her razor sharp fingernails because I just so happened to pick up the last copy in the entire store."

"I'm sorry." Angel murmured, locking eyes with her.

"Yeah. Yeah." She waved her hand at him. "Tell that to my therapist. She thinks you're the one that should be sliced and diced for causing such a commotion."

At first Angel thought she was serious, but then she suddenly broke into a smile, the first geniune smile he had seen since he had met her, and God it was breathtaking. "Y-You know, I really should make you pay for that Miss. Summers. You really had me worried there for a moment. I thought I was going to have to move again, and I really don't want to do that. Especially now that I've met you..."

"A-And that's a good thing?" She eyed him nervously. "M-Meeting me, I mean?"

"It was..." He closed the distance to her, wedging himself between her legs. "It is... It's a very good thing."

"R-Really?" She whispered, her tongue darting out to moisten her dry parched lips.

He nearly groaned out loud at the intense desire that shot through him at the sight of her simple nervous gesture. "Really." His lips inched closer to hers. "But you seem to be having trouble believing me, so I'm thinking maybe you need a little convincing." And then his lips tenderly claimed hers, but he still wasn't close enough for Buffy. Her arms inched up and around his neck, her fingers threading through his hair, and once again she was thankful that she wasn't on her feet because he had already managed to turn her to jello.

"Okay, if she's going to become a permanent fixture around here, I would appreciate it if you would pry your lips away from her long enough to introduce us."

Angel growled low in his throat as he regrettably pulled away from Buffy and turned around to face the owner of the voice. "Cordelia, did anyone ever tell you that you have the worst timing?"

"Looks to me like I have perfect timing. If I hadn't come sooner the poor girl probably would have lost her tonsils."

A giggle erupted from Buffy, but she quickly shut up when Angel turned back around to look at her with a scowl on his face. "And what pray tell do you think is so funny, Miss. Summers?"

"Well, I uhh... I kinda see where she might would think that, Angel."

"You do, do you?"

"Uh huh." Was all Buffy could utter as she began to drown in those chocolate pools of his again.

"I don't seem to recall you complaining." He murmured huskily.

"That's because I wasn't." She answered a little breathlessly, and blushed.

He grinned, and leaned over to feather another kiss across her lips. "Didn't think you were."

"Uhh, Hello?" Cordelia waved a hand at the couple. "Third person in the room, remember? Could we please stop with the PDA's. I haven't had breakfast."

Angel growled again, and with another quick peck to Buffy's lips, helped her down from the counter. "Buffy Summers, I would like you to meet my best friend, and very annoying pain in the ass, Cordelia Chase. Cordy, this is Buffy."

Cordelia smiled at Buffy. "Hello, Buffy. It's nice to meet you."

Buffy returned her smile. "You too, Cordelia. Angel's told me alot about you."

"Angel?" Cordelia quirked an eyebrow at her best friend. "You let her call you Angel?"

"No, Cordy." Angel muttered. "I don't let Buffy do anything. She has a mind of her own and she's the one that decided to call me that."

Buffy looked up at Angel. "D-Did I do something wrong?"

"Oh, no!" Cordelia yelped as Angel shot her a dirty look. "It's just that no one has ever had the nerve to call Angelus Angel except his mom and live to tell about it."

"Oh... Uhh...A-Angel? D-Do you want me to..."

"It's okay, Buffy. You can call me, Angel." He lead her over to the kitchen table, and pulled out a chair for her to sit down.

"A-Are you sure?" She sat down and looked up at him.

"Yes, I'm sure." He leaned over and dropped another kiss on her lips. "Now get acquainted with Cordy while I cook us breakfast." He straightened and looked across the table at Cordelia. "Cordy, ham and cheese omlettes. Do you want green peppers?"

"You know it." She answered, taking a seat across from Buffy at the table.

"Buffy?" Angel reached for her hand.

"No peppers for me, thanks."

"Okay. Three ham and cheese omlettes coming up." He squeezed her hand before letting go and heading to the stove.

"So, Buffy..." Cordelia eyed the golden blonde from across the table. "Angel tells me you're still in high school, and that you graduate this year. What's your plans after that?"

"I umm... college, I guess. Maybe. I'm not for sure that I'm going to go."

"Hate school, huh?"

"No. Actually I love it, there's just a chance I might not go to college, that's all."

"If you go what do you want to major in?"

"Clothing design. I have a knack for it I guess you could say."

"You're kidding, right?"

"No. When I was eleven I took my first Home Economics class, and we had to make a dress as our first sewing assignment. We were given a whole grading period to complete it, and I knew right away exactly what type of dress I wanted to make. It was a sarong style dress. I had seen one over the summer. One of my friend's mother wore one to a Hawaiian themed birthday party, and I fell in love with it, but once I decided to make it I couldn't find a pattern for it. Then the weekend before we were to start on it I decided to try and draw it. I sat down with a sketch pad, cleared my head of everything but the dress, and began to draw it. When I opened my eyes a little while later there it was... My dress... staring back at me, but there was a very big problem. I didn't know have a clue how to get it from the paper to actually existing. That's where my teacher, Mrs. Murphy came in. She showed me how to draw a pattern piece by piece, and she even recommended a material shop where I could go get the perfect material. I was the last one to complete my assignment because once I got started I kept going back and changing something. Gods, I was so proud of that dress, and I had every right to be. I got the best grade in the entire class and Mrs. Murphy actually asked me to make her one just like it. Since then, I've done hundreds of designs. Most of them are just on paper, but I've managed to make some of them."

"Like what?"

"Umm... A little of everything. Pants, tops, suits, dresses. I've even made a wedding dress, but it wasn't my own design. I did it for a lady that works for my mom. I couldn't believe it when she asked me to do it. I was so excited because that was the one design I had always dreamed about doing, but had never gotten the chance to. I had all these ideas in my head, and I couldn't wait to put them on paper, and then turn them into the real thing. Unfortunately though, I never got the chance. The day after she asked me to do it she showed up at my house with a pattern that she liked and told me that was the dress she wanted. I was so disappointed, and quite honestly it wasn't my best work. Oh, don't get me wrong, and don't take this as me bragging, because I'm not. The dress was beautiful. What wedding dress isn't? But I just wasn't satisfied with it once I was done. I knew it could have been better. More stunning. Eloquent, you could say."

Cordelia looked across the room at Angel, who had stopped cooking to listen to Buffy. "Did you hear that, Angelus? Looks like our little Buffy here just might be the next Versaci."

"I believe she could do anything she put her mind to." Angel murmured, staring at the back of the woman in question.

"Trust me, guys. Versaci I'm not, nor will I ever be."

"Why don't you let me decide that, Buffy. I happen to be a Versaci expert, or used to be anyway." Cordelia muttered. "I'd like to see your work sometime. That's if you don't mind showing me?"

"I don't mind. Maybe I could bring some sketches with me next time I come over. I'm working on some ideas for Prom dresses right now." Buffy glanced over her shoulder at Angel, who was now gathering up three plates. "That's if there is a next time I come over."

"Oh, there will be." He answered softly as he made his way back to the table. "You can count on it."


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Thanks to Lauren, Christine, Jessie, Kolumbyne, Ryan, Linda, and Stef for their feedback on chapter 7.                                          Anita CHAPTER 8


"Buffy?"

Buffy looked up from the test she was taking to see Mr. Smith, her Physics teacher, turning away from the classroom door. "You're wanted in the office."

"B-But my..."

"I'll hold your test till you get back." He gave her a reassuring smile. "I understand it won't take long."

She stood up and took the test to him, shooting a peek and flashing a weak smile at her best friends, Willow Rosenberg and Xander Harris, before leaving the room. It wasn't until she was absolutely sure that the classroom door was closed that she finally turned to look at the girl behind her. "Let me guess, Snyder wants to see me, right."

"No. Today is your lucky day, Buffy." Amy Madison, who worked in the office that period, flashed Buffy a really big smile. "It's something good. You'll see what I mean. Come on."

Good. It was something good Buffy kept telling herself as she followed Amy down the hallway. It had nothing to do wtih Riley. Riley... She didn't even want to think about him. She had even gone out of her way to avoid him and his friends today because she didn't know if she could see him without actually physically getting sick like she had earlier that morning. She couldn't see him. She just couldn't... She entered the office behind Amy, and came to halt in her tracks, her eyes falling on the display on the front desk. "W-Wow. Who uhh... Who just left the pre-posy phase behind?"

"Well, evidently you did because their yours." Amy walked up to the desk, and turned around to hand the two dozen roses to Buffy. "M-Mine?" Buffy stared at the purple roses. "Th-These beautiful things are m-mine?"

"Uh huh. The florist made it plain and clear that these two dozen beautiful sterling roses were for one Miss. Buffy Anne Summers. He even specified that you were to sign for them personally." She took the roses from Buffy, and shoved a clipboard in her hand. "He's coming back after he finishes his last delivery to make sure you got them."

"D-Do you know who their from?" Buffy asked as she quickly signed the slip on the clipboard. "Nope. Just that there's a card." She took the clipboard, and handed the roses back to Buffy. "By the way, in case you didn't know sterling roses mean love at first sight."

Buffy stared at the card standing up in the middle of the roses. She was almost afraid to open it, and decided it was best to wait until she was alone before she did. "I umm... Is that it?"

"Yeah, that's it." Amy smiled. "You can go back to Physics and that nasty test your taking. Oh, and good luck by the way, I heard it was a real doozy."

"Th-Thanks, Amy." Buffy left the office, and waited until she was halfway back down the hallway before she stopped and finally reached for the card. There was nothing on the outside to indicate what might be inside, and that

frightened her even more. But then, her frown quickly turned into a smile as she opened the envelope and found what was written there.

Thinking of you. Always, -A-

"Okay, Summers. Maybe today isn't going to be such a bad day after all." She murmured to herself, as she leaned over and inhaled the beautiful aroma of the flowers. She was so happy, it took her several moments to compose herself enough to finally go back to class and the test waiting on her, and when she entered the classroom she could feel every eye in the room including her best friends' on her as she handed the roses to Mr. Smith, and took back her test. I'll explain later she mouthed to her friends as she took her seat, and true to her word thirty minutes later she did.

"Okay, I'm dying here. Who sent them?" Willow Rosenberg asked, taking a seat next to Buffy on the bench.

Buffy sat the roses down on the other side of her, and smiled. "I met someone."

"When you say someone, do you mean like a boy kinda someone?" Xander Harris asked from the wall behind her.

"Uh huh." Buffy answered dreamily. "Only he's not a boy. He's a man. Definitely a man. A hottie kinda man."

"Uh oh, Will." Xander leaned over to look at Buffy's face. "This is serious. Look at her. She has that look."

"What look?" Buffy asked glancing back and forth at her two best friends.

"THE LOOK, Buffy." Willow giggled. "The look of love, and you've got it."

"I-I do?"

"Uh huh." Willow smiled. "So spill. Who is he?"

"I umm... If I tell you guys you have to pinky swear that you won't tell anyone."

"Why?" Xander said, eyeing her. "What's wrong? He not the kinda guy you take home to Mommy?"

"Actually, Xander he's just the type of guy you want to take home to Mommy. In fact, he's every mother's dream."

"He has money." Xander guessed.

"Well, yeah. But I could care less about that, and that's not why I'm asking you to pinky swear. I'm asking you to pinky swear because he's sort of a celebrity."

"A-A celebrity?" Willow asked excitedly.

Buffy nodded.

"You're joking, right?" Xander asked sarcastically.

"No." Buffy shook her head. "Now are you two going to pinky swear you won't tell anyone or not?"

"We swear." Xander and Willow said in unison. "Now tell us who he is?" Willow added.

"His name is Angelus O'Conner, but you guys know him as Liam Angelus."

"LIAM ANGELUS!" Willlow squealed, then quickly quieted when Buffy shot her a dirty look. "D-Did you say Liam Angelus? The same Liam Angelus that wrote the *Fang Gang* books?"

"The one and the same." Buffy murmured.

"Isn't he like really old or something?" Xander asked from behind Buffy.

"No, Xander. He's older than me, but not really older. He's twenty three. And I don't call him Angelus. I call him Angel just like the character in his books. Which is really kinda strange if you think about it because I've never read any of his books, and well anyway, getting back to him... I met him in the parking lot outside the Bronze Friday night. I uhh... I sort of bumped into him..." Okay, she wasn't exactly being honest with them, but she couldn't tell them the truth. She couldn't tell them that Riley Finn was sexually harrassing her and had almost... She couldn't tell them. No one knew except Angel, and she planned on it staying that way. "We uhh... We got to talking after that and he ended up giving me a ride home. I don't know how to explain it, guys but we just clicked. It's like I've known him my whole life. Gods, he's so sweet. Not to mention incredibly smart and gorgeous, and the real stunner is I think he actually likes me, too."

"And why exactly is that such a stunner, Buffy?" Xander murmured. "I happen to think you're pretty damn incredible."

"Thanks, Xand. That means alot to me, but I happen to know you're impartial to me because your my best friend. Angel... Well, I'm just having a really hard time believing that someone like him could like someone like me."

"Why, Buffy?" Willow spoke up and asked. "I mean, it's pretty obvious he's interested." She pointed to the flowers. "I mean, if he wasn't why would he send those?"

"I believe he likes me, Will. I do. It's just... I'm scared. I'm afraid I'm not incredible enough to keep him."

"And you want to keep him?"

Buffy shook her head. "Oh yeah. He's definitely a keeper, Will. He came by the house Saturday morning, and he just came right out and told me that he wanted to get to know me better. He asked me to spend the day with him. Give him a chance to show me the real Angelus O'Conner, and he told me that if I didn't like what I saw at the end of the day he would walk away and never bother me again."

"I'm guessing by the glow on your face that you liked what you saw."

Buffy was practically beaming when she smiled at her best friend. "Uh huh. He took me on a picnic in the park after that. Nothing fancy. Just cheese, fruit, veggies, and a bottle of sparkling grape juice, and we talked." She blushed. "That is we talked in between umm... kissing."

"Y-You kissed him?" Xander practically yelled.

"Yes, Xander. I kissed him." Buffy scowled. "But only after he was a complete gentleman and asked me if he could kiss me first."

"So how was it, Buffy?" Willow asked grinning.

"Unbelievable." Buffy answered dreamily again. "More than unbelieveable, Will. It was more than I could ever imagine my first kiss to be like. He more than made my knees wobble. He rocked my world, literally. I've never ever felt this way about anyone. That's why I spent the day with him again yesterday. He took me to his house, and made breakfast for me and his best friend. He's an incredible cook. Then today he sends me these..." She pointed to the roses. "And on the card he wrote thinking of you. He's just so..."

"Incredible." Xander asked sarcastically again.

"Yes, he is, Xander." Buffy turned around to look at him. "And that's what scares me so much. I've only known him

three days and I've already managed to fall for him. Am I crazy?"

"No, just in love." Willow murmred.

Buffy turned back to look at the red head. "N-No. I can't be... I can't be in love with him."

"Who says, Buffy?" Willow laughed. "Haven't you ever heard of love at first sight?"

"W-What?"

"Love at first sight. I've never actually experienced it myself, but Oz said it happened to him the first time he saw me." She met Buffy's gaze. "The question is do you think maybe that's what has happened to you?"

Buffy's gaze returned to the roses beside her. "I umm... Y-Yes. Yes. I think it is..."

**** "Buffy?"

"Huh?" Buffy snapped out of her reverie, and looked up to find both her mother and brother staring at her.

"Sweetie, are you sure you're okay?" Joyce Summers laid down her silverware. "You've been picking at your food for the last ten minutes. Are you sick at your stomach?" She leaned over to feel Buffy's forehead. "Do you have a fever? Should I call..."

Buffy shrugged of her hand. "I'm fine, Mom. I'm fine. I'm just not hungry, okay? Now may I be excused?"

"Honey, this is supposed to be your birthday dinner. We scheduled this last week since I knew I wasn't going to be here to help you celebrate on Friday. Your brother missed his bowling night tonight for this dinner."

"I know, Mom. And I really appreciate it." Buffy's eyes met her brother's across the table. "I appreciate the fact that the both of you made time for me, but I'm sorry. I'm just not hungry. I think that Physics test today wiped me out more than I thought. I just want to take a shower and crash."

"It's only eight o'clock, Munchkin. Are you sure you're feeling okay?"

"I said I'm fine god damnit, Doyle!"

"Elizabeth Anne Summers!" Joyce yelled.

Buffy saw the hurt look on her brother's face, and immediately regretted what she had done. "Oh God..." She buried her face in her hands. "I'm sorry, Doyle. Mom. It's just... You're smothering me, and I was expecting a phone call... I thought he would call. He didn't call."

Doyle looked over at his mother then back at Buffy. "He? Would this happen to be the same he who sent you all those roses at school today?"

"Roses?" Joyce Summers asked a little surprised.

"Uh huh." Buffy finally looked over at her mother. "They're upstairs in my room. By my bed. I didn't get a chance to tell you or show you because you came straight in and started cooking."

"You never answered my question, Munchkin?"

"Don't you dare go all protecto guy on me, Doyle Summers. Just because I got flowers from a guy doesn't mean I have to tell you anything. I'm eighteen years old. My personal life is my business."

"Sorry, Sis. But I make your personal life my business when you go all crazy and let this guy get to you like no guy has ever got to you before." He broke into a grin. "So... Who is he?"

"You wouldn't believe me even if I told you." Buffy buried her face in her hands again. "And I don't know why I'm even bothering to tell you about him anyway. I mean, it's obvious he's not interested in me. If he was he would have called."

"What about the roses, honey." Joyce Summers pointed out. "A man doesn't send flowers unless they're interested. Trust me, I know." She reached across the table to smooth Buffy's hair. "Now come on, perk up. I'm sure there's a perfectly good reason for why he didn't call."

"Mom's right, Munchkin. And since you're not busy talking to him at the moment, I think you should spend this time telling us about him."

"Oh, okay. His name is..." Buffy started, but never got to finish because she was interrupted by the doorbell.

"Hold that thought, Sweetie." Joyce laid down her napkin, and stood up. "That could be Rupert. He said he might stop by if he got through with his meeting in time." She left the dining room, and made her way to the front door. When she opened it she found a tall, dark haired man in a black business suit, standing on the other side. "Can I help you?"

"I sure hope so." The stranger murmured softly. "I'm here to see Buffy. Is she home?"

"Yes, of course she is." Joyce stepped aside and gestured to the young man. "Please come in, and I'll go get her, Mr..."

"Angelus. Angelus O'Conner." Angel replied, entering the house. "And you must be Buffy's mom." He turned around to face an older version of Buffy, and extended his hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Summers. Buffy has told me alot about you."

Joyce stared at the man standing in front of her. A man obviously older than her daughter. "That's funny because Buffy hasn't mentioned anything about..."

"Angel?"

Angel and Joyce both sought out the voice at the same time. "Buffy, hey."

"Hey." She murmured, their eyes meeting. "What are you doing here?"

"I came to see you."

Joyce watched their heated exchange before turning back to the young man. "Angel? I thought you said your name was Angelus?"

Angel chuckled. "My real name is Angelus, Mrs. Summers. Angel's the shortened version that Buffy decided to call me."

"And you let her?" A male voice asked from behind Buffy.

Buffy turned around and playfully slapped the owner of the voice. "Doyle, shut up."

Doyle laughed, and stepped around Buffy. "I will just as soon as you introduce me to your FRIEND, Munchkin."

Buffy shot her brother a dirty look before turning back to Angel. "Angel, this is my brother, Doyle. Doyle, this is Angelus O'Conner."

Doyle stuck out his hand. "It's nice to meet you, Angelus O'Conner."

Angel grinned. "You too, Doyle. And to answer your question... The truth is I'm finding it really hard to say no to your sister."

"Ahh..." Doyle leaned against the doorway. "I see I've found a possible candidate for the *I Can't Say No To Buffy* club. Just answer me one question, Angel? Has she given you her pouty face yet?"

Angel glanced over at Buffy, who was shooting daggers at her brother. "No, why?"

"Because I can almost guarantee you that it will be your downfall."

"Doyle!" Buffy yelped. "I don't pout!"

"I beg to differ, Sis." Doyle's gaze returned to Angel's amused one. "Her bottom lip pokes out for about a mile, and the upper... Well, I'm not quite sure what happens to her upper lip because the truth is I can't get past how damn adorable her lower one is. It's a real killer. Gets me everytime."

"Mom!" Buffy's eyes flew to Joyce.

Joyce laughed. "Doyle, quit embarrassing your sister."

"I'm not trying to embarrass her, Mom. I just think the man should know what he's getting himself into."

"I think Angel has heard enough." Joyce turned back to Angel. "Angel, we were in the middle of eating dinner. Buffy's birthday dinner to be exact. Would you like to join us?"

"No, thank you, Mrs. Summers. I've already had dinner. Maybe some other time?"

Joyce nodded, and glanced back over at her daughter. "I take it you won't be rejoining us?"

Buffy shook her head. "If it's okay, I'd rather spend time with my company."

Joyce's gaze returned to Angel. "I want her back here at eleven o'clock sharp. It's a school night."

"Yes, ma'am." He nodded, and smiled.

Buffy bounded over and kissed Joyce on the cheek. "Thanks, Mom." Then she went over to her brother and done the same. "I'll see you in the morning."

Doyle smiled. "7:30 sharp."

She went to the coat rack, and grabbed the leather coat Angel had given her, and shrugged it on. When she was done, she grabbed Angel's hand, and pulled him out the door. "'Nite, guys."

Joyce Summers stared at the door in silence for a few moments before turning around to face her son. "He seems nice."

"But?" Doyle asked eyeing her.

"But he's older than her. That worries me."

"Trust me, Mom. You needn't worry."

Joyce raised an eyebrow. "Why? Do you know him?"

"No, not personally. But I do know of him. He's the one that wrote those *Fang Gang* books, Mom. His pen name is Liam Angelus. He's one of the richest men in America right now, and one of the most eligible. All his books have been best sellers, and he's taken the money from them and invested very wisely. But that's not all of his resume'. He's really big on education as well. Donates alot of his money to better schools. And Buffy... That's a real shocker, too. She obviously has feelings for him. Jesus, Mom. Did you get a load of her smile? I haven't seen her smile like that in..."

"A really long time..." Joyce finished, and turned back to the door. "Still... I can't help but worry."


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Thanks to Trackstars06, Crystal, Vengfulvixen3, Christine, Kolumbyne, Lana, DragonQueen, Carol Ann, Ryan, April, Cooper, Emma, DragonFire, and Cristina for their feedback on Chapter 8. If you want the disclaimer it's at the beginning of chapter one! CHAPTER 9


"Why are we walking?"

"Because it's a really nice night for a walk... And the truth is I could use the air. I'm a little stressed."

Buffy glanced over at the man walking beside her. "Bad day?"

"You could say that." Angel murmured. "I had to go to LA today." He reached for her hand, and intertwined it with his. "It wasn't planned. My publisher rejected my new manuscript again."

"And you're upset about that?"

"A little, but it's not the first time they've done it, and I doubt it will be the last. I'll just try again."

"Uh huh." Her eyes narrowed as she watched the play of emotions on his face. "And I'm guessing by the way you just blew my question off that obviously that's not what has you so stressed, so would you care to tell me what does?"

"You..." Angel didn't hesitate to answer. "We never got around to having that talk yesterday because Cordy showed up."

"Oh..." Buffy stopped in her tracks, and he immediately stopped to turn and look at her. "You said he's been doing this for months, Buffy."

"N-Not that... Friday night... Th-That was the first time he's actually gotten... It was just harrassment before, Angel."

"Sexual harrassment, right?"

She turned away from him in response.

"Buffy..." He moved up behind her and pulled her back into his arms. "This little prick... What he's doing... It's gone way beyond harrassment. He almost raped you."

She flinched, but didn't say anything, so he continued. "I've been worried sick about you all day, Buffy. It's not going to stop. Not until you make it."

"I can't." She broke his grasp, and moved down the sidewalk.

"Buffy!" Angel caught up with her, and came around to block her way. "Why? I know you're scared, baby but there's no reason to be. I'm here, and I'll be here with you every step of the way. I promise."

"I can't go to the police, Angel! Even if I wanted to I can't go."

"Why not?" His face was taut. "What are you so afraid of, Buffy?"

"They don't know!" She screamed, and pushed away from him again. "My family... My friends... They don't know! I haven't told anyone, but you. I can't tell them. Especially Doyle."

Angel swept a hand through his hair in frustration. "Why? Why haven't you told them? They love you for christ sakes, Buffy! They could help you through this."

"You think that I don't know that, Angel! That's why I haven't told them. It's because I know they would want to help that I can't tell them! Especially Doyle! He's very overprotective of me, Angel. If he knew what Riley was doing he would kill him, and that's the truth. He really would kill Riley, and then he would not only go to jail, he would lose his job because of it. He's a teacher, Angel! A teacher. And that's always been his dream because his mom was a teacher. I won't take that away from him. I won't let him fuck his life up over some loser like Riley Finn. But it's not just Riley I'm worried that he'll go after if he finds out. It's Principal Snyder, too. Doyle knows that I've been to Snyder's office over Riley, but he thinks it was because Riley was picking on my friends so he didn't interfere. If he knew the truth. If he knew what a cold hearted bastard Snyder really was... And he is a cold hearted bastard, Angel. That man hates me. He thinks I'm trouble. White trash. He always has, and he never misses an opportunity to tell me that. But that's not all he tells me. The last time I went to the office about Riley he told me that if I don't lay off of Riley he would see to it that my brother never taught school again." She started to cry. "Don't you see, Angel? I can't risk getting Doyle fired. A-And Snyder would do it. I can't tell them. I w- won't stand by and let that little troll hurt the people I love. Especially Doyle. I w-won't be the one responsible for ruining his life. Not when I owe him mine!"

"Hey. Hey." Angel closed the distance to Buffy and pulled her into his arms again. "I'm sorry, baby. I didn't realize..." He stroked her hair as he held her close. "I'm sorry. Don't cry. Please don't cry. I hate to see you cry."

"I hate this, Angel." She cried into his chest. "I just want my life back. I don't know how much more I can take."

"Shh... Everything's going to be okay." Angel kissed the top of her head. "Everything's going to be okay, I promise. If you can believe anything believe that."

***

"Rupert Giles?"

"Y-Yes. I'm Rupert Giles." Giles moved around his desk. "Can I help you?"

Angel extended his hand. "I'm Angelus O'Conner. We had an appointment."

"Ahh yes, Mr. O'Conner. It's nice to finally meet you." Giles accepted his hand and shook it.

"You, too." Angel smiled. "I'm sorry I had to cancel our meeting yesterday. I had to go to LA for an unscheduled meeting, and then when I got back there was someone very important I had to see. I hope I didn't cause any problems."

"N-No. No problems. I actually ended up staying here and working. I'm in the middle of cataloging all the books in the library into the computer. Blasted machines! I still can't get used to them, and it doesn't help that their outdated on top of all that, or at least that's what one of my students tells me. She says that's why their slow accepting the information. I guess she would know. She's one of the top students in the school. Extremely bright."

"I take it you don't like computers?"

"N-No. I abhorr them. My girlfriend's daughter tells me it's because I grew up in the dark ages. Why in the world she stays on my case is beyond me. She hates the bloody things almost as much as I do."

Angel chuckled. "Sounds like Buffy."

Giles looked a little surprised. "You know Buffy?"

Angel smiled. "I met her over the weekend. We're in the getting to know each other stage. She told me about you. She's very fond of you."

"A-And I she. Doyle, too. They're like my own, but Buffy even more so. I guess that's why we're so close. I sort of stepped in behind Doyle and became another father figure to her. N-Not that I mind. This may sound cruel, but I'm actually glad Hank Summers isn't around. He was set in his ways. Gave Doyle a hard time. Harder than most parents would their kid. A-And Buffy... He hurt her terriblly too, but she tends to forget that part. Her hate for Hank is strictly because of what he did to Doyle. That's why she's so leery of people. M-Men in particular. I guess that's why I still get surprised that she loves me as much as she does. But then again, she craved love back then. Especially with everything she was going through..." Giles removed his glasses from his face. "I'm terribly sorry, Mr. O'Conner. I have a tendancy to ramble on."

"It's all right, Mr. Giles. I want to know everything there is to know about Buffy. I already know she has her hang-ups. Especially with her Dad, but she hasn't opened up enough to tell me what exactly he did to her. I hope in time she will though."

"Just a little piece of advice, Mr. O'Conner. Buffy's had a rough way to go, and she's still facing alot of possible hard times. Don't push her. If she wants you to know she'll tell you. The only reason I know is because I was one of the people involved." Giles slid his glasses back on his face, and moved back around to sit down at his desk. "Now, with that said, shall we get down to discussing the real reason you're here?"

"Of course."

Giles gestured to the chair in front of his desk. "Please have a seat."

"Thank you." Angel murmured, shedding his coat, and sitting down. "The reason I'm here is because I'm interested in discussing with you what you told my assistant Cordelia Chase last week."

"Interested in what way?"

Angel clasped his hands in his lap. "I'll get around to that in a few moments, but first there are a couple of questions I need to ask you."

Giles nodded. "Certainly. Go right ahead."

"Well first, I would like for you to give me your honest opinion on what type of person the principal of this school is?"

"I think he's a cold hearted bastard who doesn't care about the students of this school. Unless of course, your Riley Finn, that is."

"Riley Finn?" Angel asked nonchalantly.

"Yes. He's a student here. A senior like Buffy. He's also the son of the mayor of Sunnydale. He gets by with alot. More than anyone else would in this school. Not only because he's the mayor's son, but because Principal Snyder is also the mayor's best friend. Their old college buddies."

"Interesting." Angel murmured more to himself than to Giles.

"Interesting how?" Giles asked, eyeing the young man across his desk.

"Well, I was just wondering if maybe that's why the principal of this school gets such a large salary?"

"I-I don't know. I never really thought about it." Giles answered. "I guess that's possible considering that Mayor Finn also serves on the school board."

Angel sat up. "He does?"

Giles nodded. "Y-Yes. He filled a vacant seat six years ago. He's the one that recommended that..."

"That what?"

"That the board hire Snyder." Giles locked eyes with Angel. "I had completely forgotten about that."

"That's a little fishy, don't you think?"

"Y-Yes. Yes, it is."

"Okay, just one more question?" Angel sat back again. "How exactly did you know Snyder got such a large salary?"

"I didn't. Not until right before school started this year. There was talk of a teacher's strike because we were passed over for a raise again this year. Mary Miller, Principal Snyder's secretary brought it up in the teacher's lounge the morning we were told there would be no raise. She was angry because she too had gotten passed over for a raise, but she said Snyder hadn't. I assume she would know. She handles all the financial aspects of the school, including our paychecks."

"Do me a favor, Mr. Giles? Don't mention this to anyone else. I want to do a little checking into this first, okay?"

"Certainly. Anything you say."

"Good." Angel murmured. "Now, let's get down to the real reason I'm here."

"Wh-Which is?"

"The lack of educational materials in this school. I'm not sure if you're aware of who I am, but if you are then you know I take education very seriously."

"I'm well aware of who you are, Mr. O'Conner. I've got you're books here in the library, but I didn't recognize you from them. I actually saw your picture in an educational magazine the staff gets here at the school. I must say, you have quite a resume' for someone so young."

"It's nice to know that someone recognizes for who I really am for a change." Angel smiled. "And now that you do, I can tell you that's why I'm here. I want to help, but since it's obvious that the Principal's and school board's true purpose is in question, I'm turning to you."

"Me?" Giles' eyes widened in surprise. "Wh-Why me?"

"I want you to talk to the faculty and make up a list of everything they and the school lack. Once you get the list done I want you to call me and we'll schedule a meeting so that we can talk further."

"A-Anything else?"

"No. That's it for now." Angel stood up. "I would stay longer, but I need to make a very important phone call..."


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Thanks to Christine, Court, Karin Marie, Ryan, Kattie S., Cristina, Isis Blue, and VengfulVixen 3 for their feedback on Chapter 9. It's people like you that keep me going! Thanks guys! CHAPTER 10


"And I was thinking we could go with a deep plum color over black tafetta. It will bring out your eyes and complexion." Buffy handed the sketch she was holding to Willow. "So what do you think? Do you like it?"

Willow's gaze locked on the sketch. "It's beautiful, Buffy. What's not to like?"

"But? You have butface, Will."

"I would love for you to make the dress for me, Buffy. But don't you think you're taking on too much? I mean, there's already your dress, and Anya's... When are you going to have time?"

"Will's right, Buff." Xander replied from his spot at the foot of her bed. "I don't see how you're going to have time to make three prom dresses in between school, friends, family, and the new boyfriend."

"His name is Angel, Xander. And I can't spend every waking moment with him even if I wanted to. I have school and he works."

"You call what he does a job?" Xander snorted.

"It made him rich, didn't it?"

"How rich?"

"W-What?"

"Just exactly how rich is he?"

"I don't know, Xander! Nor do I care. I'm with him because of him. Not his money."

"But just to ease my curiosity here, Buffy at least give me a ballpark figure."

Buffy nervously wrung her hands. "I don't know for sure, Xander. We don't talk about it, but I did do a little research in the library yesterday, and the latest article I could find estimated his worth somewhere around eighty million."

"Eighty million!" The soda that Xander had just taken went spewing out of his mouth. "Eighty million dollars?"

"Give or take a few million." Buffy squeaked.

"Wow. Wow." Was all Willow could say.

"Wow is right, Will." Xander muttered, sitting up on the bed. "And here I thought no one could be as rich as the Finns, but this guy... This guy makes the Finns look... Well... He makes the Finns look poor."

"Angel is nothing like the Finns, Xander."

"How do you know, Buffy? I mean, really? You've known him all of five days. This nice act he's pulling on you could be just that... An act. Look at Mayor Finn. On tv he's all friendly and caring, but everyone knows that in real life he's nothing but a self- centered bastard that doesn't care about anything except making his next buck, and he doesn't care who he hurts in the process to get it. That's rich people, Buff. You know it. I know it. And Willow knows it."

"Angel's different, Xander. He wasn't always rich, and he does care about others. The magazine article I read about him said that he donates alot of his money to education."

"Still doesn't prove anything to me." Xander quipped, and looked over at Buffy. "I just don't want to see you get hurt, Buffy."

"I won't get hurt, Xander. And you're wrong. I do know him. I know him better than you think. I know he has an older brother named William, and that they don't get along. And I know that his mom's name is Katherine, and that she teaches first grade. And his dad... His dad was a cop for the LAPD. His name was Liam. He was Irish. He grew up in Galway, Ireland and didn't move to the US until he was eighteen. I also know that he umm... He died when Angel was six."

"What happened to him?" Willow asked. "Was he killed?"

Buffy stood up. "N-No." She turned around to fidget with a pen on her desk. "Umm... He had cancer. A-A brain tumor. Angel was devestated. He didn't really come out and say that he was, but I could tell by the way he talked that he was." She turned back to look at them. "He umm... He doesn't know. I-I couldn't tell him. Especially after he told me about his dad. I don't want him to know. Ever. It might scare him away."

"Buffy..." Willow started to say, but was interrupted by the doorbell.

"Oops. Sorry, Will." Buffy headed for the door. "I gotta get that. I'll be right back."

She disappeared out the door, and the minute she did Willow turned to Xander and shot him a dirty look. "What?" Xander asked innocently.

"Your horns are showing, Xander Harris."

"I don't know what you're talking about, Willow."

"Sure you don't... Come on, Xander. This is me you're talking to. Lay off before you lose her altogether."

Xander left the bed. "I'm not going to stay here and listen to this."

"Fine. Don't." Willow muttered. "But I want you to keep in mind that life is short and very uncertain, Xander. Do you want to be the one to ruin what may be her only chance at love? Real love?"

***

Buffy flew down the stairs to the front door, and threw it open, a smile immediately lighting her features when she saw who was standing on the other side. "Sorry, mister. But whatever it is your saling, I'm not buying."

"Is there any chance I could change your mind, ma'am?"

"Depends."

"On what?"

"On whether your sales demo is strictly hands on or all a long winded sales pitch."

"Hands on." Angel grinned that sexy lopsided smile that always managed to turn her to mush. "It's definitely hands on."

"Then what are you waiting for?" She wiggled a finger at him. "Get your buns over her and start demonstrating."

"God, I love a bossy woman." He murmured just before closing the distance to her, and pulling her into his arms as his lips sought out hers.

Buffy immediately melted into him, her arms slipping up and around his neck just as his tongue darted out to meet and twine with hers. It didn't take long for the passion between them became intense. Too intense, and regrettablely Angel pulled away from her, and rested his forehead against hers as he struggled to breathe. "Now that's what I call a hello."

"Uh huh..." She answered a little breathlessly herself, and slowly opened her eyes to look at him. "Hey, you. What are you doing here? I thought you had another meeting today?"

"I did, but I finished up early and couldn't wait to see you. Is that okay?"

"Better than okay." She smiled happily. "In fact, you got here just in time. Willow and Xander are here, so you can finally meet them."

"Am I going to get the third degree from them, too." He asked as she pulled him into the house, and shut the door.

"I hope not. I umm... I told them. Wh-Who you are, I mean." She turned around to look at him.

He scowled. "You mean you told them I had money."

Buffy worried her bottom lip. "Th-That, too."

"Damnit, Buffy. I thought we were getting past that?"

"We are." She answered weakly.

"Then why don't you sound very convincing?" His scowl grew even deeper.

"You're mad." She blinked back tears.

"No, not mad, Buffy." His face softened when he saw her tears threatening to spill over. "I just don't know what else to do to try and convince you that there's more to me than just my money, baby."

"It's not me, Angel. Honest. It's Xander. I don't know what's with him. He's just been so weirded out lately. He's my best friend. I grew up with him. It's important to me that he like you and vice versa, but I have a funny feeling he's not going to make it easy for you and that worries me. He's even more opinionated about rich people than I was when you met me, and he's not afraid to voice his opinions."

Angel closed the distance to her, and pulled her back into his arms. "Let me worry about Xander."

Buffy looked up at him, eyeing him worriedly. "You're going to be nice, right?"

"Of course." He gave her his best smile.

"Okay. They're in my room." She pulled away, and took his hand, leading him up the stairs. The made the short trip in silence, but the moment they reached her bedroom door Angel surprised her when he pulled her into his arms and kissed her breathless again. "Wh-What was that for?"

"Luck." He struggled to get his breath again.

"You'll do fine." She reached up to caress his cheek, and give him a reassuring smile before turning to open the bedroom door. "Hey, guys look..." She stopped in her tracks when she found the room empty. "That's funny... They were here just a few minutes ago."

"Uh huh." Angel chuckled. "Sure they were."

She spun around to look at him with her hands on her hips. "They were here, Angel. I swear." She turned back around to look, and that's when she saw the sheet of paper laying on the foot of her bed. Buffy walked over to the bed to pick up it up. "Buffy, Xander and I came downstairs to see what was taking you so long. Saw you liplocked with Mr. Tall, Dark, and Gorgeous, and figured four was a crowd. Call me later, Willow." Buffy looked up at Angel and smirked. "See, I told you they were here."

"Okay, I believe you. But how did they get out without us seeing them. We sort of had the door blocked.

Buffy blushed and pointed to her window. "Tree. Comes in handy when you want to sneak in and out without anyone knowing."

"Oh, really..." Angel raised an eyebrow. "And who else besides Willow and Xander have been using that tree to sneak in and out, Miss. Summers?"

"Doyle."

"Anyone else?"

She blushed again. "I umm... I think I'll plead the fifth now."

Angel's eyes darkened. "Buffy..."

"What?" She giggled.

"Has anyone else been using that tree to get in and out of this room?"

"Why do you want to know?"

"Buffy..."

Buffy laughed again. "Why, Mr. O'Conner if I didn't know better I would almost think you were jealous."

"Maybe I am." He murmured softly.

"Maybe." She whispered.

He moved towards her. "Okay. I admit it. I'm jealous." He reached her and pulled her into his arms again. "Now will you please answer my question? Has anyone else been using that tree?"

"No."

"Is that the truth?"

Buffy untangled herself from his arms, and moved to her desk. "If you're asking me if anyone has ever used that tree to come in and get a happy, the answer is no, Angel."

"A happy, Buffy?" He frowned. "Is that how you see sex?"

"No. No." She turned away from him to fidget with the same pen she had been fidgeting with earlier. "I umm... I don't see sex at all. What I mean is I don't do sex. I umm.. I wasn't lying when I said I didn't date much, Angel. I umm... I-I've never... My mom taught me to believe that anyone could have sex. She said that making love is different, and that I should wait until I found someone that would love me enough to appreciate the gift I was giving him." She turned back around to look at him. "I've never been in love so... I've never... That's another reason why Riley won't take no for an answer. He has a thing for deflowering virgins."

"Why didn't you tell me this earlier?"

"Because you're a guy." She answered honestly. "Most guys... They umm... They usually don't want to fool with you unless you umm... you know?"

Angel's eyes locked with hers. "I'm not most guys."

"I know that, Angel. I do. But before I did... I was scared. I was afraid if you knew you wouldn't want to see me anymore."

"I'm not going to lie to you, Buffy. I'm attracted to you. More than attracted. But my attraction to you is more than just physical." He closed the distance to her again, his hands coming up to frame her face. "I'm attracted to all of you. Who you are inside and out. Heart, body, and soul. And it's because I am that I can respect the fact that you want to save yourself for the right person. I would never push you into doing something you're not ready to do. Whatever happens between us it will happen because we both want it, okay?"

Her eyes welled up with tears. "Y-You know, if you keep doing stuff like this, I just might keep you?"

"I'm yours for as long as you want me, baby." He murmured just before he took her lips in tender kiss that left her giddy. "Buffy?"

"What?" She asked, laying her head on his chest.

"Do you have plans tonight?"

"Mmm..."

Angel pulled away to look at her. "You do?"

"Yes, silly." She smiled. "With you. Mom's working late putting up the shipment from her buying trip, so my evening is completely freed up for you. Why, do you want to do something special?"

"Actually, I do." He grinned.

"Are you going to tell me what it is?"

"No. Not yet." He gave her a chaste kiss. "I'll tell you in the car on the way."

***

"And he actually took your mom dinner at the gallery?"

"Uh huh." Buffy said, leaning back against the head of her bed. "Italian, too. Mom's favorite."

"Boy, I bet your mom was surprised."

"Surprised wasn't the word, Will. Of course, it didn't take her long to recover and slip back into mom mode. I think she drilled him for over twenty minutes. She even came out and asked him if he had ever done drugs."

"How did Angel handle all her questions?"

Buffy smiled. "Like a pro. He had her won over in no time. Especially after we ate, and he asked for a tour of the gallery. Turns out he's knows almost, if not more, about art than Mom does. He had her drooling all over him before the tour was half over. By the end of it, I was actually beginning to worry that she might throw Giles over and go after Angel for herself."

"Buffy..." Willow giggled.

"It's true, Willow. You should have seen them together. It was almost like I wasn't even in the room, and it didn't help things that he ended up buying over five thousand dollars worth of artwork for his house. Mom was seriously drooling when he handed her the check."

"Uh oh. Sounds to me like someone's a little jealous."

"Maybe I am." Buffy muttered. "But I'm more scared than I am jealous. I thought I was over the whole I don't fit into his world thingie, but tonight made me start to have doubts again. You know me, I've never been interested in any kind of art unless it was pictures of clothes, or my own designs. Tonight... Hearing him talk to Mom... I was completely in the dark. I felt... I don't know... Out of place. I felt like a dumb blonde bimbo. You know the type, Will? A total airhead that's only hanging on a man's arm to make him and her look pretty?"

"Buffy, does this have anything to do with what Xander said today? Because if it does you shouldn't let him plant doubts in your head. He doesn't know Angel the way you do."

"The doubts have always been there, Will. The just resurfaced full force tonight because I actually got a glimpse of what Angel's life is really like, and it's made me wonder if I'll fit into it."

"I think you should tell Angel about your doubts, Buffy. Let him help you work through them. From everything you've told me about him I think he'll understand. In the meantime I suggest you don't let anyone including Xander Harris plant doubts in that head of yours."

"Xander is just trying to protect me, Will. He's been like that all our lives. Not just with me, but with you, too. He's just a little worse with me because of..."

"Protective, my ass." Willow muttered. "Xander Harris isn't trying to protect you, Buffy. He's jealous."

"W-What?" Buffy sat up in her bed. "What do you mean he's jealous, Will?"

"I uhh... I didn't mean jealous. Not jealous in the boyfriend/girlfriend kinda way. That's not what I meant at all. What I meant was he's jealous because it's always just been us three, you know? He doesn't like outsiders."

"He didn't act that way when you started dating Oz."

"He knew Oz, Buffy. He doesn't know Angel. But I'm sure he'll come around once he does. Which brings me to a question. When do we get to meet Mr. Tall, Dark, and Gorgeous?"

"Soon, I hope. Let me talk to him and see if maybe we can all do something together. I'll get back to you just as soon as I do."

"So when do you see him again?"

"He told me he would call me tomorrow afternoon when I got home from school, but I was thinking maybe I would go by his house instead. I sort of gave him the cold shoulder after we left the gallery, and I really should apologize for the way I acted. I swear, that man has the ability to turn me on and off just like a faucett. One minute I'm all cold and the next I'm hot."

"Hot?" What exactly do you mean by hot, Buffy?"

"Let's just put it this way, Willow. He knows how to push all my right buttons."

Willow giggled again. "I have a funny feeling you're not going to be getting much sleep tonight."

"Oh yes, I am. I always heard cold showers worked for what ails me, and I'm about to find out if it's true. 'Nite, Will."

"Bye, Buffy. See you in the morning."

Buffy hung up the phone, and laid back on her pillows. Who was she kidding? She wasn't going to sleep tonight. Not after the way she had treated Angel earlier. And the thought of going through all day tomorrow without apologizing to him was almost too much to bear. She glanced over at the clock to find that it was only 11:00. It wasn't that late. Maybe just maybe Angel was still up. She started once to reach for the phone, but stopped in mid-air when the wind suddenly rustled the leaves in the tree outside her open bedroom window. It was almost like it was beckoning to her, and without so much as a thought she gave into it's call and slipped out of bed. After fixing her bed to make it look like she was sleeping in it in case her mom decided to check on her when she got home from the gallery, she turned out her bedroom light, and climbed out the window..."

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Thanks to Kattie S., Ryan, Rusty, Crystal, Christine, Court, Emma, Cristina, Kolumbyne, Halfevilkids, and Carol Ann for their feedback on chapter 10. CHAPTER 11


Angel had just finished his Tia Chi workout, and even though he had managed to relieve some of the tension in his body, his mind was still plagued with thoughts of Buffy. For the life of him he couldn't figure out what had gone wrong earlier tonight when he had taken her home. She had been in such a good mood when he had suggested they take Joyce dinner at the gallery, and he hadn't noticed that anything was wrong until he had walked her to her door, and had tried to kiss her. It was when she had turned her head, and his kiss had landed on her cheek that he knew, but before he even got the chance to ask her what was wrong she had disappeared inside the house with a brisk good night. As he flipped out the lights and started up the stairs to shower, he once again ran the entire evening over in his head trying to figure out what he could have possibly done to upset her. He was halfway up the stairs when the doorbell suddenly sounded and sent him heading back in the direction he had just came. "Who that hell could that be?" He muttered under his breath as he took the last couple of stairs. The last thing he wanted right now was an unexpected guest. Not with the mood he was in. And he started once not to answer it, but when the ringing sounded again, he knew he didn't have a choice. Whoever it was, they obviously wasn't going away. He flipped the living room light back on before reaching for the door, and opening it, surprise lit his features when he saw that the person standing on the other side was the exact same one he had just been thinking about. "Buffy..."

Buffy didn't hear Angel at first. She was too lost in drinking him in to hear him, and God he was definitely worth drinking in, standing before her with nothing on but a pair of grey sweatpants. His chest was nothing but hard muscle, combined with washboard abs, and for the life of her she couldn't seem to breathe as she memorized every beautiful inch exposed to her. "Buffy?" His voice finally managed to tear her out of her thoughts. "What are you doing here?"

"I umm... I-I couldn't wait." She mangaged to get out of her dry parched lips as her eyes rose to meet his.

"You couldn't wait for what?" He took her arm, pulling her into the house, then turned away from her long enough to shut the door. As he did, Buffy caught a glimpse of a tattoo on his right shoulder blade that she had this incredible urge to reach out and touch with her fingertips, and once again she had to struggle to breathe. "I uhh... I'm sorry, did uhh... did you say something?"

Angel spun around to look at her. "What's going on, Buffy?"

"I-I needed to apologize for earlier."

"And this couldn't have waited until tomorrow? It's a school night. I bet your mom is mad as hell that you're out past your curfew."

"I umm... She doesn't know."

His eyes narrowed as he stared at her. "What do you mean she doesn't know?"

Buffy averted her gaze. "I umm... I snuck out... My tree. I used my tree."

"You snuck out of your house?" He asked, his anger mounting.

"Y-Yes."

Angel walked past her, and swiped a hand through his hair. "Well, this is just great. Now not only do I have you pissed off at me, I'm going to have your mom pissed off at me as well." He turned around to look at her. "What the hell were you thinking, Buffy?"

Buffy felt like she had been slapped, but she did her best to hide her hurt. "I was thinking I would apologize for being such a bitch earlier, but since you're going to be an asshole about it I'm not even going to bother." She spun away from him and headed for the door, but his voice halted her before she could open it. "Buffy?"

"W-What?"

"How did you get here?"

"I umm... I walked." She answered softly, her inner turmoil threatening to break loose at any moment.

She heard him mutter something under his breath, but the last thing on earth she ever expected was for him to start yelling at her. "Are you crazy, Buffy? What the hell were you thinking walking over here this late at night?"

That was it. His yelling was her undoing. She leaned her head against the door and began to cry. "I-I was thinking I-I would apologize f-for being a bitch earlier. I j-just wanted t-to say I was s-sorry, and I d-didn't want to go th-through all d-day tomorrow w-without doing it. I-I'm sorry. I-I'll g-go." She struggled to get the door open through her tears, but before she could she was pulled away from it, and into the circle of his arms.

"I'm sorry, baby." He began to kiss the tears from her face. "It's just when you told me that you had walked... He's out there along with all the other crazies and if something had happened to you I don't think I could have... Don't ever do that again, do you hear me?"

"I n-needed to apologize." She sniffled.

He looked into her eyes. "Ever heard of a phone? It's a very nice outlet for communication."

"This was too important to do on the phone, Angel." She started crying again. "C-Can I explain? P-Please? It's im-important."

Angel lead her to the couch, and pulled her down into his lap. "Okay, tell me what happened?"

She sniffled again. "Dumb blonde syndrome. Th-That's what happened."

"I'm afraid you've lost me, baby."

"I-I got jealous... A-And scared."

"Of what?" He reached up to gently wipe away the rest of her tears.

"Of mom."

"I don't understand, Buffy. I thought you wanted me to get to know your mom?"

"I-I did. I do. It's just that when you started talking to her about art I felt out of place. A-Angel, my mom has been working at that art gallery for eight years and I realized tonight that I don't know anything about what she does. A-And then there's you... You know almost more than she does, and you totally blew her away because you did."

"And you got jealous." He soothingly rubbed her lower back through her shirt.

Buffy nodded. "Y-Yes. But I was scared more than anything. I'm still scared."

"Of what?"

Her eyes met his again. "Of what's out there. You are so smart, Angel. Really smart. And I saw that tonight. Tonight I got a taste of what it's really like to live in your world and it scared me."

"Scared you how?"

"I'm scared that I'm not good enough for you. I'm afraid that people will look at me and think I'm just some dumb blonde bimbo hanging on your arm because of your money."

"I don't care what people think, Buffy."

Buffy's eyes welled up with fresh tears. "I care, Angel. People with money... They can be cruel. I-I don't mean you. And I'm sure there are others out there just like you, but a vast majority of them... They have standards, and if you don't fall into them they can cut you to shreds. It's going to be hard enough when your friends and business associates find out I'm still in high school. They're going to frown upon it, and it will only get worse once they find out I don't come from money... These are the people you deal with everyday. I don't want to cause any problems... I don't want to make you look bad in front of them... I care about you way too much to ever do that."

Angel reached up to caress her cheek. "First of all, let me go back and explain what I meant when I said I could care less what other people think, Buffy. What I meant is that I don't care what they think because they don't know you the way I do. I know you are not just some dumb blonde bimbo hanging on my arm because of my money, and that's not the reason I want you hanging on my arm either. Do you remember the night we met?" She nodded. "I saw you before I came to your rescue. I was sitting at the bar, and you came breezing by me, and I swear I was completely blown away by you. I couldn't even see all of your face, and I was still blown away by your beauty. Not just on the outside, but on the inside as well. I could see it... Feel it... And I couldn't take my eyes off you. I even heard some of your conversation with Tony, and after you left he caught me staring at you. We ended up talking, and he told me a little bit about you. He adores you, baby. The way he talked about you left me wanting to talk to you myself, but before I could get up enough courage to do it you were gone. You have no idea how excited I was when I stepped outside a few minutes later and saw you in the parking lot. Of course, all that was completely forgotten when I saw Finn grab you and shove you into that alley, but what I'm trying to get at here is that I don't care what people think because I know the real you, Buffy. I know you inside and out. You are the most kind, considerate, compassionate, and loving woman I have ever met, and if my friends... my business associates... can't see all the beautiful things about you that I see then honestly I don't think their worth associating with in the first place."

"But you have too, Angel. And the last thing in the world I want is to make you look bad."

"Let's get one thing straight, Buffy. You could never ever make me look bad. Never. And while we're on the subject I want you to know right now that I never do anything I don't want to do. Just ask my mom when you meet her, and you will soon, I promise. And she's going to like you just as much as I like you, but for the time being I want you to take my word for it, okay?"

"B-But..."

He placed one of his fingers over her lips to silence her. "No buts, baby. What's happening between us is between us. You and me. I could care less what anyone else wants or thinks as long as I know what we want... What we think... And most of all what we feel. Understood?"

She nodded, and he rewarded her with another beautiful smile. "Good. Now when I move my finger you're going to promise me that from now on when something scares you you're going to tell me so that we can talk about it, then we're going to kiss and make up before I take you home. Do we have a deal?"

She nodded again, and he gently removed his finger. "Now can we kiss and make up?" She asked as he pulled her closer.

"Just one more thing." He murmured softly.

"What's that?" She asked, slidding her hands up his naked chest, and luxuriating in the feel of it.

"If you ever... I mean ever... walk over here after dark again I will turn you over me knee and spank you." He told her a little breathlessly. "Do you understand?"

"Yes, sir." Buffy raised her lips to his. "Now shut up and kiss me."

"With pleasure, my lady." He pulled her even closer. "With pleasure..."

***

"Why didn't you tell me you had a tattoo?"

Angel glanced over at Buffy. "Saw that, did you?"

"Uh huh. Have you had it long?"

"A couple of years."

"What exactly is it of?"

"It's a celtic gryphon with the initial A between it's legs."

"Did it hurt?"

"Like the damn dickens."

"Then why did you get it?"

"I did it to impress a girl."

"Did it work?"

"For a while. Good thing I chose something that didn't have to do with her or I would be spending a lot of money to have it removed right about now."

"I take it that it ended badly?"

"You could say that."

"Do you want to talk about it?"

"No."

"Oh... I umm..." Buffy looked away. "Okay, I can see I over stepped my bounds here. I'm sorry. It won't happen again."

"Buffy..." He reached for her hand, but she pulled away.

"Shit! Stop the car, Angel!"

"What?" Angel slammed on the brakes, stopping his car in the middle of the street.

She pointed down the street. "My mom's home."

"So?"

"So? So?" Buffy turned to look at him. "Do you want to see me again, Angel?"

"Of course, I do, Buffy."

"Curfew, Angel. I snuck out of the house after curfew. If she knows, I'm going to be grounded for like forever."

"Shit!" He muttered.

"Thought you would get the picture."

"I hate this, Buffy." He put the car in reverse, and parked in a spot a good distance away from Buffy's house. "I hate going behind her back."

"Look, I said I was sorry okay, Angel? I promise it won't happen again." She leaned over and gave him a quick kiss. "I've gotta go. I'll talk to you tomorrow." She opened the door and started to get out, but Angel's hand shot out to grab her arm. "What the hell do you think you're doing, Buffy?"

"I think maybe I should go the rest of the way alone."

"No. Absloutely not. I am not leaving you until I'm absolutely sure you're safe in your house." He climbed out of the car and came around to help her out of the passenger seat. "Come on."

"A-Angel, you don't have to do this."

Angel shot her a scowl. "Do you remember that talk we had earlier? I think this falls into the category of you walking alone at night. I'm not leaving you." He reached for her hand, and began to pull her down the street. "Now be quiet. She might hear us."

Buffy shot him a dirty look. "My, my... You're getting a little bossy there aren't you, Mr. O'Conner?"

"Buffy..." He warned.

She quickly shut her mouth and kept it shut until they had reached the tree outside her bedroom window. They both breathed a sigh of relief when they looked up and found the window still open, and her room dark. "I guess I should go while the getting's good." She whispered, turning to him.

"I have to go back to LA tomorrow on business. I'm not sure what time I'll be back, but hopefully it'll be early enough that maybe we can do something. I'll call you." He leaned down and dropped a kiss on her lips. "Now go."

Buffy didn't move.

"Buffy? You're not moving. Why aren't you moving?"

"Because that was a sucky good night kiss."

"Oh, really?" He raised an eyebrow.

"Uh huh." She smiled mischievously. "And I happen to know for a fact that you can do better."

"You do, do you?" He pulled her into his arms. "And how exactly do you know."

"From experience." She slid her arms up around his neck. "Now kiss me the way I know you can kiss me."

Angel chuckled as he pulled her closer. "Now who's getting bossy?"

"Angel..." She pouted, and Gods... Doyle was right, Angel thought as he stared at her bottom lip. Adorable wasn't the word for it, and it was definitely his downfall... A real killer... And without another word he leaned down to gently suckle on it. He heard her sharp intake of breath, but his own reaction to her pressing herself against him left him just as breathless. Lost... They were both so lost in each other that they didn't have a clue that they were being watched...

***

"Hey, Ri. Don't look now, but isn't that what is supposed to be the very virginal Buffy Summers necking with some guy in her front yard?"

"What? Where?" Riley Finn sat up in the backseat of the car he was in.

"There." Parker Abrhams pointed to the couple silhouetted by the headlights of his approaching car.

"Sonofabitch." Riley muttered as he finally got a glimpse of the couple. "Stop the car, and kill the headlights, Parker."

Parker did as Riley instructed, and he, Riley, and the other two boys in the car watched the couple in silence for several long moments. "Man, Ri check her out. She's all over him. And from where I'm standing he's just as equally touchy feely... Are you sure she's still a virgin?"

"Shut up, Parker!" Riley spat, his rage continuing to grow as he watched the couple.

"Who is he, Riley?" Graham Miller asked from his seat beside Riley in the back of the car.

"I don't know, Graham. All I know is that it's the same guy from the Bronze the other night."

"So he really is her boyfriend?"

"Yeah, but that don't mean shit. I've been with lots of girls that had boyfriends at the time I was with them."

"But those guys were afraid of you, Riley. You said this guy wasn't. Maybe it's time to give up on her and move onto someone else before trouble happens."

"I'm not giving up on her, Graham. I've invested five months into getting this girl, and I always get what I want." He took a swallow of his beer. "Mark my words. Boyfriend or no boyfriend, Buffy Summers will be mine."

"What are you planning on doing, Riley?" This came from Riley's other friend, Forrest Gates.

"Don't know yet, Forrest. But for the time being I want you guys to lay off of her. If you see her I expect you to treat her super nice. Got it?"

The three other boys shook their heads in agreement, and watched as the girl in question reluctantly pulled away from the dark stranger and began to crawl up the tree outside her house. The minute she was inside they watched her lean out the window she had just climbed into and blow the stranger a kiss before he turned and walked back down the street.

Riley took a long drink of his beer, and returned his gaze to the stranger just in time to see him climbing into a Mercedes SUV. "Who the hell are you?" He muttered more to himself than his friends.


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Thanks to GGtheSlayer, Ryan, Cristina, Susan, Christine, Wendy, Court, Jade, VengfulVixen3, and Slayer29 for their feedback on chapter 11. CHAPTER 12


Cordelia looked up from the paperwork she was doing, and blinked in surprise when she saw the person stepping into the house. "Buffy. Hey! I must say, this is a pleasant..." She stood up. "You do know he's not here, right?"

Buffy closed the distance to Cordelia, and sat the briefcase she was holding down in the chair in front of her desk. "I know. Meeting. LA. He's supposed to call me when he gets back, but I thought... I'm actually here to see you."

"Me?" Cordelia moved around her desk. "What do you need to see me about?"

"I came to show you some of my designs, but first I was hoping maybe I could talk to you about something, and I'll understand if you don't want to talk to me about it. You are his best friend after all, and I would never do anything to jeopardize your friendship with him. Never. But there's something bothering me. Pretty badly actually, and you're the only person I know that I can talk to about it since he won't. And God, there I go again with the babbling. I'm sorry, but I have a tendancy to do that when I'm really nervous or upset, and right now I'm a little of both so here I am, Babbling Buffy."

Cordelia laughed. "Please, sit down, Babbling Buffy. Tell me what's going on. What won't my best friend talk to you about?"

Buffy took the seat in front of Cordelia's desk, and waited on her to sit down. "I umm... Like I said before, Cordelia. If you don't want to tell me I'll understand. I would never ever interfere with your friendship. It's just... I'm hoping you will help me because I really need to know. It's important to me."

"Know what, Buffy?"

"Who she is..." Buffy looked down at her hands. "I know she exists, and that it ended badly. He admitted that much when I asked about his tattoo and he told me he got it to impress her. But that's all he's admitting, and I'm sensing that it goes really deep. I'm sensing that she meant something to him, and I need to know who she is."

Cordelia sat back in her chair. "Why?"

Buffy met Cordelia's gaze. "You're going to think that I'm totally crazy seeing as I've only known him a week, but the truth is I'm in love with him, and I'm afraid that whoever she is I don't stand a chance against her. And if I don't I'd like to know." Her eyes welled up with tears. "I need to know, Cordelia. If there is no chance that he could ever love me than I need to know so that I can get out of this before I fall even deeper than I already have."

"Trust me, Buffy. You have nothing to worry about. She was out of the picture the moment he met you."

"A-Are you sure?" Buffy sniffled.

"Yes."

"Then why won't he talk to me about it, Cordelia? Why won't he tell me what happened?"

"Because believe it or not, just like you he has issues, Buffy. You both have to respect that, and give each other time to feel comfortable enough to share. And he will share with you eventually. I know he will. I have never ever seen him so taken with anyone in my life, not the way he's taken with you."

Buffy sat back in her chair with a sigh. "You're right, Cordelia. He'll share with me when he's ready. And I owe him the time to get comfortable enough to feel that way. It's just... I'm new to this whole love and jealousy thing. I'm having a hard time knowing what to do. Especially about the jealousy. I'm sorry I put you on the spot like that."

"You didn't put me on the spot, Buffy. I'm glad that you came to me. It shows me that you really do care about him."

"Y-You won't tell him I came to talk to you about it, will you? It's just... I'm not ready to tell him. That I love him, I mean. It's too soon. I'm afraid he'll think I'm crazy for feeling the way I do. And then there's that whole jealousy issue again. I don't want that strong urge I have to kill whoever she is for hurting him scare him away."

Cordelia shook her head. "Don't worry. What you just told me is our little secret for now. But I hope you don't keep your feelings a secret too long. Who knows, he may surprise you and tell you he feels the same way." She stood up again. "Now, with that said why don't you and I go into his office, grab a cup of coffee, and sit down on that nice leather sofa of his and take a look at those designs of yours."

"A-Are you sure, Cordelia?" Buffy asked, standing up. "I'm not keeping you from anything, am I?"

"Are you kidding? You seem to forget who my boss is, Buffy. He pretty much lets me do whatever I want. Hence the sitting down on his leather sofa." She moved around her desk, and grabbed Buffy's arm. "Now let's go. I'm dying to see what you've created. I just love clothes."

***

Cordelia sorted through the sketches on her lap. "These are really good, Buffy. Better than good. I especially like the lace up pants with the slits up the side of the legs. Do you think maybe you could make me a pair of those along with one of those corset tops like you had on at the Bronze Friday night?"

Buffy took a sip of her coffee, then sat her cup down on the table beside her. "Sure, but it might take me awhile. I'm kinda in the middle of a big project right now. Prom dresses. I'm going to design and make three to be exact. Mine, my best friend Willow's, and Anya's. She's my best friend Xander's girlfriend. So I'm not sure when exactly I would be able to get to yours."

"Oh, it's okay. Take your time. I'm in no rush." Cordelia smiled. "And speaking of those prom dresses, do you have the sketches of them with you?"

Buffy nodded and leaned over to pull the sketches out of her briefcase. "They're the last one's in the stack. The one's on top are of some business suits I'm working on or just completed for my mom."

Cordelia pointed to the top sketch. "I like this."

"That's one of the one's I just got finished doing for my mom. She loves pale blue. She wore it on the buying trip she went on last weeknd. She said she got rave reviews from several women, and even managed to turn a couple of men's heads while she was at it."

"I'll bet." Cordelia murmured, moving to the next sketch. "Incredible. These are incredible. Have you actually made all of these?"

"Oh God, no." Buffy laughed. "No time. Alot of them are just what you see. But I'm hoping to get around to creating the one's that I love the most this summer after school's out. I need a new wardrobe."

"Don't we all." Cordelia muttered before moving to the next sketch. "And this one? What about this one? Have you had time to make it?"

"No." Buffy shook her head. "But my mom is hoping I will. She loves the color coral, and it's really in right now."

"I know. I keep up with all the latest fashions, that's why I may have to get you to do this one for me, too." She looked up at Buffy. "It looks like I might just become your number one fan, Buffy Summers. I told you I just love clothes. Clothes and shoes. But if you don't believe me just ask Angelus."

"Just ask Angelus what?" Angel asked, entering the office, and coming to a sudden halt when his eyes fell on the person sitting beside Cordelia. "Buffy..."

"A-Angel..." Buffy shot to her feet. "You're back."

"And you're here..." He murmured, his eyes locking with hers. "I was just thinking about you."

Buffy started to say something, but Cordelia beat her to it. "Calm down, loverboy. Buffy's here to see me, not you."

"Oh, really?" Angel raised an eyebrow at Buffy. "What about?"

"She came to show me her designs." Cordelia answered again.

"Cordelia, will you please shut up and let Buffy talk." He scowled.

Cordelia leaned over and gathered up all of Buffy's sketches. "I'll tell you what, Angel. Why don't I just leave so you can do what you really want to do to her?" She winked at a blushing Buffy and moved to the door. "Just keep in mind that I'm out front, okay?"

"Cordelia..." Angel warned, not taking his eyes off Buffy.

"Disappearing." She muttered and opened the door. "When you get finished, Angel. Come take a look these sketches Buffy brought to show me. They're incredible." She disappeared out the office door as promised, and left the couple staring at each other and smiling. "I'm glad you're here." Angel murmured. "You are?" Buffy asked, meeting his gaze.

"Uh huh. I told you I was just thinking about you."

"I hope they were good thoughts."

"They were. Very good. And I'd tell you about that them, but I think I'd much rather show you."

"Show me what?" She asked softly.

"This..." He closed the distance to her, and pulled her into his arms. His lips crashed down to take possession of hers, and gods, she tasted so sweet. Like sugar, with a hint of coffee, and something that was just incredibly her. And he couldn't help but savor it until his body screamed out for him to do more than just savor. That's when he regrettably pulled away. But only enough to where he could look into her eyes again. "God, you have no idea how much I needed that."

"Bad day?" Buffy asked, concern filling her eyes.

"No, it was actually a good day. A very good day. I just need that. I needed you."

"Oh..." Was all she could reply.

He chuckled, and lead her over to the sofa. Sitting down, he pulled her down into his lap. "What about you? How was your day? Any problems?"

Buffy leaned back against his chest. "By problems, I assume you mean Riley?"

"You assume right." Angel interlaced his hands with hers and rested his chin on her shoulder. "I worry."

"I know." She sighed. "That's why I'm happy to report that I haven't seen Riley Finn for the last two days. He hasn't been at school. Not that I missed him, mind you. Because I didn't. It's just... Well, you just know when he's not there because everyone's really happy."

Angel chuckled again. "Maybe he got ran over by a eighteen wheeler. Then everyone could remain happy. Including you."

"I am happy, Angel." Buffy turned around on his lap, and laid her head down on his shoulder. "That's why I don't want to talk about him. I don't want him to ruin my time with you. Now tell what your meeting was about today?"

"Don't want to."

"Why not?"

"Because I'm like you. I don't want my work to interfere with my time with you." He kissed the her temple. "Did I tell you how happy I am to see you?"

"No." She raised up to look at him. "And in case you're wondering, I'm happy to see you, too." She feathered a kiss across his lips, then laid her head back down on his shoulder. "Mmm... This is nice."

"Yes, it is..." He murmured against her hair. " So... You and Cordy. Were you two having a nice visit before I interrupted you?"

"We were." Buffy smiled. "I like her."

"Really?" He seemed a little bit surprised, but didn't say anything else.

"Yes, really. I especially like that she's so honest. She wasn't afraid to tell me exactly what she thought about my designs. She even made a couple of suggestions that I'm interested in trying out next time I sit down with a sketch pad. She was telling me right before you came in that she could very possibly become my number one fan."

"Well, I can't say that I'm surprised. She has a thing for clothes and shoes. I didn't know just how bad her thing really was until I helped her to pack up to move here. She had one whole guest room almost completely full of nothing but outfits and shoes."

Buffy laughed. "She told me she had a thing, but I didn't realize it was that bad. Of course, I should have known it was. Especially when she told me to ask you about it."

"Trust me, baby. It's bad. Really bad. It took us one whole day just to pack up everything from just that one room. I'm hoping I never have to go through that whole moving process with her ever again. Twice was enough. I helped her pack up for the move from Boston to LA. But she had even more stuff this last time."

Buffy tilted her head back to look at him. "Poor, baby. Was she a slave driver?"

"Yes." He mock pouted. "But by some miracle I did manage to survive. Good thing, too or I would have never met you."

"That's true. So I guess I should be thankful that you had the willpower to pull through."

"You guess?" He asked in a mock hurt voice.

Buffy giggled. "Okay! I''m glad. I'm very glad that you survived, and that you're here with me right now. Happy?"

"No." His face sobered as he locked eyes with her. "I won't be happy until I kiss you again."

"So what are you waiting for?" Buffy asked a little breathlessly.

Angel threaded his hands in her hair, and used it to pull her closer. "For you to say it's okay."

"It's okay. Better than okay." And then neither one of them did any talking for quite some time.

***

When Buffy and Angel emerged from his office a little while later, Cordelia couldn't help but smirk at their mussed states. "Good thing you two decided to join me. I was just about to call the fire department to put out the fire."

"And got your ass fired for disturbing us." Angel smirked back at her.

"Yeah, yeah. Like you would even, Angelus." Cordelia looked over at Buffy, who was standing beside Angel, blushing furiously. "Buffy, these dresses... Might I say wow. They're gorgeous."

"Thanks, Cordy." Buffy blushed again.

"Angelus, come take a look." Cordelia stood up from her desk and motioned to him. "And Buffy, you come do the honors of telling us who these gorgeous creations are going to belong to."

Angel lead Buffy over to Cordelia's desk, and helped her sit down before moving up behind her to stand alongside Cordelia and look over her shoulder at the designs. His eyes went to the first sketch Buffy pointed to. "This one is my friend Xander's girlfriend's prom dress. She wanted something simple yet eye catching, so I did a basic lycra spaghetti strap evening gown with a just above the knee slit on the right side. The eye catching part is the metallic silver glitter that's weaved into the material. The effect will be even more dramatic under the different colored lights that are always used for the dance floor. I simply call the dress *Eye Catcher*."

"You name your designs?" Cordelia asked from behind her.

Buffy nodded. "Sure. It seemed only logical since most designers do."

"And the next one?" Cordelia asked.

Buffy flipped to the next sketch. "This one I call *Plum Beauty*. It's for my best friend Willow. I knew exactly what the color would be before I actually sat down to design the dress. Will has red hair and green eyes, and the color will bring her beauty out even more. I'm going to use an irredescent taffetta overlaid with black lace and Tulle to create a magical effect. The entire dress is an elaborate ballgown style with a fitted dropped waist bodice, and the straps are black beaded with sparkling appliques. To top the whole thing off I've decided to throw in a matching plum satin shawl."

Angel placed his hands on Buffy's shoulders. "It's beautiful, Buffy."

She tilted her head back and smiled at him. "Thank you."

"If you want to see beautiful, Angelus. Take a look at the next one. Go on, Buffy." Cordelia urged. "Show him."

Buffy flipped to the next sketch, and nervously pointed to the stunning dress. "M-Mine. This is umm... Just an idea for my prom dress. I'm not sure yet if I'm going to go with it, so tell me what you think. It's a black satin gown with glistening silver glitter leaves that embelish the plunging v-neckline in front, and then ends at the scooped low back. I was thinking of doing the straps in silver beading, and to make the gown even more stunning I would probably add a fish tail train. *Spellbinder*. I'm going to call it *Spellbinder.* And if I decide to go with it I'm going to top it off with black satin pumps, and a matching satin shawl."

"Beautiful." Cordelia murmured. "Just beautiful. don't you think so, Angel?"

Angel stared at the dress in the sketch, and he could actually picture Buffy in it. "I umm... It's definitely a spellbinder, and it would be even more so with you wearing it, baby."

Buffy looked back at him again. "You think?"

"No, I know." He smiled and leaned down to kiss her. "I think you should make it."

"Angel's right, Buffy. I say go for it, too." She cleared her throat as the couple kissed again. "Now, enough of the PDA's. I want Angel to get a load of the next one."

"Umm... You know what, Cordelia? I really don't think Angel wants to see that one." "Why not, Buffy? Do you think it's too hot for him to see? Or have you decided not to make it after all?" Cordelia asked, ignoring the scowl Angel shot her.

"No. No." Buffy fidgeted with the sketches. "I umm...actually I did make it."

"Oh, really?" Cordelia inquired. "For who?"

"M-Me. B-But I umm... I haven't worn it yet. Probably won't either." "Why not?"

"I umm... I made it for the Valentine's dance at the Bronze, but I doubt I go."

"Let me see." Angel quietly ordered.

Cordelia smiled at him as Buffy flipped to the sketch. "Pretty spellbinding as well huh, Angel?"

Angel shifted uncomfortably on his feet. Spellbinding wasn't actually the word for the dress he was staring at. Sexy, hot, and provocotative were more along the lines he was thinking. "You actually made that?" He murmured a little huskily.

"Uh huh. It's hanging in my closet as we speak." Buffy tilted her head back to look at him again. "Why? Don't you like it?"

Oh, yeah. He liked it alright. He liked it a little too much, and he was having a really hard time trying not to picture her in it right now. "I umm... no, no. It's stunning, Buffy." Was all he could manage to say.

Buffy looked back at the sketch. "I call it *Silhoutte*. It's a silhoutte style dress with a dramatic couture cut. The skirt is low rise with cut out slits at the hips, and a handkerchief top suspended by spaghetti straps that criss cross in the back. I used a knit, nylon, and spandex material in the color lipstick red. I figured I should use a red shade as the color since red is the color for Valentine's Day."

"And it sure would be a shame to see such a gorgeous dress go to waste." Cordelia looked over at her best friend. "Don't you think so, Angel?"

"I hate clubs, Cordelia." Angel muttered. "You know that."

"Yes, I do. But wouldn't it be worth going just to see Buffy in that?"

"Angel may already have plans, Cordelia." Buffy stood up and began gathering up the sketches. "I umm... Besides, I had pretty much decided not to go a while back anyway. The Bronze isn't exactly my favorite place to hang out these days, and if you ask me that whole Valentine's Day stuff is really overrated anyway."

"Cordy, go home." Angel suddenly ordered, his eyes never leaving the woman in front of him.

"What?" Cordelia's surprised gaze shot back to Angel.

"You heard me, Cordy. It's six o'clock. Go home."

"What does six o'clock..." Cordelia started to ask Angel, but the look he shot her before he returned his gaze to Buffy was enough to answer her question. "Right. Six o'clock. Quitting time." She grabbed up her purse from the corner of the desk. "Buffy, thanks for showing me your designs. We'll talk more later about those outfits I want you to make for me, okay?"

Buffy stopped what she was doing, and turned around to look at Cordelia. "Okay. And thanks again for the coffee, and well... everything. I appreciate it."

"You're welcome." Cordelia smiled at her before turning to Angel. "And you, mister..." She grinned at him. "You'll call me later so we can talk about that uhh... meeting?"

"I'll call." Angel smiled at her. "Now get out of here and go home."

"Yes, sir." Cordelia kissed him on the cheek, and headed for the door. "Bye, guys." She called over her shoulder before disappearing.

Buffy was busy gathering up her sketches when Angel moved back up behind her, and placed his hands on her shoulders. "Do you want to go?"

"I can stay for a while if you want me to. Mom's having dinner with a prospective buyer."

"That's not what I meant, Buffy. I meant do you want to go to the Valentine's Day dance with me?"

Buffy stopped what she was doing. "A-Angel, you don't have to..."

Before she could finish her sentence Angel was turning her around to face him. "I know I don't have to, Buffy. I want to take you." Her eyes narrowed. "I thought you hated clubs?"

"I do. But the Bronze is kinda special to me. It's where I first saw you." Angel grinned, and slid his arms around her waist. "And then there's that dress... I think it would be worth going just to see you in it."

She couldn't help but smile. "You might be disappointed."

"Somehow I doubt that." He feathered a kiss across her lips. "Now answer my question. Will you do me the honor of going to the Valentine's Day with me?"

Buffy looped her arms around his neck. "You know, you told Doyle that you had a hard time saying no to me, but the truth of the matter is I'm finding it equally as hard to say no to you as well. Especially when you ask like that."

"Is that a yes?" He asked, his lips only inches from hers.

"Yes, it's a yes." She murmured just before his lips captured hers again.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


CHAPTER 13


Buffy entered the kitchen the next day, and sat down in the stool across from her mother, who was busy reading a book. "Mom, I need to talk to you."

"Can it wait, sweetie? I really need to get this chapter done before I pick up Rupert for our book club."

"Angel and I are dating."

"That's nice, honey." Joyce murmured, not bothering to look up.

"I like him alot. A whole whole lot. In fact, I like him so much I was afraid to tell him about the... I was afraid to tell him. I was afraid of scaring him away." Buffy stared at the top of her mother's head.

"Uh huh." Joyce answered.

Buffy watched Joyce for a few minutes, and decided she was going to have to be aggressive if she was going to get her mother's attention. "Angel's dad died of a brain tumor, so I couldn't tell him about me. I was afraid I would lose him if I did."

"W-What?" Joyce's head shot up, her eyes connecting with Buffy's. "What do you mean you didn't tell him, Buffy?"

Buffy looked down at her hands. "I like him a whole whole lot, Mom. And after he told me about his dad, I couldn't do it. I couldn't tell him about me because I was afraid it would scare him away."

"Buffy..." Joyce laid down her book. "You have to tell him, honey."

"No. I can't. I'll lose him if I do."

"You don't know that, Buffy."

"Yes, I do. You didn't hear him talk about when his dad was sick, Mom. When he told me how hard it was on him, I just couldn't do it. He was only six years old when his dad got sick, but he still remembers and he told me he didn't know if he would have the strength to go through that again. He told me he didn't know if he could watch someone he loved be eaten away by such a horrible disease again."

"Buffy, honey... You don't know that..."

"That's the problem, Mom. I don't know. No one does. Angel... He's special. I've only known him six days, but I feel like I've known him alot longer. He makes me feel things I've never felt for anyone. He makes me happy, Mom. Really happy. The truth is I love him. And please don't tell me that's impossible or that I'm too young, because I know how I feel. I love him, and I don't want to lose him. That's why I wanted to talk to you. I'm asking you... No, begging you not to say anything to him about me. Just for now. Just until I see how things are going to go with us. If things work out with us then I promise that I'll tell him. I just need to see if he can love me for me first."

"I don't like this, Buffy." Joyce muttered.

"Does that mean you won't say anything?"

"For now. But you have to promise me that you'll tell him eventually. Keeping secrets from someone you care about isn't anyway to start off a relationship."

Buffy crossed her fingers behind her back. "I promise."

"Good." Joyce eyed Buffy across the counter. "Now, is there anything else you need to tell me? Should we have that talk again?"

"No, Mom. But since it came it up, you'll be happy to know that I told Angel that I'm a virgin and that I'm saving myself for the right person. It wasn't the best conversation I've ever had with him, but he was really great about it."

"Was he pressuring you, Buffy?"

"No, Mom. You'll also be happy to know that he has been nothing but a perfect gentleman since day one. We just got on the subject somehow, and I went ahead and told him to get it out of the way. I guess I was testing him in a way. You know, to see if he would stick around. And to my delight he did. In fact, he more than just stuck around. He told me if it was just sex he was after he could get that anywhere. He told me he's with me because of me. Of who I am. He's attracted to the person I am, and not just my body, and because he is he said he will respect the fact that I am saving myself."

"I knew I liked that young man." Joyce smiled.

Just then the doorbell rang, bringing Buffy to her feet. "Well, I'm glad you like him. And speaking of him, that's probably him right now. Don't get up. I'll get it. You go on and finish your chapter."

"Thanks, sweetie." Joyce replied, returning to her book.

Buffy left the kitchen and made a beeline for the front door. When she opened it, a smile lit up her features upon seeing the person standing on the other side. "Hey, you. I figured it was you, but I hope you know you're early?"

"I know." Angel stepped into the house and shut the door. "I planned it that way." He pulled Buffy into his arms. "I wanted some alone time with you before everyone got here."

"Umm, honey..." Was all Buffy managed to get out before his lips closed over hers, and what she had been planning to say was quickly forgotten as she completely lost herself in him.

Of course, neither one of them got to savor each other for very long because the sound of someone clearing their throat sent them scrambling apart, and Angel could have kicked himself a million times over when he saw who it was interrupting them. "M-Mrs. Summers, I uhh... You're home."

Buffy stood up on tiptoe to whisper in Angel's ear. "That's what I was trying to tell you a second ago."

"Be more persistant next time, okay?" He murmured to his girlfriend as his eyes remained on the older version of her. "Umm... Mrs. Summers, I can..."

Joyce laughed. "It's okay, Angel. You don't have to explain, and I'm sorry to interrupt, but I wanted to check with you to make sure your artwork arrived safely today. I had to use another delivery service since you purchased more than one piece and I must admit I was kind of leery about it."

"Everything arrived safely, Mrs. Summers."

"Good. Good." She smiled at him. "Well, I guess that's all I needed, so I'll just make myself scarce and leave you two alone."

"Mom, wait." Buffy grabbed her arm.

Joyce turned back around to look at Buffy. "What is it, sweetie?"

"Do you still have a few minutes before you have to meet Giles?"

"Yes. Why?"

"Could you keep Angel company? I need to run upstairs and change."

"Sure, sweetie. Go on."

"Thanks." Buffy replied before turning back to Angel. "I'll be back in a few, okay?"

"Okay." He watched her disappear up the stairs before turning back to Joyce.

"Angel, I was just about to fix me a cup of coffee. Would you like to join me?"

"I'd love to Mrs. Summers."

"Please, Angel call me Joyce. I think you and I are past the Mrs. Summers stage." She motioned for him to follow her into the kitchen.

"So, how's the new book coming?" Joyce asked him as she lead the way into the kitchen.

"I wish I could say good, but the truth is I'm in the middle of my third rewrite. What about you? How's business?"

"Busy." Joyce went to the cabinet and pulled out to coffee mugs. "It's been like that since I got back from my buying trip." She turned back to look at him. "How do you like your coffee?"

"Black." Angel replied, taking a seat at the kitchen island.

"Me, too." Joyce walked over to the coffeemaker. "Doyle and Buffy both like theirs with cream and sugar, but I think Buffy uses more sugar than there is actually coffee. The sugar or the caffeine neither one is really good for her, but Dr. Jobson says it's okay as long as she continues to eat healthy and exercise.

Angel sat up straighter. "Dr. Jobson?"

Joyce realized her slip and immediately tried to cover it. "Buffy's uhh... family doctor. He pushes the importantance of eating healthy, drinking plenty of water, and exercising on her because she's uhh... hyper."

"And here I thought that was just part of her personality." Angel chuckled.

Joyce poured the coffee, then walked over to hand Angel's mug to him. "She does have a great personality, doesn't she? Of course, people may think I'm conceited for saying that seeing as she's my child, but I can't help it. I'm conceited where Doyle's concerned, too."

"What parent isn't conceited when it comes to their children, Joyce?" Angel asked, taking a swallow of his coffee.

"I could name one." Joyce muttered under her breath, then met Angel's gaze again. "Buffy told me about your father. I'm sorry, Angel."

"Thanks." Angel murmured.

Joyce gave him a weak smile."You know, I can sympathize. I know how hard it is to watch someone you love get horribly sick. I imagine it was really hard on your mother."

Angel toyed with his mug. "It was. It was hard on all of us, but she did a wonderful job through all of it, and she did a wonderful job of raising me and my brother if I must say so myself."

Joyce smiled. "I take it you two are close?"

"Yeah." Angel grinned. "We've only had one disagreement my entire life."

"And everything's okay now?"

"It is." Angel nodded. "We came to a compromise, and we're closer than ever now." He took another sip of his coffee. "I usually talk to her every day, but I haven't talked to her since last Sunday because I've been busy. She's probably ready to blow her stack, but I'm sure she'll calm down once I tell her why exactly I've been busy."

"You mean once you tell her about Buffy, don't you?"

Angel met Joyce's gaze. "Yes."

Joyce took a sip of her coffee, and eyed Angel over the top of her mug. "You and Buffy... You two are... You really like her, don't you?"

"Yes, ma'am. And I know you're still uncomfortable with that fact that I'm older than her, but I can assure you that I would never ever take advantage of her in anyway. That's why I'm about to ask you something, and if you say no I'll understand. But the thing is my Mom raised me the old fashioned way and because she did etiquette requires me to get permission from you before I can even begin to think about asking Buffy."

"What is it that you need to ask my permission for, Angel?"

"Valentine's Day is coming up. I'm taking Buffy to the dance at the Bronze that Friday night, but I also have plans to go see my mom in LA after that. For the weekend. And I was wondering... I want to take Buffy. I would like for her to meet my mother."

"I don't see a problem with that."

Angel shifted nervously on the bar stool he was sitting on. "You may change your mind when I tell you that Buffy and I wouldn't be staying at my mother's, Joyce. See, the thing is my brother and I don't exactly get along, and because we don't I purchased a penthouse for the sole purpose of having to avoid staying at my Mom's with him whenever I have to be in LA overnight. Buffy and I would be staying there. In separate bedrooms,of course, if you agree to let her go."

Joyce sat her coffee mug down. "Let me get this straight, Angel. You want to take Buffy to LA to meet your mother and stay alone with her for an entire weekend?"

"Yes, ma'am. But again I must emphasize that they'll be separate bedrooms. I would never ever take advantage of her. And I don't just want to take her to meet my mother. I got tickets to see the Moiseyev's Dance Company at the Beverly Wilshire that Saturday night, and I'd like to take her. They're incredible. I saw them once in New York, and I think she would love it even though it is the ballet."

"Buffy is eighteen years old, Angel. Legally she's an adult."

"I know that, Joyce. But she also still lives under your roof. You're her mother before anything, and I will respect that just like I will respect her. I would never try to cause problems between the two of you. You have my word on that. That's why I haven't even mentioned this to her or asked her yet. And I have no plans to unless you say yes."

Joyce locked eyes with Angel. "And I have your word that you will respect her and treat her like the young lady she is?"

"You have my word, Joyce."

"Then she can go."

Angel looked a little surprised. "Really?"

"Really." Joyce went to the sink and poured out what was left of her coffe. "And as much as I would love to stand here and talk more with you about it, I'm afraid I can't. I have to pick Rupert up at the high school for our book club." She walked back over to pick up her stuff off the counter. "I still want to talk to you some more about it, but I can wait until after you talk to her first, okay?"

"Okay."

"Good." She pulled out her car keys, and headed for the door. "Now do me a favor. Tell Buffy to have fun tonight, and that I'll see her when I get home."

"I will. Bye, Joyce."

"Bye, Angel."

Angel watched her disappear out the door, and once she was gone he went to the phone, and made a phone call before returning to the counter to finish his coffee. He hadn't been sitting back down for very long when the kitchen door came open, and he didn't need to turn around to know who it was. He could feel her with every ounce of his being. "It took you long enough. I thought you said a few minutes, not twenty?"

"What's wrong, honey? Did my mom put you through the washer again?"

Angel chuckled, and spun around on the bar stool just in time for her to slide into his arms. "I think you mean wringer. And the answer to your question is no, by the way. We actually had a very nice conversation, thank you very much."

Buffy wrapped her arms around Angel's neck. "Uh oh. Does that mean I'm going to have to get jealous again?"

"No. Although she is a very beautiful woman, I'm afraid her beauty doesn't phase me. See, the thing is I seem to have this thing for petite blondes with hazel eyes, and who go by the name of Buffy. You wouldn't happen to know anyone that fits that description, would you?"

"You know, it just so happens that you're looking at someone that fits that description perfectly."

"Is that a fact?"

"Uh huh. So now I guess the question is just exactly what kind of thing do you have for me?"

"How about I show you?" He replied, encircling her waist with his arms and pulling her closer.

"Mmm... this sounds promising." Buffy slid her arms around his neck. "Very promising." And then she pulled his head down, their lips brushing ever so gently at first, but the need for one another intensified as did the kiss. Their tongues darted out to dance with one another between sweet pecks and nibbles, but eventually they both had to pull away due to lack of air.

"S-So?" Buffy struggled for air. "Umm... You and Mom, what did you two talk about while I was gone?"

Angel smiled. "You actually."

"What about me?"

"It was nothing bad, I promise."

"You're being cryptic again, Angel. Should I be worried?"

"No. Never." He reached up to brush a lock of hair off her forehead. "I'll tell you what we talked about some other time, but right now I'd much rather talk about your day. How was it?"

"Weird." She leaned against his chest.

"Weird how?"

"Well, I managed to avoid Riley again today, but I can't say the same about his friends. I ran into them on my way to meet Willow and Xander for lunch."

Angel could feel anger began to overtake him. "Did they say something to you, Buffy?"

"No. And that's what's so weird. Usually they're just as bad as Riley. Cat calling, leering. But today they actually said hello to me and smiled. One of them, Graham Miller, even held a door open for me." She locked eyes with him. "Don't you think that's a little weird?"

"No. Not really. Maybe Riley took my warning to heart and told them they had better watch their backs, too. I'm sure the last thing any of them want to do is deal with a very angry boyfriend."

"I wish I could believe that."

"But you don't."

"No." Buffy left the circle of his arms, and turned away from him. "You don't know him, Angel."

"Don't practicularly want to either." Angel muttered. "Well, except maybe for my fists."

She spun back around to look at him. "Would you really have hit him the other night?"

"You're damn straight I would have, Buffy. I still might before it's over and done with. I told you that I can't stand to see a man take advantage of a woman. It makes matters worse for him that the woman in question happens to be mine."

A look of shock passed across Buffy's face. "Y-You think of me as yours?"

He reached out and gently pulled her back into his arms. "Yes. I have since the very first moment I laid eyes on you."

"S-Say it again." She whispered in awe.

"You're my girl, Buffy Anne Summers. Mine." He feathered a kiss across her lips. "And don't you dare forget it."

She blinked back tears. "I-I won't."

"Good. I'm going to hold you to that." He dropped another kiss on her lips. "So... How long do we have before those friends of yours get here?"

Buffy glanced over her shoulder at the clock on the wall. "Umm... I'd say they'll probably be here within the next five or ten minutes, why?"

"Because I have something to give you." He stood up and took her hand, leading her out of the kitchen.

"G-Give me?" She asked as she followed him into the living room. "What do you have to give me?"

"You'll see." He kissed her again before helping her to sit down on the sofa. "I'll be right back."

He disappeared out of the living room, and apparantly from the house as well, but within moments she heard the front door open again, and he came back into the living room carrying a large box wrapped in gold wrapping paper. He handed her the box and sat down on the sofa beside her. Buffy looked at it, then back at him. "Angel, what is this?"

"It's a belated birthday present. I picked it up while I was in LA yesterday." He smiled. "Go on, open it."

"Angel, you didn't..."

"I know I didn't, Buffy. I wanted too. I couldn't help myself, so please don't get mad. Just take it as the gift it is. Now go on and open it."

Buffy tore into the wrapping paper, and couldn't believe her eyes when she saw what was underneath it. "Y-You bought me a Cappuccino maker? Angel... This is... Wow. This is so sweet." She sat the box in the floor and leaned over to kiss him. "Thank you."

"You're welcome. But that's not all."

"W-What?"

He pulled her off the sofa, and into the front entrance of the house where he reached into his coat pocket to fish out two items. The first was an envelope which he handed to her. "This is a gift certificate to Starbucks. That way you can have all the mocchachinos you want without ever having to leave your house. And this..." He handed her another box. This one was much smaller than the first one he had given her, and it had a jeweller's logo on it. "Is something I knew I had to get you the moment I saw it. I hope you like it."

Buffy stared at the black velvet box for a moment than finally lifted the lid. The item inside made her gasp, and brought tears to her eyes at the same time. "Oh my god, Angel..."

"Do you like it?"

"It's beautiful." She murmured, removing the diamond guardian angel necklace from the box so that she could take a better look at it. It really was beautiful, but she also knew it had to be expensive. The cappucino maker, too. "But, Angel you really didn't have to do this. The Capuccino maker was enough. I mean, I know that they don't come cheap, and then this..."

He cut her off by kissing her, and when he pulled away she slowly opened her eyes to look at him. "W-Why did you do that?"

"Because you were babbling, and I knew what you were about to say next. Will you just take it, Buffy? I told you the moment I saw it I knew I had to get it for you. I wanted you to know that no matter what you're never alone. That there's always someone looking out for you. You're very own guardian angel. I doesn't matter to me how much it cost. You're worth it."

Buffy looked up into his eyes and felt herself drowning. "Gods, there you go again with your Angel sweetness and it's really hard for me to say no to you when you do that."

"Then don't say no because it wouldn't do any good anyway. I wouldn't take it back." He took the necklace from her hands, and moved around behind her to place around her neck. Buffy held up her hair so that he could clasp the chain, and the moment he was finished he turned her around to face him. "It's yours. Now you have your very own guardian angel."

"I love it. I do." She slid her arms around his neck. "But the truth is I like the real Angel much much better. He gives smoochies."

Angel cocked an eyebrow. "Smoochies?"

Buffy giggled. "Kisses." She pointed to her lips. "Right here."

"Here?" He asked, leaning over to kiss her forehead.

"Uh uh. Try again."

"Okay, what about here?" He kissed her cheek.

"You're getting warm."

"Warm. Hmm... What about here?" He kissed the tip of her nose.

"Warmer."

"Could it be here?" He whispered softly, his lips just inches from hers.

"I umm... I think you hit the bullseye." She murmured huskily.

"I think you're right." And to prove his point he took full possession of her lips, but only for about five seconds, and then the doorbell chose that exact moment to interrupt them. "Looks like our alone time is over." He muttered, pulling away with a growl.

"Sorry, honey." She gave him a quick peck, and pulled away. "Maybe later."

There was no maybe to it. He was going to get some alone time with her if he had to spirit her off to the kitchen for a few minutes, but he didn't tell her that. He couldn't tell her what he was really feeling at all because he was afraid of scaring her. "I think you'd better get the door."

"Right. The door... " She smiled at him. "Are you ready?"

"Of course." Angel returned her smile. "This has got to be a piece of cake compared to meeting your mom."

****

Buffy pulled the door open, and smiled at the three people standing on the other side. "Hey, guys. I see you're right on time."

"We would have been if it hadn't took you so long to answer the door." A male voice stated, but Angel couldn't see what he looked like from his position just behind the door.

"I'm sorry, Xander. I was kinda in the middle of something. "And what exactly were you in the middle of, Buff? It's kinda soon for you to be bedding down with Mr. right, don't you think?"

"Xander!" This came from the red head standing in front of Buffy.

"What?" The male voice asked. "I was only checking to make sure the Buffster's virginity was still intact."

"Whether it is or not isn't any of your business, Xander Harris." The red head muttered.

"It's my business when she leaves us standing out here for over ten minutes, Willow."

"It wasn't for ten minutes, Xander. And not that it's any of your business, but Angel was giving me my birthday present."

"I'll just bet he was." Angel heard the male voice mumble.

"He was, Xander. Now shut up and get your ass in here and introduce yourself."

He was wrong, Angel thought to himself. Maybe meeting Buffy's friends wasn't going to be as easy as he thought, but he didn't have time to dwell further on it because the people in question were now filing into the front entrance of the house.

Buffy quickly shut the door and returned to Angel's side. "Guys, this is Angelus O'Conner." She laid her hand on his arm. "Angel, these are my friends." She pointed to the red head first. "Willow Rosenberg." Next she pointed to the young man beside Willow. "And this is Will's boyfriend, Daniel Osbourne, or Oz as he is preferred to be called. And last but not least." She pointed to the dark headed young man. "This is Xander Harris."

Angel stepped forward, and extended his hand to Willow. "Willow, it's nice to finally put a face with the name."

Willow smiled. "And it's nice to finally see your face."

Angel chuckled. "You should have said something that day."

"And disturb you two's heavy duty smoochies. I don't think so." Willow flashed him another smile, and accepted his hand. "It's nice to meet you, Angel. Uhh... It is okay to call you Angel, isn't it?"

Angel returned her smile. "Angel's fine." "Then Angel it is." She pulled away and gestured to Oz. "Oz, sweetie. Meet Angel."

"Angel." Oz extended his hand.

"Oz." He shook Oz's hand. "I just wanted to let you know, that I caught your band at the Bronze Friday night. I normally don't listen to music like that, but I have to admit I was impressed."

"Thanks."

"Okay. Let's move this right along." Buffy grabbed Angel's hand, and pulled him over to Xander. "Xander, this is Angel. Angel, Xander."

"Xander, it's nice to meet you." Angel offered his hand to Xander, but Xander ignored it.

"I wish I could say the same."

"Xander!" Buffy smacked him. "That is not nice. Apologize to Angel right now."

Xander ignored Buffy too, and glared at Angel. "I'm won't apologize, Buffy. I'm sorry, but I can't stand here and say it's nice to meet him when I don't know anything about him. Hell, for all I know he could be a seriel killer."

"That's enough, Xander!" Willow suddenly spoke up and warned Buffy's other best friend. She looked back at Angel. "Ignore him, Angel. He's just in a pissy ass mood. He broke up with his girlfriend today."

Buffy's eyes flew back to Xander. "You broke up with Anya?" "Yes."

"Why?"

"Because she's not the one, Buffy." Xander's eyes met hers and immediately softened. And Angel didn't miss it. "It wasn't fair to her for us to stay in a one sided relationship, so I ended it."

"Oh, Xander. I'm so sorry."

"Don't be. It's no biggie. I mean, it is. I hurt her, and I hate that I did, but it was better I end it now before she started making future plans for us. I can't make myself feel something I don't feel, Buffy."

"Still, it's..." Buffy let go of Angel's hand and rushed over to envelope Xander in a hug. "I'm sorry. I know it still must hurt, but I'm sure that given time you'll find that right person."

Xander hugged Buffy back while his eyes connected with Angel's over the top of her head, and Angel knew that if looks could kill he would be dead at that very moment. "I'm sure I will, too."

Willow felt the tension in the room, and cleared her throat. "Umm guys, I hate to break this up, but it is a school night, remember?"

"Gotcha, Will." Buffy pulled away from Xander. "Why don't you guys go on in the living room and talk some more with Angel while I order the pizza." She started to move past Angel, but he stopped her with a hand to her arm.

"The pizza's already been taken care of, Buffy. I ordered while you were upstairs changing."

"You did?" She asked, turning back to him.

"I did." He smiled at her. "And don't worry, I remembered everything you told me about everyone's like's and dislike's."

"Angel, that is so sweet. Thank you." She stood up on tip toe and rewarded him with a kiss, earning him another dirty look from Xander.

"You're welcome." Angel slid his arm around her waist, pulling her close to his side. "I told them to deliver it around seven thirty. That should give us a few minutes. Do you want to start the movie or wait until it gets here?"

"Let's go ahead and start it. We usually pig out while we're watching it anyway." Buffy looked over at Willow and Oz. "Oz, it was your night to pick the movie, what did you get?"

Oz held up the video. "Rock Star. Heard the soundtrack was pretty cool. Thought you might like it."

Willow looked over at Angel. "Angel, you might as well be warned. Buffy and Oz have a thing for eighty's music. They could go on and on for hours about who had the best albums then." "Bon Jovi and Def Leppard." Buffy answered.


"Van Halen and Aerosmith." Oz added.

Willow rolled her eyes. "See, what I mean?"

Buffy looked up at Angel. "What? It's the truth."

Angel chuckled. "If you say so, baby. And I would really love to hear you argue your point more, but I'm afraid you can't. Remember what Willow said, it's a school night."

"And as everyone knows my honey is a stickler for school." She grinned up at him then looked back over at her friends. "Okay, guys. Let's get this show on the road." She motioned to them, and then let Angel lead her into the living room.

Xander stopped Willow and Oz just inside the living room doorway. "Baby? Honey? What the hell is going on here, Will. She's only known this guy a week and they've already got endearments for one another? Something's wrong with her. This guy has her under some kinda thrall."

"He does not, Xander. She likes him, and he likes her. I can tell. Now give it a rest. I think they make a cute couple." With that said, Willow and Oz headed into the living room, leaving Xander standing alone. He eyed the couple in question with disdain. "Well, I don't think they make a cute couple."

****

"So, what did you think of them?" Buffy asked Angel later that evening after she had seen her friends out and came back into the living room to sit down on the sofa beside him.

"Willow's sweet, and cute. And Oz is nice, but quiet." Angel interlaced his fingers with hers. "I like them."

"What about Xander?"

Angel grimaced. "I don't think he cares for me very much."

Buffy eyed Angel's reaction. "Why do you think that?"

"Oh come on, Buffy. He started on me before he even got into the house. And then there was all the questions during the movie."

"He's my best friend, Angel. He was just looking out for me. And yes, I agree that some of the things that he asked you was out of line, but he's just like Doyle. He's very protective of me. He did Oz the same way. Well, he sorta of did anyway. But he already knew Oz somewhat so he was a little more lenient with him"

"So I'm gathering he didn't ask Oz how many women he had slept with the way he asked me?"

Buffy looked away. "Well, uhh... no. That happened to be one of his out of line questions, and why are you letting it bother you anyway? I saved you from having to answer it. I told him to tick a lock, remember?"

"He may have shut up after that, Buffy but the dirty looks didn't stop. In fact, if looks could kill I would be dead right now." Angel's eyes met hers. "I'm sorry, baby but I don't think he and I are going to be friends."

"You don't like him?"

"No." Angel answered honestly.

Buffy pulled her hand away and stood up to look down at him. "Why, Angel? Why exactly don't you like him? I mean, other than the fact that he's my very overprotective best friend.

Angel looked up at her, and he could see the fire in her eyes. Beautiful. That's all he could think when he looked at her. She was so

beautiful. Even when those emerald eyes of hers were full of anger directed at him. "Do you want the truth?"

"That would help." Buffy muttered.

"Okay, the truth is I don't like him because he's in love with you."

"Well, duh..." Buffy rolled her eyes at him. "Of course he loves me, Angel. He's my best friend for crying out loud. We've known each other since we were two years old."

"I didn't say he loves you, Buffy. I said he's IN love with you, and there is a difference. Trust me, baby. The love Xander Harris feels for you goes way beyond that of friendship."

"That has got to be one of the craziest things I have ever heard you say."

"Maybe, but it's true. If you don't believe me just ask Willow. I suspect she knows. Look at the way she kept covering for his actions tonight."

"I'm not asking Willow, Angel. I'm not asking her because I already know you're wrong. But even if you're not that still doesn't tell me why you don't like him."

"Maybe I'm scared." Angel murmured, locking eyes with her again.

"Of?"

"Losing you. He doesn't like me, Buffy. Not just that, you heard him tonight. He hates the fact that I have money. He doesn't trust me, and he's looking for something... anything... To change your mind about me, and I'm afraid that if he keeps it up he will."

Buffy's eyes softened. "He's not going to change my mind about you, Angel."

"I wish I could believe that, Buffy. But the truth is I don't. How can I not believe it when he shares the same views you do about people with money."

His words cut Buffy to the bone, and she blinked back tears. "I-I thought you understood about that?"

"I do."

"No. No." Buffy shook her head vigourosly. "I don't think you do. If you did you wouldn't have brought it up. And now it makes me wonder if you really understand me at all. A-And that leads me to wonder why the hell you're even with me at all." She choked back a sob and turned away from him.

The sight of her tears just before she turned away from him brought Angel to his feet. He closed the distance to her, and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her back against him. "Jesus, baby. I'm sorry. So sorry. Please don't cry. You know I hate to see you cry. I just... I'm sorry. I got scared, and I know that in no way makes up for what I just did... said... but it's the truth. I do understand why you feel the way you do about people with money. I understand perfectly, and I know I shouldn't have brought it up, but I couldn't help it. I got scared. I saw the way Xander looks at you, and there is no way anyone could mistake the love in his eyes. He loves you, Buffy. And it scared me because he's known you a hell of a whole lot longer than I've known you, and I was afraid he would use that to his advantage. I was afraid he would change your mind about me, and I would lose you."

"W-Well, you were being stupid because that's not going to happen." She sniffled.

"So does this mean you forgive me?" He rested his chin on her shoulder.

She nodded. "But only because I know you. The real you. And it's because I do know the real you that I know Xander would never change my mind about you. Your money... It's a part of who you are, Angel. It shows what you've worked hard to accomplish in life. I understand that now, and I accept it because I know it's not everything to you. I accept it because I care about you. And that's why I know Xander will never change my mind about you."

She turned around in the circle of his arms. "I'm not going anywhere, Angel. I'm here for as long as I can be."

"That could be an awfully long time. Do you think you could handle that?"

She looped her arms around his neck. "I think I could handle anything as long as I have you by my side."

"I know the feeling." He murmured just before taking possession of her lips. "I know the feeling, baby."


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Thank you to Kolumbyne, Jo, Court, VengfulVixen3, Jade, Ashleigh, and Emma for their feedback the last chapter. CHAPTER 14


"Hello?"

"Hi, Mom."

"Angelus Liam O'Conner, Where the hell have you been? You haven't called in over a week, and then I find out from Cordelia that you've been to LA twice in that time and you didn't come to see me. I've been worried sick. Not to mention pissed off at you."

Angel grimaced, and leaned back against the headboard of his bed. He knew he was in hot water because his mother had swore, and said his full name all in one sentence. Something she had never done except for one other time in his life.

"I'm sorry, Mom. The truth is I've been busy."

"I see. Too busy for your own mother, right?"

"No, never. And I think you'll forgive me when I tell you exactly what I mean by busy."

"I wouldn't bet on it, Angel." She quipped.

"Okay then, if that's the way you feel I guess I'll just skip telling you about Buffy and hang up."

"Buffy? Who's... You met someone?"

"I met someone." Angel repeated. "Her name is Buffy."

"Do tell?" Katherine O'Conner asked excitedly.

"Are you sure you want to hear about her? I thought you were mad at me."

"Will you just shut up and tell me about the girl, Angel."

Angel chuckled. "Her name is Buffy Anne Summers."

"Is she pretty?"

"More than pretty, Mom. She's beautiful. Tiny with golden hair, and hazel eyes that look like emeralds at times. But it's not just her looks that hooked me. From the very first moment I met her it was like we had this instant connection. I don't know how to describe it."

"You like her."

"More than like, Mom. She's incredible."

"So tell me more about this incredible young woman."

Angel went on to tell his mother all about Buffy, leaving nothing out.

"And she's okay now?"

"Not quite, but she will be. I'm trying to be there for her as much as I can be."

"Well, even with everything she's going through she still sounds like a very nice young lady." Katherine smiled despite the fact that her son couldn't see her. She was truly happy for him. "So when do I get to meet her?"

"Valentine's weekend hopefully. I haven't asked her yet, I wanted to clear it with her Mom first, and I did that earlier today."

"That's my boy. I'm very proud of you for having the respect to ask for permission."

"Don't worry, Mom. You raised me right. I never had any intentions of asking Buffy unless it was okay with her Mom."

"So when are you going to ask her?"

"Tomorrow night. We're having dinner."

"And if she says yes you'll drive up that Friday after she gets out of school?"

"Actually we won't be driving up until late that night. There's a dance here that I want to take her to first. We'll leave right after that. It'll be too late for us to visit with you that night, so we'll just make plans to spend the day with you Saturday."

"I'm taking it you're planning on staying at the penthouse with her then?"

"Yes."

"Angel..."

"Don't start okay, Mom? I don't want to fight with you."

"Then don't give me a reason."

Angel sighed. "Buffy's nothing like Darla. I told you she was different."

"Different how?"

"Well, for one I think you'll actually like her. And two... It's not like that with us. She's saving herself until she's found the right person, and I respect that. We'll be sleeping in seperate bedrooms."

"So this girl is special, huh?"

"You could say that."

"Then there's no reason why you can't stay here."

"We're not staying with you, Mom. We'll stay at the penthouse."

This time it was Katherine's turn to sigh. "You're going to have to forgive him sometime, Angel. He's your brother."

"I did forgive him, and I'm actually thankful that he took Darla off my hands, Mom. If he hadn't I would still be with her and I would have never met Buffy."

"Then why can't you two stay here?"

"The truth?"

"It would help."

"The truth is I did forgive, Spike. But I also know how he can be. He likes to run his mouth, and then there's those wandering eyes of his, and I don't think I want Buffy around him for a long period of time."

Katherine laughed. "Boy, that friend of hers really opened your eyes to the jealousy thing, didn't he?"

"You could say that." Angel muttered. "And I'm not dealing with it so hot, so that's why I don't think it would be a good idea for her to be around that brother of mine for very long."

"I understand, honey."

"You do?" Angel asked a little surprised.

"I do. And I'll be sure to tell William that if he's here he has to be on his very best behavior. I just can't make any guarantees that he will."

"I still appreciate that you'll tell him, Mom. Thanks."

"You're welcome, sweetheart."

"Well, I guess I'm gonna go. I'll call you tomorrow night, okay?"

"Are you sure you won't be too busy with Buffy, Angel?"

Angel chuckled again. "I'll call you before I pick her up. Love you."

"Love you, too. Goodnight, honey."

"Goodnight, Mom." Angel hung up the phone, and turned out the lamp on the nightstand beside his bed before laying back on the pillows. Everything was going to be okay. He was going to help Buffy get through this mess with Finn, and everything was going to be okay. It had to be...

****

Buffy was putting on the finishing touches of her makeup when someone knocked on her bedroom door. "Come in!"

She slid from her vanity stool and turned around just in time to see her brother step into the room. "Hey, you."

"Hey, yourself." Doyle shut the door, and turned back to look at her. "Going somewhere?"

"Not yet. Why, what's up?"

"Nothing, I just wanted to come by and, you know? Catch up. I haven't seen you very much lately. Not even at school."

"Oh, yeah. I've uhh... I've been hanging out with Giles alot in the library. Brushing up on knowledge stuff."

"Right." He stepped further into the room. "And after school?"

Buffy couldn't help but smile. "Just ask me, Doyle. I know you want to."

"Are you really dating him?"

"Yes." She moved to the bed and sat down. "Why? Does it bother you, too?"

"Too?" Doyle moved to the bed and sat down beside her.

"Xander hates him. And let's just say that Angel doesn't exactly like Xander either. I had the whole gang over for video night last night, and Xander gave Angel hell, literally. He kept drilling him on things that were kinda personal."

"How did Mr. O'Conner, handle it?"

"You can call him Angel, Doyle. And he handled it like a pro. Of course, it was a totally different story once Xander left. He thinks Xander's in love with me. Isn't that the silliest thing you've ever heard?"

"Well actually, Munchkin..." A look of total disbelief appeared on Buffy's face. "Oh my god, it's true. Xander's really in love with me."

"Are you telling me you didn't know, Buffy?"

"Of course, I'm telling you I didn't know, Doyle! He's my best friend!"

"He wants to be more. I'm not sure exactly when the look in his eyes changed, but it wasn't hard to notice it once it did."

"I can't believe you didn't say anything, Doyle!"

"I'm sorry, Sis. I thought you knew. I just thought you were pretending not to know because you didn't want it to cause problems with your friendship."

"Well, I didn't know, and I wished to God I didn't know now. It's complicating things."

"With you and Angel, you mean?"

"Well, yeah." Buffy looked down at her hands. "But not just with me and Angel. Me and Xander, too. He broke up with Anya yesterday. I don't know what he has in his head, but if he thinks that I'm going to feel the same way he does he's got another thing coming. I don't love him that way, and I never will. God, what if I lose him over this. I don't want to. I do love him. But just as a friend. A best friend. I can't imagine my life without him, but then there's Angel. I don't want to lose him either."

"You really like this guy alot, don't you?"

Buffy raised her head to look at her brother. "No. Not like, Doyle. Love. I love Angel. And I know you probably think I'm crazy considering I've only known him a little over a week, but it's true."

Doyle reached up to caress Buffy's cheek. "I don't think it's crazy at all, Munchkin. Love is love. No one ever said there had to be a time limit on when it happens. Unless, of course, it's love at first sight."

"You know, I think that's what happened to me." Buffy murmured. "I don't know how to describe it, Doyle but from the very first moment I looked into Angel's eyes it was like our souls connected. Lost. I got so lost in them. Him. And it was the scariest, most exciting moment of my life."

"Have you told him?"

Buffy shook her head. "No. It's too soon. But I did tell him I care about him."

"Does he feel the same about you?"

"I hope so. He says he does. And he treats me like a lady. Like I'm special." Buffy pulled the guardian angel necklace out of her shirt. "Look. He got me this for my birthday. It's a guardian angel necklace. He told me that when he saw it he just knew he had to get it for me. He said he wanted me to know that I was never alone. That there would always be someone looking out for me. My very own guardian angel. Isn't that just the sweetest thing? But that's not all, he got me a cappucino maker because he knows how much I like mocchachino's, and he got me a gift certificate from Starbuck's so that I could have as many of them as I wanted without ever having to leave the house. Incredible. He's incredible. I've never known anyone like him. Well, except for you, of course."

Doyle chuckled. "Of course."

Buffy turned around on the bed to look at him. "Okay, that's enough about me and Angel. It's your turn to spill. And I want you to start with your date last weekend. How did it go?"

"Horrible." Doyle muttered. "And here I was worried about you never finding love, and now I'm thinking maybe I should be worrying about myself. I always thought Harry was the one, and even after her and I split last year I still thought it, but now that I hear you talk about you and Angel I'm not so sure. I don't think I ever felt the way you feel right now in the two years I was with her."

"That doesn't mean you give up hope, Doyle. I almost did and then Angel walked into my life. You'll find Miss. Right, I know it. And the moment you lay eyes on her you'll know she's the one just like I did with Angel."

"I hope you're right, Munchkin. Until then I just hope that the next date I decide to go out on doesn't turn out to be as horrible as the one last weekend."

"It was really that bad, huh?" "Are you kidding, Buffy? She went on and on about how she hated the thought of leaving her cat alone. I was almost to the point of telling her that if she missed him that damn much why the hell didn't she just go home. Of course, being the gentleman I am I tolerated her through the rest of dinner and the movie, but the moment we got back to her apartment I already hated that damn cat so much there was no way in hell I was going inside for a night cap, so I dumped her at her door and left."

Buffy couldn't help but laugh. "I'm sorry."

"Me, too. I'm sorry that I keep going out with women that bore me to tears. I want to meet someone exciting, you know? Someone with spunk. That's not afraid to tell you like it is. Now that's what I call a real woman."

"You know, I'm not trying to sound conceited here or be totally gross, but I think you just told me you wanted a woman just like me."

"That's because I do. I want someone just like you and Mom to spend the rest of my life with so that she can keep me on my toes whenever you and Mom aren't around."

"What happens if me and Mom don't like her?"

"I've already figured that out. Angel... I'll have him give her lessons on how to woo you two. He seems to be good at it." He grinned. "Or so I've been told anyway."

Buffy giggled again. "Oh, he is. He's very good at it."

"I can see that." Doyle stared at her in awe. "I've never seen you this happy. You're practically glowing."

"I am?"

"Uh huh. It's rather amazing. I think I'm going to like this guy."

"Really?"

"Well, I can't say for sure. Not yet anyway. I still have to do the brotherly thing and put him on the hot seat, but I'd say that the chances are pretty damn good that I will."

Buffy rolled her eyes. "Just do me a favor, okay, Doyle? Go easy on him."

Doyle grinned again. "I'll think about it."

****

Buffy laid her fork down, and looked across the table at Angel. "Does Cordelia have a significant other?"

"Why? Are you thinking about throwing me over for her?" Angel smirked.

"No. You're stuck with me. Now will you please answer the question?"

"No, she doesn't have a significant other. In fact, she rarely dates at all."

"Why? Was she in a bad relationship or something?"

"Or something." Angel answered before taking a bite of his steak.

"What happened?"

Angel laid his silverware down. "Why the sudden interest in Cordelia, Buffy?"

"I umm..." Buffy started picking at her food. "She's your best friend, and I want to get to know her better."

"I'm sensing there's more to it than just that, baby."

"Y-You are?" She asked, trying to hide her surprise. "H-How?"

"You have this gleam in your eye." Angel eyed her across the table. "What are you up to?"

"W-What makes you think I'm up to something?"

"Well, besides the gleam in your eye, there's that connection between us. You know, the one I told you I felt the first night we met? It's getting stronger. Somehow I can sense what you're feeling, and right now I'm sensing that you're up to something and you just don't want to come straight out and tell me what it is which is why I'm going to go ahead and save save you the trouble. Who is he?"

"H-He?" She gave him an innocent look. "He who?"

"The guy you want to fix Cordelia up with."

"Who said there was a guy? I never said there was a guy."

"Buffy..."

"Oh, okay." She pushed her plate away. "It's Doyle. I want to fix her up with Doyle. I think they would make a cute couple, but I can't fix them up unless I know more about her. I have to be sure Doyle won't get hurt. He's my brother."

"And she's my best friend. That's why I think you should forget it. If something happened and it didn't work out that would put us in the middle of it. It could cause problems between us, and that's the last thing I want to happen, Buffy. I just found you, and I don't want to lose you over something like that."

"Fine." Buffy mumbled. "But will you at least tell me why she doesn't date?"

Angel sighed. "She was involved with the same person all the way through high school. She thought that he loved her, but she found out differently when her father lost all his money. He dumped her and started going out with her best friend. It turned out he loved her father's money, and not her."

"So she has issues with money, too?"

"No. She actually handled that he was an asshole pretty well. That combined with the other things she had to face after her father lost everything made her take a good look at herself, and she didn't like what she saw. She wanted to change. Better herself, and she did. She doesn't date because she says she's happy with who she is right now, and she's not ready for a serious relationship."

"Still, she must be lonely. I know I was until I met you."

Angel couldn't help but smile at the way she was trying to butter him up. "No, Buffy. No matchmaking."

"But..." She pouted.

Oh, God. There it was again. That pout of hers. And it took less than a second to have the same affect on him as before. "No, Buffy." He repeated a little less firmly this time.

"Please, Angel. All I want is to maybe invite them to dinner or something with us. That's it. We don't have to call it a date. We could just get them together and let nature take it's course. Besides, it would be the perfect opportunity for you to get to know Doyle and me to get to know Cordelia better." Her bottom lip edged out even further than it had been before, and it was so damn adorable he had to stifle the urge to lean across the table and take it between his own lips. "You know I hate when you do that?"

"Do what?"

"You know what, Buffy so don't play dumb."

"Does that mean it's working?"

His eyes connected with hers. "You know it is."

She smiled. "So you'll help me?"

"Only on one condition. You have to promise me that if it doesn't work out between them you'll give up the matchmaking business."

"I promise. Now when can we do this?"

"Tomorrow night if neither one of them have plans. I'll cook dinner at my house. Say around eight o'clock?"

Buffy nodded and rewarded him with another smile. "Thank you."

"Don't go thanking me just yet, baby. They may hate each other."

"No, they won't. I know they won't."

"We'll see." Was all Angel said before resuming eating his steak.

Buffy quietly watched him for a few minutes before she broke the silence between them again. "Giles told me that you came to see him the other day. Why didn't you tell me?"

"Because it was business and I told you I want to keep that seperate from my personal life, Buffy." Angel finished off his steak, and sat back in his chair to look at her. "Especially when it comes to you. Our time together is limited enough as it is without bringing business talk into our conversations."

"Why is it any different than bringing Riley into our conversations?" "Because unfortunately he does have bearing in our personal lives right now. My business doesn't."

"Yes, it does, Angel. If it didn't why did you go to so much trouble to prove to me that there was more to you than just your money?" Buffy looked down at her hands. "I want to know everything there is to know about you, Angel. That includes you telling me about your writing, your charity work, or whatever." She looked back up at him. "I want to know when you have a good day, and when you have a bad day. I want you to tell me all about your day the way you want me to tell you about mine. This can't be a relationship if you're not going to share with me the way you've taught me to share with you. Now tell me about your meeting with Giles."

Angel reached across the table and took her hand. "Could I discuss something else with you first?" When he saw her frown, he squeezed her hand in reassurance. "I'm not trying to avoid talking to you, Buffy. I'll tell you all about my meeting with Giles later. I promise, but this other thing is more important, okay?"

"Okay. What is it?"

"I want you to meet my mom."

"You're kidding?"

"No. I told her about you, and she wants to meet you too. So I was thinking... but only if you want to... How would you like to go to LA with me for a weekend? Meet her, and maybe do something else while we're there?"

"You mean like stay there the whole weekend?"

He nodded.

"Angel, I can't. My mom..."

"She said yes."

"W-What?" Buffy blinked in shock.

"I talked to your mom, Buffy. I told her I wanted to take you to LA for a weekend to meet my mom, and she said yes."

"W-When? When did you talk to her about this. Where was I?"

"I talked to her yesterday while you were upstairs changing clothes."

"A-And she actually said yes?"

"Yes."

"Y-You're sure?" She asked not quite able to believe what he was saying.

Angel chuckled. "I'm sure. I wasn't even going to mention this to you if she had said no."

"Oh..."

"Now don't give me an answer just yet. I want you to hear me out first. I was thinking we could go Valentine's Day weekend. I was planning on going to LA to see my mom anyway. After the dance, of course. But instead of my going alone you could go with me. We could stay at my penthouse that I bought for business purposes. We could drive up on Friday night after the dance then spend the day with my mom on Saturday, and after that I thought maybe you and I could go see the Moiseyev Dance Company at the Beverly Wilshire Theatre that night. They're great, and I was lucky enough to get a set of tickets. We would drive back to Sunnydale sometime Sunday."

"Wow. I uhh... you've really given this alot of thought haven't you? What if I say no?"

He traced circles on her hand with the pad of his thumb. "I would understand, go alone, and instead of you going to the Beverly Wilshire with me Saturday night I would take my mom."

"The Beverly Wilshire, that's in Beverly Hills, isn't it?"

"Yes, and if the thought of going makes you uncomfortable we don't have to go."

"No. No."

"No, you won't go?"

"Yes... I mean no. Damnit!" Buffy shook her head. "What I meant to say is I want to go with you, and no going to the Beverly Wilshire with you won't make me uncomfortable."

"So you'll go and meet my mom?"

"Do you want me to? I mean really, Angel?"

His dark orbs locked with hers. "More than anything."

She relaxed and smiled. "Okay, then I'll go."

"Really?"

"Really."

Angel brought her hand to his lips, and brushed a kiss across her knuckles. "Then it's settled. We have a date."

"A-And your mom... She knows about me?"

"I told her everything about you last night."

"And she still wants to meet me?"

"Buffy..."

She looked away. "It was just a joke, Angel."

He frowned. "Well, I didn't think it was very funny. I happen to think you're pretty incredible, and I know my mom is going to think the exact same thing once she meets you."

"It's just..." Buffy pulled her hand away. "I've never met a mom before. What if I suck at it?"

"You won't."

"How do you know?" She asked meekly, turning back to look at him.

"Because you're Buffy. My Buffy." He gave her a reassuring smile. "Now, what do you say to my going and taking care of the check so that we can get out of here?"

"Back to your place?"

"No." He stood up, and came around to help her to her feet. "I'm taking you somewhere else, and don't ask where because it's a surprise." He leaned over to brush his lips across hers, not caring that there were other patrons in the resteraunt staring at them. "Ready?"

Buffy nodded, and let him take her hand to lead her towards the front of the resteraunt.


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Thanks to Court, Stephanie, Karin Marie, Slayer29, Cristina, and Jade for their feedback on chapter 14. CHAPTER 15

"Do you like it?" Angel asked as he slipped up behind Buffy and wrapped his arms around her waist.

"It's beautiful."

"Not as beautiful as you." He murmured as he brushed her hair aside and kissed the nape of her neck.

Buffy trembled from the contact, and leaned further back into him. "H-How did you find it?"

"I stumbled on it running the other morning. I figured the view would be pretty spectacular at night with all the city lights, and I couldn't wait to show you."

"And you were right." She stared out at the lights.

"Hey. Are you all right? You got quiet on me all of a sudden."

"I guess I'm just a little tired."

"Is that really it or did you have a bad day at school?"

She couldn't help but smile. It was almost like he could read her mind. "You know me too well, don't you?"

"Uh huh." He whispered next to her ear. "So tell me what's going on."

"I'm just stressed, Angel. Now not only am I trying to avoid Riley Finn, I'm trying to avoid my best friend as well. Turns out you were right. Xander loves me. Doyle confirmed it today. The reason he hadn't said anything before is because he thought I was pretending not to know about it to keep it from messing up our friendship."

"And now that you know for a fact how he really does feel you're upset." He guessed.

"Uh huh." Buffy finally turned around to look at him. "I don't know what to do about it, Angel. Do I say something, to him, or do I tell him to get over it? I mean, I could keep my mouth shut and pretend that I don't know, but right now I'm not so sure I can do that. Especially when it's really stressing me out, and upsetting me that he treats you the way he does."

"I'm sorry, baby. I shouldn't have told you. If I had known that it was going to upset you..."

She cut him off with a quick kiss. "It's okay, honey. I'm pretty sure I would have eventually found out whether you had told me or not. I mean, look at the way he's acting." She laid her head on his chest. "What am I going to do, Angel? He's my best friend. He broke up with a great girl for me. Because he has feelings for me. Feelings I can never return."

Angel threaded his fingers through Buffy's hair. "What do you want to do?"

"I know I don't want to lose him, but I don't want to go on feeling uncomfortable either. I have enough of that with Riley and his friends."

"Then I think you should talk to him. Tell him how you feel. I think once he's confronted with the possibility of losing you he'll see that having you as a friend is better than not having you in his life at all."

Buffy raised her face to look at him. "And if he doesn't?"

He locked eyes with her. "Then he's a fool."

"Angel, if I talk to him and we work things out do you think that you and he... I don't expect you to be best buds or anything, but do you think you could get along with him?"

"For you I'd do anything, Buffy."

"Thank you." She gave him a warm smile. "That means alot to me."

"I know." Angel murmured, caressing her cheek. "So when will you talk to him?"

"I was thinking of doing it tomorrow morning."

"In the morning?"

"Yeah, why?"

"Nothing, it's just I was hoping you and I could spend some time together in the morning. Maybe go for a run."

"We can still do that. It just might be a little late. How about I just come over after I talk to him?"

"I'll pick you up instead. And I don't want any arguements, Buffy. You know I don't like you walking. Even in broad daylight. Just call me when you get done. We'll run, and then I'll cook you breakfast. Oh, and don't forget to bring a change of clothes. You can shower while I'm cooking, okay?"

"Sounds wonderful, but I can't stay all day. I promised Mom I would go to the mall with her. She's treating me to a birthday shopping spree, so I couldn't say no."

"I understand. Just don't forget to call Doyle and ask him about dinner tomorrow night."

"I won't. In fact, I'll call him tonight so that I can let you know something first thing in the morning." Buffy snuggled back into his embrace. "Now with that out of the way I want you to tell me all about your meeting with Giles."

Angel pulled her closer. "You don't give up, do you?"

"Uh uh. Now spill."

"Okay. " He rested his head against hers. "Not long after my first book hit number one on the best seller's list I decided that I wanted to get involved in some sort of charity. The first charity I donated to was the cancer foundation to help fund research for a cure. I make a sizeable contribution every year in my father's name, but I still felt like what I was doing wasn't enough, so I figured since I had already did something to honor my father why not do something to honor my mother as well. She's always held firm in her belief that getting an education is important for everyone no matter how old they are, and since I agree with her I started making donations to education. My contributions went to schools in LA that lack the funds for things like books, computers, and other important educational materials, and when I moved here I decided I wanted to do the same for the schools here. I had Cordy check into what the schools needed here, and she found out that Sunnydale High was in the most need, so I had her set up a meeting with Mr. Giles. I asked him to talk to all the teachers. Find out what they need, and then he's going to make up a list for me. I'm even thinking of putting him in charge of handling the money to purchase the materials that are needed, but I haven't talked to him about that yet. I plan to the next time we meet."

"I don't understand, Angel. Why Giles? Why not the school board? Isn't that their job?"

"Yes, but it's my money and I want to make sure it's used for what it's supposed to be used for."

"In other words you don't trust them."

"No, I don't."

"Why?"

"I just don't, Buffy."

Buffy pulled away to look at him. "You're being awfully cryptic, Angel. Why?"

"I know Riley's father is on the school board. I don't trust him."

"What else do you know?" She searched his face.

"Enough not to trust Principal Snyder either."

"But you trust Giles?"

"Yes." He murmured, looking into her eyes. "And before you ask me how seeing as I don't really know him, the answer is simple. You. I trust him because I trust you, Buffy. Not just that, In the short time I was with him he siad some things that convinced me I could trust him."

Buffy left the circle of his arms, and went over to sit down on the blanket he had spread out earlier without saying anything in response. "Buffy? Baby, what's wrong?" He turned around to look at her.

She shook her head. "I umm... nothing."

Angel came over to kneel in front of her. "You're lying, Buffy. I can tell something's bothering you. Now what is it?"

"I don't know, Angel. I just get the feeling there's something you're not telling me, a-and I'm not going to force you to either. I uhh... Just promise me that whatever you're doing that you'll be careful. I have a very bad feeling about this. Promise me, Angel. Promise me you'll be careful."

"I promise." He leaned forward to capture her lips with his, and everything was forgotten as his tongue slipped into the depths of her mouth to tangle with hers. He slowly laid her back on the blanket, pressing the length of her body to his, and God it felt so good. So right. She tasted like heaven, and he wanted more than just a taste. His lips left hers to travel to the sensitive spot he had recently found behind her ear, laving the delicate skin there, and he couldn't help but smile as a whimper escaped her lips.

Buffy not only whimpered, she trembled at the sensations Angel was awakening in her. She arched her body up against his, wanting more, as her hands threaded in his hair.

Angel returned to Buffy's lips, taking her bottom one between his own lips, and gently began to suckle and nip at it

with his teeth. "Buffy..." He murmured huskily between his ministrations. "Baby, I've been dying to do this since the resteraunt."

"Y-You have?" She asked in breathy pants.

"Yes. God yes. Doyle was right. That pout of yours... It's a real killer."

Before Buffy could get the chance to reply Angel was claiming her mouth once more, and exploring the endlessly lush warmth of it. She was on fire for him, and tried to press herself even closer, but the moment she did Angel broke away from her and rolled onto his back. He instantly reached for her, pulling her up against his side as they laid in silence, and struggled to get back the air they both so badly needed.

"A-Angel?"

"Hmm..." He murmured, staring up at the night sky.

"D-Do you dance?"

"What?"

"Do you dance? I just realized that you asked me to the Valentine's Day dance and I don't even know if you can dance."

Angel turned his head to look at her. "Slow only. Do you?"

"Yes. Slow and fast. I even keep up with all the latest dance crazes, and dirty dances, but I don't do those in public." She giggled. "Boy, if my chevelle mirror could talk."

Angel could feel the crotch of his pants growing even tighter. "Then it's probably a good thing it can't..." He barely choked out.

"Yeah." She sobered, and looked deep into his eyes. "Honestly though, I like slow dancing the best."

He reached over to caress her cheek. "Don't worry, Miss. Summers, I plan to dance all the slow dances with you. I like holding you in my arms."

Buffy smiled. "I like you holding me in your arms, too. Do you think maybe you could do it now? Hold me, I mean."

He rolled over onto his side and pulled her into his arms. "Like this?" He murmured against her hair.

"Uh huh." Buffy closed her eyes, and breathed him in. "Perfect. That's just perfect."

***

Buffy was standing at her Capuccino maker the next morning when her mother walked into the kitchen. "Good morning, sweetie."

She turned around to look at Joyce. "I'm glad somebody thinks it's a good morning."

"Uh oh. Looks like somebody got up on the wrong side of the bed." Joyce replied as she moved to the cabinet and pulled out to coffee mugs.

"Actually, Mom I didn't get up on the wrong side or even the right side of the bed for that matter because I haven't been to bed." Buffy muttered as she turned back to the Capuccino maker. "Someone kept calling here and hanging up last night. It didn't stop until six thirty this morning, but by then I was already too tired to sleep so I just stayed up and worked on Anya's and Willow's prom dresses."

Joyce walked over to the Capuccino maker and poured the contents of the pot into the two coffee mugs. "Do you know who it was?"

"Nope. Not a clue. I did that star sixty nine thingie, but the recording kept telling me the calls couldn't be traced."

She accepted one of the mugs from Joyce. "So how was your night? Did you and Giles keep the bed rocking all night or did you two actually get some sleep?"

"Buffy Anne Summers! You watch your mouth, young lady."

"Oh come on, Mom!" Buffy walked over and plopped down on one of the stools at the kitchen island. "Do you honestly think I don't know what goes on when you and Giles are on one of your all night dates? There's no where that stays open twenty four hours here in Sunnydale except for Denny's, and I don't see the two of you spending the last fourteen hours there eating."

Joyce came over and sat down on the stool opposite of Buffy. "I refuse to discuss my sex life with you, Buffy. That's personal."

"But you are admitting that you and Giles have one, right?" Buffy grinned at her mom before taking a sip of her Capuccino."

"Buffy..." Joyce warned.

Buffy sighed and sat her cup down. "Why don't you just ask him to move in and get it over with, Mom? You've been dating him for three years, and you know I love him more than I could ever love Hank."

"I'm trying to set an example for you, Buffy."

"And what example are you trying to set for me? Don't have premarital sex until your fortyish, and have been married and divorced at least once? And no, I am not trying to be smartassed about you having sex and not being married. My point is that you've instilled all your beliefs in me, and I've held onto them through everything. You raised me right, Mom but I'm not a little girl anymore. I know right from wrong, and I don't believe for a second that what you and Giles have is wrong. I know you two love each other, and you always told me that as long as there was love that it was okay. You told me, and I quote *I don't want to be old fashioned like my mother was, Buffy. I know almost everyone has sex before their married nowdays. Even I did. All I ask is that you wait until you find someone that will not only love and respect you, but that will also love and respect the gift you give him.* Now, I know for a fact that you believed with all your heart that it was the right piece of advice to give me or you never would have given it to me in the first place. So why try to shield me and yourself from something that you believe in so much? Something I believe in? Ask Giles to move in with you. It's not like I'm going to be here forever, and it would make me feel better to know you're not alone."

"I'll think about it." Joyce murmured before taking a sip of her Capuccino.

"Good." Buffy yawned and stood up. "And now that this little heart to heart is over I'm off to shower and see if I can wake up a little before I head off to have another heart to heart, only this time with Xander."

"Xander?" Joyce raised an eyebrow. "What do you need to have a heart to heart with Xander about?"

"Well, it would be kinda funny if it wasn't wiggin' me out so much. See, Xander kinda thinks he's in love with me." She yawned again. "I never knew until the other night when I invited the gang over to meet Angel. He sorta showed his tail, and on top of that he broke up with Anya. I blamed his behavior on the breakup, but Angel was quick to point out that it was more than that. That he thought Xander was in love with me, and that his attitude toward's him was because he was jealous. And at first I thought Angel was crazy, but then Doyle confirmed it the next day, and now as you can tell by the way I'm babbling that the whole thing is totally wiggin' me out like I said before, so I figured it was time I had a talk with Xander about it. He's my best friend. I don't want to lose him over this, and right now the way things are looking I probably will if I don't say something. He hates Angel, and he doesn't try to hide his feelings. He needs to know where I stand on matters. The only thing is I don't know how firm I'm going to be able to be with the way I'm feeling right now. I'm pooped."

Joyce reached for Buffy's hand and squeezed it. "Do you want to cancel the mall trip today?"

"Would you mind?" Buffy asked searching her face.

"No. We'll just reschedule for tomorrow."

"Thanks, Mom. I really appreciate it. I'm going to take care of this stuff with Xander, and then after that I'll probably run by Angel's. He and I were supposed to have some alone time today, but I'm really not up for doing much of anything but sleeping, so I'm just going to run by there and see him for a few then come home and crash for a couple of hours before we have dinner with Doyle tonight."

"You and Angel are having dinner with your brother?"

Buffy nodded. "I sorta suckered Angel into it right along with him inviting his best friend Cordelia."

Joyce laughed. "Why do I get the impression you're trying to fix your brother up?"

"Because I am." Buffy grinned. "Just don't say anything to him if you see him today, okay? I want it to be a surprise."

"Don't worry, sweetie. I probably won't even see your brother today. I was thinking that since you and I are rescheduling our mall trip that I'd go on in and work until time to meet Rupert for dinner. I probably won't be home until late. Is that okay?"

"It's fine by me." Buffy smiled, and headed for the kitchen door, but she halted halfway there and spun around to look at Joyce. "Oh, and Mom don't be in any hurry to get home. The mall doesn't open till one tomorrow because it's Sunday." With that said, she disappeared out the kitchen, and left Joyce sitting, shaking her head at her.


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Thanks to Jane, Kim, Carol Ann, Court, Emma, and VengfulVixen3 for their feedback on chapter 15. CHAPTER 16

"Hey." Buffy managed to mumble as she stared at her best friend standing on the other side of the doorway.

"Hey, yourself." Xander motioned for her to enter the house. "I was surprised when you called this morning. I got the feeling you were mad at me yesterday because of the whole *I'm avoiding Xander thing.*" He shut the door, and turned around to look at her.

"Figured it out, huh?" Buffy gave him a weak smile.

"Yeah." He walked past her into the living room. "It wasn't hard, so I guess the question is now why were you avoiding me? Was it because of the questions I asked your boyfriend?"

"Partly." Buffy followed him into the living room and sat down on the sofa. "They were uncalled for, Xander."

"I don't think they were."

"You really don't like him, do you?"

"No."

"Why? I mean besides the fact that he's filthy rich, and you think he's an axe murderer? Why don't you like him, Xander?"

Xander locked eyes with her. "The truth?"

Buffy nodded.

"Because I love you, Buffy. And I don't see him making you happy. Not the way I know I can."

"Oh, Xander..." Buffy's eyes welled up with tears.

"Don't." Xander held up his hand. "Don't you dare say it, Buffy. Not until you hear me out." He came over to sit down beside her. "I love you, Buffy. I've loved you since I was fourteen years old, and I know you don't feel the same way, but if you would only give me a chance I could change your mind. I could make you happy, Buffy."

"No, you can't, Xander."

Xander's face hardened. "Why? Is it because of him?"

"No. Even if Angel wasn't in the picture it wouldn't matter, Xander. I love you, but I don't love you the way you want, and I never will be able to love you like that. The love I feel for you is that of a best friend. A brother."

He stared at her for a moment. "You're in love with him."

"Yes, I am. But I told you that even if he wasn't in the picture it wouldn't matter. I don't love you, Xander. Not like you love me. That's why I wanted to talk to you. These feelings you have for me are causing problems. Problems between you and me, and problems between me and Angel. Problems I don't want or need right now. You're important to me, Xand but so is Angel. I want you both in my life. I want you two to get along."

"That's never going to happen, Buffy. I can't be around you two and pretend that I'm okay with it."

"Why not, Xander? Doesn't our friendship mean anything to you?"

Xander shot to his feet. "I don't think I'm the one you should be asking that question to, Buffy. I think you're the one that needs to decide who is more important to you, me or Angel?"

Buffy looked up at him in shock. "Are you asking me to choose between the two of you, Xander?"

"What if I was?"

"That is so not fair, Xander."

"No one ever said that life was fair, Buffy. Now choose. Either choose me, your best friend, someone you've known for sixteen years and that has been there for you through the good times and the bad, or choose him, someone you've only known a little over a week, and who will never be there for you through the bad times because you're afraid he won't be able to handle them."

"You know why I can't tell him, Xander. And you're wrong. He has been there for me. In more ways than you'll ever know."

"Sure he has, Buff." Xander replied sarcastically. "Now quit stalling. Choose."

"Xander, please don't..." Buffy started to say as she stood up.

"Get out."

"W-What?" She asked in disbelief, blinking back more tears.

"You heard me, Buffy. Get out!" He spat angrily. "You've made your choice."

"But I didn't..."

"You didn't have to. It wasn't a trick question, Buffy. It was supposed to be me. Sixteen years compared to a week. There shoudn't have been any decision to it. You should have picked me, but you didn't. You made your choice now I want you to get the hell out of my house!"

"Xander, please there's something I need to tell..." Tears began to stream down her face, but he didn't care. He strode past her, and went to the front door to open it. "Get out! I never want to speak to you again. From this day forward we are no longer friends. Buffy. When you see me don't bother to look at me or speak to me. I mean it. Now get out!"

Buffy did as he ordered, and all she could do was stand there on his doorstep and ball her eyes out as he slammed the door in her face.

***

Angel had just stepped into his bedroom from taking a shower when his phone started ringing. He padded over to it, and picked up. "Hello?"

"A-Angel..." Buffy sobbed from the other end.

"Buffy?" Angel's gut tightened when all he got was a sob in reply. "Buffy, baby, what's wrong?"

"C-Could y-you c-come o-over?"

"Buffy, what's wrong? Why are you crying? Did something happen? Did Finn..."

"P-Please, A-Angel. C-Could y-you j-just c-come o-over? I-I n-need y-you."

He gripped the receiver. "Just hang on, baby. I'm coming. Just hang on, okay?"

"O-Okay..." She sobbed, and then hung up without saying anything else, and that scared Angel even more. He was dressed in a minute flat, and broke the speed limit getting to her house in the urgency to get to her. When he knocked on the door he didn't get an answer. Thankfully though he kept his calm enough to think to test the knob and found it unlocked. Without hesitation he entered the house, calling out her name as he did. "Buffy!" He didn't get a reply. Nothing, and his fear rose even more. Upstairs. He started up the stairs to check to see if she was there, and that's when he picked up faint crying. He finished taking the stairs, and didn't bother to knock on her bedroom door. He just needed to get to her, and what he found when he opened the door broke his heart into a million pieces. She was laying on the bed curled in a fetal position, sobs hitching her body. He shut the door, and closed the distance to the bed, slidding on to it beside her, and gently rolling her over to pull her into his arms.

Buffy knew the moment the front door downstairs opened that it was Angel, she could feel him with everything that was inside her. But she was too overcome with grief to answer back when he called out to her. Not that it mattered, because he was there now, slidding on the bed, and pulling her into his arms, and his loving gesture only brought more tears. "H-He w-wouldn't l-listen. H-He s-said w-we w- weren't friends a-anymore."

"Shh... Don't cry, baby. Everything's going to be okay."

"E-Everything's n-not g-going t-to b-be o-okay, A-Angel." She cried, clinging to him. "H-He h-hates m-me."

"He doesn't hate you, Buffy. He's just hurting right now, too. He'll come around once he has time to think things through." He murmured against her hair while his hands soothed her back.

A new flood of tears burst forth from her, and all Angel could do was hold her in his arms, whispering soothing words until the finally subsided. Then and only then did he dare to pull away enough to look at her. "Feel better?"

Buffy shook her head no, and he reached up to wipe the remaining tears from her face. "Want to tell me what happened?"

"He told me he loved me. That he had loved me since we were fourteen. He said he knew I didn't feel the same way, but he asked me to give him a chance anyway. He said he knew he could make me happier than you if I would only give him a chance. I told him I couldn't do that. That I didn't love him like that. That I would never love him like that."

"What did he say when you told him that?"

Buffy fidgeted with the buttons on Angel's silk shirt. "I umm... He asked me if it was because of you, and I told him no. That even if you weren't in the picture it wouldn't matter because I could never love him the way he wanted. I told him I loved him like a best friend. A brother. That upset him. He asked me if you were in the picture..." She raised her eyes to him." A-And I told him y-yes. I told him that the both of you were important to me, and that I wanted the two of you to get along. To which he replied he couldn't. He said he couldn't be around the two of us and pretend that everything was okay when it wasn't. We argued a little bit more, and then he ups and demands that I choose between the two of you. When I told him that it wasn't fair and tried to reason with him, he got even angrier. He took my trying to reason with him as my choosing you, and he told me we couldn't be friends anymore because I should have chose him. He said that I had only known you a week, and I had known him sixteen years. He pointed out that he had been there for me through all the good times and bad the last sixteen years, and basically asked me if I could say the same about you. I was going to tell him about Riley. What you did for me, but he wouldn't listen. He kicked me out of his house. He told me our friendship was over. That he never wanted to see or speak to me again."

Angel's eyes locked with hers. "God, Buffy. I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have said anything. If I had just kept my mouth shut none of this would be happening right now."

"You're right, Angel. None of this would be happening right now. It would be worse. If you wasn't in the picture God only knows what would have happened to me that night at the Bronze. And Xander... Things would have been worse with him, too. He would be even angrier because he wouldn't have understood why I wouldn't give him a chance when there wasn't anyone in my life. This is not your fault. You're right. He's hurting. I know that just as soon as he works things out, so will we. I just sorta forgot all that in the fallout. I have a tendancy to get overly hormonal. Either I cry rivers, or I'm a total bitch and lash out at the person closest to me. It doesn't help matters that I didn't get any sleep last night. Add cranky Buffy to very hormonal Buffy, and you get nervous wreck Buffy. Not a pretty sight."

"Why didn't you get any sleep last night?"

"Prank phone caller. It started right after you brought me home last night and lasted until six thirty this morning. By then I was too tired to go to sleep, so I just stayed up."

His hand, the one smoothing soothing circles on her back, stilled. "Do you know who it was?"

Buffy yawned, and snuggled up against him. "Uh uh. I did that star sixty nine thingie, but the calls couldn't be traced."

"Do you think it was Finn?" His brow creased in concern.

"Don't know. Maybe."

"Well, if it happens again I want to know, okay?"

"Okay."

"Wow. You mean I'm not getting an argument?"

"Too tired." She mumbled against his chest.

Angel kissed her forehead. "Then I'm going to go and let you get some sleep. I'll come back and pick you up around seven for dinner unless you want to cancel. I'm sure Doyle and Cordelia will understand."

"No." She murmured sleepily. "Don't go. Don't cancel."

"Buffy... Baby, you're exhausted. You need some sleep, and then there's your..."

"Mom won't be home till late if at all, Angel." She finished as if she knew what he was thinking. "Stay. Please. You make me feel better."

God, how could he say no to her? Especially when she asked like that? He couldn't, and without a second thought he pulled her closer, and buried his face in her hair. She smelled of vanilla, roses, and peaches all in one, and he knew no matter what happened with them he would never ever forget that scent. A scent that was pure Buffy. "Sleep, beloved. I'll stay."

She must have known what he was going to say because the only reply he got was the sound of her deep, even breathing, and for the longest time Angel just lay there luxurating in the feel of having her in his arms. But eventually contentment and the sound of her breathing became too much for him, and he gave into the feeling, letting sleep overtake him, too.

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I know some of you have been wondering where I've been the last few days, and the answer is on vacation. I'm sorry I left you hanging and as a special treat for doing so I've decided to give you two chapters today instead of one. But before I do I'd like to say thank you to Ryan, Cristina, Nikki, Lise, Michelle, Wendy, Jade, Court, Jo, Emma, Kim, Ashleigh, VengfulVixen3, Carol Ann, Amy, Erin, Stephanie, Christine, Angel, and Stacy for their wonderful feedback in my absence. Thanks guys. Now here's your treat as I promised. CHAPTER 17

Buffy woke to the sensation that she was being watched, but she didn't have to open her eyes to know who was doing the watching. "Is it that bad?"

"Is what that bad?"

"Me." She murmured, her voice still husky from sleep. "I happen to know for a fact that I can be pretty scary when I first wake up, and considering the hell I've been through the last twenty four hours I imagine it's only intensified the effect. So tell me, Doc. Just how frightening am I?"

"I think you look beautiful." He pulled her closer, and she couldn't help but smile. "Flattery will get you no where, mister. Especially when you can't lie worth a damn."

"I'm not lying, Buffy. You could have a paper bag over your head and I would still think you were beautiful."

Buffy opened her eyes, and tilted her head back to look at him. "Paper bag? Boy, I must look more than frightening."

Angel chuckled. "I was just trying to tell you what I thought, Buffy. I didn't mean it in a bad way. Beautiful. You look beautiful..." He leaned over to brush a kiss across her lips before pulling away to look at her again. "Hey, you. Did you have a nice nap?"

"Heavenly." She beamed up at him. "What about you? Did you have a nice nap? Or did you nap at all? Please tell me you napped, because I would really feel bad if all you did was lay here and watch me sleep."

"I napped." He smiled. "And you're babbling."

"Can't help it." She buried her head in his chest. "You're seeing me at my worst."

Angel tangled his hands in her hair. "No, Buffy I'm seeing you at your best. You're human, baby and there is nothing wrong with showing that you are. You needed someone to lean on, and I'm very glad that you let that someone be me."

Buffy's eyes pooled up with tears as she raised her head back up to look at him. "God, you are incredible. Have I told you that?"

"I happen to think you're pretty incredible yourself." He murmured right before he captured her lips, and then everything else was forgotten as they savored one another until the need sent for air sent them reluctantly pulling apart.

"Mmm..." She snuggled back into his chest. "I could get used to this."

"I know what you mean." Angel murmured, his arms tightening around her. "Unfortunatlely though, I'm afraid time has other plans for us. If we're going to do this dinner with Doyle and Cordelia I suggest we get up and get a move on."

"Shower." Buffy pulled away to look at him. "I need to shower. If I don't I'll feel yucky the rest of the night."

He feathered another kiss across her lips. "Go on. I'll wait on you."

"Angel, you don't have to wait on me. If you need to go home go. I'll shower and...."

Angel sat up. "You're not walking, Buffy and that's that." He pulled her up beside him, and dropped another kiss on her lips. "Go shower. I'll wait."

"Okay." She slid off the bed. "But I want you to remember that part where I'm a girl and that it takes me a little longer, okay?"

"I told you once before that there's no way in hell I could ever forget you're a girl, and I meant it, Buffy." His eyes darkened as his gaze moved over her, and once again he felt unimagineble desire shoot through him as images of her in the shower cluttered his mind. "Now go." He managed to choke out. Killing him. Jesus, she was killing him. But it was a good kind of death. The best kind.

***

Forty five minutes later Buffy opened her bedroom door, and stopped in her tracks as she took in the scene before her. "I see you've met Mr. Gordo."

Angel stood up from the bed, still holding the object she was referring to. "Mr. Gordo?"

She shut the door, and crossed the room to him, taking the pink stuffed pig from his hands. "Mr. Gordo, this is Angel." She held the stuffed pig up in front of him. "Angel, this is Mr. Gordo. He's kinda like my security blanket. Silly I know. An eighteen year old with a security blanket, but I can't help it. I've had him since I was two. Hank... My dad brought him back from a business trip to New York for me. He was a late birthday present." She moved around him, and laid the stuff pig on her bed pillows. "It's the only good memory I have of him."

He moved up behind her, and wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her back against him. "You don't have to talk about him if you don't want to, Buffy."

"I know." She turned in the circle of his arms. "But it's easier with you. Maybe it's that connection you were talking about, or maybe it's because we both grew up fatherless. I mean, I know the circumstances were different, your dad left because he was sick, and my dad was never there up until he actually did leave, but it doesn't matter. I uhh... It's just easier to talk to you about it because in ways you can relate to it."

"Does it help? Talking about him with me, I mean?"

"It helps, but it doesn't make me hate him any less." She stood up on tiptoe, and kissed him. "And with that said, Mopey Buffy is officially off duty for the rest of the night." She pulled away from him, and reached for his hand. "Now let's you and I go play matchmaker with that best friend of yours, and my brother."

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CHAPTER 18

"You know, for a place that's been empty for fifteen years, I must say it's in great shape." Doyle replied as he followed Angel and Buffy into the kitchen.

"Looks can be deceiving, Doyle." Angel helped Buffy sit down in a chair, and walked over to the stove to check

one of the pots simmering on it. "This place needs alot of work. A new roof, new plumbing, and a new heating system. I could tell they were all pretty much shot to hell when the real estate agent showed me the place, and I was quick to point out that whoever bought it would have to pay alot to have them fixed. Good thing I did. My observations got a lot knocked off the asking price."

"And just exactly how much was the asking price?"

"Doyle!" Buffy shook her head at her brother. "That is none of your business!"

"It's okay, Buffy." Angel turned away from the stove to face Doyle. "1.5 million. I ended up getting it for right at a million though."

Doyle whistled. "Hate to tell you this, buddy but you got jipped."

Buffy started shaking her head even more vigorously, and making faces at her brother. Angel looked over at her. "What's wrong, Buffy?"

"I umm.... nothing." She looked away.

"Buffy..." Angel's eyes narrowed. "There's something obviously wrong here, and I'd like to know what it is."

"I umm..." She returned her gaze to his and the moment she did she knew there was no way in hell she was going to be able to get out of the inevitable. "I didn't have the heart to tell you."

"Tell me what?" Angel stared at her.

"That your house is haunted." Doyle answered before Buffy got the chance, and took the chair across from her at the kitchen table. "Why do you think it stayed empty for so long and never got vandalised? All the kids, and half the adults in this town are too scared to come anywhere near it. They're afraid the boogey man will get them. Or in this case, the boogey woman."

Angel looked at Doyle in disbelief. "You're kidding?"

"Nope." Doyle took a sip of his beer. "See, the previous owner was a rich, young widow by the name of Mary Crawford. She was found murdered and decapitated in one of the bedrooms upstairs. The police were never able to find the decapitated parts, and the good people of this town believe they are actually buried somewhere in this place and that the ghost of Mrs. Crawford walks the halls in search of them. It doesn't help matters that the murder was never solved."

Angel's gaze moved back to Buffy. "Is that why you were acting so funny last weekend, and kept asking me questions?"

"N-No." Buffy denied unconvincingly.

"Buffy..." Angel locked eyes with her.

"Okay!" She threw her hands up in the air. "I confess. But you have to understand that I grew up on really scary stories about this place, Angel. " She tore her eyes away from him, and looked over at her brother. "Really, really, scary ghost stories."

Doyle chuckled. "Don't blame me, Munchkin. I was only repeating what I was told."

Buffy's gaze shot back to Angel. "But just so you know, honey. I'm not afraid anymore."

Angel quirked an eyebrow. "Oh, really? And why is that?"

"I don't know. I umm... I just seemed to forget that it was haunted once I'd been here awhile."

"And would you care to explain to me and your brother how exactly you forgot so easily?" He smirked.

Buffy blushed, and Doyle didn't miss it. Thankfully though, she was saved from having to answer when the doorbell rang, bringing her to her feet. "That'll be Cordelia."

"Cordelia?" Doyle looked back and forth at Buffy and Angel. "Who's Cordelia?"

"My best friend." Angel answered. "She and Buffy are fast becoming friends, and Buffy wanted to invite her. I hope that's okay?"

"Yeah, sure." Doyle took another sip of his beer. "I always say the more the merrier."

Buffy's gaze darted nervously from her brother to Angel. "Do you want me to get it?"

Angel smiled. "Do you mind? I need to add the sauce to the chicken."

Buffy returned his smile. "No, I don't mind." She pointed a finger at her brother. "And, you behave while I'm gone."

"Buffy, you're just going to answer the door. I won't have enough time alone with Angel to put him through an interrogation. Now go answer the door before the poor woman thinks there's no one at home."

"Okay, I'll be right back." She disappeared out of the kitchen leaving Doyle and Angel alone. Angel turned back to the stove and began to add the sauce to the chicken. "You know, Doyle if you want to interrogate me you can. I don't mind. I know you love her, and worry about her."

Doyle scooted his chair around to look at Angel. "So you're the Liam Angelus?"

"Yes, I am."

"I've read your books. Love them, by the way. The funny thing is up until last year I always thought for some reason that you would be older, and then I saw your picture in a educational magazine I got while I was student teaching and I couldn't believe we were the same age."

Angel chuckled. "The truth is I do feel a whole lot older than I am sometimes." He finished stirring the sauce in with the chicken, and began to stir it. "And alot of it has to do with the tabloids. According to them I've been secretly married to two women at the same time, have a love child, and been abducted by aliens that look like Elvis. I hate those damn things, but I love doing interviews for the educational magazines. The reporters aren't out to get a story just to sell copies, and they don't hound you for pictures."

Doyle nearly choked on his swallow of beer. "Did you just say that the tabloids actually said you were abducted by aliens that looked like Elvis?"

"Yeah." Angel laughed, and turned around to look at him. "But I deal with what they say because I know they just print that shit because they can't get to me. I avoid the limelight as much as possible. I'm actually a very private person, Doyle and I like my life like that. That's one reason why I left LA. I can have my private life here and not have to worry about some reporter snooping around for a story, so if you're worried about Buffy getting pulled down into that mess don't be. I would never ever let that happen. You have my word on that."

"I believe you." Doyle answered, meeting his gaze.

Angel smiled in relief. "Thank you."

"Don't go thanking me just yet, Angel. I said I believed you, I didn't say you had passed the test yet." Doyle grinned.

"And here I thought Joyce was going to be the difficult one." Angel chuckled, turning back to the stove.

"Oh yeah, I heard about that from my loving mother herself. Nice moves."

"Believe it or not, I actually enjoyed spending time with her. She and Buffy are alot a like."

"Yes they are. In more ways than you know. Not only did Buffy take after Mom in the looks department, she also got Mom's personality, and best of all Mom's strength and courage. If she had ended up being a coward like Hank she wouldn't have lived as long as she has."

Before Angel could get the chance to ask Doyle what he meant, the woman in question entered the kitchen followed by a tall brunette. "Hey, guys. Look who I found at the door."

"You're late as usual, Cordelia." Angel grinned at the brunette as he turned away from the stove.

"Late? How can I be late when you're still cooking, Angelus? And what exactly are you cooking, I'm starved."

"Zappata Chicken. It'll be ready in about five minutes."

"In the meantime, Cordy." Buffy added. "I want you to meet my brother." She pointed to Doyle. "Doyle Summers, meet Cordelia Chase. Cordy meet Doyle."

Doyle couldn't help but eye the brunette appreciatively. She had legs that went on forever under the black skirt she was wearing, and he'd always had a thing for women with legs. "Nice to meet you, Cordelia."

"You too, Doyle. I feel like I already know you." Cordelia smiled at him. "Buffy talks about you all the time."

"Oh, really?" Doyle tore his eyes away from Cordelia and looked over at his sister. "I hope it was all good."

Buffy grinned. "Don't worry, big bro. Your secrets are still safe with me."

"I appreciate that, Munchkin." He winked at her. "You know I have a reputation to protect."

"Yeah right, Mr. Stud of the Month. " Buffy rolled her eyes. "You are such a ladies man. A ladies man that's only had one date in the last six month's, and I already know how that turned out."

"Don't even get me started on that, Buffy." Doyle mumbled.

Cordelia sat down in the chair across from Doyle. "I'm taking it that things didn't go so hot?"

"You take it right." Doyle took another sip of his beer. "I fantasized about her cat the entire date."

Cordelia looked at him in disbelief. "D-Does that happen alot?"

Doyle laughed. "Only when you talk about the thing the whole date. She made it sound human. I was so sick of hearing about it by the end of the date that I actually wanted to kill the damn thing."

"Oh, uh... Well, that's umm... good... I mean, that you were only fantasizing about killing it and not about... Well, you know? I was getting worried that Buffy's big brother might be in the running for an appearance on the *Jerry Springer Show*"

"Trust me, Cordelia." Doyle chuckled. "I am not a candidate for any appearances on the *Jerry Springer Show*. I'm just someone that's not so hot at the dating game."

Cordelia eyed him across the table. "Well, it's good that you can have a sense of humor about it."

"It's either that or take my foul mood out on my kids, and that's the last thing I want to do."

"Kids?" Cordelia seemed surprised. "I umm... Buffy didn't tell me you had kids."

Doyle smiled. "I don't. I meant my students. I'm a teacher. Sophmore English and Literature."

"Oh, that's right. I remember Buffy saying something about that now." Cordelia's gaze moved to Angel. "Looks like Doyle here, and your Mom have alot in common, huh?"

"Your mom's a teacher." Doyle looked over at Angel, who was now leaned against the counter. "First grade." He answered. "That's why I'm so big on education. The importance of one was pounded into my head all the way through school. Honestly though, I don't see how she does it. Thirty screaming six year olds isn't exactly my idea of fun."

Doyle raised any eyebrow. "You don't like kids?"

Angel's eyes moved to Buffy. "I love them, and wouldn't mind having a few of my own someday. Just not thirty at one time."

"That's good." Cordelia spoke up and replied. "Because it's impossible for a woman to have that many at one time."

"True." Doyle added. "But she can have eight at one time."

"Actually, the highest number of babies born to one woman at one time is ten." Angel turned back to the stove. "Decaplets, born to a woman in Brazil in 1946, but it wasn't documented as to how many, if any, survived."

This time it was Cordelia who rolled her eyes. "Leave it to Mr. Walking Encyclopedia to upstage everyone."

"I wasn't trying to upstage anyone, Cordelia." Angel replied as he stirred the Zappata Chicken. "I was simply stating known facts."

"Yeah, yeah, Angelus. Whatever." Cordelia muttered. "Just shut your trap, and finish dinner already. We're all starving."

"Keep it up and you will starve." Angel quipped, not bothering to turn around to look at her.

"You won't starve me, Angel. Buffy won't let you. Will you, Buffy?" There wasn't any reply, and three pair of eyes flew to the empty spot where Buffy had been standing moments before. "Where did she go?" Cordelia asked looking back at Doyle.

"Shit!" Doyle suddenly shot to his feet. "I umm... I think I'll just go find her."

Angel held up his hand to stop Doyle. "No, Doyle. Let me." He glanced over at Cordelia. "Everything's ready, so why don't you and Doyle go ahead and fix you a plate. You know where everything's at."

She nodded and watched him leave the kitchen before turning back to find Doyle berating himself under his breath. "Is something wrong?"

"Kids." Doyle muttered. "I forgot. We were talking about having kids, and I forgot."

"Forgot what, Doyle?"

Doyle looked across the table at Cordelia. "Let me guess. Since it's pretty obvious you don't know what I'm talking about then I can almost bet he... Angel doesn't know either. I can almost bet Buffy didn't tell him."

Cordelia frowned. "She didn't tell Angel what, Doyle?"

Doyle fiddled with the label on his beer bottle. "Buffy... She can't umm... She can't have kids, Cordelia. And I'm guessing by the way she disappeared out of here that she didn't tell Angel."

"Sh-She can't have kids?" Cordelia choked out.

"No."

"W-Why? I mean, how do you know. She's umm... She's so young. Not married."

Doyle raised his gaze to Cordelia. "We know. It's been confirmed by a doctor, Cordelia." He took a long swallow of his beer. "She uhh... She loves him. Angel... She loves him. She told me."

"Sh-She told me, too." Cordelia added. "But she's afraid to tell him. She thinks it's too soon."

"That's not the only reason she hasn't told him." Doyle added. "She uhh... She doesn't trust men. She's always been afraid that if she ever did find love it would never last because of the fact that she can't have kids. And in most cases it's true. Almost everyone in this town knows that she can't have kids, and the guys... Men can be such assholes sometimes, and let's just say things haven't been easy for her. That's why she hasn't told Angel the truth. She's afraid she'll lose him because of it."

Cordelia reached across the table to take Doyle's hand. "Angel's not like that, Doyle."

"I hope for your sake you're right, Cordelia. Because if he hurts her... Especially over that. I'll kill him. And that's not a threat, it's a promise. Nobody, and I mean nobody really has a clue what that girl has been through except for me and my mother, and I refuse to let her be hurt anymore than she already has."

Cordelia squeezed his hand. "She's really lucky to have you. To have someone that loves her that much. I would have given my left leg for that when I was a kid. I don't have any brother or sisters and my parents were never there for me. Not the way they should have been, and things haven't gotten any better since I've gotten older. We barely speak to each other now. Angel is my family. The only family I've ever had, and when I tell you that you can trust him I mean it. He would never hurt Buffy. Not intentionally. He cares about her way to much to ever hurt her."

"And she would never hurt him. Not if she could help it. I uhh... I know what she's doing is wrong. Her keeping secrets from his wrong, but if you only knew what she has been through you would understand why she's hiding things from him."

"Tell me." Cordelia demanded softly.

Doyle locked eyes with her. "You won't tell him? I uhh... I just think it would be best that she did it herself, you know?"

"I agree." Cordelia murmured. "And I promise that if he finds out it won't be from me." She gave him a weak smile. "Now tell me."

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CHAPTER 19

Angel found Buffy coming out of one of the upstairs' bathrooms, and moved up behind her as she shut the door. "Are you okay?"

Buffy jumped, but didn't turn around. "You know, you really need to learn to make noise when you walk. You nearly gave me a heart attack."

He ignored her comment in his concern for her, and placed his hands on her shoulders. "What happened back there?"

"Nothing. I'm fine. Just thought I'd freshen up some." But when she turned around to look at him her red rimmed eyes told him a different story, and he reached for her hand to pull across the hall to his bedroom. "Come on, we need to talk."

"I'm fine, Angel." She repeated as he ushered her into the room, and shut the door. "We need to go back down..."

"We are not going back downstairs until we talk, Buffy. Besides, by the looks of things I think Cordelia and Doyle will do just fine without us." He led her to the bed, and sat her down before taking a seat beside her.

"Seems I was right after all, huh?" She half laughed, half hiccuped. "Did you see the way they were looking at each other?"

"Don't try to change the subject, Buffy. Did you disappearing up here have anything to do with Xander?"

Buffy looked down at her hands. "I don't want to discuss Xander anymore, Angel."

"Fine. I'll talk and you listen then." He reached for her hand. "I can't take seeing you like this, Buffy. The last thing I ever wanted to do was cause you hurt. And I have. I've come between you and your friends, and you're hurting because of it."

"Angel..." Buffy raised her head to look at him.

"Shh..." He covered her lips with his finger to silence her. "Just listen." He shifted on the bed to get a better look at her. "I want to fix this, Buffy. I want to stop your hurt, and the only way I know to do that is for us to stop seeing each other."

"W-What?" She asked in shock.

"Maybe we should stop seeing each other, Buffy. I'm sure Xander would come around if I wasn't in the picture anymore."

Buffy's eyes welled up with more tears. "Y-You don't want to see me anymore?"

"I didn't say that." He answered in a pained voice.

A half laugh half sob tore from Buffy's lips. "That's funny, cause that's sure as hell what it s-sounded like to me, A-Angel." She shot off the bed. "So that's it? I-It's over just like that? You're just going to walk away without a fight?"

"There shouldn't have to be a fight, Buffy. He's your best friend. He's right. You've known him for sixteen years, and me... I'm just some guy who met you a little over a week ago, and wanted to get to know you better."

Buffy felt like she had been slapped, and she quickly swiped at the tears that had started to seep from her eyes. "I see. So that's all I am to you? Just someone you wanted to get to know better, Angel?" He started to say something, but she held up her hand to stop him. "You know what, Angel don't even bother to answer that. I pretty much already know the answer. You are dumping me after all."

"I'm not dumping you, Buffy. I'm simply..."

"You're simply what, Angel?"

"I'm simply trying to do the right thing here, Buffy." He stood up. "I'm trying to look at things from where you're standing, and because I am, if I were in your shoes I would choose Xander."

"God! You so don't get it! This isn't about choosing, Angel. This isn't even about Xander. It's about me!" She pointed to her chest as the tears began to flood out. "ME! It's about what I want and what I feel! My entire life I've had to stand on the outside looking in, watching as everyone I have ever loved moved on with their lives while my life was at a stand still with the possibility of going nowhere. But do you think that I told them how much I envied what they had or what they will have? No! No! I was happy for them. I'm still happy for them, but I want it, too! I want what they have. I deserve it. And that's why what Xander did hurts me. He's my best friend. MY BEST FRIEND! He's supposed to know me better than anyone, but obviously he doesn't because if he did he would know this week with you has been the happiest of my life, and he would never have asked me to give up that happiness no matter what his feelings are for you. What he did was selfish. He is selfish. He claims he's loved me since he was fourteen years old, but if that's true how come he never told me until now? How come he never said anything those four years I was at home all alone, and he dated other people? He knew I was all alone, and unhappy. Not unhappy for him. I was never unhappy for him. I was unhappy because he was out doing what I wanted I to do. He was out having fun, and being happy with someone else when he was supposed to be in love with me, and not once did he ever stop to think about me and how much I wanted what he had. He never not once stopped to think about me until I finally got what I wanted. Then and only then did he decide that he wanted to try to be the one to make me happy. He wanted to take my happiness away because he ups and finally decides that he's not happy, and if that's not selfish I don't know what is! He doesn't love me. Love... Real love... It's unconditional. Unselfish. It's sacrificing your own happiness for the sake of others, and I want it. I deserve it. I DESERVE IT, GOD DAMNIT!"

"Buffy..." Angel took a step towards her, but she turned away from him. "Y-You don't have to logic your way out of this, Angel. I get the picture."

"No, I don't think you do." Angel closed the distance to her, and gently turned her around to face him. "I don't think you really see how much this past week with you has meant to me, too. What you mean to me."

More tears began to slide down Buffy's cheeks. "Th-Then why are you doing this?"

"Because I'm so crazy about you I can't see straight." He reached up to wipe her tears away with the pads of his thumbs. "And it kills me to see you hurting. So much so, I would gladly sacrifice my own happiness to stop it."

"Oh, Angel..." Another sob tore from Buffy's throat.

"Shh..." He murmured, pulling her into his arms. "It's okay, baby. We're okay. I was stupid, but I've come to my senses now, and I say screw Xander Harris. His lose is my gain. You're my girl, and I'm not letting you go."

Buffy started sobbing even harder, and buried her head in his chest. "D-Don't ever do that to me again, Angel. I mean it. N-Not having you in my life would h-hurt a million times worse than Xander Harris could ever hurt me."

Angel pulled away to wipe away the remaining on her face. "Shh... Don't cry, baby. I'm right here. I'm not going anywhere. You're stuck with me."

"P-Promise?" She looked up at him through fresh forming tears.

I promise." He whispered just before his lips covered hers and they got lost in each other.

***

Twenty minutes later Buffy and Angel re-emerged downstairs to find Cordelia and Doyle sitting on the sofa laughing. When Doyle spotted them he immediately got to his feet and crossed the room to his sister. "Are you okay?"

She rewarded him with the best smile she could muster. "Much better now, thanks."

He searched her face, not missing the red rimmed eyes. "Are you sure, Buffy?"

"Yes, and I'm sorry for being such a party pooper. Xander and I had a big fight earlier today, and he ended our friendship. I sorta let it get the best of me, but I'm fine now, I swear."

Doyle knew Buffy was lying about the reason she was really upset, but he didn't say anything, and he wouldn't. Not here anyway. So he chose instead to meet the eyes of the man standing behind her. "Is she telling the truth?"

"Yes." Angel kissed the top of Buffy's head. "We weathered her storm together, and now we're going to eat dinner together."

"See..." Buffy smirked at her brother. "Now leave me alone so my honey can feed me."

Doyle's gaze returned to his sister. "I'll leave you alone for now, Munchkin but you and I are going to talk soon, understand?"

"Yes, sir." Buffy mock saluted him before turning around to look at Angel. "Are you ready to go heat up that chicken noodlely stuff, honey?"

Angel chuckled. "It's Zappata chicken, and I'll heat it up while you entertain our guests." His gaze moved to Cordelia then to Doyle. "I know you guys have already eaten, but would you like to join Buffy and I anyway?"

Cordelia stood up, and looked at Doyle. "What do you say, Doyle?"

Doyle grinned. "Sounds like a plan to me. I could always go for seconds anyway."

"Great." Angel smiled, and slid his arm around Buffy's waist. "I was hoping you would say that because there's something I would like to discuss with you, Doyle."

Doyle's eyes narrowed. "I hope it's not anything bad?"

"On the contrary." Angel smiled at him. "Come on, let's go eat, and I'll tell you everything." He glanced down at Buffy. "You ready to eat, baby?"

"Uh huh." Buffy beamed up at him.

***

"I think it went well, don't you?" Buffy asked a little while later.

"Doyle knew." Angel replied, turning on the sofa so that Buffy could lean her back up against his chest.

"Knew what?"

"That we were trying to set him and Cordelia up."

"Are you sure?" Buffy asked as she ran her fingertips up and down his arm that was situated around her waist.

"Yeah. He told me while you and Cordy were doing dishes."

"Does Cordy know?"

"She does now. They figured it out while we were upstairs."

"Was Doyle mad?"

"Not at me. He said he knew it was all your doing."

"My doing!" Buffy twisted around to look at Angel. "Why is it just my doing? It's your house, Angel. Cordelia's your best friend. If you didn't want to do it you could have said no."

"No, I couldn't, Buffy. I got suckered in by that pout of yours just like Doyle said I would."

"I don't pout." Before Buffy had time to turn back away from him, Angel pulled her over on top of him, and began to nibble at her bottom lip. "If you don't pout then what do you call this?"

"I uhh... That's uhh... Oh, God... You uhh... Kissing me."

"No, it's not." He chuckled, threading his fingers in her hair. "This is me kissing you." And then he was doing exactly that. His lips took possession of hers, and Jesus it was incredible. More than incredible. And it was always like this with him. He had the ability to completely liquify her with just a simple touch or look, and even though Buffy was fairly knew to the feelings he was stirring up inside her she knew no one would ever make her feel the way he did again. Angel... Her Angel. And she wanted so badly to tell him that. Show him exactly what he made her feel, but as usual just as things began to heat up between them he pulled away. "Home..." He panted. "I should take you home."

"H-Home. R-Right." Buffy answered just as breathlessly. "You should take me home." She slowly opened her eyes and found herself swimming in his chocolate orbs.

"Buffy, you're not moving, baby." Angel murmured, but at the same time pulled her even closer.

"I-I'm sorry, was I supposed to?" Her tongue darted out to do that erotic yet simple gesture she always did when she was flustered and he growled low in his chest. "Buffy, home."

"Later..." She whispered just before her lips met his again.

***

"So..." Joyce Summers glanced over at her daughter in the passenger side of the Ford Explorer. "How did the dinner go last night?"

Buffy couldn't help but smile as memories of the night before flashed through her mind. "Fantastic."

"Did you tell Angel?"

"No." Buffy turned her head to look out the passenger side window.

"Buffy..."

"He wants kids."

"W-What?" Joyce's gaze darted back to Buffy again, and Buffy finally turned to meet it. "Angel wants kids. N-Not with me, I mean. We were talking and he told Doyle he wanted kids someday." She turned away from Joyce again to hide her tears. "It hurt. So much so, I snuck upstairs and balled my eyes out in the bathroom because, and don't get mad, but I could picture them... I could picture myself having his babies."

"Oh Buffy, sweetie..." Joyce reached for Buffy's hand, but Buffy jerked it away. "Don't, Mom. Don't you dare baby me! That's the last thing I need right now."

"Buffy..."

"I couldn't tell him." Buffy turned back to Joyce. "He knew that I had been crying, but he assumed it was because of the fight Xander and I had yesterday."

"And you let him believe it." Joyce guessed, and returned her eyes to the road.

"Yes. No. I mean, in a way it was about Xander. In a way it is about Xander, Willow, and you... I wanted... No, I want what you guys have. I want what Xander had with Anya before he stupidly decided he was in love with me and broke up with her. I want what Wills has with Oz, and I want what you have with Giles. Before... I never thought I would get the chance to have that. I let myself believe that I could never have it, and then Angel walks into my life and now it's here. What I wanted. Love. Real love. It's mine. He's mine, and I want to hang on to it for as long as I can. I want to hang on to him for as long as I can."

"What about college, Buffy? I thought your dream was to be a designer?"

"I still want college, Mom but I want Angel more. Besides, we've already been over this a million times, and you know as well as I do that college is out unless I get a scholarship. We don't have the money to send me. Now can we please just drop the subject and talk about something else?"

"Okay. Fine." Joyce muttered. "Let's have that other talk then."

"What other talk?"

"You know the one, Buffy."

"Buffy sighed. "Mom, Doyle's already had that talk with me and so have you. I don't think I need to hear it again."

"Things have changed since your brother and I talked to you, Buffy." Joyce glanced over at her again. "STD cases are rising every day. As is Aids."

"And you don't want me to be another statistic. Yeah, yeah. I know, Mom. But I'm afraid you're too late. I'm already a statistic. Just not in that category."

"Elizabeth Anne Summers!"

"Sorry." Buffy mumbled under her breath. "It's just I don't understand why we're even having this conversation. I've already told you that my virginity is still intact. Besides heavy duty smoochies there is absolutely nothing happening in the Buffy and Angel saga. Absolutely nothing. Zilch. Zero. Nada."

"You sound disappointed." Joyce looked over at her again. "Why do you sound disappointed?"

"Maybe because I am." Buffy muttered, looking out the passenger side window again. "He uhh... He was involved with someone before me. He told me it ended badly, but that's all he's telling me."

"And that bothers you, why?"

"Because I know he's attracted to me. I know that, Mom. But if he is why does he always pull away everytime things get intense between us?"

Joyce smiled. "Maybe because he's the perfect gentleman you said he was."

"Mom! I'm serious. How do I know if that's the case, or if the real reason is because of this other girl? What if he still loves her?"

"I don't know, honey. The only person that can't tell you that is Angel, and obviously he's not ready to talk about it. My advice to you is to give him time and see what happens."

"That's more or less what Cordelia said." Buffy mumbled, looking down at her hands.

"She sounds like a smart girl. I bet I would like her."

Buffy looked over at her mom and smiled. "That's good because I have a funny feeling you're going to be meeting her very soon."

"Things went that well between her and your brother, huh?"

"Well, if the looks they were giving each other was any indication I'd say things went very well with them, but I won't know anything for certain until I talk to Doyle, and I can't do that until after we do this mall trip."

"And speaking of that..." Joyce glanced over at Buffy. "Have you given any thought to what you want me to buy you for your birthday?"

"A dress. I want a dress. I need one for that weekend trip to LA with Angel."

"He finally asked you, huh?"

"Uh huh, and thanks for saying yes, by the way. It means alot to me."

"I'm taking it you said yes?"

"Yes, I said yes. That's why I need a dress. He's going to take me to the Beverly Willshire on Saturday night to see some dance company, and I need something appropriate."

"Is that really what you want?"

Buffy nodded. "Yeah. Something elegant, but that will knock his socks off at the same time."

"Just as long as it's just his socks, Buffy."

"Mom!"

"I'm sorry, honey but I can't help but worry."

"The doctor said I couldn't have kids, Mom. He never said I couldn't have sex."

"I know that, Buffy and I also know I can't stop you if that's what you really want. All I can do is remind you that it's a very big step. Please don't rush into it just because you feel you have to."

"I won't, Mom. Now can we get back to that dress?"

"All right." Joyce smiled at her. "What exactly did you have in mind besides the knocks his socks off part?"


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Thanks to Court, Emma, Ryan, Christine, Kolumbyne, Kattie, Wendy, Ashleigh, and Sarah for their feedback last chapter. CHAPTER 20

Buffy turned away from her Chevelle mirror to look at her best friend. "So what do you think?"

"There's no thinking to it. It's beautiful, Buffy and you'll look beautiful in it."

Buffy walked over to her closet and stripped the dress off. "I still can't believe my mom bought it for me." She hung the dress up in her closet, and slipped her shirt back on. "I was going to go with the cheaper one, but she insisted I get that one."

"Well, I still can't believe she actually agreed to let you go on this trip to start with." Willow flopped back on Buffy's bed. "Your mom is so cool."

Buffy finished getting dressed, and came over to lay down beside Willow. "I'm eighteen, Willow. She couldn't stop me from going if I really wanted to go. I think that's why she agreed to it. That and the fact that Angel was a perfect gentleman and asked her first. She really likes him."

Willow smiled. "I know someone else that really likes him, too."

"It shows, huh?" Buffy beamed.

"Mmm... You've been glowing all week. That's why I wanted to kill Xander when he called me and told me what he had done. God, I can't believe he is such an asshole."

Buffy raised up to look at Willow in disbelief. "Willow Rosenberg, did you just say a bad word?"

"Well, it's true, Buffy! Xander Harris is an asshole and I told him so. He should have never put you in that position in the first place. Not after everything you've been through. You deserve this, and he should know that. Besides, he had plenty of opportunities to tell you how he felt, but he didn't. It's his fault that he chose to date other people, including Anya, instead of telling you how he felt. And further more, he especially shouldn't have said anything to you after Angel entered the picture. He's being selfish, Buffy and I won't put up with it. What he did was wrong and I can't be his friend until he apologizes to you."

The fact that Willow understood her made Buffy want to cry all over again, but instead she reached over to take her best friend's hand. "It means alot to me that you understand, Will. I even told Angel the same thing you just said last night. It just upsets me that this is coming between you and Xand. I never wanted that."

"It wasn't your decision, Buffy. It was mine, and I don't regret telling him off the way I did. He's supposed to be your best friend just like me, and best friends love their best friends no matter what."

Buffy leaned over to hug Willow. "Thanks, Wills. It really does mean the world to me that you understand and stuck up for me."

"You're welcome." Willow sniffled. "Now let's quit this moping session and get down to some serious girl talk. I want the entire dish on this trip to LA you're about to take with Mr. Tall, Dark, and Gorgeous."

"Well, he's going to take me to the Valentine's Day dance at the Bronze that Friday night then after that we're leaving for LA." Buffy reached for Mr. Gordo, and rolled onto her back. "We're going to stay at his penthouse Friday night, visit his mom on Saturday day, then go back to his penthouse that night to get ready for out evening out. He's taking me to the Beverly Willshire to see that Mushi something or other dance company. That's why I got the dress. And then after that we'll finish up the weekend by spending the night at his penthouse again that night then come home sometime Sunday."

"Buffy, do you realize that you are going to be alone with him for over forty eight hours? I mean, really alone."

"Uh huh..." Buffy answered dreamily.

"Are you scared?"

"No. Just terrified, nervous, and excited all rolled up into one." Buffy rolled back over to look at Willow. "Is that the way you felt the first time you and Oz... You know? Made love?"

"Before, yeah." Willow blushed. "But afterwards was a different story. I couldn't understand why I had been like that to start with. Oz was so incredibly sweet and tender just like I imagined he would be, and okay wait just a second because I just realized what you just said and I need to backtrack to make sure I heard you correctly..." Willow sat up, and looked down at Buffy. "Buffy are you planning to... Do you and Angel plan to..."

Buffy sat up. "I-I want to, but I don't know that it will happen. Angel hasn't said anything about separate bedrooms, but then there's this part where he hasn't exactly been putting the serious moves on me either."

"Do you love him, Buffy? And okay, that was a stupid question because any fool can look at you and tell you do. I guess what I'm asking is are you sure he's the one you want to share your gift with?"

"Were you sure Oz was the one?"

"Yes, but Oz and I didn't do anything right away. He wanted my first time to be special, and I'm glad that we waited until the time was right."

"I'm ready, Will. I know I am. All Angel has to do is look at me with those chocolate eyes of his, and I melt. The thing is I'm not exactly sure that I melt him the same way he melts me."

"And you think that because he hasn't been putting the serious moves on you?"

Buffy nodded. "Don't get me wrong, Wills. Things are definitely intense between us, but there's no skin. No touchy feely. And I want it."

Willow giggled. "Well, if things are as intense as you say, I'd say your chances are pretty good that you'll get what you want eventually."

"Yeah, But that's the thing that's driving me crazy. I want all that, but at the same time I don't want it to be sex. I want Angel to want me the same way I want him, Will. I want him to want me with his heart, body, and soul. I want to make love with him, not have sex. That's why it bothers me so much when he pulls away from me. What if the reason he does it is because of this other woman? What if he still loves her?"

"He still hasn't mentioned her?"

Buffy shook her head. "Not one word, and it's driving me crazy. He's driving me crazy, Will. He tells me he's crazy about me, but I can't help but have doubts because of this mystery ex."

"Maybe you should just tell him how you feel, Buffy."

"Are you crazy, Willow! I just can't." Buffy flopped back on the bed. "God! This is so driving me crazy!"

"Poor, baby." Willow smoothed Buffy's hair. "Do you want me to put you out of your misery?"

"I'd really prefer you didn't, Willow. I just found her and would like to keep her around for awhile."

Willow whipped around to face the owner of the voice while Buffy sat up in shock. "A-Angel."

"Hey." Angel smiled as he locked eyes with the blonde on the bed. "Was I interrupting something?"

"N-No. No. Willow and I were just talking about ahh... We were just talking."

"Are you sure I wasn't interrupting?" Angel motioned to the door. "I could come back later."

"No!" Buffy shot off the bed, and closed the distance to him. "No, don't go." She stepped into his arms, and slid her arms around his neck. "I haven't seen you all day. Stay. We could have dinner together."

Angel wrapped his arms around her and pulled her closer. "You must have been reading my mind. That's why I'm here. I want to take you out for dinner. How about Chinese?"

"Mmm... Sounds yummy." Buffy murmured, looking into his eyes.

"Then Chinese it is." He dropped a kiss on her lips then pulled away to look at Willow. "Hey, Willow."

"Hey, Angel."

"So what do you say? Would you like to join Buffy and I for dinner?"

"You want me to have dinner with you and Buffy?" Willow asked a little surprised.

"I'd love to have you join us, Willow." Angel smiled. "What do you say?"

"Wow. Gee. O-Okay. I'd like that." Willow answered a little flustered. "But I need to call my mom first. Let her know I'm not going to be home." She stood up. "I umm... I'll just go make that call downstairs, and give you two some alone time."

"Thanks, Will." Buffy grinned as her best friend walked past she and Angel.

"You're welcome." She returned Buffy's smile before disappearing out the door. The moment the door shut, Buffy turned back to Angel.

"Hey, you. I missed you today."

"You did?" He pulled her closer.

"Uh huh. By any chance did you miss me?"

"Maybe."

"Maybe?" She began to pout and tried to pull away.

"Come here, you." Angel chuckled and pulled her back to him. "I missed you. I missed you a whole lot."

"A whole whole lot?" Buffy asked, looking up at him through hooded lashes.

"More." He murmured just before he swooped down to claim her lips with his. There was no talking for several minutes as the luxuriated in the feel of being in each other's arms again. When Angel finally did regretably pull away they both were struggling for air.

"Wow." Buffy said a little breathlessly, burying her face in his neck. "I think you did miss me."

"I told you I did." He murmured against her hair.

"Well, I believe you now."

"I'm glad."

"So what did you do without me all day?"

"Worked. What about you? Did you have fun with your Mom today?"

"I did. And I scored big. She was really generous. Guilt from not being here on my birthday."

"I ran into her on my way in. She was leaving to meet Mr. Giles for bridge club. She told me you two had a nice time."

"The whole day was nice. But the really nice part was being able to go to the mall without having to worry about Riley and his buddies hounding me. They usually hang out there on Sundays but thankfully they weren't there today."

Angel pulled away from her. "What about Xander? Have you heard anything from him?"

Buffy shook her head. "Nope, but Willow has. She talked to him last night. More like blessed him out. He told her what he did, and she told him what she thought of him, then hung up on him. She said she told him she didn't want to speak to him again until he apologized to me for being such an asshole."

Angel watched the play of emotions on her face. "And you're not too happy about that."

Buffy looked away. "I umm... I never wanted to cause problems between them. They've been together the longest out of the three of us. They've lived next door to each other all their lives."

"You didn't force Willow to do anything she didn't want to do, Buffy. She has a mind of her own. It was her choice not to speak to him, not yours."

She looked back at him. "I know, but it still bothers me."

"Well, don't let it." Angel gently ordered before brushing another kiss across her lips. "He's the one at fault here, baby. Sooner or later he'll realize that. Until then I think you should stay busy to try and keep your mind off of it, and Willow will help you do that."

Buffy threaded her fingers in the hair at the nape of Angel's neck. "Having you around helps more."

"I'm glad. And I'm not going anywhere." He dropped another kiss on her upturned lips. "Now don't you think we should go downstairs? I bet Willow's getting pretty lonely all by herself?"

"Yeah." Buffy pulled away from him. "And thanks for thinking of her. Inviting her to dinner, too. She's in heavy duty Oz missage right now."

Angel took Buffy's hand and led her to the door. "Where is he?"

"LA. The Dingoes had a gig at some new club there. He's been gone since Friday, and won't be back until late tonight."

"How does he do it? Play late night gigs like that and go to school, too?"

"He's a brainiac like you and Wills believe it or not. Actually, he's probably smarter than Wills, but he really doesn't like people to know just how smart he really is. It's a cool thing. That and he really doesn't care for school that much. Or at least he used to not care until he started dating Will. He actually failed his freshman year. Had to repeat it over. That's how him and Willow met. They've been together since."

"So what do the two of them plan to do after high school?" Angel asked as he and Buffy took the last step to the first level of the house.

"Hey, Wills?" Buffy called out as she and Angel entered the living room.

"What?" Willow stood up as they walked into the room.

"Is it okay to let Angel in on yours and Oz's little secret?"

Willow looked at Angel and grinned. "We're getting married. Eloping actually. Right after graduation. My parents don't know. They would try to stop us if they did." She walked over and pulled out a chain from underneath her shirt, showing Angel the diamond solitaire ring around it. "See. Isn't it beautiful? Took Oz alot of gigs to buy it, but he said it was worth every single penny."

"Okay, Wills. Quit flashing the rock, and let's finish telling Angel the story." Buffy pulled Angel down beside her on the sofa while Willow returned to her seat. "Anyway, as Will's was saying, honey she and Oz plan to elope. See, Will's is jewish by birth and her parents want her to have a big traditional jewish wedding."

"With a jewish guy." Willow added.

"And I take it Oz isn't jewish." Angel guessed.

"You take it right." Willow muttered. "Oz and I have been together almost four years and I don't think my parents have spoken three words to him the whole time we've been together. They don't approve of him at all. That's why we're eloping. Of course, even if they did approve we would still probably elope. I'm not like Buffy over here. I don't want a fairy tale wedding. Too much trouble."

"I never said I wanted a fairy tale wedding." Buffy argued with her best friend.

"Oh, yes you did, Buffy." Willow argued back. "Remember when we were like five or six and you used to dress up and pretend you were Cinderella on her wedding day to Prince Charming?"

"I was a little girl, Will. Every little girl wants to be Cinderella." Buffy mumbled. "Besides, that was before..."

Angel looked over at Buffy. "Before what?"

"I uhh..." She looked down her hands. "Before I grewup and quit playing dressup."

Angel got the impression that wasn't what she meant to say at all, but he wasn't about to pressure her to tell him, so he chose to swing the conversation back to the original subject. "What about college, Willow? Are you planning to go?"

Willow shot her best friend a worried look before returning her attention to Angel. "I uhh... Oz and I are going to UC Sunnydale. My parents were really upset with my choice because I passed over Yale and Oxford, but what they don't know is the reason Oz and I chose UC Sunnydale is because they are one of very few colleges that have married housing, and the scholarships we both received to attend school there will pay for it. Of course, all that will change if Oz and Dingoes Ate My Baby hit it big. I would have to quit school and go on the road with him to make sure he doesn't get taken advantage of."

Buffy erupted into giggles, and looked over at Angel. "That movie we saw the other night sort of scared her. She's already made Oz promise that she could manage him from now on. That we not only can she make sure he won't be taken advantage of, she can make sure she can be with him every second of every day."

Angel chuckled. "Smart move, Willow. Very smart."

"I know." Willow beamed. "There's only one Oz groupie, and that's me."

"Hey!" Buffy looked over at her best friend again. "What about me? I want to be an Oz groupie, too."

"You can be my groupie, baby." Angel reached for Buffy's hand. "Really?" Buffy turned to look at him.

"Really." He murmured. "I may not be a rock star, but I seem to recall you saying something about a *Fang Gang* fan club. You could overthrow the current president and run the club yourself."

"Would you wear leather pants for me?" Buffy grinned. "Because groupies really have a thing for men in leather pants."

Angel raised an eyebrow. "All groupies or just one in particular?"

Buffy blushed. "Okay, I admit it. I have this fantasy about seeing you in leather pants. You and only you, and it's only because I know for a fact that you look good in leather even if it's just a leather jacket."

"It just so happens that you don't look so bad in leather yourself, Miss. Summers." Angel murmured before he leaned over to claim her lips.

"Uhh, guys?"Willow stood up. "M-Maybe I should just leave you two..."

Buffy and Angel broke away from each other, and Buffy couldn't help but giggle as she looked up at her blushing friend. "Sorry, Wills. We sort of got sidtracked."

"But now we're not." Angel stood up and pulled Buffy to her feet. "And now what do you say we go eat, ladies?"

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Thanks to Cristina, Court, Emma, Ryan, Kyria, Kolumbyne, Christine, Jade, and Kim for their on
chapter 20.

CHAPTER 21

Angel was in the process of making changes to the manuscript for his next book the following morning when Cordelia entered his office. "Morning."

"I tried to call you yesterday." He replied, not bothering to look up from his notes. "Where were you?"

"I umm... I wasn't home." She told him as she moved to the chair in front of his desk.

"I gathered that when you didn't answer the phone, Cordelia." Angel finally looked up. "Where were you? I held breakfast for over an hour, and when you didn't show up or answer your cellphone either I got worried."

"I'm sorry, Angelus. I had breakfast out."

Angel took one look at her face, and knew what she meant by breakfast out. "I don't fucking believe it. You slept with him! You slept with Buffy's brother!"

"His name is Doyle, Angel. And my sex life is none of your concern."

"It is too my concern, Cordelia. Your family. And it's even more my concern when you've only known him less than forty eight hours."

"Actually, I had only known him a few hours when I slept with him the first time, Angel." She grinned. "And what right do you have to talk *Mr. I Slept With Darla The First Time I Actually Had A Civil Conversation With Her, And Had Her Moved Into My Apartment After The First Date?*"

Angel threw down his pen. "I was an idiot, Cordelia and I'm not afraid to admit it. I found out the hard way that sex isn't the basis for a relationship, and I don't want to see you make the same mistake."

"I love the fact that you want to protect me, Angel. I do. But I'm a big girl. I can take care of myself. Besides, Doyle isn't anything like Darla. He's like Buffy. He's sweet, kind, and considerate. And boy does he know how to treat a lady. He calls me princess, Angel and he treats me like one. I really like him alot, and it has nothing to do with sex, although I do have to admit that he is pretty damn incredible in the sack, too."

Angel sat back in his chair with a sigh. "I'm glad you like him, Cordelia. But I still think you're jumping into this too fast. I don't want to see you get hurt."

"What about you and Buffy, Angel. You've known her for a little over a week. A week, and the two of you act like newlyweds on their honeymoon."

Angel met Cordelia's gaze. "Buffy and I haven't..."

"W-What?" Cordelia blinked in surprise. "But I thought... I mean, I knew at first that you and she hadn't because of what happened to her at the Bronze, but since then I thought..."

"You thought wrong. That's what I meant when I said sex isn't everything in a relationship. Buffy's different. She's nothing like any other woman I've ever been with. I want to do things right with her."

"She's a virgin isn't she?"

"That, too." Angel muttered.

Cordelia laughed. "Uh oh. Sounds like someone's a little sexually frustrated."

"I'm not going to lie, Cordy. I want her. I want her more than I've ever wanted anyone, but it's not just about that. All she has to do is look at me and I'm lost. A puddle at her feet." Angel ran one of his hands through his hair in frustration. "Gods, who am I kidding? She makes me feel more than that, and I have no idea how to put it into words that you would understand."

"You love her." Cordelia pretty much guessed.

"I don't..." Angel started to deny, but suddenly the brunt of her words hit him full force, and he raised his awed gaze to her. "I do. I really do. I love her. I love Buffy."

"Just now realized it, huh?" Cordelia smiled sadly.

Angel nodded, missing the sadness in his friend's eyes. "Y-Yes. It uhh... Wow. You were right. It has definitely wowed me. I've never felt this way about anyone. I've never said those words to anyone, not even Darla."

"I know." Cordelia murmured. "I was there, remember? You never said them to Darla because deep down I think you knew. Why do you think I stayed so pissed off at you all the time? I prayed you would realize it, and dump the little witch bitch." She sat back in her chair. "So when exactly are you going to tell Buffy how you feel?"

"I don't know, Cordy. I uhh... It's too soon. I don't want to scare her."

"Do me a favor, Angelus. Time is precious. Don't waste it with her." She crossed her arms over her chest. "And while you're at it I think you should tell her about the little ex."

"Darla's in the past, Cordelia. Way in the past, and I want her to stay that way. As a matter of fact, she's not even worth mentioning to Buffy. She doesn't hold a candle to Buffy."

"I still think you should tell her, Angel."

"No, Cordy. End of discussion. Now let's get back to you and Doyle. Are you going to see him again?"

"Yes." Cordelia smiled. "Tonight actually. Dinner. My place."

"You can't cook, Cordelia."

"You know that and I know that, Angel but he doesn't. That's why I plan to order take out from that little Italian resteraunt you have me hooked on, and pass it off as mine. Unless of course, you want to come over and cook for us instead."

"Absolutely not, Cordelia. Nuh uh. No way. Besides, I already have plans with Buffy." He grinned. "I'm picking her up after school, and we're going to have dinner ourselves. You're on your own tonight."

"That's okay. It's probably best that you're not there. That way if Doyle and I decide to have sex again you won't get in the way."

Angel couldn't help but laugh. "Get to work, Cordelia."

"Sure thing, boss. Just as soon as you tell me what's on the agenda today besides more typing and rewriting."

"I umm... Actually there is something you could do for me. I want you to call the real estate agent that sold me the house, and set up an appointment for me anytime this week except tomorrow."

"Anything else." Cordelia asked as she stood up."

"Yeah, there is one more thing." Angel picked up his pen, and returned to his notes. "When you get finished doing that, take the rest of the day off."

"E-Excuse me?"

He looked up and grinned. "I want you to take the rest of the day off, Cordy. Go shopping, have a manicure, whatever. It's on me. Just charge it to one of my credit cards I use for business only, and enjoy."

Cordelia looked at Angel in disbelief. "A-Are you sick? You've got to be sick, because I could have swore you just gave me free rein with one of your credit cards."

Angel laughed again. "No, Cordy I'm not sick. Just in love. It's amazing what it will do to you."

***

"Hey, Ri you'd better go change for practice or coach will blow a stack if you're late."

Riley Finn glanced over his shoulder at his best friend, Graham Miller. "Just a second." He replied before he returned to watching something out the gymnasium door of Sunnydale High.

"What are you looking at, buddy." Graham moved up behind him to look over his shoulder. "Oh, it's her."

"Look at her, Graham." Riley murmured. "Isn't she the hottest thing you've ever seen?"

"She's hot alright, Ri but honestly I've seen hotter, and here at Sunnydale High believe it or not. Why can't you just let it go? Let her go? I mean, it's pretty obvious the girl doesn't even like the air you breathe."

Riley muttered something under his breath as he watched the girl in question step into someone's arms. "She wants me, Graham. I know it. She's just playing hard to get, and this guy... She's using him to make me jealous."

"I don't think so, Riley." Graham stared at his friend's rigid back. "The word around school is that she's crazy about this guy. I overheard Anya talking to Amy in class yesterday, and she told Amy that Buffy gave up her friendship with Xander Harris for him. Anya says Buffy's in love with him, and from where I'm standing it's pretty obvious this guy feels the same way about her. I guess that explains the roses last week. I also overheard Amy tell Anya that purple roses mean love at first sight, and that they're really expensive. She said Buffy was practically glowing when she left the office with them that day." He peeked out the door again and whistled. "Man, Ri will you get a load of that car. What girl wouldn't fall for a guy with a car like that?"

"It's probably not even his." Riley muttered. "Probably belongs to his daddy, and it doesn't mean shit even if his family does have money. I've known Buffy alot longer than he has. I pretty much have her figured out. I just need to change my strategy a little, and I'm already in the process of doing that."

Graham turned around to look at Riley. "Don't you think you're obsessing about this girl a little too much, Riley?"

"No. In fact, I think that's part of the problem. She wants attention. Probably craves it since she hasn't really had that many guys in her life." Riley looked back out the door at the blonde that had him so mesmerized. "And I intend to smother her with it."

***

Buffy couldn't help but smile as she came down the sidewalk in front of Sunnydale High and saw Angel waiting, leaning against his car, for her. The moment Angel caught sight of her he closed the distance to her, pulled her into his arms, and pretty much knocked her socks off in front of half the student population. When he finally had to pull away from her, Buffy was clinging to him to keep her spaghetti legs from giving out from under her. "W-Wow... I uhh... What was that for?"

Angel chuckled, and leaned in to kiss the tip of her nose. "I missed you."

"Y-You did?" She asked a little breathlessly.

"Couldn't you tell?" He asked in mock hurt.

Buffy smiled and slid her arms around his neck, pressing herself closer to him. "Oh, I could tell all right, but a girl never gets tired of hearing it, too."

"I missed you." He murmured, leaning over to brush a tender kiss across her lips. "Terribly. Now what do you say we get out of her so I can get you all to myself?"

"I'd like that."

"Good. Let's go." Angel took her hand, and lead her towards his car.

"Hey, Buffy!"

Buffy spun around to see Harmony Kendall, one of the snobbiest girls at Sunnydale High, coming towards she and Angel. "Harmony. Did you want something?"

Harmony stopped directly in front of Buffy, but her eyes were on Angel, and Buffy didn't miss the look in them. "Yeah, I did. I wanted to invite you to my birthday party at the Bronze Friday night."

"You're kidding, right?" Buffy asked in disbelief.

"No." Harmony tore her eyes away from Angel, and looked over at Buffy. "You're invited, and you're welcome to bring your friend here. It's going to be way awesome. I'm going to have a DJ and everything." Her eyes returned to Angel, and she extended her hand. "I'm Harmony Kendall, and you are?"

"So not interested. In you or your party." Buffy muttered, grabbing Angel's hand before he could shake Harmony's, leaving her to gawk after them as she pulled him towards the car.

Angel didn't say anything until he had helped Buffy inside the car, and had climbed into the driver's seat. "That was a little rude, don't you think, Buffy?" He shut the car door, and looked over at her tense face. "You could have at least introduced me to your friend."

"She's not my friend, Angel. Harmony Kendall thinks I'm a freak, and she has never wasted any time letting me know it. In fact, the only reason she risked associating with me today was because she wanted to find out who you were. I heard her talking when I came out of the school. She was vowing to her little bunch of friends that she was going to find out who the hottie was with the Ferrari." Buffy was so angry she couldn't even look at him. "She's a bitch, Angel. A snobby, hurtful, spiteful bitch. But hey, if you're into that type go ahead and call her. Let her know you'll be attending her party after all. Her number's in the book under BIG FAT HO. I'm sure you won't have any trouble finding it."

"Buffy..." Angel reached for her hand, but she jerked it away. "You know what, Angel. Suddenly I'm not very hungry. I think I'm going to have to take a raincheck on dinner." She reached for the door handle. "I'm sure Harmony would be more than happy to take my place though. Why don't you go ask her. She's still standing over there." She went to open the door, but Angel hit the electric door locks before she could.

"God, you are so beautiful when you're angry. Not that I don't always think you're beautiful, because I do. It's just that you're even more so when you're angry. You're eyes get this fire in them that makes them sparkle like emeralds." Angel sighed when he saw his words hadn't affected her, and decided to try again. "There's no reason to be angry at me, Buffy. I haven't looked at another woman since the very first moment I laid eyes on you. I don't want to. That's how crazy I am about you."

"Angel..." Buffy let go of the door handle with a groan and turned back to look at him. "I'm sorry. God, I'm so sorry. I don't know what came over me." She slumped down on the console in between the car seats. "I just saw the way she was looking at you, and I couldn't help it... I wanted to rip her eyes out."

Angel laughed, and reached out to smooth her hair. "Well, it's nice to know I have the ability to evoke those kind of emotions out of you."

Buffy raised her head to look at him. "It's not funny, Angel." Her eyes welled up with tears. "I told you I suck at this dating thing."

He reached up to caress her cheek. "I wasn't laughing at you, baby and I happen to think you're terrific at the dating thing, that's why I'm here. The reason I was laughing was because what you're feeling is exactly what I felt when I realized Xander was in love with you."

"Y-You wanted to rip his eyes out?"

"Worse." He leaned closer. "I wanted to rip all his body parts off, and sale them on the black market."

Buffy giggled, then quickly sobered. "Really?"

"Really." Angel feathered another kiss across her lips. "Now will you please tell me things are okay between us so we can get out of here?"

"Things are okay." She beamed, raising up. "But I'm afraid there may be a slight problem to you getting me all to yourself. I'm sorry but I'm going to have to go home after dinner. I have to study for a calculus test coming up Thursday, and I'm going to have to spend the next couple of days trying to make sense of it. I'm not a brainiac like you, Will, or Oz. I'm totally lost. I'll be lucky to pass this class. I'm thinking I may get a tutor. She flopped back against the seat, and looked back over at him. "Unless of course, you would like to volunteer for the job."

"Of course, I'll volunteer, baby." He started the car, and looked over to meet her gaze. "When I said I wanted you all to myself, I meant it."

***

"Morning." Joyce Summers mumbled, coming into the kitchen three days later.

"You sound almost as bad as I feel." Buffy groaned, laying her head down on the counter.

"How long has this been going on, Buffy." Joyce asked, coming over to sit down across from her.

"I started Friday night. At least you got a reprieve while you were at Giles'. I on the other hand haven't been as lucky. Hence the zombie look."

Joyce reached across the counter to smooth Buffy's hair. "I'm sorry, honey. I didn't mean to yell at you earlier this morning. It's just... You know why I can't take the phone of the hook. If something were to happen to Doyle or Rupert..."

"No one would be able to get in touch with us." Buffy muttered. "Yeah, yeah. I know, Mom. But honestly I don't see how anyone could get in touch with us anyway. Not when my little friend keeps calling every five seconds." Buffy raised up to look at her mother through tired eyes. "I don't know how much more I can take, Mom. This past weekend I was able to nap, but I can't do that now because of school. I went to sleep in first period yesterday. If Willow hadn't kicked me and woke me up, I would have ended up in the office with Snyder sentencing me to detention. But if you think that's bad, you're wrong. Last night I was so tired I went to sleep on Angel while we were eating dinner. I was lucky he was able to save me before my face was buried in a plate of spaghetti, and I drown. God, I have never been so humiliated in my entire life."

"And you're absolutely sure you don't know who it is, Buffy?"

"I uhh... No." Buffy denied, even though deep down she did know. "Still, don't you think we should have our number changed to an unlisted number to be on the safe side?"

"I really hate to do that, sweetie. If I do I would have to have new business cards printed up, and then I would have to contact all the people we know to let them know. It's such a big hassle that I really don't want to fool with unless I absolutely have to. Let's wait a couple of more days and see what happens before we go that route, okay?"

"A couple of more days, Mom?" Buffy laid her head back down on the counter. "In a couple of more days I'm going to be comatose. I'm already almost there."

Joyce reached over to smooth Buffy's hair again. "I tell you what, why don't you stay home from school today and get some rest? Don't worry about school. I'll call them when I get to work and let them know you won't be there today."

"Can't." Buffy mumbled. "That big calculus test that Angel's been helping me study for is today." She raised back up to look at Joyce. "And God, I can not believe I just passed up a chance to stay home from school. I really must be tired. Brain dead even."

"Well, if you decide you want to come home after you take your test just call me and I'll come pick you up, okay?"

"Okay." Buffy stood up, and finished her Capuccino. "Well, I'm off now. Doyle will be here in a sec, and I need to get my stuff. I'll see you tonight."

"Uhh, Buffy... Sweetie..." Joyce frowned at her daughter.

"What?"

"Don't you think that maybe you should change your clothes first?"

Buffy looked down to discover that she still had her pj's on. "Bad day. It's going to be a very, very bad day. I can feel it."


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Thanks to Amber, Ryan, Michelle, Kim, Amy, Emma, Court, and Sarah for their feedback on chapter 21.
Anita
CHAPTER 22

 

Buffy couldn't believe it when she was called to the office and found that for the second time in over a week she had gotten roses again. Coral colored one's this time. She picked them up off the counter, and smiled as she inhaled their scent. "He desires you."

Buffy snapped out of her reverie to look up at Amy, who was standing behind the front desk watching her. "W-What?"

Amy giggled. "Coral roses mean desire. He desires you, and from the way you two were lip locked Monday afternoon in front of the school, I'd say it was true. He's quite the hottie, Buffy. I can see now why you've been keeping him all to yourself, but quite honestly I don't think it's necessary. Any fool could see that not only does he desire you, he totally adores you as well. I saw the way Harmony Kendall was practically drooling all over him, and I also saw the way that he could have cared less. He was far too busy drinking you in to know that anyone else was alive."

"Thanks, Amy. You have no idea how much better that makes me feel." Buffy smiled. "I mean, Angel basically told me the same thing, but I still can't help but worry... It helps that someone else sees what I have trouble seeing sometimes."

"Got a little jealous, did we?" Amy grinned.

"Just a little." Buffy admitted. "But things are okay now. Better than okay."

"I can see that." Amy pointed to the flowers. "There's another card, by the way."

Buffy took note of the card before she shifted the flowers to her other arm. "Do I need to sign for these, too?"

"Nope, The florist just dropped them off today, so I guess that means you can go back to class."

"Okay, thanks, Amy."

"Bye, Buffy." Amy smiled as she watched Buffy turn and leave the office.

The moment Buffy reached the hallway she opened the card, and began to read it, her own smile quickly disappearing.

Hope you like the roses. I just wanted you to know that if it's attention you want, it's attention you'll get.

I'm going to smother you with it 24/7.

Riley

With card and roses still in hand, Buffy stormed back into the office. Ten minutes later she was shown into Principal Snyder's office by Amy. "Well, Miss. Summers to whom do I owe the pleasure to for this visit?" Principal Snyder stood up, and came around his desk. "You know, I was beginning to hope that since I hadn't seen you in a while that it meant that you were finally beginning to bury your differences with Mr. Finn, and accept that he was only teasing you and your friends when he picks on you."

"First of all, Principal Snyder teasing and picking on someone is for five year olds. When eighteen year olds do it, I think it's called harrassment."

Principal Snyder sat down on the edge of his desk. "And who exactly is Mr. Finn supposedly harrassing now, Miss. Summers?"

"Me." Buffy locked eyes with him. "And you and I both know it's not his ordinary everyday typical harrassment like with my friends. What he's doing to me is called sexual harrassment, and I'm here to ask you to make him stop. It's getting worse. He almost raped me at the Bronze a little over a week ago, and now I'm getting prank phone calls, and notes like this..." She handed him the card, and waited while he read it.

"I see nothing sexual about this, Miss. Summers. All I see is that Mr. Finn obviously likes you and is trying to impress you. I see nothing wrong with a young man sending flowers to a girl he likes." He handed the card back to Buffy.

"Haven't you heard a word I've said, Principal Snyder? Riley Finn almost raped me. He's calling my house at all hours of the night, and hanging up. This isn't just sexual harrassment anymore. What he's doing is called stalking."

"You know, Miss. Summers. Believe it or not, I used to be your age once and I remember what it's like. Usually when a boy develops a crush on a girl that girl has done something to draw his attention to her, and quite honestly I think that's what has happened here."

"You think I intentionally did something to draw Riley's attention to me?"

"No one dresses the way you do unless they want to draw attention, Miss. Summers."

Buffy looked down at the black, off the shoulder peasant top and bikini cut stretch jeans she had on then back up at Principal Snyder. "What's wrong with what I'm wearing? It's the style, and I'm not the only girl in this school that dresses like this."

"That's true, but unlike most of the girls in this school I happen to know more about your personal life. I know you've been deprived of alot, and I think you're out to make up for it. I think you're out to send signals to the guys of this school that you're out to make up for lost time."

Buffy's eyes welled up with tears. "Are you saying that I'm a..."

"All I'm saying is that no one's going to believe you're being sexually harrassed as long as you dress the way you do, Miss. Summers. No one. So if I were you I would forget this little story you've invented about Riley Finn."

"It's not a story, Principal Snyder." Buffy blinked back her tears. "It's the truth. Riley Finn tried to rape me, and I'm sick and tired of him getting by with murder because of who his father is. It's time someone stood up to him, and that someone is going to be me. I've had it!"

"Go ahead, Miss. Summers. Stand up to him, but just a little warning before you do. Pursue this nonsense, and by the time Riley Finn Sr. is finished with you everyone in this town will see you for the white trash little tramp you really are. Oh, and let's not forget about that family of yours... He'll drag them through the mud as well. It would be a real shame to see that brother of yours lose his job."
"You wouldn't."

"Try me."

"Principal Snyder..." Buffy blinked back more tears. She refused to let him see her cry. "Did anyone ever tell you that you are a male chauvinist pig?"

"Okay, that's it, young lady!" Principal Snyder's face turned blood red. "You are suspended indefinitely! I want you to get your things and leave the school grounds immediately. Do you understand?"

"Perfectly!" Buffy spat. "Good riddance, you little prick." With that said, she turned and walked out of the office with her head held high.

***

Cordelia knocked on Angel's office door, and peeked inside. "Angel, I hate to bother you, but Kate Lockley is here to see you."

"It's okay, Cordy. Send her in." Angel stood up and moved around his desk just as a blonde headed woman in her mid-twenties entered the room. "Kate, I was hoping you would eventually show up. How are you?" He closed the distance to her, and drew her into a hug.

"Fine, Angelus." Kate murmured against his shoulder. "God, how long has it been?"

"A year, I think." He pulled away to look at her. "How's your dad?"

"He's okay. Hates retirement." She moved to the chair Angel motioned to. "What about your mom, how is she?"

"She's good. Still teaching." Angel informed her as he moved back around his desk to sit down.

"And Spike? How's he doing?"

"He's an asshole, but I think you already knew that."

"O-Kay. I'm sensing there's more than your usual disdain for your brother in that comment, care to share?"

"No." Angel eyed her across his desk. "I'd rather discuss why you're here. When you didn't return my call I figured you wasn't interested. Either that or you had gotten to busy to fool with me."

"Never." She smiled. "You're practically family, Angelus. You know that. And I was very interested in the information you faxed me. I just had to finish up a case before I could look into it, and the truth is I was a little stunned by the address on your letterhead. When did you make the change? And was the little woman included in on it, because I didn't see her anywhere."

"Darla's not in the picture anymore, Kate. In fact, she never really was. She was a mistake. A huge mistake. And as for the address change, I just needed out of LA. I needed to get as far away from the limelight and her as possible."

"Wow, you seem...different. Almost like your happy."

"That's because I am." Angel grinned. "Moving here was the best thing to ever happen to me, but I don't won't to tie you up going in to details. I know you're a very busy woman. Shall we get down to the real reason you're here?"

Kate shifted in her chair. "It turns out you were right. Something fishy is going on in this town. Mayor Riley Finn, Sr. youngest man in California to ever be elected Mayor. He was twenty nine. He's also the first person to hold that office for the longest period of time. Fourteen years to be exact. You would think that being the main man in this town would keep him busy enough, but evidently it didn't because he also serves on the school board. Has for the last six years."

"I already know that, Kate. I sent you all the info. What I want to know is if he's the crook I think he is?"

"Yes, it turns out that the money that apparantly isn't in the school board's budget is being filtered into three different bank accounts."

Angel raised an eyebrow. "He's embezzling it?"

Kate nodded. "Looks that way. Two of the accounts are going directly to Snyder, the principal of the high school. The fact that his pay was higher than any other principal in this country was way too fishy, so my partner and I got to digging, and discovered two bank accounts set up at two different banks here in Sunnydale."

"And the other account? Who does it belong to?"

"Finn. But it doesn't stop there. Apparantly Finn has been embezzling money from the taxpayers of this good town as well. We found three more accounts set up for the money that was supposed to be in the town's budget. Two belong to Finn, and the other one belongs to Police Chief Griffin."

"Sonofabitch." Angel muttered. "Buffy was right."

"Buffy? Who's Buffy?"

"My girlfriend. She's the reason I contacted you. She's being harrasssed by Finn's son. That's how I met her. He nearly raped her outside a club, but I managed to stop him before he did. When I tried to get her to go to the police and press charges she panicked. That's when she told me who Finn was, and that the reason she couldn't go to the police was because Mayor Finn owned most of the town. She also told me that it was rumored that he even had the police department in his pocket. Since then we've started dating, and I've been trying to find a way to help her. She's been to Principal Snyder about the harrassment, but all he does is threaten to fire her brother, who is a teacher at the school. That's why I contacted you. I knew I had enough evidence to at least warrant an investigation."

"Well, it's a good thing you did listen to her. It turns out that the money being filtered into all three of Finn's accounts was about to be put to use. He just put in bids on some very prime real estate in LA, and Las Vegas. That's why I'm here."

"You're going to make an arrest?"

"Yes. My partner's with the judge now, so I thought I'd drop in and fill you in while I was waiting for him to get the warrant issued. I'd like to know how you got tipped off to what Finn was doing?"

"I got Cordelia to check into my making a donation to the schools here, and she got the info about Snyder's huge salary during her checking. It just didn't sound right to me, so I went to talk to the source myself and that's when I found out about Snyder and Finn being old college buddies, and that Finn was the one that helped him get the job. The moment I heard that piece of information, I called you. They told me you were on a case, so I faxed the info and asked your secretary to put in on your desk."

"And I saw it first thing. I must say, Angelus you're quite the..." Kate started to say, but never got the chance because the office door suddenly came crashing open, bringing both Angel and Kate to their feet. "Jesus christ, Cordy. What the hell..."

"Angel, it's Buffy. Doyle just called me. He said there was a fight between Buffy and that Finn guy. The police were called in because all hell has broken loose at the school, and now Buffy's missing. He said by any chance if you happen to know where she might be you need to find her and hide her until he and Joyce can get things straightened out."

Angel's eyes shot to Kate. "I'm going to the school, are you coming with me?"

"Of course. I wouldn't miss this for the world." Kate replied as she followed him out of the room.

***

Angel and Kate arrived at the school fifteen minutes later to find the entire student population out on the front lawn of the school. With a little help from Kate, they were finally able to get past the police barricade, and inside the school where they found Willow and Oz standing outside the main office. "Willow, did anyone find Buffy?"

Willow shook her head no. "Doyle thought maybe she was with you that's why he called your house."

"I haven't seen her, but I uhh... I made Cordelia stay at the house, and she promised to call me right away on my cellphone if she shows up." He glanced worriedly over at Kate then back at Willow. "What happened?"

"There was a fight. I didn't get there until it was almost over, but my friend Amy who works in the office saw and heard the whole thing. She said apparantly Riley has been harrassing Buffy, and that Buffy went to talk to Principal Snyder about it. Something happened and somehow he ended up suspending her. She was supposed to leave school grounds, but she chose to confront Riley instead. He sent her some roses, and when she tried to give them back he hit her. That's when all hell broke loose. The police were called in because Doyle ended up hitting Riley because he hit Buffy, and Snyder fired him. Then Joyce showed up, and she got into it with Principal Snyder because he said some things about her and Buffy both that eventually got back to Giles and now has him in the mix of things. And then all of Buffy's friends got word of Snyder suspending her, and decided to rally in her support. Poor Buffy... She was such a wreck. Especially after Snyder fired Doyle, and Mayor Finn showed up to inform her that not only was he going to press charges against her, he was going to press charges against the whole family, Giles included. She just couldn't take anymore. She ran... The police are out there looking for her now." Willow began to cry. "I'm scared, Angel. After everything she's been through I'm afraid this may be too much for her. What if she..." She began to cry even harder, and Oz pulled her into his arms, meeting Angel's gaze over her head as he did. "The rest of Buffy's family are in the office with Snyder, Riley, and his father. Every now and then we can hear yelling, and then nothing. Will and I were thinking about forming search parties to look for Buffy, but we were waiting for Doyle to come out and let us know if she was with you or not."

"I haven't seen her since last night, and there's only one other place I can think of that she might be. It's a trail off the trail where she runs. It leads into the woods. Follow it until you come to a clearing overlooking the town." Angel ran a hand through his hair in frustration. "Other than that I can't think of any other place besides my house. I'm sorry, guys."

"It's okay." Willow sniffled, and pulled away from Oz. "At least it's a start. We'll start forming search parties, and sending them to all the other places we can think of first. We'll save the trail and your house for you."

"I'd appreciate that, and I will go look there just as soon as I take care of something first." Angel's eyes darkened as he turned to the blonde beside him. "Kate, you ready?"

Kate nodded. "Lead the way."

He glanced back over at Willow and Oz. "Go on and start forming those search parties. I'll meet you two out front once I'm done." With out another word, he disappeared through the office door in a billow of coattails, followed by the blonde.


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Thanks to Cindy, Danielle, Amy, Christine, Buffygrl, Emma, Cristine, Court, Jade, Jo, Kim, Ryan, Sarah, and Kolumbyne for their feedback on chapter 22.
CHAPTER 23


Just as Angel and Kate entered the main office, Joyce Summers' voice could be heard yelling from inside the open door of Principal Snyder's office. "Go ahead and press charges you sorry sonofabitch! You don't scare me. I'll fight you to the supreme court if I have to. All my daughter was doing was trying to protect herself, and my son was only trying to protect her."

"It takes money to fight a legal battle, Joyce. Especially one that drags out to the supreme court. Money I happen to know you don't have."

"That's where you're wrong, Mr. Finn..." Every pair of eyes in the room flew to Angel as he stepped inside, but Angel's eyes were focused entirely on Riley Finn, Sr. "If Mrs. Summers needs money to clear her daughter and son's names. She's got it."

Riley Finn, Sr. sized up the young man standing in front of him. "Look, mister this is a private meeting between my family and the Summers family, and unless you're the father, which I happen to know for a fact you're not since I went to school with him, I suggest you leave. This doesn't concern you."

"Again that's where you are wrong, Mr. Finn." Angel turned to Riley, who was leaned up against the wall. "Would you like to tell your father how this concerns me, boy?"

Riley pushed away from the wall. "I don't have the slightest idea what you are talking about, mister. I've never met you before in my life. Now if I were you I would listen to my father and beat it."

Angel's face hardened. "I'm not going anywhere, boy. And if you want to play hardball fine, we'll play hardball." Dismissing Riley for the moment, Angel turned to Joyce. "I wasn't lying, Joyce. My money is yours. You can have every red cent to help both Buffy and Doyle. The question is will you take it?"

Joyce smiled at Angel. "You'd better believe I'll take it if it means putting these three sonsofbitches in there places."

Angel returned Joyce's smile. "Good, I was hoping you would say that. Now would you do me the honors of introducing me to these three sonsofbitches as you call them?"

"Mom, if you don't mind I'd like to do the honors." Doyle spoke up and said as he moved up beside Angel. "Three sonsofbitches, I would like you to meet Angelus O'Conner, also known to many as Liam Angelus. The same Liam Angelus who wrote all the *Fang Gang* books, is also one of the richest men in America right now, and just so happens to be dating my sister, Buffy Summers." He looked over at Angel and grinned. "Angel, I'd like you to meet the three sonsofbitches who are trying to destroy my sister, your girlfriend's, well being and name."

Angel's eyes darkened again as the traveled over the three men. "Gentlemen... And even though I happen to think you don't deserve to be called that I will do so anyway out of respect for my mother, I would say it's a pleasure, but I would be lying."

"You're Liam Angelus?" Riley choked out in disbelief.

"One and the same, but if you need further proof I would be more than happy to give it to you." Angel turned around to look at Kate. "Kate, would you like to do the honors this time?"

"With pleasure." Kate stepped forward, and reached inside her blazer pocket to pull out her badge, and flash it to the people in the room. "Gentlemen, or whatever... My name is Kate Lockley. I'm a former police officer with the LAPD, and now an agent for the FBI. I"ve known this man his entire life. His father and my father were partners on the LAPD until is father passed away, and I can assure you that he is indeed who he claims to be."

"Thank you, Kate." Angel replied before turning back to the three shocked men. "Now, since it has been established that I am indeed who I claim to be why don't we get down to the real reason for why everyone's here, and that's Buffy. Would someone like to tell me what happened?"

"Principal Snyder said he suspended Buffy for calling him a vulgar name, but instead of leaving the school grounds like she was supposed to Buffy chose to start a fight with Riley for no apparant reason, so he had no choice but to call the police. Especially once Doyle got into the fight. He saw Riley strike Buffy and jumped into the fight to defend his sister. Now Mayor Finn wants to press assault charges against both Buffy and Doyle."

"Is that what happened, Principal Snyder?" Angel asked, eyeing the man sitting behind his desk.

"More or less." Principal Snyder replied smugly. "That girl is a troublemaker. Always has been, but up until now I have never been able to do anything about it."

"That's funny because it just so happens that I have a witness that would be more than happy to testify in court that the real troublemaker here is none other than the same Riley Finn that is standing over there."

"Whoever it is, they're lying." Riley Finn, Sr. spoke up and defended his son. "My son is a fine young man. He's a model citizen, and an exceptional student and athlete."

Angel ignored the older Finn, and chose to turn back to his son instead. "Riley, this is your last chance. Do you want to tell everyone the truth or shall I?"

"I don't know what you are talking about." Riley replied a little nervously.

s why she never told anyone but me about what was going on, and I happen to believe her because I witnessed the assault with my own eyes. I also saw the bruises your son left on her arm, and felt the bump he left on the back of her head. Your son has been more than just harrassing Buffy Summers, Mr. Finn. He nearly raped her, and I saw it with my own eyes, but the really shitty part about all this is that the one person other than myself that she came to ask for help from didn't... doesn't... give a damn what happens to her as long as it doesn't look bad on him."

"She never came to me." Principal Snyder denied. "Not about that. It was always about her friends. She claimed Riley was picking on her friends, and she's lying if she says otherwise. I told you she's nothing but trouble."

"If anyone is lying here it's him." A young blonde stepped into the room, and Principal Snyder shot to his feet. "You get out of here right now, young lady. This doesn't concern you."

"That's where your wrong, Principal Snyder." The girl stepped further into the room, her eyes focused entirely on Angel. "Are you Angel?"

Angel nodded. "Who are you?"

"I'm Amy. I'm not a close friend of Buffy's, but I am a friend. I also work in the office up until lunch, and I happen to know for a fact that Principal Snyder is lying. Buffy did come to see him about Riley harrassing her. Lots of times, including today. Riley sent her roses today. There was a card. I don't know what it said, but I know it must have upset her because she came right back into the office and demanded to see Principal Snyder. She had to wait about ten minutes, but he finally did meet with her, and I know I'm not supposed to listen, but the walls are thin, so it's kinda hard not to. I heard Buffy tell Snyder about Riley attacking her at the Bronze. I also heard her tell him that Riley had been calling her house at all hours of the night and hanging up, but the only thing Snyder had to say to her was that no one would believe Riley was sexually harrassing her because of the way she dressed. He more or less accussed her of being a slut, and then he went on to tell her that if she said anything that Mayor Finn would drag her and her family through the mud, and that by the time he was finished with her everyone in this town would see her for the white trash little tramp she really was. He more or less threatened to have Mr. Summers fired from his teaching position again, but instead of Buffy backing down like she normally does after his threat, she stood her ground. She called Snyder a male chauvinist pig, and that's when he suspended her indefinitely."

"Kate, are you getting all this?" Angel asked his friend, even though his eyes never left Amy.

"Every word." Kate assured him.

"Amy would you be willing to testify in a court of law about what you heard?"

Amy nodded. "I'd be happy to. It's the least I can do for Buffy. She's the only person I have ever known to have the guts to stand up to the Finns and Snyder. I think it's time the rest of us did the same and try to repay her for everything she's done for us." Amy handed Angel a piece of paper. "This is my phone number in case you need to reach me."

Angel took the piece of paper, and smiled at Amy. "Thank you, Amy."

"You're welcome." She turned to leave, but she suddenly spun back around. "Oh, and Angel..."

"What?" Angel's gaze met hers.

"I was working in the office the day she got your roses, too. I wish you could have seen her face. She was practically glowing the whole day. I don't think I've ever seen Buffy that happy. And today she was the same way... She thought the roses were from you, and she was all glowy again." Amy's eyes went to Riley. "That was until she found out who they were really from. All she did was try to give them back to him, but he told her that he had already paid for them, and that she was either going to have to keep them or find a way to repay him for them, and the payment he wanted wasn't in the form of money if you know what I mean. Only when he said it to her it was a whole lot more lewder than what I just said, and it totally disgusted her. She shoved the flowers at him, and the water sloshed out of the vase, soaking his shirt. Riley got so mad he hit her, and he was about to hit her again, but she used the vase to shield the blow and in the process caught him in the eye. She never attempted to return the blow he gave her. All she was doing was trying to protect herself, and when Mr. Summers saw it he jumped in to try and help her."

"Fine, you asked for it, boy." Angel spat angrily before turning back to the others once again. "The witness is in fact myself, and since I hate to be called a liar when I'm not, things are about to get really really nasty." His eyes nailed Riley Sr. to his spot. "Your son, Mayor Finn, is not only a troublemaker he's also into roughing up innocent young women. More than roughing them up. That's how I met him, and we have met even though he claims we haven't. It was outside a club called the Bronze almost two weeks ago. The night of January nineteenth to be exact. Miss. Summers' birthday. I was at the club with my best friend when I stepped outside to get some air. That's when I first saw your son. He was shoving Miss. Summers into an alley behind the club, and since my father always taught me to believe that a man should never lay a hand on a woman no matter what, I had no choice but to interfere. I followed them into the alleyway, and claimed to be Miss. Summers' boyfriend. Your son and I exchanged words, but after I threatened to kill him if he didn't let go of Miss. Summers he let go of her and left. Since that time Miss. Summers and I have started dating for real, and she has opened up enough to me to tell me that your son has been harrassing her for months. She even went to Principal Snyder on numerous occassions about the harrassment, but instead of helping her he threatened to have her brother fired from his teaching position here at the school. If there is one thing I have learned about Buffy in the few short weeks I've known her, it's that she loves and adores her brother and she knows how much his teaching means to him. That'

"You sonofabitch!" Joyce yelled, flying across the room and kicking Riley in the groin. "No one treats my daughter that way and gets by with it! No one!" Giles and Doyle managed to pull Joyce away from Riley, and Doyle was even able to land a couple of blows himself which then caused a domino effect that lead to Giles and Mayor Finn going at it again, along with Joyce and Snyder. It took several moments before Angel and Kate managed to get things under control. They sent Amy back out to the main part of the office to answer the phones, and convinced Joyce, Giles, and Doyle to go home and wait to see if Buffy turned up there, but even though things were calmer after they left, things in the room were still very tense between Angel and the younger Finn. His blood was boiling at the fact that the boy had raised his hand to Buffy again, and he was itching to cross the room to snap his fucking neck, but Kate evidently sensed what he was thinking, and moved up beside him to block his way. "Mr. Finn..." After another several tense moments Angel finally managed to calm enough to speak. "Don't you think that in light of the evidence you want to reconsider dropping the charges against both Buffy and Doyle, and giving Doyle back his job?"

"Yes, yes, I do." Riley Sr. answered. "No charges will be pressed against the girl or any of her family for that matter, and as for Mr. Summers' position here, since it's up to me to decide if there is grounds for dismissal, and seeing as I don't, I rule that he be reinstated effective immediately. Now if you will excuse me I'd like to take my son home."

"But Dad..." Riley whined, and moved towards his father.

"Shut up, Riley!" Riley Sr. yelled, and grabbed his arm in a vice like grip. "We're going home right now!"

"Just one more thing, Mr. Finn." Angel's voice halted the man and his son just inside the doorway. "If you think this is over you're wrong. No one messes with what's mine, and gets by with it. You will pay for everything you've done. You and your son, and that isn't a threat, it's a promise."

Without another word both Riley Finns disappeared out the door without another word, leaving Angel and Kate alone with Principal Snyder, who was now nervously sitting back down at his desk. "Now it's your turn, Principal Snyder." Angel moved to the chair in front of Principal Snyder's desk, and sat down. "I think you should reconsider withdrawing Buffy's suspension, don't you?"

"No. The girl still insulted me and caused pandomonim in the school, and that is automatic grounds for dismissal."

"Wow, it seems Buffy hit the nail on the head when she called you a little prick because you really are."

"It doesn't bother me what that girl thinks of me, Mr. O'Conner. She's nothing but white trash, and if you continue to associate with her people are going to start thinking the same thing about you."

Angel felt Kate move closer to him as if she knew exactly what he was thinking, but thankfully he wasn't as stupid as she thought he was. Oh no, there was other ways to get revenge besides getting physical. That's why he very calmly focused on the man sitting behind the desk. "I don't care what people think of me, Principal Snyder but Buffy on the other hand... Your little comment about her... All your little comments about her, and the way you treated her is going to cost you, and cost you dearly. See, my friend behind me isn't just here by coincidence. She's here because I happened to put some very startling information on her desk concerning you and your friend Riley Finn Sr. that I'm pretty sure will put the both of you behind bars for a very long time, but don't worry I'm sure you'll do just fine in prison. All you have to do is latch on to some big beefcake that will take care of you as long as you pay him back in the same fashion Riley wanted Buffy to pay him back for those roses, and I promise you that everything will be just fine and dandy."

"Prison? I can't go to..." Principal Snyder swallowed against the lump in his throat. "Anything. I'll do anything. Just tell me what you want."

"That's better." Angel smirked. "I want your letter of resignation effective immediately, and in that letter I want you to admit that Buffy did come to you for help after being sexually harrassed by Finn and that you refused to help her. I also want you to withdraw her suspension. When you finish give it to Kate here. She'll be sticking around to make sure you do as I ask, and to discuss your options with you concerning your future." He turned to Kate, his eyes losing their fire, and immediately turning to worry. "Kate, I need to..."

"Go find her." Kate smiled at him. "I'll call you on your cellphone as soon as everything is taken care of."

Angel squeezed her shoulder. "Thanks, Kate. I owe you one."

Kate leaned over to whisper in his ear. "The only thing I want is to meet her. She has to be pretty incredible to spark a side of you I never knew existed. You were really something today. Ever thought of becoming a cop?"

"Nope. That was a job that only one O'Conner could do, and he's gone, and now so am I." He kissed her cheek, and disappeared out the door.

***

Angel found Willow and Oz in the school yard talking to several other students a few minutes later. "Willow, any word? Have they found her?"

"No, and most of the search teams have already reported back." Willow started wringing her hands. "Angel, what's going on? First Joyce, Giles, and Doyle leave, telling us that they're going home to check and see if Buffy's there, then Mayor Finn and Riley come out a few minutes later and talk to Police Chief Griffin, and it wasn't long after that that all the police officers packed up and left, too."

"It's over. The charges against Buffy and Doyle have been dropped, and they both will be returning to school tomorrow. Now all we need to do is find her to tell her the good news." Angel looked around the almost empty school yard. "I guess I could go check that place I was telling you about. I already know she's not at my house. Cordelia would have called me if she had turned up there." He reached inside his coat pocket and fished out his cellphone. "I'll head out just as soon as I check in with Joyce and Doyle."

Willow reached out her hand to stop him before he could punch in the number on his cellphone. "She's not there, Angel. Joyce left us her cellphone, and she called not more than five minutes ago to let us know."

"Well, it looks like that place I was telling you about is our last hope unless you can think of any place else she could be?"

"No." Willow shook her head. "I can't think of anyplace else."

"I can." A voice answered from behind Angel.

Angel spun around to face the owner of the voice. "Xander... You know?"

"Yeah. I know of two places actually." Xander's eyes went to Willow. "I guess you forgot about that one place, Will. It's been a long time. It's where we used to go before Buffy... Before you know?"

Willow gasped as she remembered what Xander was refering to. "Oh my god, that's right. The treehouse. We used to have a treehouse in the woods behind Xander's house. Xander, Oz, and I could check there."

"Actually, Will there's someplace else I should check. There's a good possibility she's there, and I'm the only one that knows about it. The only problem is I don't know how I'm going to get a hold of you if she is, there's not a phone close by."

"I can give you mine." Angel held up his cellphone. "I have another one in my car."

"And I have Joyce's cellphone." Willow showed Xander. "You know the number."

Xander nodded, and glanced back at Angel. "But I don't have yours."

"Just dial menu one." Angel told him as he handed him his cellphone. "I also have Buffy's home number and Joyce's cellphone programmed into it. For her home number just hit menu two, and for Joyce's cellphone just hit menu three."

"Is that it?" Xander asked looking back and forth at Willow and Angel.

"Yeah." Angel answered. "Just be sure that if you find her you call someone and let them know. Preferrably me."

"Okay." Xander mumbled, and looked at the setting sun. "I guess we should get going. It's going to be dark soon."

"I know." Angel murmured, locking eyes with him. "But I'm not quitting until I find her."

"Neither am I." Xander stated. "Believe it or not, I really do care about her."

"And believe it or not so do I." Angel answered. "That's why I'm hoping you'll call me first if you find her. She's hurting. I can feel it, and I need to be with her."

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Thanks to Ryan, Susan, Kolumbyne, Emma, Court, Carol Ann, VengfulVixen3, Christine, and Buffygrl521 for their feedback on chapter 23.


CHAPTER 24


"Angelus O'Conner."

"Angel, it's Xander. I found her."

Angel breathed a sigh of relief as he pulled his car over to the nearest curb. "Where are you?"

"We're at Restfield Cemetary. There's a big monument in the middle of it. You'll find us there."

Angel put his car into gear and did a u-turn in the middle of the road. "I'm on my way. Stay with her until I get there. And Xander..."

"What?"

"Thanks."

"Yeah, yeah." Xander muttered. "Just get here already." He hit the disconnect button on the cellphone, and finished closing the distance to Buffy, who was sitting on a bench crying. "Why didn't you tell me?" He asked her as he took a seat beside her.

"I-I c-couldn't. I-I l-love you, and I-I knew that if you found out you w-would want to d-defend m-my honor. Y-You, W-Will, G-Giles, a-and Doyle. And I knew what w-would happen i-if you did."

"Buffy..."

"D-Don't." She laid her head on his shoulder. "Y-You're here n-now. Th-That's all that m-matters."

Xander sat quietly for a few minutes and stared up at the statue of two male angels holding a little girl in their arms. "You know, I think even then you had a thing for angels."

Buffy half laughed half sobbed. "You r-remember."

"Of course." Xander leaned his head against hers. "How do you think I found you, silly?"

"D-Do you remember that day? Y-You thought I was crazy because I came to a cemetary. E-Especially after w-what I h-had just f-found out."

"And then I saw this, and I understood." Xander pointed to the statue. "It really is beautiful."

"I-It is, b-but there's more t-to it than just i-it's beauty. It m-makes me feel safe. G-
Gives me hope th-that there's s-something else o-out th-there. I-It's the same with h-
him. H-He makes me feel safe, Xander. Angel's my h-hope.

M-My something else." Buffy swiped at her tears. "He's a-a good man. H-He helped me out o-of a very b-bad situation. I-I was a complete st-stranger a-and he still helped me. R-Riley was going t-to... A-Angel came to my rescue, a-and he's been there every day s-since then. B-But it's more than h-him just rescuing me from R-Riley.

H-He's also rescued me from m-me. H-He's helped take away the b-bitterness, and restored my f-faith. I'm learning to trust people again, a-and believe me i-it hasn't been easy. B-But mostly h-he's made me see that I'm capable of loving and being l-
loved, a-and it's because of m-my love for him that I-I'm actually thinking of a future for the f-first time in y-years."

"You don't have to sale me on him, Buffy." Xander kissed the top of her head. "He already did that himself about two hours ago."

"W-What?" Buffy raised her head to look at Xander.

"That Angel of yours came to your rescue again, Miss. Summers. And man was he incredible. He put Mayor Finn, Riley, and Principal Snyder all in their places."

"W-What are you talking a-about, Xander?"

"Angel, Buffy. He came to school to help you, and Doyle. And he did. He got all the charges dropped against the both of you, and got you both back in school starting tomorrow."

"Y-You're kidding?" Buffy asked in disbelief.

"I kid you not." Xander smiled. "And I'd really love to tell you the entire story, but I kinda wasn't supposed to be there at the time, and I don't want to ruin the rest of the Buffy/Angel saga for you. I figure Angel should be the one to tell you the good stuff."

Buffy's eyes welled up with more tears. "Y-You m-mean it's really over?"

"Yes, it's really over..." A voice murmured from behind Buffy and Xander.

Xander and Buffy both stood up at the sound of the voice, but Xander might as well have not been there because the moment Buffy and Angel's eyes met everything else around them literally disappeared. "A-Angel..."

"Buffy..." Angel closed the distance to Buffy and pulled her into his arms. "God, baby I have been so worried about you." He pulled away to look at her, and his eyes darkened as his fingers reached up to brush across her bruised cheek. "I knew I should have killed that sonofabitch."

Buffy reached for his hand. "It's okay, h-honey. I- I'm fine."

His eyes searched hers. "Don't lie to me, Buffy."

His words were her undoing. "I-Is it r-really r-really over?" She sobbed.

"It's really really over." He reached up to wipe her tears away with the pads of his thumbs. "Everything's going to be okay now. I promise." He pulled her back into his arms.

"A-And Doyle?" She asked in a voice muffled by his shirt.

"Is fine, but worried sick about you." He kissed the crown of her head. "They all are. That's why we need to get you home, so that they can see for themselves that you're okay."

Buffy shook her head. "No. N-Not until y-you tell me w-what happened."

Angel pulled away, and leaned over to brush a kiss across her lips. "Later. Just as soon as I'm satisfied you're okay, I'll tell you everything, and I don't want any arguments." He reached into his pants pocket, and pulled out a set of keys, tossing them to Xander.

Xander caught the keys, and looked at Angel in surprise. "What's this?"

"You're driving."

"Come again?"

Angel swept Buffy up into his arms, and turned back to Xander. "Do the math, Harris. Three people, my car only has two seats. Someone's going to have to hold Buffy, and since there is no way in hell I'm going to let that someone be you, that means I get the honors and you get to drive."

Xander looked at Buffy in shocked disbelief. "Is this guy for real?"

"Uh huh." Buffy sniffled, and laid her head on Angel's shoulder. "And I was th-thinking I just might keep him."

"Hell, if he keeps stuff like this up I just might want to keep him for my own damn self." Xander replied, jiggling Angel's car keys happily.

"Sorry, Harris..." Angel kissed Buffy's forehead. "I'm taken, and I plan to stay that way."

***

Angel stood up from his seat when Joyce entered the kitchen an hour later. "Joyce, how is she?"

"Grouchy. She went ballistic at the first mention of a hospital. Swears she's okay. She's sleeping now. I'm sure she'll be fine once she's rested." Joyce Summers replied as she moved around the kitchen island to take a seat beside Giles. "Angel, I don't know how to thank you for what you did today."

"Me either." Doyle added from his seat beside Cordelia at the kitchen table.

"No thanks is necessary, guys." Angel sat back down on his stool. "I wasn't joking when I said I would do anything to help. Just knowing she's okay..."

"Are you going to tell us what happened after we left?" Joyce asked as she poured herself a cup of coffee from the coffee pot on the counter in front of them. "I mean, it's pretty obvious something really big did happen since there's been late breaking news flashes on the tv and radio for the past two hours."

Angel took a sip of his own coffee. "Well, it all started when I moved here. As you know I'm really big on education thanks to my mom, and I asked Cordelia to check into my making some donations to the schools here that were lacking the most educational materials. During her checking Cordelia met Giles. After talking with him, she suggested I do the same, so I did. It was during our meeting that Giles and I put together some stuff that didn't make any sense, and I guess maybe I do have some of my father's cop blood in me because I couldn't let it go. Especially when I already knew everything that was going on with Buffy and why she was afraid to go to the police, so I fed the info to Kate in hopes she would piece it all together for me."

"And she did, I assume?" Giles inquired.

Angel nodded. "There was enough info to at least warrant an investigation, and it was during that investigation that Kate discovered that Finn and Snyder were embezzling money from the school board. Finn was also embezzling money from the town's budget to pay off Police Chief Griffin to do whatever he told him to do, and he was going to use what was left to buy up prime real estate here, LA, and in Vegas. Kate was in town to make the arrests, and while she was waiting for her partner to get the warrants from the judge she came to tell me what she had found out, but little did she and I know that what I had tipped her off to was just the tip of the iceberg."

Cordelia patted Doyle on the back. "You are not going to believe this part."

"What part?" Doyle asked curiously.

"Remember Mrs. Crawford?" Angel turned around on his stool to ask him. "The lady you told me was murdered in my house?"

Doyle nodded.

"Finn murdered her. Turns out he was having an affair with her. They dated for a while back in college, but things didn't work out, and she ended up marrying one of her professors. His name was Michael Crawford, and he was thirty five years older than her, and very rich. When he died sixteen years ago he left everything to her, so Finn resumed his relationship with her in hopes he could play her for her money, and he thought he had actually done it. He thought he had convinced her to leave him everything in her will, but it turns out that the will Mrs. Crawford showed him wasn't the real one. The real one left everything to her dog in the event of her death. Finn somehow found out, and killed her. Snyder, who was also an old college buddy of Finn's, was in town visiting Finn at the time, and witnessed it. He helped Finn get rid of the evidence, then left town. Since then Finn has been paying him hush money. That's how Snyder got his job. When he was fired from his position as a teacher six years ago, he came to Finn for help, and Finn couldn't say no for fear Snyder would rat on him. Once Snyder was situated in his new positon as Principal of Sunnydale High, he found out that Finn was embezzling money from the school board and the town and demanded a cut of the action in exchange for his continuing silence."

"Did you know about that little piece of news?" Doyle asked Angel.

Angel shook his head no. "Snyder confessed everything to Kate after I left to look for Buffy. He did it in hopes it would keep him out of jail. It won't. He'll eventually get out, but Finn on the other hand is a different story. And in case you're wondering, Mrs. Crawford's body parts aren't buried in my house. Snyder told Kate they're buried behind City Hall."

"Okay, I have just one question." Xander looked over at Angel. "What happened to Mrs. Crawford's dog?"

"Finn killed it and buried it with Mrs. Crawfords body parts." Angel murmured. "And since there wasn't any other heirs named in the will other than the dog itself, the entire bulk of Mrs. Crawford's estate was divided up between her closest relatives. The house went to one of her sisters, but her sister couldn't stand the thought of living in it because of what happened there so she put it up for sale, and it's stayed on the market because either everyone knew what had happened there or potential buyers couldn't afford the price until I came along and bought it."

"And you got jipped when you did." Doyle added.

"Doyle!" Cordelia digustedly slapped him.

"I'm sorry, princess but it's true. The real estate agent should have told Angel that a murder took place there. He probably could have widdled her down to under a million if she had."

Angel couldn't help but chuckle as Doyle and Cordelia began to bicker back and forth. Buffy was right. They did make a cute couple. Buffy... His thoughts immediately returned to her and he couldn't help but wonder if she was as okay as she claimed. His eyes went to the ceiling as he continued to think of her, and Joyce must have known where his thoughts were because she reached across the counter and touched his hand, jarring him out of his reverie. "You know, I was just thinking that someone should go check on her again. Would you like to be the one to do it?"

"You don't mind?"

Joyce shook her head. "No, go on. She pretty much had already warned me that I wasn't to let you leave until you came up to see her anyway. Now go."

Angel nodded and disappeared out of the kitchen without another word.

***

He didn't know how long he had been standing there drinking her in when she finally broke the silence. "You know, there's a chair over here that you could sit down in. Or better yet there's a whole other side of the bed if you'd care to join me."

Angel couldn't help but smile. "And have that overprotective brother of yours kill me? No thanks. I think I'd like to live a little while longer."

"Lock the door."

"W-What?" He blinked in surprise.

"You heard me, Angel. Lock the door."

"Are you crazy, Buffy?"

"Okay, don't lock the door. Just get your cute butt over here and hold me."

"Cute butt?" He grinned. "You think my butt is cute?"

"Angel..." Buffy finally rolled onto her back to look at him. "Are you going to hold me or not?"

Gods, he couldn't refuse her once he saw that pout of hers on her face. Toeing off his shoes, he closed the distance to the bed, and slid onto it. "You're going to get me killed, you know that don't you?"

"Mmm... Maybe." She let him pull her into his arms. "But at least you'll die happy."

Angel kissed her forehead. "You're pretty sure of yourself, aren't you?"

"Yes. No. I don't know." She pulled away to look at him with a frown on her face. "Do I make you happy, Angel."

"Buffy..." He reached up to caress her face, but she caught his hand, and held it. "Look at me, Angel. I mean, really really look at me and tell me what you see."

It was Angel's turn to frown. "Okay, what's going on in that head of yours, baby?"

Buffy blinked back tears. "Just do it, okay, Angel? Look at me and tell me what you see. Please."

"I see Buffy." His eyes locked with hers. "I see the girl that totally blew me away from the first moment I laid eyes on her. I see the girl that's been with me everyday since. I see my girl."

"Okay." She sniffled. "But is that girl someone you feel you need to protect or is she someone you are attracted to? Someone that you could care about? Someone that you could possibly share your hopes and dreams with? Is that girl someone that could possibly be your equal?"

"She's all those things and much much more." Angel murmured, and brought her hand to his lips.

Tears began to slip from the corners of Buffy's eyes. "Are you sure?"

"There's not a doubt in my mind." He whispered softly. "Now are you going to tell me what this is all about?"

"He said it was all my fault. He said no one would believe Riley was sexually harrassing me because of the way I dressed. He said I intentionally dressed the way I did to draw attention to myself, and that if I didn't drop the story about Riley sooner or later everyone would see me for the little tramp I really was."

Angel could feel his anger mounting again. "By he I'm guessing you're talking about Snyder."

Buffy nodded. "Angel, it was like I was living that blonde bimbo moment all over again. It made me wonder if that's how people really did see me. I was afraid that everyone saw me as this dumb blonde that couldn't do anything for herself. I was afraid that's how you saw me."

"But evidently something changed your mind because you fought back, Buffy. You stood up to Finn. You showed him that you had the strength I've always known you've had." He began to wipe at her tears.

She smiled at him through her tears. "And that's exactly what got me through it. I remembered exactly what you said. I remembered you telling me that there was a first time for everything, and I realized you were right. I realized that as long as I let it continue Riley would never stop. I just wanted to prove to everyone that I wasn't the blonde bimbo who used her looks the way Snyder said she did, and God it felt so good to do it. But just as quickly as it did everything fell apart again. I was back at ground zero with you and everyone else coming to my rescue, and it's not that I don't appreciate it because I do. I appreciate it with all my heart, but now I feel like I'm back to being that same old dumb blonde all over again. I'm afraid no one will ever see me as nothing but that."

"Then you need to open your eyes and take a look around you, Buffy. A very close look, because no one sees you as that. No one. Not me. Not your family. Not your friends. What you did today made everyone take a really close look at themselves. What you did gave others the guts to speak up when the normally would have kept their mouths shut. Take your friend Amy for example. Snyder lied. He told everyone that was there today that you never came to see him about Riley harrassing you, and I knew he was lying, but it was just my word against his until Amy got the guts to stand up to him and tell everyone the truth. She overheard your conversation with Snyder today. Every word, baby. Including the name calling parts, and it was the fact that you stood up to him that gave her the guts to do the same. But if you think what you did only affected her, you're wrong. Just about the entire student body rallied in your support. They were picketing on the front lawn, rallying in your support when I arrived at the school, and every single one of them was refusing to return to school until you and Doyle did. Now does that sound like everyone sees you as a blonde bimbo?" Angel reached up to frame her face with his hands. "You are an incredible woman, Buffy Summers. You have single handedly restored the faith of the students in that school by standing up for yourself, and yes I was there, but not to rescue you. I was there to help you through the rough spots, and the reason I did it was because I know that if our places were switched you would have done the same for me. I am so very proud of you, Buffy. Proud to say I know you. Proud that you have let me be a part of your life." He leaned into her, his lips only inches from hers. "But most of all I'm proud, so very proud to say you are mine."

"I am. Yours, I mean." Buffy whispered. "For as long as you want me."

"Always. I'll always want you, Buffy." He murmured just before his lips took possession of hers.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Thanks to Kolumbyne, Cristina, Emma, Kim, Court, VengfulVixen3, Wendy, and Christine for their feedback last chapter.
(AN) This part is NC-17. Meaning no kiddies allowed.


CHAPTER 25


The next the couple weeks flew by, and alot changed in that time. Not just for Buffy, but for everyone. Mayor Finn was no longer Mayor Finn. He was now prisoner 132 in the Sunnydale jail awaiting his trial for embezzlement and the murder of Mrs. Crawford. Deputy Mayor Dean Whitlow was now the new mayor and everyone in the town seemed to like him. Especially after he got rid of Police Chief Griffin, and hired a highly acclaimed police officer from LA named, Charles Gunn, as his successor.

Principal Snyder was now just Mr. Snyder, and was out of jail and hidden away somewhere by the FBI until time for him to testify against Riley Finn Sr. at his trial. Vice Principal Flutie had taken the reins as Principal of Sunnydale High and was slowly turning things around for the better thanks to a sizeable donation from Angel.

Riley was still going to Sunnydale High, but was pretty much a loner now because of what he and his father had done. He kept his distance from Buffy, but she had passed him the hallway on numerous occassions and she could have sworn she had seen regret in his eyes every single time she had.

Changes. There had been alot of them, and not just at school or in the town either. Things on the homefront had changed as well. Joyce had finally gotten up the nerve to ask Giles to move in with her, but he wouldn't agree to it unless she would allow him to put a ring on her finger first. They had been married earlier today in a ceremony at the Summers home before family and friends. Buffy had never figured Rupert Giles to be a helpless romantic, but boy had she been wrong, and the proof had come in the form of him reciting his own wedding vows to Joyce that had brought everyone to tears, including Angel even though he had denied it when Buffy had joked with him about it later.

After seeing the newlyweds off on a two week honeymoon in England Buffy, Angel, and the rest of the gang had headed off for the Valentine's Day dance at the Bronze where Angel had kept his word to Buffy and slow danced with her on numerous occassions.

Xander was back with Anya after doing alot of soul searching and coming to the conclusion that he cared for her more than he could have ever imagined. It had taken alot of groveling on his part to win back her heart, but at the dance earlier Buffy could tell it had been worth it. She had never seen Xander look happier.

Willow and Oz were still Willow and Oz. Still a couple very much in love and cute as cute could be.

Doyle and Cordelia were still together, and had also attended the dance where Doyle, who had never been one for PDA's, had trouble keeping his hands off his girlfriend much to his sister's disgust. It was rather nauseating to Buffy in both a good and a bad kinda way. She was really happy that her brother had finally found the woman of his dreams, but at the same time she couldn't help but envy him for taking his relationship with Cordelia to a level that Buffy wanted so desperately to have with Angel, but didn't have the guts to tell him.

Angel... As usual Buffy's thoughts quickly turned to him. Things couldn't have been any better with the two of them, but at the same time they had been stuck in this rut for the last couple of weeks where things would get intense, really intense, then fizzle out. Take last night for example. They had been making out on his sofa, and it hadn't taken very long for things to heat up to the point Angel had her top unbottoned and was tracing those gentle fingers of his over her skin, but the moment his digits had reached her bra he had come to his senses and called a halt to things. Hopefully though, things were about to change this weekend, and Buffy couldn't help but smile as she remembered the dress her mom had bought her for the trip to LA, and the little number she herself had picked up at Victoria's Secret earlier that week when she had also purchased a wedding present for her mom to wear on her honeymoon. Now all she could do was hope that the other Valentine's Day present she had for Angel would be the icing on the cake she was baking.

"What are you smiling at, Miss. Summers?" Angel suddenly asked, breaking Buffy's reverie.

"Nothing. Just thinking."

"About?"

Buffy turned in the passenger seat of Angel's car to look at him. "The last couple of weeks. Today. Tonight. So much has changed."

"But they've been good changes, don't you think?" Angel glanced back at the road.

"Mmm... Good, but hectic. Who would have thought two and a half weeks ago that things could be they way they are? That things would be so good? That Mom and Giles would be married and on their way to England for their honeymoon right now? I was just getting used to the idea that they actually... Well, you know?"

"What?" Angel chuckled. "Do you think that people actually stop making love when they get older, Buffy?"

"I don't know, Angel. I've never been old or had sex for that matter. It just seems weird, that's all."
Angel looked over at her again. "What's so weird about it? The being old part or the part where your mom is still having sex?"

"M-Maybe a little of both." Buffy answered honestly. This was the first time she and Angel had openly discussed sex since she had told him she was a virgin, and even though it wasn't about them it was still something to build on. "Just answer me one question, Angel. Do you honestly think that when you're Mom and Giles' age that you and your wife, girlfriend,or whatever will still be... You know? Copulating like bunnies?"

Angel burst into laughter. "Copulating like bunnies, Buffy? I thought *a happy* was a bad reference but that... Where the hell did you get that from?"

"Xander and Anya." Buffy mumbled, turning back around in her seat. "And if I had known you were going to laugh at me I wouldn't have said anything. I was just trying to make sure that you got my point."

"I'm sorry, baby. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings." Angel reached for her hand and brought it to his lips. "And I wasn't laughing at you. It's just... That sounded exactly like something Anya and Xander would say. And I do get your point. I've had sex before."

"Y-You have? I-I mean, o-of course, you have..." She gestured to him. "Look at you... You're gorgeous. I bet you had...have women throwing themselves at you all the time."

Angel suddenly let go of her hand. "That doesn't mean I jumped on the opportunity every time it was offered to me, Buffy."

Buffy was a little stunned at the harshness of his words. "A-Angel, I wasn't..."

"Just forget about it, Buffy."

"Angel..."

Even in the dark interior of the car Buffy could see the muscle in his jaw twitching. "I said just drop it, Buffy."

The remainder of the trip was spent in tense silence. Including the trip up the elevator to Angel's penthouse. By the time he had their suitcases inside, and shut the door Buffy was strung so tight she felt like a rubber band about to snap at any moment. She wanted so badly to fix things, but she knew he was pretty angry, and she wasn't sure exactly how to get through that anger to make him understand what she had meant. "Angel..." She spun around in the living room, not bothering to take in the interior of the place, and noticed that he already had her suitcase in his hands again. "I'll give you a grand tour of the place in the morning. It's late, we've both had a long day, and we're going to have another one like it tomorrow. We should turn in." He moved past her. "Come on, I'll show you where your room is."

He started out of the living room, and she had no choice but to follow him. Within seconds he was opening up a door, and switching on a light while she looked around the bedroom. The room was huge. With a large picture window and hard wood floors. But it wasn't the view from the window that had her so riveted. It was the antique sleigh bed in the center of the room, and the see through glass encased shower bigger than her own bedroom directly behind it. Erotic images began to flood her head as she stared at the two closely knitted objects, and God help her, she couldn't chase them away. She could see her and Angel making love in the both of them.

"Buffy?"

With a silent groan, Buffy jerked herself out of her bad thoughts, and snatched her eyes from the bed and shower to find Angel staring at her. "W-What?"

"Did you hear what I said?"

"N-No. I'm sorry. I guess I uhh... Just spaced for a second. I'm sorry. Y-You were saying?"

Angel gave her a funny look then pointed to an open door. "As I was saying, that's the bathroom. There's a whirlpool tub if you want to use it. If not, there's the uhh..." He pointed to the glass directly behind the bed. "That's the shower. I had the cleaning lady come by today and stock all the toiletries. The closet is over there, and you're welcome to use the dresser over there if you want." He turned around to face her. "I think that's everything, but if you need anything I'm right across the hall. I told my mom we would be at her house by eight thirty so don't forget to set your alarm clock for a time that'll give you plenty of time to get ready." He moved past her and headed for the door. "Get a good night's sleep. I'll see you in the morning." And then he was disappearing out the door, quietly shutting it behind him, and leaving her alone and in tears.

***

"Buffy?"

Buffy snapped out of her thoughts, and looked up from her plate to find Katherine O'Conner staring at her in concern. "I-I'm sorry, Mrs. O'Conner. Did you say something?"

"I just wanted to know if something was wrong with your food, sweetie. You've barely touched anything. Are you feeling okay? You look a little pale. Maybe I should fix you some hot tea."

Buffy's gaze darted to Angel, but she quickly looked away when she found him frowning at her. "N-No. No. Everything's fine, Mrs. O'Conner. Honest. Please don't go to any extra trouble. I-I'm just not hungry, that's all. I uhh... Nauseous. I'm feeling a little nauseous. Nerves. No offense to you, but I really don't like LA very much. B-Bad memories. H-Hank... My real father, he uhh... lives here and I haven't seen him in a really long time, and then there's the hospital. I hate that place."

"Hospital?" Katherine O'Conner eyed Buffy worriedly. "What about the hospital?"
Buffy realized her slip, and looked down at her plate. "Ch-Children's Hospital. I umm... My cousin... She has... Had leukemia. Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia. Sh-She was diagnosed when she was twelve. She went into remission a year later after lots of chemo, but the leukemia returned when she was fourteen. I umm... she had a bone marrow transplant and has been in remission a-again for two years. I umm... I used to g-go visit her in the hospital a-alot. I s-saw alot. I-It wasn't a very fun experience. I try not to talk about it, and it's pretty much t-turned me off to LA all t-
together."

"Why didn't you tell me about her?" Angel asked, staring at her across the table.

"I-I was afraid t-to. B-Because of your d-dad." Buffy mumbled, still staring at her plate.

Katherine O'Conner laid her silverware down. "You said your cousin was in remission. Is she okay now?"

"Yeah, but she's not out of the woods." Buffy looked up at Katherine O'Conner again. "Th-The type of leukemia she has... had. It's been known to reaccur even after a transplant, and it is usually very aggressive when it does. With each reaccurance the chances of death... There's always the possibility that she could die young hanging over her head."

"Poor dear." Katherine murmured. "Was there any side affects from the chemo?"

"Oh, yeah. There was the short term stuff like hair loss, nausea and vomiting, fatigue. A-And then there was the long term stuff. Damaging stuff. Puberty was delayed because of damage to her ovaries, a-and I umm... she'll never be able to have kids. Th-That was the hardest thing on her. Worse th-than the thought of dying." Buffy looked back down at her plate as she struggled not to cry. "I umm... She was so afraid that no one would ever be able to love her because of it, but thankfully she's met someone she hopes can look past all that and l-love her anyway." She looked back up to find Angel and Katherine watching her sadly. "God, I am so sorry. I'm totally babbling, and depressing the both of you. I told you LA was bad for me. That combined with the smog..." She scooted back her chair, and stood up. "Still, smog or not I think I'm going to go get some air. Excuse me." Without another word she quickly disappeared out the kitchen door.

Angel started to go after her, but Katherine's hand shot out to push him back down in his chair. "Okay, Angelus Liam O'Conner. What is wrong with that child? And don't you dare tell me she's normally like that because any fool can see that she is upset about something."

Angel ran a hand through his hair in frustration. "We sort of had a fight last night."

"Sort of, Angel. There's no sort of to it. Either you had a fight or you didn't. Now which one is it?"

"She pissed me off, okay, Mom! She has hangups about men and money, and I really thought that we had worked through them, but then she ups and says something last night that rubbed me the wrong way. I know now she didn't mean it the way it sounded, but I was so angry at her last night I dumped her in her room and went off to mine to stew. I had every intention of fixing things this morning, but when I got up she was already up, and she'll barely look at me much less speak to me."

"God damnit, Angel! You are so much like your father it's pathetic!"

"Will you please refrain from yelling and swearing at me, Mom! I know I reacted badly, but I couldn't help it. She drives me crazy! And I'm not just talking about when she makes me angry either. If she smiles or laughs, I turn to mush. If she cries it literally tears me to pieces. And that pout of hers... God, don't even get me started on that... And then there's this..." He waved his hand in the air. "Whatever the hell it is, and it's more than just killing me... She drives me crazy!" He buried his face in his hands.

Katherine laughed, and leaned over to hug him. "My poor, poor baby. Welcome to the wonderful world of love."

Angel raised his gaze to his mother's. "I do. God, I love her so much, Mom. I never knew it was possible to love someone that much."

"Oh, it's possible. Very possible. I know because that's the way I loved... love your father." Katherine quickly sobered and slapped Angel's arm.

"Oww, Mom! What the hell did you do that for?" Angel yelled.

"To wake you up and point you in the right direction. You love her, so that means you can suck all this up and say you're sorry until she forgives you." She reached into her apron pocket, and pulled something out, handing it to Angel.

Angel took the small black velvet bag from her. "What's this?"

"Something your father wanted you to have when you were ready. I think you're ready now." Katherine stood up. "It's the second step in the right direction. Now it's up to you to make sure things stay on track. I'm going to check on her. Give you time to figure out just exactly how you're going to do it." She headed for the kitchen door. "Oh, and Angel... Do the dishes while you're at it."

***

Buffy was sitting in a chair looking out over the small pond behind Katherine O'Conner's house when the woman in question appeared at her side, and sat down in the chair beside her. "Feeling better?"

"No."

"I know it seems like the end of the world right now, Buffy but I promise you it's not."

"Are you sure?" Buffy looked over at her with tear filled eyes.

Katherine took her hand. "One time Liam and I got into this huge argument. Gods, I don't even remember what it was about now, but I do remember that he didn't speak to me for over a week, and he slept on the sofa. My point is that just as soon as he calmed down enough we made up, and nine months later Angel was born."

Buffy sniffled. "He's never really been mad at me before. Not like this. And it was so stupid. I said something really stupid, and I knew the moment it left my mouth he would take it wrong. I tried to explain. Fix it. But he wouldn't listen."
"It's that Irish temper of his, honey." Katherine patted her hand. "The only thing I can tell you is that if you plan to stick around you need to find a way to work around it."

"I can handle his temper, and his broodiness, Mrs. O'Conner. It's the not sharing that I can't handle. In the short time I've known Angel I've opened myself up more to him than anyone, and that includes my mom, and my brother, who I'm very close with. But of all the things I've shared with him there's one thing I haven't told him, and it's the most important. I love him. I love him so much, but I'm afraid that whoever she is I'll never be able to take her place in his heart, and I'm not telling you this because I'm trying to milk you for information. I'm telling you this because whoever she is she's an idiot for letting him go. He's the most incredible man I have ever met. He's sweet, kind, generous, and so loving. I've been very blessed to have him in my life."

"Buffy..." Katherine O'Conner started to say, but was stopped by someone else's voice. "Well, well. What do we have here?"

Both Buffy and Katherine startled at the voice, and Katherine looked up just in time to see a figure moving around in front of her chair. "Damnit, William! How many times have I told you and Angel not to sneak up on me like that? You almost gave me a heart attack!"

"Sorry, Mom." The peroxide blonde male replied leaning down to kiss her cheek. "I was on my way into the house when I saw you out here talking to..." He raised up to look at Buffy. "I'm sorry, pet. What's your name?"

Katherine stood up. "William, this is Buffy. Buffy Summers. She's Angel's girlfriend."

William tore his eyes away from Buffy, and looked back at his mother. "Now why did you have to go and tell me that, Mom? I was hoping she was a present for me."

Katherine playfully slapped him. "Behave and introduce yourself, William."

"Buffy..." William extended his hand. "The pleasure is all mine."

Buffy stood up and accepted William's hand. "It's nice to meet you, William."

"William, I thought you were going out of town this weekend?" Katherine asked her oldest son.

"My trip got cut short." William reluctantly pulled his hand from Buffy's and turned back to his mother. "I'm glad now, too." He glanced back over at Buffy. "Things look much more exciting here."

"I'm glad, too." Katherine smiled. "Now maybe you and your brother can talk. And speaking of your brother, I think I'll go see what's taking him so long. Could you keep Buffy company while I do?"

"I'd be honored to keep Buffy company, Mom." William replied, his eyes still trained on Buffy.

Katherine turned to Buffy. "I'll be right back, Buffy."

"Okay, Mrs. O'Conner." Buffy smiled and watched Katherine disappear before turning back to the man that was making her uneasy with his open staring.

"So, pet... You belong to my brother. Bummer."

"Maybe for you, but it's not a bummer for me."
William chuckled. "My, my. You are a fiesty one, aren't you?"

Buffy met his gaze. "Only when someone makes me uneasy."

"Are you trying to tell me something, love?"

Buffy's eyes flared. "I'm not your love, and yes I am."

William quickly sobered. "I'm sorry, Buffy. I didn't mean to make you uneasy. I'm just having a hard time getting over the fact that you're with my brother."

Buffy crossed her arms in front of her chest. "And why exactly is that, William? Your brother happens to be a pretty incredible man."

"And rich." William stated. "Let's not forget that he's rich, Buffy. Filthy rich."

"I could care less about Angel's money, William. That's not why I'm with him."

"You know, that's what his last girlfriend said, too but it was all a lie. Took the little bastard three years, and a small fortune for him to figure it out, though. So tell me, Buffy. Are you going to play him like she did? Because I would be more than happy to help you just like I helped her. For a price, of course." He leered.

Buffy could feel her blood boiling. "Let's get one thing straight right now, William. I am not her. I am the woman that loves your brother with all my heart. Love. I love him. Not his money. And as for you... I would be fucking crazy to throw away what I have with Angel for a loser like you!" Buffy turned to leave, but she suddenly swung back around. "Oh, and one more thing, William..." She hauled off and punched him. "No one... And I mean no one... insults my boyfriend and gets by with it."

William staggered back in shock, and reached up to wipe the blood of his lip. "Why you little..."

He started towards her, but Buffy didn't stick around to give him the chance to retaliate. She took off running towards the house, and was in such a hurry she didn't see what she had collided with until her head shot up to met the eyes of the man who's honor she had just defended. "Buffy?" Angel's arms came around her to steady her. "Baby, what's..."

"I want to go home, Angel." She glanced over her shoulder at an approaching William, then back at him. "Now!"

Then she pushed away from him and ran into the house, leaving a very pissed off Angel alone with his brother.

"You did something to her, didn't you?" Angel stalked towards his brother. "What the hell did you do to her?" He growled.

"Me? Me?" William yelled, backing away from his brother. "The only thing I did was call you a little bastard like I always do!" He reached up to swipe at the blood on his already swollen lip. "She hit me! That bloody little bint got mad at me for insulting you and defended your honor. She hit me!"

Angel stopped in his tracks, and eyed William as he toyed with his lip. "She hit you?"

"Didn't I just say that, Angelus!" He poked at his lip again. "Man, for someone so tiny she sure as hell packs a punch. She damn near knocked my teeth out!"

***

"Buffy!" Angel called out as he followed her into the penthouse.

"I'm not fighting with you, Angel." She yelled over her shoulder.

"Why? Because you've already been in one fight today?"

Buffy halted in her steps.

"You hit him."

"Yeah, well, he deserved it." She spun around to look at him, nailing him with her angry eyes. "He's an asshole just like you. Must run in the family." She turned back around and headed down the hallway to the bedrom.

"Are you going to tell me what happened?" Angel asked as he leaned against the doorway, and watched her.

"No." She walked over to the closet, and pulled out the garment bag hanging inside. "The only thing I'm going to do is go home."

"I don't want to go home."

"I didn't say anything about you going home, Angel. I'm leaving. Me. It's singular for one person. Me. Not you. Me."

"I don't want you to go home either, Buffy."

"That's really funny, because with the way you've been avoiding me last night and today I was under the impression you did."

"God damnit, Buffy..." Angel pushed away from the doorway.

She shoved the garment bag back on the rack, and spun around to face him again. "Who is she?"

"W-What?" He blinked in surprise.

"I want to know who she is, Angel. This woman. The one your brother told me he helped play you. Who is she? Because believe it or not I am not her." Buffy turned away from him again. "Last night... It came out wrong. What I said. I didn't mean it the way it sounded. It's just... You were opening up to me... About sex. A-And all I was doing was trying to find out w-why you always pull away from me when things get intense between us. Maybe it was wrong of me, but I couldn't help it. I always knew that you had been with other women even though you never really came out and said so, and all I was trying to do was find out what they had that I didn't. I was trying to find out why you would sleep with them and not me."

"Buffy..."

"No, Angel." She turned around to face him, and held up her hand. "Please let me say this. I need to say this, so let me finish." She took a deep steadying breath. "Last night when you dumped me in this room and went off to brood I spent the entire night beating myself up for being such an idiot. For being insecure about your money. For being inexperienced and not knowing how to please you. For always saying idiotic things at the most inappropriate times. I honest to God thought that I was the real idiot here, but then William opened my eyes. He opened my eyes when he accused me of being another her."

Angel's dark gaze locked with her pained one. "Is that why you hit him? Because he accused you of being like Darla?"

"D-Darla? Her n-name is Darla?" Buffy's eyes welled up with tears, and she turned away to keep him from seeing them. "W-Well, at least now the problem has a name."

"Problem? What problem?" Angel asked confused.

"DARLA!" Buffy yelled. "William... After he accused me of being her everything became so clear. I am not the problem here, Angel. The problem is her. The problem is I'm not her. The reason you won't let me in... The reason you won't sleep with me... It's because you're still in love with her! And once I realized that I came to the conclusion that I'm not the real idiot here after all. The real idiot is you, Angel." She spun back around, tears coursing down her cheeks. "You're the real idiot for loving someone that obviously doesn't give a damn about you! The real you! She doesn't deserve your love, and you're an idiot for not seeing that. You're an idiot because if you would just open your eyes and take a look... a good look, Angel. You would see that the woman you deserve... The one that can love you with all her heart, body, and soul... She's standing right here. That woman is me, Angel. Me! And God, I love you. I love you so much!"

Angel stared at Buffy in shock, not quite sure he had heard what she had just said. "W-What did you just say?"

"God! You really are an idiot, Angel!" Buffy screamed. "I just told you I love you. I ..." But before Buffy could get the words out of her mouth again Angel rushed forward, and scooped her up in his arms, crushing her to him just as his lips crashed down to claim hers, and he didn't pull away from her until the need for air forced him to.

"W-Why did you do that?" Buffy whispered shakily a few moments later.

Angel leaned his forehead against Buffy's and looked deeply into her eyes. "Because I don't love Darla, Buffy. I never did."

"A-Angel..." Buffy sniffled."

"Shh... It's my turn to talk. Just listen, okay. I don't love Darla, Buffy. I never did, and I never ever said those words to her or anyone else. Never. And just so you know, it was never about what they had that you didn't. It's all about what you have that they never will, and that's my love. I love you too, Elizabeth Ann Summers. I love you."

Buffy couldn't quite believe what she was hearing. "Y-You love me?"

"Yes." Angel's hands came up to frame Buffy's face. "So much it terrifies me. And before you ask because I know you're gonna, the reason why I haven't slept with you as you put it is exactly that. It's because I do love you. I told you, baby. If I wanted sex I could get that anywhere, and that's all it was with Darla... With the others. But with you... It's not that I don't want you, Buffy because God knows I do. I want you more than I've ever wanted anyone or anything in my life. I love you. It's that plain and simple. That's why I always pull away. I love you, and I didn't... don't want to rush you into doing something you're not ready to do. It's because I loved you that I was willing to wait until you were ready. . I was willing to wait forever if I had to because I didn't want it to be just sex between us. I wanted it... I want it to be making love."

Buffy reached up to caress Angel's cheek. "Then don't wait any longer. Make love to me, Angel."

"Buffy..." Angel nuzzled his lips into the palm of her hand. "Baby, you don't have to do this..."

"I know..." She whispered. "I want to. I want to be with you, Angel. I love you, and I want to make love with you. Now..." She pressed herself as close as she could get to him. "Please..."

"Are you sure?" His eyes searched her face.

"Yes. Make love to me. Please, Angel..."

Her plea was Angel's undoing, and with a growl his lips came down to claim hers.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Thanks to Ashleigh, Christine, Karen, Michelle, Emma, Stochey, Jade, Court, Erin, L.J., Kolumbyne, Jane, and Ryan for their feedback last chapter.
*AN* Okay Kiddies I know I made a booboo the last chapter and told you it was NC-17, but actually it's this one. That means stay away unless you have permission by your parents!
CHAPTER 26


Buffy was so lost in Angel she didn't even realize that he had backed her towards the bed. Not until they had reached it and he broke the kiss to place one knee on it, and lower her to the mattresses. The only sound that could be heard in the room after that was the soft hiss of clothing being removed, and then he was kneeling above her again, his eyes tracing over her, drinking her in from head to toe, etching every little detail into his memory. "You know, I fantasized about this. Making love to you in this room. This bed. That's why I couldn't sleep here."

"I don't understand, Angel." Buffy's eyes searched his face. "What do you mean..."

"Shh... Later. I'll explain later." He murmured as his body came down to blanket hers. "Right now I want to love you."

The wash of electricity that stole over Buffy as he whispered those words and they came flesh to flesh was so indescribable that she couldn't help but moan low in her throat. But she was soon to discover that what she was experiencing was just the tip of the iceberg, and the proof came in the form of Angel peppering butterfly kisses over her face, and down the curve of her neck where he stopped to lave at the delicate flesh there.

While Angel's lips focused on the nape of Buffy's neck, his tender fingers and hot palms began a tantilizing journey over her silkiness until he was cupping her breasts. Buffy moaned again, and arched her back into his touch as he used the pads of his thumbs to coax her nipples into tiny pebbled nubs. Soon his lips were moving again, kissing every adorable inch of her skin until his mouth was replacing his hands at her breasts. He took his time loving first one nipple then the other. Kissing, suckling, licking, and nipping at the sensitive peaks. "A-
Angel..." Buffy cried out, and used her hands to hold him to her chest. "God that feels..."

A half smile played across Angel's lips as his lover's words rushed over him, and they urged him to move onwards. He explored her delicate curves with his lips, leaving nothing untouched, and before she knew it he was trailing a scorching journey down over her slick stomach until he was kneeling at the apex of her thighs. He ran his fingers through her golden curls and watched the look of wonderment and pleasure wash over her face as he slid one finger inside her moist, tight sheath. Buffy once again yelled out his name, and bucked her hips up in response as he inserted a second finger inside her channel and toyed with the small button that contained her most sensitive nerves. He continued his ministrations until he felt her innermost muscles clench around him, and she let out a cry of half-shock, half-
ecstasy.

As Buffy's warm, sweet ambrosia slipped from her, Angel climbed up her body and perched himself at her entrance. Reining in what little self control he had left, he locked eyes with his lady love. "Buffy... Baby..."

"I-It's okay... " She panted, and smoothed her hands over his face. "I love you, Angel. I-I need you. Love me. Please love me." She arched up against him, urging him to possess her, and he took her invitation by slowly slidding into her until he met the barrier of her maidenhead. He heard her gasp, and his lips swooped down to claim hers just as he eased through the obstacle and buried himself deep inside of her. He didn't move for what seemed like forever, giving her body time to stretch and accomodate him, and then he achingly slowly began a rhythm as old as time. "Jesus, Buffy... Baby, you feel... Love you."

Buffy wrapped her legs around Angel as he slowly began to ease in and out of her. She pushed her hips up, meeting his thrusts, and she could feel the same fire as before begin to build in the pit of her stomach. "A-Angel... I love you. IloveyouIloveyouIloveyou." She cried out as her hands roamed over the valleys and planes of muscles revealed to her innocent explorations.

Angel's gaze locked with hers as he sped up the pace of their lovemaking. He could feel how close she was, how close he was, and he knew that at any moment their souls would collide. "I love you, Buffy. I love you." He cried out as he felt her surrender to ecstasy. His name tore from her lips again, and the intense contractions of her inner muscles pushed him over the edge. He slammed into her, whispering her name against her hair as he too surrendered to pure bliss and spilled his seed deep inside her.

Buffy cradled Angel gently against her as she struggled to catch her breath, and lovingly stroked his hair as he nuzzled into her neck. Beautiful. No one had ever told her that making love could be that beautiful, and laying there in the afterglow with Angel was perfect. So right. That was until Angel suddenly shot up, bracing himself above her with panic written all over his face. "Protection... Oh God, Buffy. We didn't... I didn't.... I forgot to use protection."

"It's okay, honey." She reached up to smooth the panic lines off his face. "I've got it covered. I'm uhh... I'm on the pill. I have been since I was fifteen."

"The pill? But you..."

"I take it to regulate my periods." She threaded her fingers through his hair as tears began to seep from the corners of her eyes. "Now shut up, kiss me, and tell me that what just happened was as beautiful for you as it was for me."

"God yes, Buffy..." He kissed the tears from her face. "It was. It was more than beautiful."

"Really?" She looked deeply into his eyes.

"Really. Words can't describe it." He feathered a kiss across her lips then rolled over her, bringing her with him. "I've had sex before, Buffy but I've never made love. Not until now..." He turned his head to look at her. "Not until you. So I guess in away it's my first time, too."

Buffy's eyes welled up with more tears. "How come you always know the right things to say to me?"

"Maybe because I love you." He smiled.

"Maybe?" She whispered.

"No, there's no maybe to it. I do. I love you." He pulled her face up to his. "So very very much." Their lips met in a tender sweet kiss that soon turned passionate, and once again the two lovers completely lost themselves in each other.

***

"I can't believe you didn't say anything, Buffy." Angel muttered as he lifted the ice pack up to look at Buffy's swollen hand a little while later.

"You know, it's funny." Buffy murmured, watching him under hooded lashes. "But for some reason you seemed to have the ability to make me forget all about the pain for awhile. I would be more than willing to let you do again."

Angel ignored her statement, and frowned as he ran his fingers over the top of her very bruised hand. "This doesn't look good. It could be broken. Maybe I should take you to the hospital to get it x-rayed."

"No." Buffy shook her head.

His gaze shot up to meet hers. "Buffy... Baby..."

"No. No hospital, Angel. I hate them." She picked up the ice pack with her good hand, and threw it in the bedroom floor. "Besides, it's fine." She held up her hand and wiggled her fingers in front of his face, doing her best to ignore the throbbing pain shooting up her arm. "See, g-good as new."

He gently took her hand, and heard her hiss in pain. "Uh uh, baby. That bit doesn't work with me anymore."

"I love you." She murmured scooting over in his bed, and pressing herself seductively up against him.

"I'm not falling for that either." He replied firmly, but at the same time couldn't resist slipping his arms around her.

"You're not?" She pouted.

"No." He muttered, doing his best to resist the urge to lean over and nibble at her adorable bottom lip. "Hospital..." He managed to choke out. "Let me take you to the hospital."

"No."

"Buffy..."

"Angel! It's fine. Honest. Besides, we have tickets to the Mushi Dance Company tonight."

"That's the Moiseyev Dance Company, and you're more important than any damn tickets, Buffy. Way more important."

"No. No hospital. I won't go."

"Buffy, baby I know you don't like hospitals but you need to make sure that hand isn't broken, and I promise I'll stay by your side every second."

"NO! I'm not going, Angel." She began to visibly shake. "I can't go. Don't make me go." A sob tore from her throat. "Please don't make me go."

"Hey, hey..." Angel could see her obvious distress, and pulled her closer. "Shh... It's okay. It's okay. I won't make you go. You're safe. I promise. Please don't cry. Please don't cry, baby. You know I hate to see you cry."

"I-I w-wish to G-God I h-hadn't hit th-that asshole. I should h-have killed h-him instead." She sobbed into his chest.

"Why did you hit that asshole, by the way?" He murmured, soothing her naked back with his hands. "You never got around to telling me."

"I-I didn't?" She pulled away to look at him.

"No." He rewarded her with that sexy lopsided smile she loved so much. "We sort of got distracted."

"B-But it was a good kind of d-distracted." She sniffled, and smiled.

"The best." He brushed her lips with his. "Now back to the question at hand. Why did you hit Spike, my love?"

"He insulted you." She locked eyes with him. "Not just that, I wanted to hurt him the way he had hurt you."

Angel didn't think he could have loved her any more than he did at that moment. "God, I love you, Buffy Summers." He reached for her bruised hand again, and placed delicate kisses along the knuckles.

Buffy watched him lovingly for a moment. "Angel?"

"Hmm?" He asked, giving her knuckles one last kiss.

"Do you think I did? Hurt him, I mean? Maybe just a little?"

He chuckled. "I would say more than just a little, beloved. He said you damn near knocked his teeth out. I may just have to start calling you slugger."

"No, not slugger. Call me Buffy the slayer." She smiled at him. "Nobody messes with my boyfriend. Nobody. I don't care if it is just an insult. I'll kill any fool stupid enough to try it."

Angel was listening to her, and suddenly an idea started forming in his head, but just as quickly as it started he ended it because the keeper of his heart was seeking his attention, and she was the most important thing to him. "I'm sorry, baby. You were saying?"

Buffy frowned. "Is something wrong, Angel?"

"No. No." He settled up against her again. "Perfect. Everything's just perfect."

"Really?" She searched his face.

"Really." He brushed another kiss across her lips. "In fact, everything is so perfect I think I should give you your Valentine's Day present now." He dropped another kiss on her lips then slid from the bed in all his glory. Buffy eyed him appreciatively as he knelt down to rummage through the pocket of his trousers that had quickly been discarded on the floor before their first round of lovemaking. When he found what he was looking for he returned to the bed and helped her sit up beside him. "Close your eyes." He murmured huskily.

Buffy eyed him warily for a moment then did as he asked. "Okay, you can open them now." When she did, she gasped as her eyes caught sight of the ring he was holding up in front of her. "A-Angel..."

"It's a claddagh ring. My dad's people exchange them as a sign of devotion." He pointed to the crown. "The crown represents loyalty." He pointed to the hands. "The hands represent friendship." And then he pointed to the heart. "And the heart represents..." He smiled at her. "Well, I think you know what it means." He took her left hand and slid the ring on her ring finger pointing towards her. "When you wear it with the heart pointing towards you it means you belong to someone." He let go of her hand and raised his to show her the twin of her ring resting on his finger with the heart pointing towards him. "Like I belong to you, Buffy."

Buffy stared at the ring on her finger. "I-It's beautiful." She leaned over to tenderly kiss him. "Thank you. I love it just like I love you."

Angel laid back down on the bed, and pulled her down beside him. "These rings have been passed down through my family since the seventeenth century. A father gives them to his son when he finds love. My Grandfather O'Conner gave them to my dad the day he left Ireland because he wanted him to carry on the tradition no matter what. Dad gave Mom hers the first time he told her he loved her. She never took it off after that day. Not even after he died. I always thought Dad had been buried with his until today, and I figured Mom would want the same when her time came, but then this morning I told her how I felt about you and she handed me this black velvet bag, and told me that Dad wanted me to have them when the time was right and that she felt like that time was now." He locked eyes with her. "Well, she told me that right after she gave me a tongue lashing for being such an idiot."

"Smart woman." Buffy murmured, gazing into his eyes.

"Yeah, just like someone else I know." His lips began to inch ever so closely to hers.

"Uhh, honey?" Buffy eyed Angel's approaching lips.

"What?" He asked, his lips only a breath away.

"M-Mushi D-Dance C-Company." She stammered as his tongue darted out to tease her bottom lip.

Angel pulled away with a groan. "Can't we just skip it, and stay in bed instead?"

Buffy raised up to look at him. "Not on your life, buster. My mom bought me this incredible dress on my birthday shopping spree. One that is guaranteed to knock your socks off, but me or the dress can't do that if we stay in bed."

"No, but we can do lots of other things."He wiggled his eyebrows suggestively.

"Angel!" Buffy began to pout. "Honey, I want to wear my dress for you."

He pulled her down on top of him. "And I want to make love to you."

Buffy gasped as she came into contact with his erection. "I umm... Y-You could still do that a-
and take m-me out."

"And just exactly how can I do both things at once?" He began to nip at her collarbone.

"Th-The sh-shower. I umm... Not that I've ever... Well... I-I uhh... See, this is the thing. I uhh... Every since I walked into this room and I saw the shower I can't seem to get these images out of m-my head."

"What images?"

"Of you and me." She said a little breathlessly. "Together." Her tongue darted out to lick her lips. "A-And I was wondering. Is it possible? To...you know? Do what I've been imagining?"

"Oh yeah." He groaned. "It's possible. More than possible."

"So? Do you?" She trailed a finger down his chest while her eyes locked with his. "Want to show me how, I mean? And while were at it we could get cleaned up to go out."

Angel raised up to look at her. "You fantasized about us making love in the shower?"

Buffy looked down into his chocolate depths. "Uh huh. So do you? Want to make my fantasy come true, I mean?"

The only reply she got in response from him was him scrambling from the bed, and tossing her over his shoulder to carry her into the object behind her fantasy.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Thanks to Buffygrl521, Kim, Court, VengfulVixen3, Kolumbyne, and Ryan for their feedback last chapter.
CHAPTER 27


"Buffy..." Angel knocked on the bedroom door. "Baby, the limo is here."

"Just a sec." He heard her call through the closed door. A few moments later the door came open, and Angel caught his breath at the vision standing before him.

Buffy timidly stepped into the hallway, and pulled the bedroom door closed. "Hey."

Speechless. Angel was completely speechless. All he could do was stand riveted to his spot, and drink her in.

"Angel?" Buffy stared worriedly at him. "Say something please." She smoothed her hands over her dress and looked back up at him. "Do I... Is this okay?"

"It worked." He murmured huskily, his gaze traveling over her again. A vision. She was an ice blue, two piece gown. The top was strapless with a lace up back, and was beaded with iredescent rhinestones and iredescent soutache trim, while the skirt was a fitted trumpet style with a sweep train. For an added affect she had pinned her golden tresses up on her head, and had a few stray tendrils curled around her face.

"W-What worked?" She asked confused.

"You just knocked my socks off." He shifted uncomfortably on his feet. "Again."

"Really?" She searched his face.

He nodded, still a little speechless. "I-I'm completely floored."

She started giggling, and he melted into a huge puddle. "Is that why you're still standing so far away?"

His dark gaze fastened with hers. "I'm afraid to touch you. I'm afraid I won't be able to keep my hands off you if I do."

Buffy blinked back tears. "Gods, you really know how to make a girl feel pretty."

Angel finally moved. Closing the distance her, he pulled her into his arms. "No, not a girl, Buffy. A woman. You're a woman, and you're more than pretty. You're exquisite." His lips came down to claim hers, and several moments went be before they finally pulled away from each other. "Are you sure you don't want to stay home?" He asked, leaning his head against hers.

"I'm starving."

"So am I." He grinned seductively.

"Angel!" She playfully slapped him. "I meant for food. Now take me out and feed me dinner."

"I'd rather skip dinner."

"Sorry, mister but you can't."

"Why not?"

"Because you're going to need the food for extra energy."

"Oh, really..." He cocked an eyebrow. "And why exactly will I need the extra energy?"

"To open your present."

"You got me a present?"

"Uh huh." Buffy nodded.

Angel grinned. "Can I open it now?"

"Nope."

"Why not?"

She stood up on tiptoe, and brushed a kiss across his lips. "Because it's under the dress, and you're not unwrapping it until you feed me and take me out for a night on the town." With that said she gave him another quick kiss to get her point across then turned and started down the hallway.

"I knew it." Angel muttered as he watched the sway of her hips as she moved down the hallway. "I knew she was going to be the death of me."

***

"So what do you think so far?" Angel asked Buffy as the left the theater, and entered the lobby of the Beverly Willshire.

"Incredible. The day... Dinner... This... Just being here with you..." Buffy smiled up at him. "It's incredible."

"I couldn't agree with you more." He murmured, pulling her close to his side, and kissing the crown of her head. He lead her over to the bar and helped her to sit down in an empty stool. "Do you want something to drink? And don't ask for anything nectary because you're not getting it." He sat down on the stool beside her.

Buffy looked over at him in surprise. "H-How did you..."

He grinned. "I have another confession to make."

"Oh, really." She asked through narrowed eyes.

Angel chuckled. "It's not bad. I swear. It's just that the first night I saw you, I sort of overheard more of your conversation to Tony than I let on. I told you I was blown away by you." He leaned over to brush a kiss across her lips. "I wanted to know everything about you, so I eavesdropped on your entire conversation. I remember every word you said to him including what you ordered." He took her hand in his. "Blown away. I was completely blown away by you. I think I loved you from the first moment I saw you."

"Oh, Angel..." Buffy's eyes welled up with tears. "I love you."

"And I love..." Angel started to say, but was cut off by a woman's voice. "Angelus? Is that you?"

Buffy watched Angel tense, and turn around on his stool to face the voice. "Darla..." The minute the name left Angel's lips, Buffy felt her stomach lurch up into her throat. She, too turned around because curiosity got the best of her, and unfortunately she was sadly disappointed to discover that Angel's ex wasn't as ugly as she hoped. In fact, she was a very beautiful woman.
Darla's eyes moved over Angel. "Angelus, where the hell have you been? I've been trying to contact you for months, but that damn Cordelia and your publishing company refused to tell me where you were at."

"If you really wanted to know where I was at why didn't you just ask William, Darla? After all, he was the one I found you in my bed with."

Buffy nearly gasped from that startling information, but she held it in and watched the blonde's eyes well up with tears. "That was a mistake, Angelus. I haven't seen William since that day. I haven't been with anyone since that day. The only reason I'm here tonight is because I'm helping out my new boss. He brought some clients. It's you I love, Angelus. That's why I've been trying to reach you. I've straightened up. I want you back."

That brought Buffy to her feet. "A-Angel, I uhh... Maybe I should go back inside and let you two talk."

"No, baby." Angel slid his arms around Buffy's waist. "Stay. I want you here with me."

Darla looked back and forth between Buffy and Angel. "Angel? Baby? Angelus, who the hell is this girl?"

Angel's arm tightened around Buffy's waist. "Not that it concerns you, Darla but this is..."

"Buffy?"

Buffy's eyes widened in shock at the sound of the other voice, and her legs would have buckled if Angel's arm hadn't been around her. "H-Hank?" She whispered.

A blonde headed man in his early forties moved up beside Darla. "Buffy... I can't believe it. Is it really you?" The man moved past Darla, and took a step towards Buffy "My God, Pumpkin look at you... You're beautiful."

Buffy clutched Angel's hand that was around her waist. "St-Stay away from me."

Her words brought Angel to his feet, and stopped Hank Summers in his tracks. "Sir, I would listen to the lady if I were you."

Hank's gaze moved to Angel. "Young man, I don't know who the hell you are, but this is my daughter."

That little piece of information sent Darla moving around Hank Summers to face him. "Daugther? My God, Hank. I've been working for you for three months and I didn't even know you were married much less have a daugther."

"Stay out of this, Darla." Hank Summers snapped before turning back to Buffy. "Buffy, sweetie it's me. It's daddy. Aren't you going to say something to me?"

"No..." Buffy could feel the nausea begin to overwhelm her, and she leaned further against Angel. "No. You're not my father." She barely choked out.

"Buffy..." Hank stared at her in shock. "I am, too your father. I know it's been awhile, honey but it's still me. It's daddy."

"No." Buffy repeated louder. "You're not my father." This time she made sure he and everyone else in the room heard her. "All you did was give me life, but you are not my father. My father... My real father... I have two of them... The first one is in Sunnydale right now, and he's a wonderful man. He's taken care of me since the day I was born. His name is Doyle. Doyle Summers. Do you remember him, Hank? You should considering he's your son. The other child you conveniently forgot about when you ran off with your blonde bimbo of a secretary eight years ago. The one you just about pushed over the edge of destruction. He's my father. He's the one that raised me, and then there's Rupert Giles. You don't know him, but he's a wonderful man, too. So wonderful in fact, that he just wisked my mother off for a two week honeymoon in London, England. Giles and Doyle are my fathers. My real fathers." She gestured towards him."And you... You're nothing to me. NOTHING!" Her angry eyes moved to Darla. "And you... I'd watch it if I were you, honey. If you're expecting happily ever after you might as well hang it up because you are nothing to him but the next available fuck, and once he's done with you he'll move on to the new flavor of the month. And another thing... I'm telling you now to stay away from Angel. He's mine." She turned to Angel. "A-Angel, I'm not feeling so hot. Will you please take me home?"

Angel nodded and was leading Buffy past Hank Summers, and Darla when Darla's hand shot out to grab his arm. "Angelus, please at least tell me where I can reach you. I think we should talk. We can work this out. I know we can."

"No, we can't, Darla. It's over. It's been over." Angel shook her hand off, and met Hank Summers' eyes over her head. "Enjoy your new lover. You two deserve each other."

***

Buffy hadn't said a word since they had left the Beverly Wilshire, and Angel had given her the time to sort through things, but now they were almost home, and he couldn't take it anymore. He could feel her pain, and it was overwhelming him to the point that he had to say something. "Talk to me, Buffy. Are you okay?"

"Are you?" Buffy muttered, not bothering to look over at him.

"I'm fine." He reached for her hand, and took in his. "It's you I'm worried about."

"So... That was her? Darla? She's pretty... And she obviously wants you back..."

Angel sighed. "This isn't about me and Darla, Buffy. It's about you and your father, and what just happened back there. I know you're upset."

"Actually, I'm more upset about Darla wanting you back."

"Damnit, Buffy!" Angel swept a hand through his hair. "Why? Why are you so upset about Darla wanting me back? I told you earlier today that I never loved her. It was over with her a long time ago. What else do you want me to say?"

Buffy finally looked over at him. "That's why you broke up? Because she slept with William?"

"Yes."

She watched his face in the dim light of the limo. "In your bed?"

"Yes."

"You lived with her, didn't you?"

"Yes."

"H-How long?"

"Almost three years."

Buffy didn't think she could get any number than she already was, but she was wrong. How could she compete with someone he had shared a life with? Who was she kidding, she couldn't. Not in a million years, and the thought of that forced a bittersweet laugh to erupt from her throat. "S-So today... Was that you paying her back? Did you sleep with me in the same bed you shared with her, Angel?"

Angel snapped at her words, and before Buffy could blink he had her pinned down on the seat of the limo with his body. "Now you listen to me, Buffy Summers and you listen good. I love you!" He shook her. "Not her, YOU! And I'm sorry that I didn't tell you about her, but the truth is I didn't think she was even worth mentioning to you."

"N-Not worth mentioning? A-Angel, you lived with her for three years. You shared your life with her. How can she not be worth mentioning? How do I compete with that?"

"You don't have to compete, Buffy. I love you. My life is with you. And the life I had with her... It was never a life. It was three years of hell! I know that now. I know now that I was young. Stupid. Maybe even a little obsessed with her. I had a crush on her in high school. She was William's girlfriend for all four years. Miss. Popular. Homecoming Queen. Prom Queen. Cheerleader. And me... I was the outcast. The kid that none of the popular crowd wanted to be associated with because he was too smart, and that included my brother. He treated me like shit. I don't know maybe that's why I became so obsessed with her. Maybe I just wanted to hurt him. I fantasized about taking her away from him, but she wouldn't even give me the time of day. I still fantasized about her after I went away to Harvard, and she stayed here to attend UCLA with William. When they broke up in the middle of their freshman year I was thrilled. I thought I might finally get a chance with her, so I came home whenever I could, but it didn't do any good because she was enjoying the single life way too much. She was with a different guy every time I came home, and eventually I gave up. Focused on school, and having a life of my own. I sort of became Mr. Popularity myself after my first book hit the shelves, and I ate it up. I quit coming home except for Christmas, and I didn't see her again until after I graduated and moved back to LA."

"I was at a party to promote my new book, and she was there. She hit on me right away, and stupid me jumped on what was offered to me. I slept with her that same night, and had her moved into my apartment the next week. The first year we lived together we were always on the go. She loved the limelight, and even though I didn't care for it I went with her to make her happy. I was twenty years old, but that didn't matter to alot of people. I was a celebrity, and I was treated like one. I was offered everything from cocaine to alcohol, but the only thing I ever took was the booze. Darla on the other hand... We partied all the time, and when we weren't partying I was traveling to do book signings and promote my books. It was while I was on one of those trips that everything caught up with me. The partying, not sleeping, and traveling all the time. I collapsed from exhaustion. I was in the hospital for four days, and the doctors told me that if I didn't change my lifestyle I was going to end up dying at an early age. The thought of that... The fact that I had been so careless with my life woke me up. I decided to get my act together, and I told Darla that she was going to have to do the same. She promised me she would, but that promise lasted all of three months. She started going out by herself, and it wasn't long before I started hearing rumors that she was cheating on me. We fought all the time, and sometimes she even left, but she always ended up coming back and like a fool I welcomed her with open arms. We lived like that for two years, and then eight months ago I had to go to New York on business. We had been fighting before I left, and when I finished my business up earlier than expected I decided to come home and try to smooth things over with her. I planned to surprise her, but the only person

that got surprised was me. I walked in on her and Spike having sex in my bed. I walked out of there without so much as a word to either one of them, and I haven't been back since. I moved out of the apartment and gave everything inside of it goodwill, including all the furniture, and her belongings. I justed wanted a fresh start. I stayed with Cordelia until she found the mansion in Sunnydale, and once I decided that I was going to buy it I also bought the penthouse to have a place to stay whenever I was here in LA on business. There was no way in hell I was staying with Mom since William still lived with her, and it's not because of Darla either. He gets on my nerves. Always has, and I can't stand being around him for more than a couple of hours at the most. I'll admit I was in a slump for months after it happened, but now that I look back on it my broodiness wasn't because I loved her, and that she had broke my heart when she slept with William. My broodiness was because I wasted so much time on her when I could have been spending that time finding someone to love."

His eyes locked with hers. "Time I could have spent finding you, Buffy. And when I finally did find you everything before you... Darla... My life before you... None of that was important anymore. All I could see was you... All I wanted was you." He brought his hand up to caress her cheek. "I love you, baby. So much. And it's because I do that I can see what you're trying to do here. You're hurting and you're lashing out at me by using Darla to pick a fight with me, but you don't have to lash. I'm right here, and I'm not going anywhere. Scream. Cry. Hell, hit me if you want. I don't care as long as you know that I'm right here to catch you when you fall apart."

"A-Angel..." A sob tore from Buffy's throat. "I-I'm s-sorry. I-I'm so so s-sorry. I just... I-I was so afraid you would leave me like he did." Tears began to seep from her eyes. "J-Just don't leave me. I can handle a-anything b-but y-you leaving me."

"Shh..." Angel began to feverantly kiss her tears away. "I'm right here, baby. I'm not going anywhere. I promise. Just let it out. Cry. I'm right here. I'll catch you, I swear."


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Thanks to Kim, Msjsjellybean, Carol Ann, Court, Emma, VengfulVixen3, Kolumbyne, and Ryan for their feedback last chapter.
CHAPTER 28


Buffy rolled over in the bed, reaching for Angel only to discover a cold empty space. Her eyes flew open in panic, but that panic quickly subsided when when she sat up and noticed the light seeping out from the underneath the door adjoining his bedroom. Slidding from the bed, she picked up the white dress shirt laying on the floor that she had helped him recklessly discard earlier, and slipped into it as she padded to the door she knew now lead to his office. She quietly opened the door, and stepped inside to find him sitting behind a huge cherry desk completely engrossed in something he was writing on the notepad laying in front of him. She took the opportunity to watch him, her eyes traveling over him with adoration and love. Beautiful. Gods, he was so beautiful. And she thanked God above for sending him to her. He wasn't just her friend, boyfriend, and now her lover. He was her everything, and she loved him with everthing that was inside of her. And okay, she needed to quit standing here daydreaming about him. Especially when she didn't need to. Why daydream when she had the real living, breathing thing in front of her, and she could tell him exactly what she was feeling and more? "I hope this isn't a sign that you're already tired of me."

A smile immediately came to Angel's lips, and his chocolate orbs rose to lock with hers. "Hey, you. You're supposed to be sleeping."

"And you didn't answer me, Mr. O'Conner. Are you tired of me already?"

"Never." He murmured huskily. "I'll never be tired of you."

She smiled. "Good answer. Now to answer you. I was sleeping, but I rolled over to snuggle with my honey, and sadly discovered that he wasn't there. In fact, there wasn't anything there except cold, empty space."

"I'm sorry, baby. I couldn't sleep."

"Why couldn't you sleep? Was I snoring?"

"No."

"Drooling?"

"No." He chuckled then quickly sobered. "It wasn't you at all. It was me."

"What about you?" She shifted on her feet nervously. "Is something wrong? With us, I mean?"

"No." He laid his pen down, and wiggled a finger at her. "Come here and I'll prove it to you."

"Mmm..." She smiled, and closed the distance to him. "This sounds very promising."

"It's not a promise, beloved." He reached out and pulled her down into his lap. "It's a guarantee." And to prove his point, he took possession of her lips and when he pulled away she was clinging to him. "Nice outfit you're wearing, by the way." He murmured against her hair. "I like you in my clothes. It's very sexy." "Sexier than the outfit I wore earlier?"

Angel immediately hardened as the memory of the outfit she was referring to came to mind. "Cl-Close, but I still think that was the best."

She pulled away to look at him. "You liked that, huh?" She grinned up at him. "That was my seduction number."

He raised an eyebrow. "Are you telling me that you were planning all along to seduce me this weekend, Miss. Summers?"

"Well, sort of." She ran her hands down his bare chest. "I umm... I was actually just planning on telling you I loved you and hoping that everything would fall into place after that. The outfit was just the icing on the cake. I picked it up at Victoria's Secret when I bought Mom something to wear on her honeymoon with Giles. And oh God..." She sprang off his lap. "I just remembered something. I have something for you. Another present."

"Oh, really." Angel grinned devishly. "Did you pick this one up at Victoria's Secret, too?"

Buffy laughed. "No. So get those thoughts of yours out of the gutter for now." She leaned over to brush a kiss across his lips. "Later. Will discuss those thoughts of yours later. Present first. I'll be right back." She disappeared out of the room, and returned a few minutes later carrying two envelopes in her hand.

"What's this?" Angel asked as she handed them to him.

"The cake." She murmured, feathering a kiss across his ear. "Open the little one first. I'll just make myself look busy while you do." She walked over to one of his bookshelves, and grabbed a book off of it before making herself comfortable on his leather sofa in the corner.

Angel watched her for a few moments, wondering if she knew just how incredibly sexy he really did find her curled up on his sofa in his shirt. "You're not opening, honey." She peeked up from the book. "It doesn't bite, I promise. Now open."

He laid the bigger envelope down on his desk top then opened the smaller envelope. The scent of Vanilla immediately filled his senses as he did, and he couldn't help but breath it in before opening the flowered stationary, and reading:


My dearest Angel,

I searched high and low trying to find the perfect gift for you on this our first Valentine's Day together, but unfortunately I wasn't able to find anything in the stores. I mean, what do you get a man that already has everything? Still, I tried, and tried really hard. What exactly I was planning to get you I didn't have a clue. All I knew was that no matter what it was it had to be unique. One of a kind. Something that no one else would ever have but you. And then the other night it hit me. I've had your gift all along. I've been carrying it around inside of me since the very first moment I laid eyes on you, but I've been afraid to give it to you for fear you might not want it.

See, my darling, my gift... It can't be bought, made, or even wrapped for that matter. But it is unique, and definitely one of a kind, and I know with all my heart will never ever be given to anyone but you... My gift to you is my love, Angel. I love you. So much. Heart, body, and soul. Forever and Always.

Happy Valentine's Day,

Buffy


"Buffy..." Angel raised his tear filled gaze to hers. "Baby..."

"I do, you know?" She returned to his side, and dropped a gentle kiss to his lips before slidding back on his lap. "But don't go getting all mushy on me just yet, mister. There's more."

"I don't need more. That's all I want. Your love. Nothing could top that." He threaded his hands in her hair. "Nothing."

"I-I'm glad to hear th-that." She stammered. "B-But I still want you to take this second gift, too." She moved around on his lap until she was straddling him facing him, then reached behind her to grab the second envelope. "Now this gift is just a little something I threw in case you decided to keep me."

"You had doubts?" He frowned.

"I-I don't know. I umm... I never doubted that you cared about me, but caring and loving are two different things. I just... I've known for awhile how I felt about you, and I even told Cordelia, but I was afraid if I told you too soon you would think I was crazy. I was afraid I would scare you off. And then there was my insecurities about your feelings for Darla, but I don't have those anymore."

"Are you sure?" He searched her face.

"Uh huh..." She rewarded him with a smile that took his breath away. "You chased all those doubts away by telling me everything. By knowing me better than I know myself. By being there to catch me when I fell. That's why I want you to have these." She handed the envelope to him. "I hope you like them."

Angel opened the envelope and pulled out what appeared to be several photos with an eight by ten photo of Buffy smiling up at him on top. He let his gaze travel over every beautiful feature, and Buffy worried her bottom lip as she watched him. "It's my senior picture. You don't have to frame it or anything. I just... I wanted you to have it."

"I love it." He leaned over to kiss her. "Thank you."

"Wait... There's more, and don't get mad, okay? But the next one is of us. Wills snuck and took it two weeks ago in the park when we all went on that picnic. She said the moment was too sweet not to capture on film, and she's hoping once you see it you'll understand why she had to sneak and take the picture." She eyed him nervously as he flipped to the next photo.

Gods, how could he be mad? Angel thought as he let his eyes take in the picture. Beautiful. It was a very beautiful picture. It was of him and Buffy sitting on a blanket in the park, kissing. Her tiny hands were framed on his face while his hands were threaded in her hair, and Willow had managed to capture everything the couple had been dying to tell each other for so long. Love. You could see the love between them so clearly, and he couldn't help but berate himself for waiting so long to tell Buffy exactly how he felt about her.

"A-Angel? S-Say something, honey. D-Do you like it? Cause Wills said if you did and you want a copy of it she would get her friend Darren to make you one. I umm... I got two. One for my photo album, and the other one I'm going to put beside my bed just as soon as I find the perfect frame for it."

"Then we'll have to go shopping for that perfect frame together because that's exactly where I plan to put mine, too." He tore his eyes from the picture and looked up at her with a smile on his face. "And you can tell Willow that I'm going to have to take her up on that offer of hers. I want one of these for every room of the house."

"And the tabloids? Would you like a couple for the tabloids? You could send it to them, and tell them that you're really an alien that likes to suck beautiful women's tonsils out."

The only reply she got from him was a very serious scowl, and she couldn't help but burst into giggles. "Relax, honey. I was just joking." She kissed him. "Doyle told me what you told him the first night you two really talked for the first time. You're secretly married to two women, huh?"

"No." He muttered, and wrapped his arms tighter around her. "I only belong to you, and I want you all to myself. I have no intentions of sharing you with anyone, not even the people that read that junk."

She eyed him. "O-Okay, I'm sensing you're upset, so let's get back to your present. Th-There's more. P-Pictures, I mean. Willow's friend Darren has dreams of spending his life taking pictures of women, so I gave him his first gig. Take a peek." She urged.

He scowled again. "Not until you promise me they're not nudie pictures. If you let someone else besides me see you..."

She laughed and kissed him again. "They're not and I would never. Now take a look."

Angel slowly began to look through the next couple of photos. They were all of her. Either in the dress she had worn last night or the one she had worn earlier tonight. He held up the one he liked the best. "I love them all, but I think this one is my favorite. Your eyes are sparkling like emeralds just the way I like them to."

"That's because they have the look of love in them. At least that's what Will calls it. It's there in all of them, but even more so in this one because Darren asked me to think happy thoughts and all I had to do was think of you."

"Just one question?"

"What?"

"Please tell me you wasn't wearing that little outfit of yours while you were having these made."

"I uhh... No. Actually I was going commando."

"Buffy..." His gaze darkened.

She giggled again. "Relax, honey. I told you I would never ever let anyone but you see me nude."

Angel leaned forward and laid the pictures on is desk then pulled her flush up against him. "I believe you, but I still think you need a spanking for getting me riled up."

"You wouldn't dare." She chided a little breathlessly. "Especially when I tell you what I have to tell you next."

He raised an eyebrow. "And what pray tell are you going to tell me that you think will change me mind about your punishment, Miss. Summers?"

Buffy leaned forward to whisper in his ear. "I'm going commando right now, so the question is what do you want to do? Do you want to spank me or do you want to do other fun stuff?"

The only answer she got from him was him sweeping her up in his arms and carrying her back into the bedroom.

***

The ringing of the phone woke Buffy the next morning, and she went ahead and answered it for fear it would wake the man who was spooned up against her. "H-
Hello?" She murmured into the receiver sleepily.
"Buffy? Sweetie, is that you?"

"Mom?" Buffy's eyes flew open. "W-What... How... Is everything okay?"

"Everything's fine, honey. And to answer your other question, Angel gave me his phone number before Giles and I left the other day, and told me I could call you anytime I wanted to check on you."

"Mom, you're supposed to be on your honeymoon."

"I was worried about you, Buffy. I couldn't sleep. I don't know why, but I just got this feeling that something wasn't right with you, and from the sound of your voice it sounds like that I had reason to worry. You sound tired."

"I'm fine, Mom. Just sleepy. You woke me up."

"It's eleven o'clock in the afternoon there, Buffy. Why are you still in bed? Are you sick?"

"No. I told you I was fine, Mom. Angel and I just had a late night, so were sleeping in."

"We? How do you know Angel's sleeping in, Buffy. I thought you said... Oh God..."

"Mom..."

"Oh God. You didn't? Please God tell me you didn't, Buffy?"

Buffy braced herself for the storm that was about to blow ashore. "I can't."

"I don't believe this!" Joyce Giles yelled into the phone. "You slept with him, Buffy? Of course, you slept with him. You just more or less admitted you did. Oh God, I knew it. I knew I shouldn't have let you go to LA with him alone."

"I'm a big girl, Mom. I love him."

"Buffy..." Joyce sighed in defeat. "What am I going to do with you?"

"Be happy for me. Tell me you love me. Then go be with Giles. I'll talk to you in a day or two, okay?"

"Buffy..."

"I'm waiting, Mom."

"Okay, okay. But we are going to talk about this when I get home, young lady."

"There's nothing to talk about, Mom. I'm a big girl and as you already know, I've got things covered. Now say goodbye."

Joyce sighed. "Fine. I'm going. I just... I love you, baby girl."

"I love you, too. Give Giles a kiss for me."

"I will. Bye, honey."

"Bye, mom." Buffy raised up to hang up the phone and had just settled back into Angel's arms when his voice washed over her. "She's going to kill me, isn't she?"

She rolled over in his arms to look at him. "I take it I woke you up. I'm sorry. I tried really hard not to."

"It was kind of hard to sleep when all I could hear was her yelling at you, Buffy." He opened his eyes to look at her and frowned. "She knows."

"Mmm..." Buffy reached up to smooth the frown from his face. "Call it a gut feeling."

"Great. She really is going to kill me." Angel sat up. "Then when she's finished with me she's going to let that very overprotective brother of yours have what's left."

"She's not going to kill you, Angel. And neither is Doyle." Buffy sat up beside him, clutching the blankets to her naked chest. "If memory serves me correctly it takes two to do what we've been doing the last twenty four hours."

"Yeah, and if memory serves me correctly I promised her that we would have seperate bedrooms."

"Well, then you're safe because technically we did have separate bedrooms. You stayed in your room all by your lonesome Friday night, and your clothes stayed in there last night."

"No, they didn't, and neither did I."

"W-What?"

"This is my room, Buffy."

"A-Angel, why would you..."

"Why else?" He turned his head to look at her. "The other night I had planned to drop my suitcase in here before showing you to the guest room, but when I turned around and saw you standing there I knew I couldn't do it. I knew there was no way in hell I could sleep in here without you."

"So you what? Chose to punish me by dumping me in here to have the exact same erotic fantasies you were having instead. Gee, thanks, honey."

"God damnit, Buffy. I wasn't just thinking about sex the other night. It was just wanting you near me." He sighed. "I love you, and I don't think I could bear it if I couldn't... What if she won't let me see you anymore?"

Buffy leaned over to kiss his shoulder then laid her head on it. "That's not going to happen, okay? I'm eighteen years old, Angel. I'm a big girl who can make her own decisions. And I did. I wanted what happened yesterday and last night."
"Are you sure?"

Her head shot up to meet his questioning gaze. "You didn't rush me if that's what you're thinking, Angel. I love you and I wanted to show you how much. There's nothing wrong with that. There's not. Besides, Mom knew that there was a chance this day would come and she doesn't have any choice but to accept it because she loves me and wants me to be happy." She leaned in to feather a kiss across his lips. "Now will you quit worrying about it and lay back down with me? I want us to wake up the way we were supposed to wake up this morning. In each other's arms."

He laid back down and pulled her down on top of him. "I still think she's going to kill me."

Buffy laid her head down on his chest. "Then I'll have to make sure the next two weeks are really good ones for you. The last thing I want is for you to die an unhappy man."

Angel ran his hands down her back. "This is serious, Buffy. How can you..."

She silenced him with a kiss. "Hush, and quit worrying. This is between us. Us. And I seem to recall you telling me once that what happens between us is our business and our business alone. Now let's just leave it at that. You're frowning, and the last thing I want is for you to get wrinkles around those gorgeous eyes of yours."

"You think my eyes are gorgeous?"

"Uh huh." She smiled. "They're like chocolate. Sometimes I think I could drown in them."

Those gorgeous eyes she was referring to met hers. "I know the feeling..." He murmured just before his lips closed over hers, and it didn't take long for things to quickly heat up between them, but as soon as they did Angel put a halt to things by finally gathering his senses enough to pull away. "Breakfast... I need to fix breakfast."

Buffy snuggled back into his chest. "We slept through breakfast. It's lunchtime."

"Then I should fix us some lunch before we head back to Sunnydale." He replied, stroking her hair.

"What's your hurry? We have all day. Besides, I was thinking..."

"No, Buffy..."

"What?" She raised up to look at him.

"We're not making love."

Her eyes widened in surprise. "W-What makes you think I was thinking about... And okay, why don't you want to make love? Are you tired of me already?"

"No. I told you last night that I would never be tired of you."

"Then why don't you..." She met his gaze. "Am I sucky at it? Is that why..."

Angel thrust his erection up against her. "Does that feel like you suck at it? Gods, woman don't you know that all you have to do is look at me and I want you with everything that's inside of me."

"Then why..." It was his turn to silence her, and when he pulled away they were both struggling for air. "I want to. Gods, Buffy you don't know how much I want to. But I won't. I won't because I don't want to hurt you. This is all new to your body, and it deserves a break."

"Oh." Her eyes widened in realization. "OH! A-Angel, it's okay. I umm... I'm not sore."

"We're still not making love, Buffy. Now let's get back to before."

"Before?" She asked confused.

Angel brushed her hair back from her face. "You were thinking about something. What was it?"

"Oh. That before. Well, I umm... I was thinking that since things didn't go so well at your mom's yesterday that maybe we could go back to see her before we leave to go home."

"Uh uh." Angel shook his head. "No way, Buffy. I am not letting you anywhere near Spike again."

Buffy sat up, and straddled his hips. "Oh, come on, Angel. I'll be good. I promise. I want to see your mom again. I like her and I think that even with everything that happened yesterday there's a good chance that she might still like me."

He stared up at her, and immediately hardened again at the picture she was presenting to him raised above him in all her glory. "You do, do you?"

"Uh huh." She grinned, and collapsed back down on top of him. "Now are we going to go or not?"

"Later." He rolled her over on to her back. "There's something else I want to do first."

"Sh-Shower?" She gasped as he grounded his hips up against hers again.

"No, before that." He swooped down to take one of her nipples in his mouth.

"I umm..." Buffy arched up into him. "I thought you said no?"

He raised his head to look at her with heated eyes. "I changed my mind. Unless of course, you're really not up to it. If that's the case then I'll ..." That's all he got out before she pulled his head down, her lips meeting his. And then she very happily proved to him beyond a shadow of a doubt that she was more than just up to it.


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Thanks to Kattie S., VengfulVixen3, Court, Sarah, and Ryan for their feedback last chapter.

CHAPTER 29


Buffy had been back from LA an hour when Doyle showed up. She was in the process of unpacking when he walked into her room, and she could tell by the look on his face that he wasn't happy. She sat her empty suitcase on the floor, and sat down on the bed. "Let me guess, Mom called you?"

"Yes." He sat down on the bed beside her. "Buffy..."

"Don't." She held up her hand. "I'm eighteen years old, Doyle. I love him and he loves me. What happened... I wanted it. We both did, and I don't regret it. Not for a single second. It happened and it's between us, and no one else. Do you understand?"

"This isn't about that, Buffy and you'll be happy to know that I basically told mom the same thing you just said. You're right. You're an adult now, and perfectly capable of making your own decisions. I respect that. Besides, what right do I have to say anything when I lost my virginity at the age of fifteen, and am far from being celibate myself?"

"If that's the case then why..." Buffy looked over at him. "If this isn't about that, then why are you here, and why do you have that I'm not happy look on your face?"

"I'm here because if you say you love him the way you say do then I think it's time you told him the truth, Buffy. He needs to know before things get anymore serious than they already are."

"No!" Buffy jumped up from the bed, and walked over to her bedroom window. "No! Absolutely not. I am not telling him, Doyle. I'll lose him if I do."

"He wants kids someday, Buffy."

Doyle's words cut through her like a knife and she spun around to face him. "So? Are you trying to tell me that just because I can't... Do you think I don't deserve his love because I can't... That's it isn't it? You think I'm not worthy of being loved by him because I can't give him kids!" Tears began to slide down her cheeks. "Wow, I honestly thought you were different. Not just because you were my brother, but because you were raised to love a person no matter what their faults are. Guess I was wrong. Guess you're more like Hank than I thought."

"That is not fair, Buffy."

"Fair? Fair? Fuck fair. Life isn't fair, Doyle. Believe me, I know." She turned back to window. "I saw him, you know? Hank. I saw him last night. I didn't tell Mom because I didn't want to ruin her and Giles' honeymoon. I bumped into him at the Beverly Willshire last night, and he acted like things were all hunky dorey between us. Wanted me to give him a hug and call him Daddy. But do you want to hear the really funny part? I chose to tell him off instead. I told him that you and Giles were my fathers. That all he did was give me life, and that it was you that had always been there for me. Of course, if I had known now the way you really felt I wouldn't have told him that." She swiped at her tears and spun back around to face him. "He's still the same sorry sonofabitch that he was eight years ago. Still parading around with his whores. His newest one happens to be Angel's ex of all people. You should call him. I think you two have alot to talk about. Hell, while you're at it why don't the two of you go ahead and form a *Buffy's not worthy of being loved because she can't have kids* club."

"He doesn't know about that, Buffy."

"Oh, that's right. I forgot that he just knows the *Buffy almost died twice, and still just might* part. You would think that as a parent that would open his eyes enough he would want to love me, but it didn't, and that's what makes me sick to my stomach about all of this. Why, Doyle? Why do people like him get to have kids? Why do people like him get to live, and people like me... Well, I guess you and I know what I get. Nothing! I get nothing because I'm not worthy of it."

"Stop it, Buffy!" Doyle yelled, and shot to his feet.

"Stop what, Big Bro? I didn't say anything that wasn't true, right? Say it. Say what you have to say and get the hell out!"

"You're taking things out of context here, Buffy." Doyle looked at her with sadness in his eyes. "I didn't mean it the way it sounded, and you never let me finish what I was saying." He closed the distance to her. "I do think you deserve love. I want you to have it. But you will never really have it unless you tell Angel the truth. Not just about the *I can't have kids* part. Everything. I've been around him enough the last couple of weeks to know that no one looks at you the way he looks at you, and not see how much he loves you. He loves you, Munchkin. He loves you, and he deserves to know the truth. Not just for him, but for you, too. He needs to know in case something does happen, and God willing it won't, but just in case it does he needs to know so he can be prepared to help you through it the same way Mom and I did."

"Don't you see, Doyle..." Buffy pushed away from him. "That's why I can't tell him. He'll never be prepared because his dad died of cancer. A brain tumor, and he told me he didn't know if he could go through that again. If I tell him it'll scare him. I know it. I can't... I can't lose him." A sob tore from her throat. "I'll die for sure if I do. I know I will."

Doyle pulled Buffy back into his arms. "You won't die, Buffy. You'll survive just like you always have. You're alot stronger than you give yourself credit for."

"Y-You don't understand, Doyle. A-Angel... He's my everything. W-When I look at him I see the future..." She sobbed into his shoulder. "S-Since I was twelve years old I-
I've never let myself look a-any further than a m-month or two from today. N-Not even with d-designing. B-But with h-him... I see everything with h-him. M-My life... Y-Years... I see it all with him... Or at least I can hope f-for it. B-But even if I don't get that life with him everyday that I-I do get is a l-lifetime for me. A l-lifetime I w-
want with him by my side. I c-can't tell him, Doyle. You can't t-tell him. Please. I-I'm begging you. Let me have this one thing... Let me have h-him for as long as I can."

"Buffy..." Doyle pulled away to look at her. "Cordy... She knows."

"W-What?" Buffy sniffled in shock. "B-But how?"

"I told her. The first time we met. I was upset about you being upset, and she was so easy to talk to. You're wrong if you think I don't understand, Munchkin. I understand perfectly. I know what it's like to be in love. I love her, and I think she cares about me, too. That's why you don't have to worry. She won't say anything to Angel. She agrees with me. She thinks Angel should hear everything from you."

Buffy shook her head vigorously. "I'm not telling him. I can't."

"You're underestimating him, Buffy. He loves you, and I think if you just tell him you'll see just how much he really does."

"I'm not telling him, Doyle. It's not just that I don't want him to know for fear I'll lose him. I just... I don't want it hanging over his head like it does mine. Angel... He's such a worry wort. I umm... I can't tell him, and I'm asking you to keep your mouth shut."

"He's going to find out, Buffy. What then? What if..."

"Then I'll deal with it when that time comes." She finished. "Until then I'm going to be happy. I'm going to take everyday that I have with him, and I'm going to be happy. I'm going to live."

***

Buffy dried herself off, and then wrapped the towel around her body and cinched it. Doyle had been gone for over and hour, leaving her with the promise he wouldn't say anything, but she still couldn't help but worry. She knew it was wrong of her not to tell Angel her secret. It was even more wrong of her not to have faith in him, but as guilty as she felt about it the thought of losing him was scarier than anything she was facing at keeping her secret from him. Even more scarier than death itself...

As she went about drying her hair and getting ready for bed, she couldn't help but run the last three days over in her head. They had made love again this morning. Twice as a matter of fact. Once before their shower, and then again while in the shower getting ready to leave to go to Katherine O'Conner's house, and God it had been so incredible. More than incredible. Angel had been right... Words couldn't describe what it was like to become one with him. As a virgin she had been a little scared of her first time. She'd heard stories of how painful and sucky it could be, but that hadn't been the case for her. Yes, there had been some pain. Just a little prick when Angel had entered her body, but the gasp that had escaped her lips hadn't been from pain. The reason she had gasped was because she had been in total total awe of how gentle he had been, and the rush of emotions that had washed over her when he had finally slipped deep inside of her to make them one. She had felt so loved at that moment. It was almost like she was liquifying...

And this morning when he had refused to make love to her out of concern for her, had only made her love him even more. She giggled out loud as the memory of what happened came to mind. He had refused to make love to her because he had heard that a girl could get sore after there first time and he didn't want to hurt her. Of course, he had completely forgotten his concern a few minutes later when he lost his self control and made love to her again, but his concern quickly returned in the afterglow and before she knew it she was soaking in that whirlpool tub of his with him sitting behind her, and he had even tried to wash her in all his concern, but he soon discovered that he couldn't keep his hands off her, and left the tub to let her soak her soreness away while he took a shower. She giggled again. That had been an even worse mistake. She had been openly admiring him through that naughty shower of his when he had turned to reach for the soap, and caught her. She hadn't blushed or looked away the moment their eyes met. She just continued to openly admire him from head to toe, and the moment her gaze returned to his the fire in his eyes gave her the invitation she so badly wanted. She rose from the tub in all her naked glory and joined him in the shower where he had proceeded to wash her back as promised. What had happened after that had been just as incredible for Buffy than the day before. They both had pretty much familiarized themselves with each other by this morning, and were a little more sure of themselves when it came to touching each other. And God, did she touch him. She had explored his body in wanton eagerness, and eventually her eagerness had lead her to his most intimate part. She slowed down then, took her time adoring him, memorizing every spot that stirred him under her hands before finally letting her mouth do the same. To know that it was her name that slipped from his lips was almost climactic in itself, but she had pushed her own pleasure down and focused entirely on him until he had reached the point of no return, and had spilled his seed into her mouth. But if she thought that was unbelievable, nothing could have prepared her for what happened after that. No one had ever told her that a man could come to life so quickly after having an orgasm, but her Angel had, and he had very happily repaid her for the pleasure she had given him by loving her in the same way, and bringing her to two mind blowing orgasms before finally joining their bodies against the shower wall with the water pouring over their slick bodies... Gods, who was she kidding? The whole weekend had been mind blowing...

Shaking herself out of her thoughts, Buffy quickly straightened the bathroom, and headed for her bedroom, and her bed. And why she was going to even bother to try to go to bed was beyond her? It wasn't like she was going to get any sleep. She'd only been away from Angel for a couple of hours, and she already missed him terribly. Damnit, this was all his fault. He was afraid he was facing death, and he didn't want to risk it even more by staying with her tonight, so he had dropped her off at her door earlier with a kiss to her lips and a promise that he would see her tomorrow. Why did he have to be such self control guy? She wanted him here with her and evidently someone upstairs must have known just how much she really did because when she opened the bedroom door there he was, her Angel, leaning against the window sill. "I couldn't stay away." He murmured. "I was at home unpacking, and I came across the pictures you gave me and everything that happened this weekend kept playing over and over again in my head... And God help me, Buffy... I couldn't stay away."

"And that's bad how?" She asked, shutting the door, and leaning back against it to look at him.

His dark gaze met hers and held. "It's going to get me killed."

"I don't think it will, but let's just assume it might..." She whispered. "Do you think us being together would be worth dying for?"

"Every second."

Emerald waters communicated with chocolate rivers. "Then why are you wasting them?"

Like a panther stalking it's prey, Angel closed the distance to her, and pulled her into his arms with a growl, his hands tangling in her hair as he did. "Jesus, woman... What am I going to do with you?"

"Love me..." Buffy answered as she quickly rushed through the buttons on his shirt. "That's all I want."

"Then you have nothing to worry about..." He hissed as her hot, tiny hands made contact with the bare skin of his chest. "Because God knows I do... I love you so much, Buffy."

"Show me..." She pushed his shirt off into the floor, then raised her gaze to his once more, and the look in her eyes was his undoing. With a groan, Angel took possession of her lips, and kissed her with everything that was inside of him. Their tongues dueled heavily as their clothes disappeared, and once they were gone he carried her to the bed and laid her back on the pillows before his own body fell into her open arms.

The lovers twisted and turned on the bed as their hands, fingers, and mouths tasted, teased, and loved one another until neither one of them could take the seperation any longer. Then and only then did Angel roll her to her side, and spoon his body around her. Buffy arched back into him the moment she felt his hardness press against the back of her thighs, and opened to him in invitation.

It was an invitation Angel couldn't refuse. Littering kisses along the back of her neck, he gently leaned her forward and slide into her in one sweet thrust. The feelings that washed over him the moment he was buried to the hilt was indescribable. So indescribable that he couldn't help but whimper as he eased out of her then lovingly back in again. "A-Angel, G-God..." Buffy gasped as his fingers came around her to toy with the sensitive nub of her clit, and her hands moved to the back of his head to clutch his hair.

"I love you." He panted heavily into her ear. "So much, baby..." He gasped as his need for her quickly began to mount, and he ceased his ministrations for a moment to try and gather his thoughts. "You're a part of me... Without you I'm incomplete."

Tears began to slip down Buffy's cheeks, and she chanted his name over and over again as their bodies found their perfect rhythm again, and they rode it through clutching desperately at each other until they both reached their peaks and spiraled over into ecstasy.

***

The next two weeks flew by, and on the last morning they had together Buffy was woken up just before dawn to Angel nibbling on her neck. "Don't you ever sleep?"

"Would you rather me be sleeping or doing this?" He murmured against her ear while one of his hands slid over her slick stomach to the center of her to dip inside her slick channel.

She arched into his hand. "I umm... Good... This is good."

"Better than a mocchachino?" He asked as he continued to stroke his fingers in and out of her.

"Y-Yes... Oh God, y-yes..." She moaned and thrust her hips in rhythm with his ministrations.

"You're so wet." He murmured against her ear.

"I-I want you." She panted.

"Where? Tell me, baby... Where do you want me?"

I umm... J-Jesus, Angel..." She cried out as the fire inside of her began to burn out of control.

Angel chuckled. "You know, it's really a big turn on when you do that, but it doesn't quite answer my question and I can't help you unless you do answer it. Where do you want me, Buffy?"

"I-Inside of me... P-Please, Angel... I want you inside of me NOW!"

Angel quickly rolled Buffy over and entered her in one quick stroke. He rode her hard and fast, and she wrapped her legs around him, meeting him thrust for thrust.

When it was over and they were laying tangled together, Angel kissed her sweaty brow. "Good morning, my love."

"It's definitely that." She panted.

"I'm glad you liked." He chuckled again.

"L-Liked. I more than liked. Loved. I loved it." She kissed his chest and snuggled into it. "Do you think it will always be like this with us?"

"If you're asking me if I'll still want you when we're old and gray, the answer is yes." He answered, stroking her hair.

Buffy could have sworr her heart stopped beating at that moment, and she pulled away from Angel enough to look into his face. "Y-You think about us g-growing old together?"

"All the time." He answered honestly. "My love... I always knew that the woman I gave it to would be the one I would want to spend the rest of my life with." He reached up to frame her face with his hands. "That woman... She's you, Buffy."

God, she wanted to tell him that she felt the same way he did... That she wanted to spend the rest of her life with him too, but the words wouldn't come out. Just the tears came, and and once they did she couldn't stop them. They flooded out in torrents, and all Angel could do was hold her until they had subsided. "You know, if I didn't know better, I would take that as a bad sign." His hands soothed her back.

"It's not. I swear." Buffy pulled away to look at him with red rimmed eyes. "It's just... I love you so much, Angel and I want that just as much as you do."

"But?" His hands stilled. "I'm sensing a but here, Buffy."

"No." Buffy shook her head vigorously. "There's no buts. It's going to happen, Angel. We're going to be together. Always. I know it. I know we will..."


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Sorry it's taken so long to get chapter 30 out. I've had a real bad case of the flu. I'm back now though, and I would like to thank Ryan, Rebecca, Kolumbyne, Cristina, VanessaSky, Sarah,Wendy, Kim, Jade, Sandy, and Court for their feedback on chapter 29.
CHAPTER 30


"Buffy..."

"Huh?" Buffy shook her head to clear her thoughts and looked across the table at her mother. "I'm sorry, Mom. You were saying?"

"You're appointment with Dr. Jobson. They called today. It's in August. August, twentieth."

"I don't want to go." Buffy slid from the stool she had been sitting on, and went to put her barely touched dinner down the garbage disposal.

"Well, you don't have a choice. You have to go, Buffy." Joyce answered, and turned around to look at her daughter's stiff back.

"You can't make me. I'm eighteen now, remember?"

Joyce turned around to look at her husband of a couple of months with a *I need your help on this one* look, and Giles wasted no time giving it to her. "I'm afraid I'm going to have to agree with your mother on this one, Buffy. You have to go."

"What about Angel?"

"What about him?" Joyce swung back around to look at Buffy, who was now turned away from the sink.

"How am I going to explain my trip to LA to him? And how exactly do I explain to him that I look and feel like shit when I get back?"

"Buffy!" Joyce yelled. "Watch your language, young lady!"

"I'm sorry, Mom but it's true. I look and feel like shit for days after I get back!" She blinked back tears. "You don't know. None of you! You don't know what it's like. The pain... The waiting... That's the worst part of it all!" A sob tore from her throat. "Angel loves me. He loves me and he wants to grow old with me! If I go and they tell me that that's not going to... I don't want to go."

Joyce and Giles both slid from their stools, and went to Buffy's side. "You're right, Buffy. None of us know what it's like for you except maybe Doyle. He's the only one that has gotten a small taste of it, and that's exactly why I think you should reconsider going." Giles slipped his finger under her chin to tilt her head back so that he could look at her face. "You're almost halfway there, Buffy. Halfway. Three years ago known of us would have ever thought you would have that, especially you. And it's because of your brother that you do. It's because of your brother that you just might get that chance you want with Angel. Do you know what it will do to him if you just throw it all away because you're scared. You have to go. It's the only way we'll know if his gift to you is still working or not."

"B-But Angel..."

"I still agree with your mother and brother on that issue as well. You need to tell him the truth, but if you're not ready to do that then we will respect your wishes, and continue to keep your secret. We'll think of something to tell him when the time comes. Besides, alot could happen between now and then."

"Rupert is right, sweetie." Joyce brushed a lock of hair from Buffy's face. "Alot could happen. You and Angel might not even be together by that time."

Buffy shoved Joyce's hand a way. "Don't say that, Mom. I love him and he loves me."

"Buffy..." Joyce started to say.

"Don't, Mom. Don't you dare start on me! I love Angel, and we're going to be together. Always." Buffy walked over and snatched up the remaining dinner dishes then turned around to shove them in Joyce's hands. "I'm going to my room. When Willow and Xander get here just send them up." With that said, she disappeared out of the kitchen, leaving her mother and stepfather alone. "I swear..." Joyce muttered going to the sink. "That child has been so moody this week."

"She's not a child, Joyce. And in case you haven't noticed, she misses him." Giles replied, staring at her back.

"He's only been gone for five days, Rupert. And if you ask me they needed this time apart. They spend entirely too much time together as it is."

"She's in love, Joyce." Giles moved up behind her and wrapped his arms around her. "Are you going to tell me that you don't remember what that's like?"

"No. I know what it's like, but it's too soon for her. Too fast. She's only known him five months."

He brushed her hair aside and kissed her neck. "I thought you liked Angel?"

"I do." Joyce sighed, and leaned back against him. "He's a wonderful young man."

"Then what's the problem?"

"College, Rupert. I want her to go to college."

"And she can still do that and be with Angel, too. You've seen her grades lately. He's helped her alot. He makes her study. Not that I'm saying she wasn't bright before he came into the picture, because God knows she was. It's just... She seemed not to care before, and now because of him she does."

"You're wrong, Rupert. She can't have college, and Angel, too. Not college in New York anyway. It won't work."

"You don't know that, Joyce."

Joyce turned around in Giles' arms. "Can you name any long distance relationships that have ever worked out, Rupert?"

"W-Well, no. Not right off the top of my head, but we're not them, Joyce. They could make it work." He pulled away from her. "And why are we even discussing this? She hasn't heard from New York yet, and even if she does that doesn't necessarily mean she'll get in or even go for that matter."

"But what if she does get in, Rupert? It's the chance of a lifetime. Do you honestly want to see her throw a chance like that away?"

"It's not our decision, Joyce." Giles removed his glasses and began to clean them. "It's hers."

"B-But it's her dream."

"Dreams change." He looked up at her. "I suggest you remember that, Joyce."

***

"You miss him."

"It's that obvious, huh?" Buffy muttered, wrapping her arms around Mr. Gordo and propping her chin on top of his head.

"Yeah." Willow replied from behind the open closet door. "You've had Angel face all week."

"Angel face?"

"You know, that dreamy, sickening face you always get whenever you're thinking about him." Xander added, flopping down on the bed beside Buffy.

"We haven't been apart one day since we started dating, Xan." Buffy murmured sadly. "I can't help it."

"You talk to him on the phone every night, Buffy."

"It's not the same."

"Of course not." Xander looked over at her. "Because he's not here to give you lot's of smoochies and happys."

"Xander!" Willow peeked around the closet door and shot Xander a dirty look.

"What?" Xander raised up. "How come you two can talk about having sex, but I can't."

"Because it's not sex with Angel, Xander. It's making love, and the reason you can't discuss it with us is because Anya does it enough for the both of you." Buffy very happily pointed out.

"That's true." Willow giggled. "The broom closet in the band room, Xander? Shame on you."

"I don't believe it! She told you about that?" Xander glanced very nervously back and forth at his two best friends.

Buffy started laughing. "Uh huh. And Willow's right, Xan. Shame on you. Do you have any idea what seeing that would have done to everyone's poor eyes if you two had been caught?"

"Yeah, well, What about you and Angel, Buffy?" Xander locked eyes with her. "Are you going to tell me the two of you haven't been a little risque' since you two started doing the happy?"

Buffy blushed, and buried her head in Mr. Gordo as a particular memory of her and Angel swept over her.

Xander didn't miss the blush, and reached over to tickle her. "I take that a a definite yes, so it's time to fess up, Buffster. Tell Xander all about it. Where was it?"

She shrugged his hands off, but kept her face buried in Mr. Gordo. "The kitchen table." She replied in a muffled voice.

"E-Excuse me?" Willow stepped out from behind the closet door in disbelief. "D-Did you just say the kitchen table?"

Buffy shook her head yes, but still didn't look up.

"Wow..." Willow turned red. "Wow..."

"Speaking of wow.." Xander poked Buffy in the side with his elbow. "Check out Wills, Buffy."

Buffy raised her head to look at Willow. "Wow is right, Willow. You look gorgeous. Wait until Oz gets a load of you. He's going to be floored."

"Of course, he will." Willow ran her hands over the plum colored dress. "I'm wearing a Buffy Summers creation after all." She moved to the bed. "But let's forget about Oz and I for a second. I want to hear all about the kitchen table."

Buffy couldn't help but blush again. "I'm not going to get out of telling you, am I?"

Xander and Willow both shook their heads no, and Buffy sighed. "It was last Saturday morning. Angel was making us breakfast after our run, and he was acting kinda weird. It turns out he was trying to find a way to break the news to me about the trip to New York. He didn't want to go, and I didn't want him to go either, and I guess the thought of being apart was too much to bare. We started kissing, and one thing kinda lead to another, and before you know it we were breaking the kitchen table."

"You broke it?" Willow yelped in awe.

Buffy nodded, blushing again. "Yeah, but he didn't care. He said he could afford to buy another one. Of course, he didn't get around to saying that until after he had checked every inch of me for injuries. God, guys you should have seen his face..."

"Ooh, ooh." Willow slapped Xander on the leg. "I know that look he gets. It's almost like his brood face except that his eyebrows are even more scrunched together. It's that *I'm really worried about Buffy* face. He was wearing it the same day she and Riley got into that... And okay, I'm babbling, aren't I? I'm sorry, it's just... The kitchen table. Wow."

"Wow doesn't even begin to describe it, Wills." Buffy murmured. "And there's more..." She laughed when she saw the look on Willow's and Xander's faces. "Not about that... It's about this..." She leaned over, and pulled a set of keys off the top of her nightstand, jiggling them in front of their faces. "See... Keys... Keys to Angel's house."

"He gave you a set of keys to his house?" Xander repeated in disbelief.

"Well no, not exactly. Cordelia let me bother her set. I told her I wanted to surprise Angel when he got home. And boy do I plan to surprise him." Buffy beamed the quickly. "That's if you'll guys help me, of course."

"Help you with what?" Xander asked, eyeing her warily.

"I need the two of you to fib for me. Angel's coming home tomorrow night, but instead of spending the evening with him I want to spend the night."

"You know your mom isn't going to let you do that, Buffy. She's been really strict on you since she found out that you and Angel have been... Well, you know?"

"I know that, Xan. That's why I'm asking you to fib for me. I'm going to tell my Mom that we're having a sleep over at Willow's, and I need the two of you to back my story up so that I can be with him. Will you do it? Will you fib for me?"

Willow nodded. "Sure, Buffy. I mean, I owe you." She pointed to the dress she was wearing. "For this, and when you lied for me when that time Oz's parents were out of town and I spent the night with him. It's only fair that I do the same for you."

"Great! Thank you, Wills!" Buffy excitedly hugged the red head then turned to her other best friend. "Xander? What about you? Will you fib for me?"

"Gee, I don't know, Buffy." Xander replied. "I think I should give this alot of thought."

"Xander!" Buffy whined impatiently. "Please?" She gave him her best pouty face. "With sugar on top?"

"God!" Xander groaned. "Why did you have to go and do that? You know I can't say no to the Buffy pouty face." He looked away from her and her pouty face. "Okay! Okay, I'll do it! I'll fib. Sleepover. Tomorrow night. At Willow's house. But you owe me big time, buddy." He turned back to look at her. "Cordelia didn't by any chance give you an extra set of car keys to Angel's car did she?"

***

God, he was tired. So tired. That's why he hadn't bothered to turn on any lights when he had entered the house, and started up the flight of stairs to his bedroom. All he wanted to do was go to bed even though he knew he wasn't going to go to sleep. How could he sleep when images of a certain golden blonde plagued him even in his dreams. Buffy... He had wasted no time in getting back to Sunnydale tonight to see her. Even if he could only see her for a few minutes it would have been enough to get him through the night. But unfortunately things hadn't when as planned. He had arrived at her house only to be told by her mother and stepfather that she was spending the night at Willow's. To say he was disappointed was in understatement, and all he wanted to do was come home and crawl into bed after that, but thanks to his mother his manners had required him to at least stay and chat with the two of them for a few minutes before leaving them to come home and sulk. And that's exactly what he had planned to do up until the moment he opened his bedroom door, and saw the same golden blonde that had been plaguing his thoughts since the night he had laid eyes on her for the first time, and at first he thought it was his tired mind was playing tricks on him. "Hello, lover." She smiled. "Miss me?"

"Buffy?" Angel closed his bedroom door, and turned back to make sure she wasn't his imagination, and to his utter joy she wasn't. She was still there, but as happy as he was to see her his mind told him she shouldn't be. "How did you..."

"Cordy loaned my her set of keys to the house."

"But I stopped at your house earlier and your Mom and Giles told me you were spending the night at Willow's."

"I am." She toyed with the belt of her black silk robe. Or rather his black silk robe. "This is me spending the night at Willow's."
He started towards her, but suddenly stopped. "You lied to your mom?"

"No, not lied. I fibbed." Her eyes traveled over him, hungrily drinking him in. "I missed you."

Angel swiped a hand through his hair. "Fibbing is just a fancier word for lying, Buffy. And you did it to your mom."

"Fibbing, lying, whatever." Her face sank. "I only did it because I missed you." She moved to the chair where her clothes she had discarded earlier were laying, and snatched them up. "But since it's obvious you didn't miss me as much as I missed you, I'll just go." She closed the distance to him and stood up on tiptoe to kiss his cheek. "C-Call me sometime. When you miss me, I mean." She went to move past him, but his hand shot out to grab her. "Come here, you."

He pulled her into his arms. "Where do you think you're going?"

"I'm leaving." Buffy pushed against the wall of his chest with her hands. "You told me to, remember?"

"No, I don't remember telling you any such thing." He locked his hands behind her back. "The only thing I remember telling you is that fibbing is a fancier word for lying, and you my love did lie to your mother. Admit it."

"Fine, I admit it. I lied." She started pushing on his chest again. "And I told you why I did it. Stupid me. I thought that maybe just maybe you might have missed me as much as I missed you, but by the way you're acting I don't think you did which makes me wonder if you were really on a business trip this week."

At her words, he swooped down to take her lips in an earth shattering kiss that left the both of them a little shaky when he finally pulled away. "You have no reason to be jealous, baby. I belong to you and only you. And never doubt that I don't miss you when we're apart because I do. I missed you so much I didn't think I was ever going to get home, and then when I did get here and your mom told me that you were at Willow's... The thought of not seeing you another day nearly killed me."

"I'm sorry, Angel." Buffy tossed her clothes over her head, then wrapped her arms around his neck, and tucked her head in it's favorite spot just up under his chin. "It's just... I missed you, too. So much so it's worth risking my mom's anger to be here. Please don't be mad."

"I'm not. Not anymore." He pulled away to look at her. "How can I stay mad at you when I come home to this?" He motioned to the entire room that was illuminated by vanilla scented candles. "What is this by the way?"

"Me pampering my honey." She left his arms long enough to hit the power button on the stereo, and then immediately returned to him. "I figured you could use it right about now, and it looks like I was right." She stood up on tiptoe to caress the area around his eyes. "You have lines here, and you know how I hate for you to have lines anywhere around those gorgeous eyes of yours. Now relax and enjoy the music." She wound her arms around his neck again, and they began to sway to the song that began filtering throught the room.


I'll give my all
or not at all
there's no in between
I'll give my best
Won't second guess
this feeling deep in me
You make me want to love you
with every breath I'll love you
Endlessly
I'll give my heart, give my soul
I won't hold back, I'll give you everything
All of me
Completely
You fill me up with your love
Oh, I just overflow
When we touch, I can't get enough
And I want you to know
You make me want to love you
with every breath I'll love you
Endlessly
I'll give my heart, give my soul
I won't hold back, I'll give you everything
All of me Completely
You make me want to love you
With every breath I'll love you
Endlessly
I'll give my heart, give my soul
I won't hold back
I'll give you everything
All of me Completely


When the song ended, Buffy pulled away and took Angel's hand. "Come on."

Angel looked down at their interwined hands. "Where are we going?"

"You'll see." Was all she said as she lead him into the bathroom where Angel discovered more Vanilla scented candles. His eyes went to her, questioning her once again.

"Jacuzzi, remember?" She got rid of his suit jacket, and began to undo his tie. "It's been installed for a couple of weeks and I realized the other day that you haven't tested it yet, and thought maybe I could give you a hand." She finally finished undoing his tie, and tossed it in the floor before beginning to work on the buttons of his shirt. "I figured it would be good for you to soak those tired muscles of yours." His shirt disappeared. and she leaned towards him, her tongue darting out to flick across on of his nipples while her hands began to work on the fastening of his black dress pants. "God, I've missed this... I've missed you."

A jolt of electricity shot through Angel as Buffy began to tease his nipple. He moaned deep in his throat and tried to pull her up for a kiss, but she wiggled away from him. "Uh uh, loverboy. No touchy feely. Pampering only."

"Buffy..." Angel groaned as she finished the fly of his trousers and managed to rid him of them and his boxers in one smooth stroke. "Baby, I need to touch you." He reached for the belt of her robe. "No." She stated firmly, and backed away from him. She undid the tie herself, and soon the robe was joining his clothes in a puddle on the floor, leaving her standing before him in all her natural beauty. He growled and reached for her again, but she sidestepped him, and stepped into the tub. Hitting the button to start the whirlpool jets, she slid down into the water and wiggled a finger at him suggestively. "Are you going to join me, honey or are you going to stand there gawking at me all night?"

Not hesitating for even a second, Angel climbed into the tub with Buffy and once he did she helped him settle back against her with his head resting on her chest. "See... Isn't this nice." She murmured against his ear as her hands began to knead the tense muscles in his shoulders.

"I know something that would be a whole lot nicer." He muttered.

"Shh..." She whispered against his cheek. "Just relax. Pampering first then if you're a good little boy I might give you some lovin' later." She continued to massage his shoulders and neck until she was absolutely sure all the tension was gone, then she began to wash his body with the loofah he had bought for her to have when she showered after their weekend runs. She took her time washing him, touching him and exploring him in the exact same places the loofah touched, and from the sounds emanating from his throat she knew without a doubt what she would find when she dipped the loofah under the water to graze across his most intimate part. The contact made Angel groan again, and to her surprise he hardened even more under her ministrations. "Jesus, baby..."

"Does that feel good?" She asked innocently.

"Yes. God, yes." He moaned.

"And this?" She dropped the loofah and let her hands replace it. Encircling him, she slowly began to stroke him. "Does this feel good?"

"Yes, baby. I uhh... God... Want you..." He groaned and thrust up into her hands.

Buffy smiled and began to stroke him even harder. "I'm sorry, could you repeat that? I'm not sure I heard you correctly."

"Buffy... Baby..." Angel growled. "I want you. God, I want you."

"Say it again." She demanded, stroking him even harder. "Tell me you want me. Just me, and no one else."

"Buffy... Ionuin... I uhh...want you. Need you. Ma' ghraih tu'..." And then he launched into a slew of incoherent words, none of which she understood."

"Wow..." She whispered huskily as she manuevered around him. "I don't have the slightest idea what you just said, but it was good. Damn good. And I think because it was you deserve a reward." She continued to stroke him as she slid around in front of him. "Say it again. Whatever it was you said." She straddled his lap. "Say it again. It was beautiful."

"Buffy... Ionuin..." He groaned as she reached down to guide him inside of her. "Ma' ghraih tu'..." He repeated the words again as he slid into her, burying himself to the hilt, and purred in satisfaction as she placed her hands on his shoulders and began to rock her hips against his.

"A-Angel..." She locked eyes with him. "I l-love you."

"Ma' ghraih tu'..." He murmured as he places his hands on her hips and slowly began to make love to her. "Ma' ghraih tu', Buffy."

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Thanks to Ryan, Emma, Sarah, VengfulVixen3, Sarah, Ms.Vamp, and Sandy for their
feedback last chapter.


CHAPTER 31


"Angel?" Buffy whispered a little while later in the dying candlelight.

"Hmm..."

"Are you asleep?"

"I'm not now." Angel murmured sleepily.

"Sorry. It's just... I was wondering..."

"About?"

"What you said earlier. What language was that?"

"Gaelic. My dad was teaching me before he got sick. Spike, too. It was his native tongue, and he wanted us to know it. After he died Mom made sure we finished learning it. She found us a tutor."

"It's beautiful." Buffy pulled away to look at him. "Tell me what you said."

"I can't."

"Why was it dirty?"

"No." He chuckled.

"Then why won't you tell me what you said?"

"Because I was so lost in you I don't really remember what I said."

"Angel." She pouted. "Tell me, please."

"It's not that I don't want to tell you, Buffy."

"Then why won't you?"

He threaded his fingers in her hair. "Because I don't know how. No matter what words or language I say it in, Buffy there's no words that even begin to describe how much I really do love you."

Buffy's welled up. "So does that mean you're happy I lied to my mom now?"

"I'm not happy that you lied to her, Ionuin but I am happy that you're here." He leaned down to brush his lips across hers. "Thank you for earlier. No one has ever done anything like that for me before. It was nice."

"Just nice?"

He chuckled again. "It was better than nice. It was incredible." He kissed her again. "Thank you."

"You're welcome." She snuggled back into him and yawned.

"Tired, baby?" He murmured against her hair.

"Mmm... But it's a good tired. What about you? Are you tired?"

"Not anymore." He ran his hands down her naked back. "I just realized that this is the first time we've been able to do this since the morning that your mom and Giles got back from their honeymoon."

"I know." She sighed. "I've missed falling asleep and waking up in your arms. I mean, our little naps on the weekends have been nice, but a whole night with you... There's nothing better than that. That's another reason I fibbed to mom. Well, that and the fact that I missed you terribly and couldn't wait until tomorrow to see you."

"I know what you mean." He kissed her forehead again. "I broke the sped limit all the way back from the airport in the hopes that I would get here in time to see you for a few minutes tonight. You can't imagine how disappointed I was when I arrived at your house and your mom and Giles told me you were spending the night at Willow's. Drained. I was completely drained after that, but I did manage to be polite and stay and talk to them for a few minutes."

"You talked to them?"

"Well actually, your Mom talked and I listened."

"M-Mom talked? I umm... Did she uhh... Did she happen to mention anything about me?"

"No, why? Was she supposed to?"

"No. No. I uhh... I was just wondering."

"Buffy..." Angel pulled away to look at her again. "I'm sensing that there's more to it than that. What's going on?"

"I uhh... It's just she and I have been arguing alot lately. The most recent argument being this morning."

"Have you been arguing about me?"

"No, not you. College. We've been arguing about college. She thinks I need to focus on making a decision on whether I'm going or not."

"Why wouldn't you go? I thought you liked school? I know we haven't really talked about it, but I do remember you telling Cordelia that you wanted to go."

"No, Angel. I told Cordelia that I would like to go to school for designing, but I also told her I didn't know if I would or not."

"If that's what you want then you should go for it, baby."

"It's not that simple, Angel."

"Why isn't it?"

"Because it's not, okay?" Buffy rolled on her side away from him. "Now can we please drop this, so I can go to sleep. I'm tired."

"I don't care if you are tired, Buffy. There is something you're not telling me." Angel scooted up against her, and propped up on one arm to look down at her. "And I'm not letting you go to sleep until you tell me what it is."

"Fine!" She flipped on her back to look at him. "You want me to tell you, I will." And God help her, it was going to be a lie. A big lie. But she couldn't tell him the real reason why couldn't to go to college. "I lied. When I told Cordelia I loved school. I lied. The truth is I'm sick of it. Burnt out even. I need a break, okay?" She rolled away from him again. "So now you know my little secret. I'm sick of school, and I'm afraid to tell mom because I know it will break her heart that I don't want to go. Now will you please drop it? I'm really tired and I want to go to sleep."

"You're lying to me, Buffy. I can feel it." He turned her back to face him. "It's money, isn't it? Your mom doesn't have the money to send you, does she?"

"God, I hate when you read me like a fucking book." Buffy swallowed against the lump in her throat. "And don't you dare do what I know you're about to do, Angel. I won't take your money."

Angel scowled. "Why not, Buffy? Why won't you take it?"

"Because I love you, god damnit! You, Angel! Not your money." She was visibly shaking from the emotions storming inside her, and Angel immediately pulled her into his arms. "I know you love me, Buffy. I don't doubt that for a second. The reason I offered you the money is because I love you, too. I want to give you the world, baby. I want you to be happy."

Buffy sighed. "You don't have to give me the world, not when all I want is you."

"You have me, Buffy." He pulled back to look at her. "Completely."

"Then I'm happy. Happiness to me is you, Angel. I don't need anything else."

Angel feathered a kiss across her lips. "Neither do I."

"Then let it go, please?" She snuggled back in his chest.

"Okay, I'll let it go, but I'm telling you now that if I ever come across that no good father of yours again there's no telling what I might do to him." He smoothed her back with lazy circles. "His sorry ass should be helping your mom send you to college."

"This isn't anyone's fault but mine, Angel." Buffy murmured sleepily.

"What do you mean it's your fault, Buffy?" He didn't get a reply. "Buffy?" He pulled away to look at her again, and discovered that the reason she hadn't answered him was because she had fallen asleep. Wrapping his arms around her, he drew her closer, but it was a long time before he finally drifted off to sleep himself.

***

"Hey, stranger."

Angel looked up from the notes he was making to find Cordelia standing in the office doorway. "Hey, yourself. If you came for breakfast you're too late. I held it for as long as I could, but Buffy had to leave and I didn't want her to leave without eating."

"She spent the night?" Cordelia asked, moving into the room.

"Yeah, and I would appreciate it if you kept that little piece of info to yourself. The last thing I need is that boyfriend of yours to go all psycho brother on me."

"Let me guess?" Cordelia sat down in the chair in front of Angel's desk. "She wiggled the house keys from me then lied and told Joyce she was spending the night at a friend's house so she could spend the entire night with you last night, am I right?"

Angel nodded. "And I had nothing to do with it, I swear. I wasn't happy when she told me what she had done."

"You seem to be okay about it now."

"That's because I am." He grinned. "Thank you for giving her the keys, by the way. You have no idea how happy I was when I came home and found her here. This week was the longest week of my life."

"Long, but I'm gathering productive."

Angel frowned. "Not at first. You didn't tell anyone the real reason why I went to New York, did you?"

"No. Everyone including Buffy think you were there to do book signings."

"Good." He murmured. "I want it to stay that way for now."

Cordelia sat back in her chair and eyed Angel across the desk. "So are you going to tell me what happened or not? You were really evasive when I talked to you on the phone."

"Mr. Campbell wouldn't go for it. He agrees with my editor. They both think the fans won't take to the idea very well."

"You're kidding?"

"No. He wanted me to rewrite it all over again, and kill Angel off."

"I don't believe it! How could he ask you to do that? If you kill Angel off your fans would really be upset. Besides, I read the manuscript myself when I typed it up, and I happen to think the story is incredible. More than incredible. It's your best work ever, and I'm not just saying that because you're my boss and best friend either. I'm saying it because it's true. God, I can't believe that asshole!"

"That was pretty much my sentiments as well, Cordy. That's why I told him and Titan to go to hell."

Cordelia gasped in shock. "No, you didn't?"

"Yes, I did."

"So... I umm... What happened after that?"

"Well, I still owed them one book on my contract, but luckily I managed to get out of it."

"Managed how?"

"By making the deal of a lifetime with Turner Productions. They bought out my contract with Titan. The series is a go, Cordy. Not just that, I'm going to be doing the writing for it."

"But what about the new book, Angel? You can't just leave your fans hanging. It's your best work, and I don't care what anyone says, it should be published."

"I agree." Angel grinned. "And so did the people at Turner. That's why they joined forces with

a new up and coming publishing firm to buy out my contract from Titan. You are now looking at the newest author for Galaxy Books."

"So how many millions did you make off this little deal?"

Angel scowled. "I didn't do it for the money, Cordelia."

"I know that, Angel. I was just joking. I'm proud of you. You stuck to your guns and fought for what you believed in, and you just wait and see, in a few short months Titan will be kicking themselves in the ass for letting you go when this book comes out and your fans love it so much the book stores won't be able to keep it on the shelves. Mark my words."

"I'm sorry, Cordy." Angel sighed and sat back in his chair. "Money is just a touchy subject with me today. Buffy and I sort of had a little argument about it last night."

"Well, this is just great." Cordelia snorted. "And here I thought you two had worked through all that."

"We have. The reason I got upset is because she's been keeping a secret from me."

Cordelia blinked in surprise. "A s-secret?"

"Yeah. She gave me this really lame excuse about not wanting to go to college because she was burnt out on school, but I knew she was lying. I finally figured out her mom couldn't afford to send her."

"Sh-She told you that?"

"Yeah, and when I offered to give her the money myself she freaked out on me. She told me she loved me and not my money, and she refused to take it."

"I uhh... Is that all she told you?"

"Yes, why?" Angel's eyes narrowed as he looked at his best friend. "Was there something else she was supposed to tell me?"

"N-No. Nothing." Cordelia suddenly looked at her watch and stood up. "Jesus, will you look at the time. I'm supposed to meet Doyle for lunch."

"Cordy..." Angel stared up at her. "What's going on?"

"N-Nothing's going on, Angel. I swear. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to go see my own honey and I don't want to keep him waiting." She headed for the door. "I'll see you tomorrow, bossman."

Angel watched Cordelia disappear out the door. Something wasn't right here. He could feel it in his gut, and whatever it was his best friend obviously didn't want him to know about it...


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Thanks to Sarah, Ryan, Isis, Sandy, Court, Bklyangel, VengfulVixen3, and Sarah for their feedback on chapter 31.
CHAPTER 32


"Hey, guys!" Buffy called out as she entered the kitchen a couple of days later. "What's cookin?"

"Dinner. Which you'll be having with us." Joyce replied, sitting down beside Giles at the kitchen island. "Angel called while you were at Willow's. He said to tell you he's going to be tied up a little longer than expected and that he won't be able to take you out for dinner after all."

"Did he say anything else?" Buffy asked, plopping down in her stool dejectedly.

"Yes. He said that he would stop by just as soon as he finished up with what he was doing."

"Goody." Buffy immediately perked up. "There for a moment I thought that I was going to slip into heavy duty Angel missage."

Giles smiled. "Then it's a good thing your mother saved the day. The last thing we need is another day like the six days we had last week."

Buffy eyed Giles across the counter. "I wasn't that bad, was I?"

"No, not all. You were just horrible." Giles muttered, taking a sip of his tea.

"I'm sorry, Giles. Hopefully I won't have to put you through that again anytime soon." Buffy laid her head down on the counter and looked over at her mom. "So... Dinner? You never told me what we were having?"

"Meat loaf. And it's got another thirty minutes so that will give us plenty of time to talk."

"About?"

"College." Joyce said, locking eyes with Buffy.

"God, Mom!" Buffy raised up. "Can't you give it a rest for just one day?"

"Your mother has something to tell you, Buffy." Giles murmured from his seat.

"I'm sick of this, Giles."

"I know you are, but just hear your mother... I mean us, out. I promise if you will hopefully everything will be resolved and you won't have to worry about it again, okay?"

Buffy nodded. "Okay."

Joyce smiled at Giles then pulled an envelope out of her apron pocket. "This came today. It's the one, honey. The one you've wanted since you were eleven years old."

"N-New York?" Buffy asked, eyeing the envelope.

"Yes." Joyce nodded. "I didn't open it because it has your name on it. And before you do open it Rupert and I want you to know that if you got in, but didn't get the scholarship we've worked out a way for you to go anyway."

"H-How?"

"I want to put the Citroen up for sale over the internet." Giles answered instead of Joyce.

"You want to sale the Citroen?"

Giles nodded. "Yes. Believe it or not that car you think came from the dark ages is actually worth alot of money."

"B-But, Giles..." Buffy stared at him in disbelief. "You love that car."

"I love you more." He met her gaze.

"Giles..." Buffy started to say, but Joyce interrupted her. "There's no use in trying to talk him out of his decision, Buffy. I've already tried. He wants to do this, and I think you should let him."

"B-But..." Buffy blinked back tears.

"I want to do this, Buffy." Giles reached across the counter and took her hand in his. "I would be very hurt if college is what you want and you passed it up because of something silly as to where the money you used came from." He stood up. "And with that said, your mother and I are going to give you some privacy so you can open that letter."

Joyce stood up and came around the counter. "New York, honey." She laid the envelope down in front of Buffy. "It's your dream. It's what you've always wanted."

"Joyce, darling..." Giles replied. "We don't know if she got in yet, and we won't until we leave her alone so that she can open it."

"Sorry, Rupert. I'm just anxious." Joyce ruffled Buffy's hair. "We'll be in the living room, sweetie."

Buffy nodded, but didn't look up from the envelope that held her gaze. She heard the kitchen door swing shut, and reached to pick up the envelope. Tearing into it, she pulled out the enclosed letter and began to read...


Dear Miss Summers,

We are very pleased to inform you that you have been accepted into New York's Fashion Institute of Technology for the fall term beginning September 2003. Unfortunately though, we regret to inform you that we are unable to offer you a full scholarship.

However we are able to offer you some financial aid towards your tuition through our work program. Enclosed you will find your admission forms as well as the forms for the job program. If you wish to take advantage of the wonderful opportunity to attend our school please fill out and return all forms by no later than June 30th, 2003. We look forward to hearing from you and hope to be welcoming you into our student body in the fall.

Sincerely Yours, Dean Amanda Evans
of the
Fashion Institute of Technology


Buffy folded up the letter and laid it on the counter. She got in. She hadn't gotten the scholarship, but she had still gotten into the best design school in the country. That was an honor upon itself. So why wasn't she happy about it?

She loved designing, and yes she had always figured she would major in it in college if she ever made it to college, but she had never wanted to do it so that she could become rich and famous like her mom wanted her to be. She just loved designing and loved making pretty things for the people she loved. She didn't have to go to a well known school to do that. She could stay here in Sunnydale. Attend UC Sunnydale, and be with Angel at the same time. Angel... Who was she kidding? He was the sole reason she didn't want to go to New York. He was everything. She loved him more than she loved designing, a million times more, and when it came down to what she wanted the most there wasn't any decision to make. Angel was her life, and she wanted hers to be with him as long as God would let her stay with him. There was only one problem to that scenario, and she knew exactly what she had to do to get past it. She just hoped and prayed that this would be the last time that she ever had to do what she was about to do...

***

Later that evening Joyce Summers opened the front door to greet Angel. "Hi, Angel. Come on in."

"Thanks, Joyce." Angel stepped into the house and shed his jacket while Joyce shut the door. "Is she here or still at Willow's?"

"She's here." Joyce replied, turning around to take his coat and hang up. "She's in her room. I was just about to go check on her when you arrived."

"Is something wrong?" Angel asked in concern.

"Physically she's fine. Emotionally... Well, that's a different story. She heard from New York today."

"New York? What about New York?"

Joyce swore under her breath. "Let me guess? She didn't tell you?"

Angel frowned. "Tell me what?"

"Every since Buffy was a little girl her dream has been to attend school in New York. The Fashion Institue of Technology. It's the best design school in the country. She heard from them today. She didn't get in. She's been in her room every since she found out. She wouldn't even come down for dinner."

Angel pointed up the stairs. "Is it okay if I go up?"

Joyce nodded and smiled. "Sure. And while you're at it, will you please remind her that Rupert and I have bridge club tonight and that we won't be home till late?"

"Will do." Angel started up the steps, but Joyce's voice halted him halfway up. "Oh, and Angel..."

"Yeah?" He turned around to look at her.

"See if you can get her to eat something. It's not healthy for her to be skipping meals."

"Don't worry. I'll take care of her. Have a nice time at bridge club, and tell Giles I said hello." With that said, he turned and finished taking the stairs to the second floor. He reached Buffy's room, and knocked before entering.

"Mom, I thought I told you I wasn't hungry?"

"Tough. You're going to eat anyway."

Buffy spun away from the black material she was standing over on the floor with a smile on her face. "You're late, mister. I was worried."

"Sorry, baby. I didn't mean to worry you. I tried to finish up as fast as I could."

"Are you going to tell me where you were at and what had you so tied up?"

"Later." He closed the distance to her, and pulled her into his arms. "First I want to hear about New York. Why didn't you tell me you applied to go to school there?"

Buffy looped her arms around his neck. "Because I applied a long time ago, and forgot about it. Besides, it doesn't matter now. I didn't get in."

"I know. I'm sorry."

"Don't be." She looked away. "It's no biggie."

"It is too a big deal, Buffy. Your mom told me that you've been dreaming about going to this school since you were a little girl." He turned her face back to his. "You know, it's okay to be upset, baby. I told you I'm here for you. Now talk to me."

"What's to talk about, Angel? I didn't get in. End of story." Buffy pushed away from him, and walked over to her bedroom window to look out. "At least now mom will get off my back about my making a decision to go to school. I'm going. I'm staying here and going to UC Sunnydale."

"Is that what you really want?"

"No." She murmured. "But it'll do for now... Until I do get what I really want."

Angel moved up behind her. "How are you going to go to UC Sunnydale? Did you get financial aid?"

"No, and I didn't get a scholarship like Doyle, either. The work program is also out. Mom, Giles, and Doyle all refuse to let me work. They umm... They don't think I can handle it, so Giles has decided to sale the Citroen. He was hoping I would be able to take the money he gets from saling it and go to school in New York, but since I didn't get in there I'm going to use it to go to school here."

Angel wrapped his arms around her, and pulled her back against him. "And that upsets you."

"Yes." Buffy sniffled. "He loves that car, Angel. It's the only thing left of his father's. They were really close. But I couldn't say no when he insisted either. Especially when he ups and tells me he loves me like I was his own daughter and that a father always takes care of his kids. How could I say no when he says stuff like that?"

"You can't. And I think you did the right thing."

"You would. Especially after the other night."

Angel knew what she was doing, and wasn't about to take the bait. "School is important, Buffy."

"Life is more important, Angel."

"School is a part of life."

"Not for everyone."

Angel sighed. "Buffy, baby I don't want to fight with you tonight. Or any night for that matter. So can we please not?"

Buffy struggled to get her anger under control, and finally after a few tense moments she was able to do that. "I'm sorry, Angel." She turned around in his arms. "It's just... I'm upset that Giles is doing this. That car is the only thing that he has left of his father, and he wouldn't have to be doing this if it wasn't for me. This is all my fault."

"People run into financial problems all the time, Buffy. And if anybody is to blame here it's Hank Summers, not you.

Giles was right. A father is supposed to take responsibility for his kids."

"I'd very much like to put the blame on Hank for this, Angel. But unfortunately I can't. This whole mess is my fault."

"You said the same thing the other night, and I want to know why you would think that, Buffy? Why do you think your Mom's financial troubles are your fault?"

"Because they just are, okay, Angel?" Buffy moved around him. "Now just drop it. It doesn't matter now anyway. Everything's been settled. I'm staying here to go to school, and believe it or not I am happy about that." She walked back over to the black material laying on the floor. "You know, prom's next week?"

Angel turned away from the window to look at her. "I know."

"I finished Willow's dress the other day. It was a perfect fit. Oz is going to be floored when he sees her in it. The same thing's going to happen to Xander when he sees Anya."

"And me?" Angel murmured. "What am I going to be when I see you in yours?"

Buffy looked up at him and smiled. "I'm hoping to knock your socks off again."

"Just my socks?" Angel grinned seductively.

Buffy giggled. "You are such a bad boy."

"Only when it comes to you, Ionuin. And speaking of you, I just realized I haven't had a kiss today."

"Well, what are you waiting for, mister." She wiggled her finger at him. "Come get it."

He growled and closed the distance to her. "Gods, I love a bossy woman."

"All bossy women or just one in particular?"

"You." He pulled her into his arms. "Only you, my love." And then he took possession of her lips, and it wasn't long before tongues were dueling, and hands were roaming. But Angel finally managed to rein in his self control and pull away to rest his forehead against hers. "Food. Your mom wanted me to make sure you ate. I should feed you."

"I thought that was what you were just doing?" Buffy asked a little breathlessly.

"Buffy..."

"What?" She asked innocently as she undid a few buttons on his shirt, and began to rain butterfly kisses across the naked skin exposed to her. "Are you going to tell me that you're not hungry for this?"

"Your mom..." He groaned as she pushed his shirt aside and began to tease one of his nipples with her tongue. "Giles..."

"Left just a few minutes to go to bridge club and won't be home till late..." She murmured huskily as she worked the last few buttons of his shirt, and raised up to slide it off his shoulders. "We are all alone. Just you and me, and that great big bed over there." Her emerald eyes locked with his now black ones. "Tell me you don't want to take advantage of it? Tell me you don't want to make love to me as much as I want to make love to you?"

"I can't." He choked out.

She smiled. "Then take me to bed."

Her words were his undoing. He swept her up in his arms, and did exactly what she commanded of him, and when they were laying tangled in the sheets together a little while later, Buffy finally managed to bring up something that had been plaguing her for awhile. "Angel?"

"What, beloved?"

"After prom... What are we going to do?"

"What do you want to do?"

"Well, Will and Oz are going to LA for the weekend. Oz has a gig there the following night, and Xander and Anya are going camping, so I was thinking maybe I could spend the night with you."

"What does your mom say?"

"Nothing. It's Prom. No curfew."

Angel propped up on his hand to look down at her. "Wouldn't you rather go somewhere?"

"I don't care where we go as long as we're together, Angel."

"So if I were to fly you to Mexico for the weekend you would be okay with that?"

"You're not a pilot, honey."

"No, I'm not. But I do own my own plane, and I have a pilot that flys it for me."

Buffy's eyes widened in surprise. "Y-You never told me that."

"It didn't seem important. Besides, I don't use it that much. Just when I have to go a long distance. I used it when I went to New York this last time, and now it's sitting at the Sunnydale airport. I figured I might as well move it here since this is home now. I hate flying on jets. Too crowded. I like my privacy."

"Wow." Buffy murmured. "Your own plane. I'm impressed."

Angel raised an eyebrow. "Oh, really?"

Buffy reached up to feather her fingers through his hair. "With you, honey. Not the plane. Now back to Prom. Can I stay with you or not?"

"I tell you what, how about I take you somewhere else instead? Someplace nice."

She smiled up at him. "Someplace nice, huh?"

"Yes." He leaned over ot brush his lips across hers. "And I'm not going to tell you where. I want it to be a surprise."

"Okay, since I like surprises I won't try to convince you to tell me. I'll just move on to something else instead. I need to ask you something, and if you don't want to do it I'll understand."

"What is it?" Angel asked toying with the ends of her hair.

"I was wondering if I could have a drawer at your house? I'm always showering there on weekends anyway, and having one would save me from having to pack a change of clothes when we run. Of course, if you think I'm pushing you just say so. I said I would understand, and I will. I don't want to rush or crowd or suffocate for that..."

Angel leaned over and claimed her lips again, and it was a long time before he pulled away. "W-Wow... What was that for?" Buffy asked, staring up at him with heated eyes.

"You were babbling, and the answer is yes you can have a drawer. In fact, not only can you have all the drawer and closet space you want, I'm also going to give you a set of keys to the house."

"My very own set?"

"Yes, your very own set." He scooted closer to her. "That way you can come and go as you please."

"A-Angel, you don't have to do this. I uhh... I'm don't want you to feel rushed or anything."

"I don't feel rushed. This is what I want."

"A-Are you sure?" She searched his face.

"Yes." He answered honestly. "The truth is if I could have it my way you would be getting more than just a set of keys and some drawer space, Buffy."

"H-How much more?" She met his gaze.

"A hell of a whole lot more." Was all he said before he leaned over to take her lips again, and then there wasn't any talking for a long long time."


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CHAPTER 33


"So you're going to Willow's?" Joyce asked Buffy at dinner several nights later.

"Yeah. We have some last minute prom stuff to do." Buffy pushed her dinner plate away. "God, can you believe it? Prom is just two days away."

"I-I take it you're excited?" Giles asked from the head of the table.

"Excited doesn't even begin to describe what I'm feeling, Giles. I mean, I know I went last year, but in a way it's like this year is the first time because I actually have a date. And not just any date. I'm going with the man I love."

"Buffy, I think maybe I should remind you..."

"Mom, please..." Buffy interrupted her. "We've been over this a million times. I'm eighteen. It's prom. You didn't say anything last year."

"That's because Angel wasn't in the picture."

Buffy stared at Joyce. "I thought you liked Angel?"

"I do, but you're young, honey. There's going to be alot more Angel's in your future, and I want to make sure you have them."

"God, Mom. When are you going to get it through your thick skull that I don't want anyone else? Angel's the one I want. I love him, and I'm going to be with him. You might as well accept that."

"Buffy, sweetie..."

"No, Mom! I'm not going to listen to another one of your speeches. Jesus Christ! I thought once I made a decision about college you would lay off, but I can see now that I was wrong." She stood up. "I'm going to the mall with Willow, and after that she's dropping me off at Angel's. I'll be home by eleven." She disappeared out of the dining room, and the minute she was gone Giles looked over at Joyce. "You have been coming down a little hard on her, Joyce."

"She's young, Rupert. I don't want her to jump into things like I did. She's got her whole life ahead of her."

"We don't know that."

"And we don't know that she doesn't!" Joyce snapped at him, and immediately regretted it. "God, I'm sorry, Rupert. It's just... I think that's what the problem is with Buffy. Every since she was twelve years old she's never let herself picture the future. She's always rushing to cram things into her life for fear she's not going to be around long enough to experience them firsthand, and I think that's what has happened with Angel. I think she just fancies herself in love with him because she's afraid she won't be around to find that real certain someone, and I blame all of us for letting her think so negatively. She needs to think positive. She needs to believe she's going to be around long enough to do all the things girls her age do. She needs to have a normal life. A life that includes college, and dating other boys."

"You talk like Buffy's a little girl, Joyce and she's not. She's actually far more experienced at life than any of us. And just so you know, I think you're wrong about her feelings for Angel. I think she loves him more than you can ever imagine, and he... he not only loves her, he worships the ground she walks on. He's good for her, and I for one am rooting for them to make it, and if that makes you angry I'm sorry, but I honestly think that that's what is wrong with the world today. There's not enough happily ever afters. Most people have quit believing in them. Most people have quit believing in love period, and that has lead to hate, and war. It's destroying millions of lives everyday. Don't be one of those people, Joyce. Don't destroy your daughter's life becuase if you do I'm afraid you really might lose her for good." Giles stood up. "I'm going to the high school. We got some new books in today. Books that were bought with money donated by your daughter's boyfriend. One of the very few men in this world that actually care. And believe it or not, Joyce he does care about Buffy and her future. If he didn't he wouldn't still be around. Think about that. Think about everything he's done for her..."

***

Angel entered the office to find Cordelia sitting behind her desk typing. "Hey."

"Hey." Cordelia replied, looking up from the computer screen. "How was your mystery meeting?"

"There wasn't a meeting, Cordy. I just told you that." He answered, plopping down in the chair in front of her desk.

"Then what were you doing in LA all day?" She finally flipped the computer off, and looked across the desk at him.

"Spending the day with my mom. She took the day off, and had a substitute cover for her."

"There's not anything wrong with her is there?" Cordelia asked in concern.

"She's fine, Cordy. Better than fine. She's tickled pink."

"And why exactly is she tickled pink?"

"Because of this..." Angel withdrew something from his coat pocket, and pushed it across the desk to Cordelia.

Cordelia's eyes widened in shock. "Oh my God, Angel! Is this what I think it is?"

Angel nodded and grinned from ear to ear. "Yes. Now open it and tell me what you think."

Cordelia opened the box and gasped.

"Is that a good gasp or a bad gasp, Cordy?" He eyed her nervously. "Talk to me, please? Do you think she'll like it?"

Cordelia nodded, still a little flabbergasted. "H-How could she not. A-Angel, this is..."

"Exquisite?" He questioned.

She nodded again. "It's that and much much more."

Angel sighed in relief. "Good. That's what I wanted. I wanted something exquisite for an exquisite woman."

Cordelia finally managed to tear her eyes away from the box. "Y-You got this in LA?"

"No. I actually had it designed and made in Ireland. Galway to be exact. My dad's childhood best friend designs and makes them for a living. I got mom to put in a call to him last month. He returned my call the very same day. I knew exactly what I wanted, and I described it to him over the phone. He faxed me a picture of the design I described to him the next day, and it was exactly what I had pictured in my head, so I called him and told him to get started on it, and not to spare any expense. He called me a couple of days ago, and told me it was ready so I sent Lilah Morgan over to get it for me, and I arranged for her to deliver it to me at Mom's this morning just to be on the safe side."

Cordelia looked back down at the item in the box. "So when do you plan to give it to her?"

"Prom night. I talked to Tony Martin and he's agreed to rent out the Bronze to me for the night. I'm going to give it to her there since it's where we first met, and after that I plan to fly her to LA. I booked the Penthouse suite at the Regent Beverly Wilshire."

"A-Are you absolutely sure this is what you want, Angel."

"Yes. I love her, Cordy. I want to spend the rest of my life with her. Have babies with her. Grow old with her."

His words brought Cordelia to tears, and Angel was immediately around the desk pulling her into his arms. "Hey, what's this? What did I say? Was it the growing old part? Did it upset you, too?"

"Too?" Cordelia sniffled and pulled away to look at him.

"Buffy. I told her that I thought about us growing old together, and I don't know if the thought of what I might look like when I got old scared her or what, but she cried like a baby when I said it."

"Y-You told her you wanted to grow old with her?"

Angel scowled. "Didn't I just say that, Cordelia?"

The only answer he got was more crying which caused that uneasy feeling he'd gotten with her before to return. "Okay, Cordelia what the hell is going on? And don't say nothing because I can feel it. I can feel that something is definitely wrong here."

"N-Nothing's wrong, Angel. I'm just happy for you that's all." She pulled away from him, and stood up. "N-Now if you'll excuse me I'm going to go home. And y-you... You, mister should get that bauble of yours in the safe before Buffy get's here." She leaned over to kiss him on the cheek. "I'll see you tomorrow."

***

"I have to go home soon."

"You do."

"We should get up and get dressed."

"We should."

Buffy buried her face in Angel's chest. "I don't want to go."

"I don't want you to go." Angel murmured, smoothing his hands down her naked back.

She burst in to tears, and he pulled away to wipe them away just as quickly as they appeared. "A-Angel, I h-hate this. I-It's getting harder and harder to leave y-you at the e-end of the night."

"Shh..." He leaned forward to feather a kiss across her lips. "I know, baby. I feel the same way."

"Y-You do?" She looked at him through tear filled eyes.

"I do." He kissed her forehead.

"W-What are we going to d-do?" She asked, clinging to him.

"I'll figure something out, I promise." He whispered against her hair. "Until then we'll just have to keep on doing what were doing, okay?"

"O-Okay." She sniffled.

"That's my girl." He pulled away again to smile at her. "I love you. Now dry your eyes and tell me that you love me, too."

"I do." Buffy swiped at her tears, and met his gaze again. "I love you so much, Angel." She pulled his head down for another kiss that quickly turned passionate, but unfortunately time put a halt to things going any further, and the two lovers slipped from the bed to get dressed.

***

Buffy tiredly entered her room a little while later, and nearly jumped out of her skin when she turned away from shutting the door to find her mother sitting on her bed waiting for her.

"Jesus christ, Mom! What are you trying to do, give me a heart attack?"

"You're late." Joyce replied, point to the clock on Buffy's nightstand.

"I'm not late, Mom. I was home before eleven. I was outside on the porch talking to Angel." Buffy moved across the room to her dresser. "And I really don't appreciate you waiting up for me. You act like you don't trust me."

"Maybe because I don't."

Buffy spun around to face Joyce. " What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

"Exactly what it sounded like, Buffy." Joyce stood up from the bed. "It's one thing for you to lie and keep secrets from Angel, but to do it to me... That's a different story. I am your mother."

"I wasn't lying, Mom. I was home before eleven o'clock."

"I'm not talking about that, Buffy." Joyce closed the distance to her, and waved a piece of paper in front of her face. "I'm talking about this!"

Buffy's face paled. "W-Where did you... How could you? How could you snoop through my stuff?"

"I wasn't snooping. I was putting away laundry and found it. You lied, young lady. Not just to me, but to Rupert as well. And I want to know why. Why, Buffy? Why did you lie about not getting into college in New York?"

She began to pace. "Was it the money? Of course, it wasn't the money. If it was the money you wouldn't be going to college at all!" She stopped and turned back to face her. "It's Angel, isn't it? You lied because you didn't want to leave Angel. That's it isn't it?"

"Yes." Buffy locked eyes with her. "And when it came down to deciding what was more important there wasn't a doubt in my mind that it was him. Angel is the most important thing in my life, Mom. I love him."

"Will you listen to yourself for just one minute, Buffy? New York! You got into the best design school in the country. You got into the same school you've dreamed about since you were eleven years old, and you are about to throw it all away for someone you've only known a few short months!"

"If memory serves me correctly you were the same age as me when you met Hank, and you married him, Mom."

"Yeah, I did. But you see how it ended up, don't you, Buffy."

"Angel would never leave me, Mom. He loves me."

"Your father told me he loved me too, but that didn't stop him from cheating on me, and then up and leaving me with two children to raise on my own."

"Angel's nothing like Hank, Mom. And there's nothing you can say or do that will convince me that he is. I love him, and because I do I'm staying here in Sunnydale so that we can be together." Buffy met her gaze again. "Look, I'm sorry I lied to you and Giles, okay? I hated that I did it, but I'm glad you know now why I did because it's about time you came to terms with my decision. My decision, Mother not yours. Now if you'll excuse me I'm going to go take a quick shower before I turn in." Buffy moved around Joyce and went to the door. "I'll see you in the morning." With that said, she disappeared out the door, leaving Joyce to stare after her.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Thanks to Jade, Court, Sandy, Sara, Sarah, VengfulVixen3, Christine, and Sarah for their feedback last chapter.
Tissue Warning! This chapter is incredibly angsty!
CHAPTER 34


Angel answered his front door the next morning to find Joyce Summers standing on the doorstep. "Joyce, I uhh... Is Buffy okay?"

"She's fine. She's in school. The reason I'm here is because I need to talk to you about something, Angel. May I come in?"

"Sure." Angel stepped aside and motioned her into the house. After she stepped inside, he shut the door and lead her into the living room where she took a seat on the sofa. "Can I get you anything? Some coffee? Tea?"

"No thanks. I'm fine."

"Are you sure?" He asked nervously.

"I'm positive." Joyce shifted on the couch,and looked back up at him. "I suppose you are wondering what I need to talk to you about?"

He nodded, and took a seat in the chair across from her. "Is it about the trip I have planned for Buffy prom weekend? Because if it is..."

"It's not about that. And I guess the only way for us to talk is for me to get straight to the point and tell you what it is about. Buffy lied about New York, Angel. She did get accepted. I found the letter in her room last night before you brought her home and I confronted her with it. I asked her why she lied and she admitted to me that the reason was because of you. She said when it came down to deciding what was more important, school or you, that the decision wasn't hard to make. She chose you."

Angel sat in stunned silence for a moment. "She lied?"

Joyce shook her head. "Yes."

"Because of me?"

"Yes. She said the reason she lied was because she knew I would react badly about her decision, and she was right, I did. But it's not because I don't like you, Angel. I do. I think you are a wonderful young man, and you've been good for her, but Buffy is my daughter, and as a parent I can't stand by and watch her throw this opportunity away. This is everything she has ever dreamed of, and thought she could never have. That's why I'm here. There's more, and I think once you hear what I have to tell you you'll understand why I'm so admanant about her not throwing this opportunity away."

Angel looked down at his hands. "I'm listening."

"Buffy's been keeping something else from you, and I blame myself for letting her, but she was so afraid you would change your mind about her that I went along with her and agreed to not say anything because she was so happy. The happiest I've seen her in a long time, and I just couldn't say no to her for that simple reason. It's the whole parent thing again. Parents... They'll do anything for their child. Anything. And it's even more so when that child is sick."

"Sick?" Angel's eyes shot up to meet Joyce's. "Buffy's sick?"

"No, not now. She's in remission."

"Cancer?" Angel asked in a barely audible voice.

"Leukemia. Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia. We found out when she was twelve. She had been sick alot that year with one infection after another, and then one day she just developed an intense fever that wouldn't go away. I kept her home from school thinking she probably had the flu, but within hours she was having trouble walking, and developed bruises all over her body. Once I saw the bruises I knew something was terribly wrong, so I rushed her to Sunnydale Hospital and they took one look at her and flew her to Children's Hospital in Los Angeles. It didn't take long for them to figure out what was wrong with her. They did some blood tests and a spinal tap, and once the results came back they started her on a regimen of chemo right away. Unfortunately though, the treatments left her prone to respiratory infections, and at one point she was virtually without an immune system. It was the longest twenty eight days of my life, but she eventually went into remission and underwent chemo for another year for preventative measures. Everything went really well for the next year. She was just starting to return to normal, and then all of a sudden she relapsed. It was really bad. She developed another intense fever, so we returned to LA where they confirmed out worst fears. Buffy was hysterical when they told her. During all this she had developed an intense fear of hospitals, and anything that had to do with it. She was especially afraid of needles, and the doctors and nurses had to restrain her everytime they had to stick her. It was so hard for Doyle and I to watch her go through it, and things didn't get any easier for any of us. Especially her. The leukemia was more aggressive this time, and wasn't doing a damn bit of good. She was dying. We knew it, and so did her doctor. That's when he suggested a bone marrow transplant."

"Doyle..." Angel murmured. "Doyle, was the donor."

"Yes, but how..." Joyce started to say.

"I remember now. There were things Buffy said. Things other people said that didn't make sense. When all that stuff was going on with Finn... She was afraid if she told Doyle what was going on he would get in a confrontation with Finn and lose his job. I remember her saying something about how she couldn't be the cause of ruining his life, not when she owed him hers." Angel blinked back tears. "And then there were other things... Things she would say at the drop of a hat and then she would just fall to pieces. This whole time I just thought she was an overly emotional person. She's so loving... Caring... To me... To him..."

"Buffy and Doyle have always been close, but they grew even more so when she got sick. After we found out that Doyle was a perfect match for the transplant, she underwent total body irradiation and high doses of chemotherapy. He became really protective of her, and he never left her side. I thought he would fail school. He missed so much to be with her, but somehow thank God he didn't, and luckily the transplant took place the June following Buffy's fifteenth birthday so he didn't have to miss anymore. He was so protective of her he even insisted that they share a hospital room after the transplant, but the doctors wouldn't let him because Buffy had to be isolated in a sterile environment because she didn't have an immune system and wasn't able to fight off any infections. I think the waiting was probably the worst of all. Wondering if the transplant was going to work, and when the doctor's told us it did... God, you couldn't imagine the relief. Of course, she's not out of the woods yet. She had to undergo consolidation therapy and maintenance therapy which she finished last year, and it's still a struggle to get her to go to her checkups every six months because of what she has to go through. She has suffered so much. Not just physically, but emotionally as well. She was so sick through her teen years, that she never actually got to be a teenager. The last two years have been the closest she's come to having a normal life, but it's not the one I had hoped for her. She holds back alot of herself from others... Because of Hank... She gave up gymnastics because she was afraid he would take it away. And God, did she love it. So much so, that after he left she decided she wanted to go back to it, but her decision to do it came a little too late. She got sick. I called Hank when she did, and he was such a coward. He came to the hospital, and I guess he couldn't handle it. He never came back. She resents him for that, even though she doesn't admit it. And she hates him for caring more about his latest girlfriend than her. But it isn't just Hank. She has issues with all men. It started when her doctor told her that she would never be able to have children."

That was Angel's undoing. "Oh, God..."

Joyce leaned over to touch Angel's hand. "Angel..."

Angel stared out Joyce's hand laying on top of his. "I uhh... Is it from the chemo and radiation?"

"Yes. The highest doses of both were given to her during puberty, and it damaged her reproductive system. She's had a lot of problems because of it. That's why she's on the pill."

"Oh, God..." Angel buried his face in his hands. "Why didn't she tell me?"

"One reason was because of your father. She knew how hard his death was on you, and she was afraid if she told you that she had and was going through what he went through it would scare you away. But more than that, I think that every since the doctor told her that she can't have children she thinks that she's not worthy of being loved. She was devestated over the news, and it didn't help matters that some one at school heard Willow and Xander talking about it one day. By the next day everyone in Sunnydale knew. Some were really great about it. Others... Not so great. Things were said to her that upset her. More than upset her. She ended up running away because of all the gossip, but luckily Xander ended up finding her and bringing her home. I don't know where he found her at or what he said to her because to this day neither one of them will talk about it. All I know is that she came home with a smile on her face, and she's been okay every since. Well, okay as far as anyone that's been through what she's been through can be okay anyway. "

"She's wrong, you know? She is worth loving." Angel looked up at Joyce with a tear soaked face. "I love her."

"I know that, Angel. That's why I'm here. She's young, and even though she doesn't try to let herself look into the future, I believe she has one. I want her to have everything that all other girls her age have. I want her to do all the things they do. That includes college. New York. It's been her dream since she was eleven years old, and she deserves to have it. I watched her lose one dream, and I don't want to watch her to lose this one. She deserves to have that normal life she missed out on all these years, and I honestly don't think you want to take that away from her, do you?"

"No." Angel shook his head.

"That's what I thought you'd say. Just like I know that you'll do the right thing and let her go." Joyce stood up. "I'm sorry I had to come to you and dump all this on you, and then just leave, but I need to be getting to work. I trust you'll talk to her about New York soon?"

All Angel could do was nod.

"Good." Joyce gave him a weak smile. "Well, I guess that's it. I've got to go. Don't bother getting up. I'll just see myself out." She turned and headed for the door, but Angel's voice stopped her in her tracks before she could reach it. "Joyce?"

"Yes?" She turned around to stare at Angel's back.

"I want to help... Send her to school, I mean."

"That's not necessary, Angel. Rupert and I have that taken care of."

"She's upset, you know? That Giles is saling his car. She cries every time she thinks about it."

"How did you..." Joyce stared at Angel in surprise.

"She admitted that you didn't have the money to send her to college, and that Giles was going to sale the Citroen so she could. All she kept saying was that it was her fault. The reason you didn't have the money, and at the time I couldn't figure out why she blamed herself, but now that I know the truth... The transplant... It was expensive, and I can almost bet that your medical insurance didn't cover one third of it." Angel stood up and turned around to face her. "Am I right?"

"Yes. I had to use both hers and Doyle's college tuition to pay for it, and that still didn't cover it. The community also rallied to help thanks to Tony Martin, but it still wasn't enough so I had to take out a third mortgage."

"Then it's my turn to help her, and you can't say no. I want to pay for her tuition. All of it. I just need to be sure you can get her to go to New York if I do?"

"Angel, I can't..."

Angel's eyes darkened. "Don't deny me this, Joyce. You forget that I love her, too. Now answer the question. Can you get her to go to New York or not?"

"Yes. I'll get her to go."

"Then tell Giles not to sale the Citroen. It'll break her heart if he does, and she's already been through enough. That's why I'm doing this. I'll take care of her tuition, and I don't want you to tell me you'll pay me back, because you won't. I won't let you. This isn't about money. It's about her. I love her." He looked at Joyce with sad eyes. "I wanted to give her the world. I planned to. I umm... I was going to ask her to be my wife... Prom night. But now... I umm... I need to do this. If I can't give her the world at least let me do this."

"A-Angel, if she finds out..." Joyce looked away from the sadness in his eyes.

"She won't. She'll be getting some papers from New York. Call me and let me know when she does. Now go to work." He replied before turning and disappearing out of the living room.

***

"Angel!" Buffy called out later that evening as she entered the house with the set of keys he had given her. When she didn't get a response from him, she headed into the living room and stopped in her tracks when she spotted the man she was searching for stretched out on the sofa sleeping. Sitting the duffel bag she was carrying down in the chair across from the sofa, she quietly closed the distance to him and knelt down on the floor to lean over and kiss him. The moment her lips met his, Angel's startled eyes flew open, and he shot to a sitting position on the cushions. "Buffy... What are you doing here?"

"Well gee, honey. Hello to you, too." His scowl brought Buffy to her feet. "Dinner. We had dinner plans, remember?"

"Is it that late?" He asked, running his hands over his face.

"Yes." She eyed him in concern. "Are you feeling okay, Angel?"

"I'm fine, Buffy." He muttered, swinging his legs off the couch.

"Are you sure?" She sat down beside him. "You don't look so hot. Your eyes are red, and you look really tired. Maybe you're coming down with something." She reached over to feel his forehead, but his hand shot out to grab hers before she could touch him.

"I said I'm fine, Buffy."

Buffy pulled her hand away. "O-Okay. You're fine. You don't have to take a 'tude with me, honey. I was just worried about you."

"You shouldn't." Angel stood up. "Worry about me, I mean."

"Why not? I love you. People worry about the people they love, Angel."

"Don't say that." He moved to the fireplace.

"Don't say what?" She stared at his back. "That I worry about you?"

"No. Don't say that you love me."

Buffy's heart climbed into her chest just as a cold chill swept over her. Something wasn't right here. She could feel it. She stared at his back. Really stared at it, and she didn't like what she saw. "What's going on, Angel?"

"I've been doing alot of thinking since last night..."

"And?" She relaxed a little. "Did you figure something out?"

"Yes. I figured out that it's moving too fast, Buffy. We're moving too fast."

Okay, that wasn't what she was expecting to hear from him, and now instead of her heart in her throat, she felt nausea. "S-So we'll slow down."

"But that's just it, Buffy... I don't want to slow down. Last night made me realize that I jumped from one relationship to another without taking a breath. I've been tied down since I was nineteen years old, and I never took any time for myself. I'm twenty three years old, and last night made me realize that I've never taken any time to live like other twenty three year olds." He turned around to look at her. "And then there's you. Your eighteen years old, Buffy and you and I both know you've never really dated anyone but me. And you should..."

"W-What are you saying, Angel? Do you want me to date other people? Is that what this is all about?"

"No, Buffy. I'm saying I can't do this anymore. I want more out of life, and I just can't be tied down right now. There's alot happening to me right now. I just signed a new book contract with another publishing firm, and I've also signed a deal with Twentieth Century Fox. They're going to make *The Fang Gang* a series, and I'm going to be doing the writing for it. Both those projects are going to require my undivided attention. And then there's this whole mess with us... I can't do it anymore. I'm tired of the sneaking around behind your mother's back, and the lying to her. I just can't do it anymore..."

Buffy stared at him in shock, hoping that what she was hearing was just her imagination. "Th-This is a nightmare. It's just a nightmare. I'm going to wake up any minute, and you're going to be the man that made love to me last night."

"It's not a nightmare, Buffy. And as for last night..."

"Don't!" Buffy felt her heart shatter into a million pieces, and she shot to her feet. "I'm not a fucking blonde bimbo, Angel. I know where this is headed. You're breaking up with me, aren't you?"

"Yes." He confirmed her worst nightmare, and it was the most damaging cut by that knife in her gut. "I'm sorry, Buffy. It's not that I don't love..."

"LOVE!" She screamed at him. "Don't you dare stand there and tell me you love me, Angel because the way I see it if you really did love me you wouldn't be doing this right now."

"I have to do this, Buffy. For me. Right now my first priority has to be me and the new business ventures I'm about start."

"I see." Buffy's eyes flared. "So that's what this is really about, Angel. You're telling me that you're exactly like all the other rich people in this world. You're telling me that money is more important to you than anything. Even love... Even me. Am I right?"

"No, Buffy..." Angel took a step towards her, but halted in her tracks when she backed away. "Stay away from me."

"Don't do this, Buffy..." Angel's unreadable eyes met hers. "Please don't let this end with us hating each other. I want us to be friends."

"F-Friends?" A sob tore from Buffy's throat. "F-Friends! God, Angel! Do you have any idea how seventh grade that sounds? I'm sorry that I had to make love to you last night, and break up with you today, Buffy. Please don't take it personally. Oh, and hey, buck up while you're at it because no matter what we can still always be friends!" She mimicked in a sarcastic voice. "God, you really have fucking gall, Angel. How can you stand there and tell me you only want to be friends with me after everything we've shared? I gave you everything. All of me. Heart, body, and soul. Completely. And God, I was so stupid... I thought you were different. I thought that maybe just maybe you were the one that could love me the way I always wanted and dreamed about, but boy was I wrong. The only thing that you are is just another Riley Finn. The only difference is that you played your cards right, and fucked me when he didn't. Congratulations, Angel." She clapped her hands. "I applaud you. You have finally made me see that I was right. You have just managed to destroy what little faith in men that I had left, and I will never ever let another one play me the way you played me." Buffy burst into tears, and was out the front door before Angel could even blink, and the only sound that could be heard in the house after that was the sound of her name tearing from his lips."

***

Doyle unlocked the front door to the house on Revello Drive, and ushered his girlfriend inside. "I can't believe you've never bowled."

"I had better things to do then throw some big ball down a hardwood floor, sweetie." Cordelia told him as she waited for him to close the door.

"Such as?" He asked, turning around to look at her.

"Well, there was boys, cheerleading, my social life, and my friends or my so called friends, I guess you could say. But the main reason I never bowled was because of these babies. "She held up her hands, and wiggled her well manicured fingernails in front of is face.

Doyle stared at her in disbelief. "You mean to tell me that the reason you never tried

to bowl was because of your fingernails?"

"I'll have you know, buster that fingernails are one of a woman's best features."

"I'm afraid I'm going to have to disagree with you on that one, Princess."

"That's funny." She grinned. "Because I don't seem to recall you disagreeing with me or them when we were in bed earlier."

"Why you little vixen, I'll get you for that." Doyle reached for Cordelia, but she dodged him and started up the stairs. "Uh uh, loverboy. You are not putting the moves in me in your mother's and stepfather's house. Now find that bowling ball, and let's get out of here."

"Forget the ball, princess and forget my parents. They're at their book club. And Buffy... Well, I think we know where she is..." Doyle started advancing on her. "Which means that we have the whole house to ourselves." He reached her and pulled her into his arms. "Now what do you say to that little piece of information?"

"I'd say you better double check because I just heard something." Cordelia pointed up the stairs. "It was coming from up there."

Doyle pulled away from her, frowning. "Are you sure?"

Cordelia nodded and then her eyes suddenly grew panicked when a loud crashing sound came from upstairs. "Doyle!"

"Stay here!" Doyle yelled, taking the rest of the stairs as fast as he could. He made the landing to the second floor just as another crashing noise echoed through the house, and he could tell exactly from which direction it came. He burst through Buffy's bedroom door preparing to meet a burglar, but what he found instead ws a totally destroyed room, and his sister laying curled in a ball on the floor. "Buffy!"

He quickly closed the distance to her, and dropped to his knees beside her to find that she was still conscious, but completely unmoving. "Buffy..." His hands swept over her checking for injuries, and upon not finding any his eyes returned to her face. "Munchkin, it's Doyle. Can you hear me?" He began to stroke her hair. "Come on,


Buffy... Talk to me. I need to know what happened. Are you hurt? Buffy... Munchkin, please talk to me. You're scaring me."

Buffy blinked, and tears began to seep down her face. "H-He broke up with me." She choked out.

"What?" Doyle asked, not quite sure he understood what she was saying. Especially after what Cordelia had told him yesterday.

"A-Angel..." She sobbed. "He broke up with m-me. H-He said he didn't want to be t-
tied down. Th-That he couldn't be with me anymore. H-He said he jumped f-from one relationship to another without t-taking a breath, and th-that he never took anytime for himself. He said h-he just wanted to live like other twenty three year olds, and th-
that he wanted me to d-do the same. He said I n-needed to experience all th-the things other girls my age did. D-Date other guys. B-But he said the main reason he was breaking up w-with me was because h-he couldn't be tied down because of work. H-He said he got a new book contract, a-and that *The Fang Gang* was going to be a series, and that h-he needed to focus on that. S-So when it all came down to it he chose money over love... Over m-me. A-And I don't understand... I don't understand how he could make love to me last night, a-and tell me he loved me, and then just toss me aside like a bag of g-garbage less than twenty four hours later. I-I don't understand. G-God, someone p-please make me understand." She finally looked up at him. "D-Doyle..." She sobbed. "It hurts. I n-never thought anything could hurt as much as what I w-went through when I w-was sick, b-but I was wrong... This... Th-
This hurts a million times worse. M-Make it stop. P-Please, G-God m-make i-it s-
stop."

"I can't, Munchkin. I wish I could. You know I would if I could, but I can't." His words broke her, and she curled into and even tighter ball, sobs wracking her body, and Doyle's eyes shot to the bedroom door to find Cordelia standing there, looking just as shocked at Buffy's news as he was. "Delia, go call mom. The number is on the fridge." He dismissed her, and immediately turned his focus on his sister, and that's when he saw it. A balled up piece of paper was clutched in her hand, but no matter how hard he tried to coax it from her she wouldn't give it up. She would't do anything for him after that. All she did was lay in the floor, curled into a tight ball, staring at a spot on the wall.


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Boy, I've never seen a chapter spark the shitload of feedback I got from chapter 34. I'm happy to see that I still have people hanging in there, and promise you won't be disappointed if you continue to do so! Thanks again everyone. CHAPTER 35


Cordelia heard her best friend enter the office late the next morning, but she was still angry at him so she didn't bother to look up from the notes she was typing. "You're late."

"I'm the boss, so I can do whatever the hell I want, Cordelia." Angel muttered as he moved to the coffeemaker.

"So I've heard. Thank you, by the way. I haven't had any sleep because I've been helping my boyfriend pick up what's left of the woman that you claimed to love more than anything in this world."

Angel halted in his tracks, and spun back around to look at her. "Y-You saw her?"

"Mmm..." She turned around in her chair to look at him. "Been with her and her brother all night. The both of us have been with her since we found her last night."

"F-Found her? What do you mean you found her, Cordy? Where was she?"

"What do you care, Angelus? You're the one that broke up with her."

"God damnit, Cordelia! Just answer the fucking question! Where was she?"

"Home. Doyle and I found her at her house. We stopped by there to pick up a bowling ball, and we heard a noise. When Doyle went to check it out, he found her on her bedroom floor. To say he was panicked was an understatement. Especially when her room was totally ransacked. Don't worry though, it turns out she freaked out and did the ransacking herself before she slipped into what I have dubbed her emotional coma. She hasn't said a word to anyone since eight thirty last night."

"She's okay though, right? I mean, physically?"

"She didn't hurt herself if that was what you were wondering, Angelus. And when I talked to Doyle ten minutes ago, he said she was finally sleeping, which is a good thing considering she spent the entire night puking her guts out. She does that when she gets overly stressed. I guess you forgot in your concern for yourself." She turned back to the notes on her desk.

"Cordelia..." Angel ran his hands through his hair.

Cordelia flipped the computer off and stood up. "Don't, Angelus. I don't want to hear it."

He sighed. "You're angry with me."

"No. I'm more than angry, Angelus. I'm supposed to be your best friend. Your best friend!" She turned back to look at him. "I don't understand. I don't understand how you can go from pledging your undying love for Buffy less than forty eight hours ago to dumping her twenty four hours later. Unless of course, I was wrong about Darla. That's it, isn't it? It's Darla. You really are in love with her. Or lust one. How could you not be? I knew that bitch would eventually get to you. She's been calling here for weeks, and I did everything I could to keep you from finding out, but deep down I knew eventually she would get a hold of you. So... I guess the question now is when are you moving her in? I'd like to know so that I can clear all my things out of my desk, and type up my letter resignation before she gets here."

"Darla's not moving in, Cordelia. This isn't even about Darla."

"Yeah, right." Cordelia snorted, and moved around her desk to leave. "I'll just bet it's not."

"It's not. I know, Cordelia."

"You know what, Angelus?" She turned to look at him.

"I know that Buffy's sick. That she's in remission now. And I have a funny feeling that you knew way before I did, am I right?"

"Yes. I knew, Angelus. And I'm sorry that you're angry at me for not telling you, but honestly I don't care if you are or not. It wasn't my place to tell you. It was Buffy's, and I can see now why she was so afraid to tell you. I always knew you were alot of things, Angelus but I never figured you for a coward. Looks like I was wrong."

Cordelia's words cut into Angel like a knife. "You think that I broke up with her because I got scared?"

"Are you going to tell me you didn't?"

"Hell yes, I'm going to tell you I didn't, Cordelia. I love Buffy! I love her more than anything in this world, and when I found out about everything she's been through all I could think about was taking her away from here. All I wanted to do was take every penny to my name, and take her so far away that no one or anything could ever hurt her again. But unfortunately, a place like that doesn't exist. Not here on earth anyway, and no amount of money is going to suddenly make one appear!"

"If you love her that much then why did you let her go, Angelus?"

"Because I do love her that much." Angel eyes welled up with tears. "You have no idea how much I love her, Cordy. And it's because I do love her that I let her go. Designing... That's been her dream since she was eleven years old, and she was going to throw it all away because of me. You've heard her talk about it and you've seen her work. It's incredible. Better than incredible, and she was going to throw it away because of me. I couldn't let her do it. She lost out on so much when she was sick, and now she has a chance to have a normal life. To go to college. And I was holding her back. I couldn't do it, I love her too much to let her do it, so I let her go. I sacrificed my own happiness to give her this chance, and even though it's killing me to do it I will as long as I know and see that she gets everything she deserves."

"Oh, Angel..." Cordelia closed the distance to him, and held him as he cried. "I'm sorry. I should have never doubted your love for her. I'm so sorry. Can you please forgive me for being such an idiot?"

"I forgive you, but you're still an idiot." He muttered into her shoulder. "Darla, Cordy? How could you think that I would ever give up Buffy for... Ahh, hell. Forget the idiot part. You're a fucking loony."

***

"Hey." Cordelia hugged, and kissed her boyfriend then pulled him to the house and shut the door. "How is she? Has there been any change since this morning?"

"No, not really. She hasn't slept but an hour since last night. She won't eat, but at least she's not throwing up anymore. That's the good news."

She slid an arm around Doyle's waist, and lead him into the living room. "And the bad?"
"Giles and I finally got her room cleaned while she was sleeping, and underneath all the mess we found her prom dress or what was left of it anyway. She ripped it to shreds."

"She's not going to prom?" Cordelia asked, stopping in her tracks.

"No. And to make matters worse, mom had to up and suggest she go and wear the gown she got her for her trip to LA with Angel back in February."

"What did Buffy say?"

"Nothing. Not a fucking word, Delia. But I can tell you what her reaction was. She went to the closet, yanked the dress out, then walked over to the window an threw it out. She started crying again after that, and she didn't stop until about an hour ago. The dress hung in the tree outside her room from lunchtime until I left to come over here. I had to climb the fucking thing to get it out, and all she did was stand at the window and threaten to set it on fire if I brought it back in the house, so I had to stick it in my car."

"So she finally spoke?" Cordelia asked, hugging him again, but Doyle wouldn't let go.

"Yeah, but if you think it's a good sign you're wrong, Princess. It actually gets worse. Remember that piece of paper she was clutching in her hand, and wouldn't let go of when we found her?"

Cordelia nodded.

"Well, I managed to pry it from her hand right after she went to sleep earlier, and it turns out it was a design she had just finished. It was a wedding dress... Hers... She mumbled something about it in her sleep when I took it, and Mom... God, I don't even want to know what the hell her problem is. I showed her the sketch, and told her what Buffy said in her sleep, and all she did was shrug and tell me to throw it away. She said Buffy would never zap out of it if Giles and I didn't quit babying her. Babying her! Can you believe that, Cordy? Buffy has been a fucking zombie since yesterday. She looks like death warmed over and trust me, Cordy I've seen her close to death and this is a million times worse, and Mom is... I don't fucking know what Mom is. Giles and I are both worried sick. So worried that we both called substitutes to fill in for us at school today while Mom got up this morning and shuffled off to work like everything was just hunky dorey in the world. When she came home for lunch, and said what she said to me after I showed her the sketch I knew I had to get out of there. I wanted to kill her, and God knows the last place on earth I wanted to come to after I left the house was here because the urge to kill him is even stronger, but when I called and you told me he wasn't here..." He pulled away to look at her. "I had to see you, Delia. I want to kill him for doing this to her, but I'm torn... Because of you... Her... She's hurting worse than I've ever seen her hurt, and I want to make him suffer just as much if not more..."

"Uhh, honey." Cordelia stepped back out of his arms. "I think there's something you should know. I think if you hear what I have to say it might help you curb those homicidal tendancies you have towards him. It's about why he did what he did."

"I already know why he did what he did, Cordelia. I was there when Buffy told me, remember? I don't want to hear any excuses for him. He just better be glad he's not here right now because I really might kill him over the fact that he slept with her and then dumped her like a hot potato the next day."

"Doyle..." Cordelia's pleading eyes locked with his. "Honey, will you please just hear me out?"

"No, princess. I love you. You know that. And I think you know the reason I haven't killed him is because of you, and her. I know you both love him, and then there's the pact that you and I made to each other last night not to let what's happened between them interfere with us. I'm trying, Delia. I'm trying really hard to curb my brotherly instincts to protect her here. That's why I think it's best we not talk about him period. As long as we don't talk about him, I don't think about killing him."

"Doyle... Cordelia stepped back into the circle of his arms. "Honey, I know we swore not to let Angel and Buffy's relationship interfere with our own, but we also swore never to keep any secrets from each other, and if I don't tell you what I know that's exactly what I would be doing. I know something really important, Doyle. Something that could tear us apart, and I want you to hear it because I don't want that to happen. I don't want what happened to Angel and Buffy to happen to us. Now will you please just hear me out?"

"Fine, Delia. I'm listening, but it doesn't mean that I'm going to change my opinion about Angel."

"And I'm not asking you, too." She lead him to the sofa. "All I'm asking is that you listen to what he told me." She sat down and waited for him to be seated before launching into her story, and when she was finished she waited in tense silence while he tried to digest what she had told him. "Mom?" He muttered. "This was my mother's doing?"

"Yes, but he doesn't want Buffy to know. Not ever."

Doyle stood up and swept a hand through his hair. "God, I don't believe it. No wonder she's been so happy go lucky all day. She got what she wanted."

"You can't tell Buffy, Doyle. Angel has already put the wheels in motion to get her to New York. He wants her to have this."

"But that's the thing, Cordelia. Buffy doesn't want it. She wants him."

"I know, honey. And he wants her, but I can understand why he's doing this, too. He loves her, and so does your mom. That's why she did what she did. It's a no win situation."

"You're wrong, Cordy. This is a win win situation. He should have talked to Buffy..."

"I agree." She cut in. "But I don't think it would have made a difference if he had. He's seen her work, Doyle. He knows how incredible it is. That's why he's doing this. This school is the best school in the country, and by the time Buffy is finished there people are going to sit up and take notice of her."

"I'm not so sure about that, Cordelia. You don't understand. Buffy... She's not a child. She had to grow up fast, and she sees the world differently than we do. I never really understood that. Not until recently, and now that I do I can tell you that she doesn't..."

"Cordelia!" The front door suddenly opened and slammed shut, bringing Cordelia to her feet, and Angel and Doyle face to face.

"Doyle..." Angel halted in his tracks just inside the doorway to the living room.

"Angel..." Doyle replied before dismissing him, and turning back to his girlfriend. "I've got to go, princess. I need to get back to Munchkin." He leaned into her and brushed a kiss across her lips. "I'll call you later."

Cordelia nodded and watched warily as he closed the distance to her best friend and boss. "Cordy, told me what you did, Angel and it makes me feel a little better to know that you really did... do love Buffy. Still..." Doyle hauled off and nailed Angel across the jaw. "That's for being a fucking idiot." He hit him again. "And that's to make sure you're hurting just as much as she is." He turned around and winked at Cordelia then walked out the door.

***

Buffy finally tore her eyes off the spot on the wall, and looked over at her two best friends, who were laying quietly on the bed watching her. "W-What are you two still doing here. I-Isn't prom tonight?"

"Well, uhh... Yeah, but Will and I were thinking that we would just blow it off and stay here with you." Xander replied, sitting up. "Isn't that right, Will?"

"That's right." Willow said scrambling to sit up herself. "Who needs to go to some silly old dance with a bunch of horny teenagers when we could stay here with you and just..."

"Just what, Will?" Buffy stared out her best friend through red rimmed eyes. "Watch me stare at some f-fucking spot on the wall. Get out of here. Go home, and get all prettied up. Be with your honeys. Let them show you off."

"But, Buffy..." Willow started to say but stopped when Buffy's eyes suddenly welled up with more tears. "Please, Will. Go. I spent a lot of time on yours and Anya's dresses. Go and show them off for me. Make me proud. You can call me Sunday, and tell me what everyone said, okay?"

Willow began to cry, too. "B-But I don't want to go without you, Buffy. It's our last hoorah, and it won't be the same without you. Won't you please change your mind? We still have time to make a mall trip. I'm sure there are still lots of pretty dresses left and one of them has your name on it."

Buffy sniffled. "If memory serves me correctly, I think I swore off going this year last year, so that means you guys were going to go without me anyway."

"You had fun last year, Buffy." Xander added.

"No, I didn't, Xand. Not really. I just let you guys believe that so I wouldn't ruin your evening. That whole scene is majorly overrated, and missing it won't traumatize my life as much as you guys think. Now get out of here. Have fun at the Prom, and on your trips. I'll talk to the both of you Sunday, and you can give my the lowdown on everyone and everything."

"Are you sure?" Xander asked, slidding from the bed.

Buffy nodded, and pointed to the door. "Go."

Xander came over, and leaned down to kiss her cheek. "I'll call you first thing after I get back on Sunday, okay?"

"Okay." She answered, and watched him leave before turning back to Willow.

"Buffy..." Willow stood up from the bed. "I don't know what to say to you that will make this any easier?"

"There's nothing you can say, Will." A sob tore from Buffy's throat. "I'm d-dying. N-
Not physically. B-But inside..." She pointed to her heart. "H-Here... Th-That's a d-
different story. Th-The pain... I uhh... I-It's like this b-big b-black hole is swallowing me up, a-and the really bad part is I-I w-want it to because I-I don't know how to l-
live without h-him."

"Oh, Buffy..." Willow knelt down, and pulled Buffy into her arms. "It's t-true, Will. I-I realize that now. I-It's me. Th-That's why everyone I love l-leaves me. I-It's me. I-
I'm not worth l-loving."

"You're wrong, Buffy. I love you." Willow murmured soothingly. "So I think that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that you're worth loving. You are the most caring, loving person I have ever known."

"Th-Then why doesn't h-he want me?"

"I don't know. I wish I had the answer for you, but I don't."

"Oh, God..." Buffy pulled away to look at Willow. "L-Look at me. I-I am so pathetic. You h-have a prom to go to, and I'm sitting here crying on your shirt and keeping you away from it." She swiped at her tears. "Get out of here, you. Go get all prettied up."

Willow eyed her with concern. "I could still stay if you want?"

Buffy shook her head. "No. What I-I want is f-for you to go t-to prom. Now go!"

"Okay." Willow leaned over to hug her. "I'll call you Sunday."

"You'd better." Buffy sniffled. "I want to here about how you floored Oz."

Willow walked to the door. "Oh, you will. But instead of me telling you about how I floored him, I intend to tell you all about how I nailed him to it!"

"Get o-out of here you." She said between a half laugh half sob that quickly turned into a torrential downpour once Willow was gone.

***

"You didn't go. Why?"

Buffy looked up from her seat on the lawn across from Sunnydale High to find Riley Finn standing over her, but instead of the cold chill she used to get whenever he was around she pretty much didn't feel anything now. "I got dumped. What's your excuse?"

"Couldn't get a date." He sat down beside her. "And I'm sorry. About you getting dumped, I mean. Are you okay?"

"What do you care?" She turned her head to look back across the street at another happy couple crawling out of a limo.

"I'm sorry." Riley started to stand back up. "I shouldn't have bothered you. I'll leave."

"N-No..." Buffy's gaze shot back to his. "I umm... you can stay, R-Riley. Th-That's if you want. I just..." She blinked back tears, and turned back to look at the high school. "I umm... It's fresh, you k-know?"

"What happened? The last time I saw the two of you together you both had that look in your eyes."

Buffy looked down at something she was clutching in her hands. "Then you read his eyes wrong because he doesn't... Money... He's just like all rich people. Money is more important than anything."

"That's not true, Buffy. I mean, I used to think it was, but I found out the hard way that it's not. You know, I would have given anything to have someone look at me the way you looked at him. I would have given anything to have a family that loves me as much as your family loves you. Deep down I think that's what was wrong with me all along. I used my father's money to try and make the pain go away. Deep down all I ever really wanted was for him to love me the way he loved his money, and I know now that it will never happen, but it doesn't mean that I'm just going to give up on it. You shouldn't either. Just because this guy doesn't want you doesn't mean that you should give up hope that you'll find one the does."

"Hope?" Buffy turned back to look at him. "Who are you trying to kid here, Riley? There is no hope for me. You, on the other hand... You can make everything you did wrong right.You can be forgiven, and you can go far far away from here and start over, but me... We both know that I will never have what I want. What I deserve. I can't start over. And we both know why I can't." She pushed herself up off the ground. "So don't try to sit here and give me this bullshit about hope, Riley. Because it's just that. It's bullshit." She turned to leave, but Riley reached out to grab her hand. "Buffy..."

"Get your fucking hands off her." A voice growled from behind Buffy that sent her spinning around to face the owner, and brought Riley to his feet. "A-Angel..." Buffy stared at the man in front of her in surprise, but his eyes were focused on the man holding her arm. "I said to get your fucking hands off her, boy."

"I wasn't doing anything to her. We were just talking." Riley calmly told Angel.

"I'm giving you three seconds." Angel growled.

"Or what?" Riley raised an eyebrow.

"Okay, fuck the three seconds." Angel started to advance on Riley. "I'll just rip your head off now."

"Let's go then." Riley let go of Buffy's arm, and motioned to Angel.

"Fine!" Buffy screamed. "If you two want to beat the crap out of each other go right ahead. I'm going home." She moved past Angel, and headed down the sidewalk, leaving him and Riley to stare after her. "You know, if I wasn't so worried about her walking alone at night I really would kill you." Angel tore his eyes off Buffy and turned back to Riley.

"You really are in love with her." Riley stated, staring at him in surprise.

"Of course, I am." Angel drilled holes through him with his dark gaze.

"B-But she said..."

"Forget what she said, she's hurting and doesn't believe anything right now. Me on the other hand... She'll always be mine no matter what, and as long as I live you'd better remember that, boy. I wasn't kidding about ripping your fucking head off. I can and I will. Now if you'll excuse me I have to make sure she gets home safely." Without another word, Angel turned and disappeared in a billow of coat tails. He caught up with Buffy two minutes later, and called out for her to stop, but she ignored him and kept walking. "Buffy!" He reached her, and spun her around.

"Don't touch me!" She slapped his hand away.

"I'm sorry..." Angel took a step back away from her. "I just... You didn't go. The prom. You didn't go to the prom."

A bitter laugh tore from Buffy's throat. "Did you honestly think I would?"

"I hoped you would."

"Then I'm glad I didn't. The last thing I want to do is give you another happy to throw back in my face."

"So you thought what?" Angel asked, letting his own hurt and jealousy blind him. "That you'd let him give you one instead?"

Buffy felt like she had been slapped, and she spun away from him to keep him from seeing her tears. "No, Angel... I made the mistake of being someone's whore before. I won't make that mistake again. Now if you'll excuse me..."

"Buffy..." His pained voice stopped her. "God, I'm so... There's still time..."

"W-What?" She spun back around to look at him.

"There's still time to go to the prom. It would be a shame to let that dress of yours go to waste."

Buffy's heart plummetted again. "There is no dress."

"What do you mean there is no dress, Buffy?"

"Just exactly what I said, Angel. There is no dress." Buffy held up a piece of black satin material. "Unless you want to count this as being it, and I really don't think I can wear this."

"W-What is that?" Angel asked eyeing the piece of material.

"It's what's left of that dress." She closed the distance to him, and shoved the piece of material into his hands. "Here. Keep it. Consider it a memento."

"Buffy..." Angel reached out to touch her again, but she backed away. "Touch me again, and I'll scream, and while you're at it heed this warning as well, Angel. Next time you see me out don't come near me. Don't speak to me, or look at me. Ever." She managed to choke out before she turned and ran out of his life.


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Thanks to Christine, Meagan, Sandy, Kate, Court, Karen, Stacy, Ryan, Emy, Kim, Al M., Emma, and Buffygrl521 for their feedback on chapter 35.
CHAPTER 36


The next two weeks were the longest of Buffy's life. Between the stress of exams at school, trying not to think about Angel, and the fact that she wasn't taking care of herself, she was exhausted all the time. So exhausted in fact, she had taken to only leaving the house except to go to school, which to her good fortune had ended at exactly twelve thiry five today when she had handed in her last exam. Her high school years were officially over, and graduation was in two days, but for all all it was worth she could have cared less. That's why she hadn't stuck around after her last exam to stroll down memory lane with the other seniors, choosing instead to come home and stare at the same fucking spot on the wall that she had been staring at since the night Angel had broken up with her, and that's exactly where Joyce Summers found her when she got home from work that evening. "Hi, sweetie." She replied as she entered Buffy's room, and closed the door.

"Hey."

"How was school today?"

"School's out, Mom. I took my last final today. Graduation is in two days."

"I know that, Buffy." Joyce moved to Buffy's bed, and sat down.

"Did you want something, Mom?" Buffy tore her eyes away from the spot to look over at Joyce.

"Mail call." Joyce held up a long envelope.

"What is it?"

"It's from the Fashion Institute." Joyce handed her the envelope.

Buffy stared at it for a moment, and then handed it back to her. "Just trash it."

"No!" Joyce said rather abruptly, and handed the envelope back to Buffy. "I mean, maybe you should open it."

"Why? What's the point? I already made my decision."

"There's still time to change your mind, Buffy. The papers aren't due in till June thirtieth."

"Mom, please..." Buffy blinked back tears, and turned back to look at the spot on the wall. "I can't do this right now, so just lay off."

"Buffy..." Joyce leaned over to brush a lock of hair from Buffy's face. "Sweetie, I'm not trying to upset you, but I feel that I have to say something about this slump you've been in the last two weeks. It's not good for you. Is this the way you want to spend the most important years of your life? Locked up in your room staring at a spot on the wall because you're afraid to get out for fear you'll run into him? If you don't want to see him then I think maybe you should reconsider your decision to attend school in New York. You could start fresh. New life. New friends. And in time maybe even a new boyfriend. You can do all that in New York, and get a college degree from the college you've always dreamed of going to. At least open the letter and see what they have to say. We already know you got in, so it can be anything bad. Once you know what they want think about what I said, and make a final decision. I swear if you'll just do as I ask that no matter what you're decision is I'll go along with it and won't say anything else, okay?"

Joyce handed the envelope back to Buffy, and after a few minutes of serious debate she opened it and read what was inside. When she was done there was a few more minutes of silence, but this time it was from shock. "Well?"

Joyce eyed her daughter's face nervously. "What did it say, honey?"

"I-I got a s-scholarship." She murmured. "My tuition... Books... Room... Everything's b-been paid for. A-Aparrantly one of their other scholarship reciepients chose to attend another school, leaving this one to me since I was next in line."

"Oh, sweetie... This is good." Joyce leaned over to hug her. "Don't you think this is good?"

"I-I..." Buffy slipped out of the chair and Joyce's arms, and walked over to her bedroom window. "I don't know. I-I guess it is. I uhh.. If I take the scholarship Giles wouldn't have to sale the Citroen." She spun around to look at Joyce. "He hasn't, has he? Giles hasn't sold the Citroen, has he?"

"No." Joyce shook her head. "He got an offer, but he hasn't accepted it yet." It was a lie. One she didn't have a hard time telling, and all she could do was pray that it worked. "Does this mean you're thinking about accepting this scholarship?"

"I umm... I don't know... Maybe I should." Buffy turned back to look out the window. "D-Do you think I should?"

"I think you would be crazy not to, honey. But this isn't my decision to make, it's yours."

"Giles... H-He really loves that car." Buffy murmured more to herself than to Joyce. "It was his dad's, and p-people... They should hold on to the things they love for as long as the can because they won't be around forever..." After another couple of minutes of silent debate, she turned away from the window to look at Joyce. "I'll go. T-To New York... I-I'll go."

***

Angel was in the middle of his latest round of brooding when the phone on his desk rang, and since he had given Cordelia the afternoon off he had no choice but to answer it. "O'Conner's residence."

"Angel, it's Joyce Summers."

"Joyce? Is everything okay? Is Buffy.."

"She's fine, Angel. I was just calling to let you know that she got the papers today."

"Is she going?"

"Yes, she's going."

"And she doesn't suspect that I had anything to do with it?"

"No. She believes exactly what the letter said. That one of the school's scholarship reciepents turned down the scholarship to go to another school leaving her next in line to receive it."

Angel breathed a sigh of relief. "Then she's set to go?"

"All she has to do is sign the papers, and mail them in. She'll leave the end of August."

"Joyce, will you do me a favor? Will you call me and let me know how her checkups go when she has to go for them. I wouldn't ask, but I need to know that she's doing okay."

"I understand, Angel. I'll call after each check up, I promise."

"Thank you." Angel murmured.

"No, thank you, Angel. I know your decision to break up with her wasn't easy for you, but it was the right thing to do. I don't know how I'll ever be able to repay you."

"I've already told you that there's not going to be any repaying me, Joyce. Just take care of my girl."

"I will. Bye, Angel."

"Bye, Joyce." Angel hung up the phone, and stared at the photo sitting on his desk. He couldn't help but reach out to trace the line of the smile on Buffy's face. "I love you, baby. Make me proud. Make me proud..."

***

After Joyce left to start dinner, Buffy began to have second thoughts about her decision to go to New York. Who was she kidding? She couldn't go. How could she start a new life when all she wanted to do was curl up in a tight ball, and die? And she was dying. Slowly but surely she was a little bit everyday, and she didn't care. She wanted to. She couldn't go to New York. That wasn't her dream. It never really had been. Her dream... Her real dream was gone, and even though she knew she would never get it that didn't mean she couldn't give someone else theirs. Somewhere out there there was a person that wanted New York as much as she wanted Angel, and she wasn't about to let them miss out on their dream just because she couldn't have hers. Love was unconditional. Unselfish. Even if it was one sided, and she was going to be unselfish and not waste that scholarship. She was going to give that person out there their dream, and once her mind was made up she left her room to tell her mother her decision. She never quite made it though. In fact, she never made it any further than the kitchen doors.

"She's fine, Angel."

Angel? What was her mother doing talking to Angel? Buffy took a step back into the dining room, but left the kitchen door ajar enough to hear the one sided phone conversation.

"I was just calling to let you know that she got the papers today... And convincing her was easier than I thought... Yes, she's going... No, she think's exactly what the letter said. That one of the school's scholarship receipents turned the scholarship down to attend another school leaving her next in line to receive it."

Oh, God! Buffy threw a hand over her mouth to keep from crying out in shock, and she recoiled against the dining room wall as she continued to listen to her mother talk to the man she was slowly dying over. The scholarship... It was his doing, and apparently her mom had known about it. She felt the nausea rising in her throat, but she pushed it down as more of the conversation filtered into the dining room.

"All she has to do is sign the papers and mail them in. She'll leave the end of August... I understand, Angel. I'll call after each checkup, I promise."

Checkup? That was nearly Buffy's undoing. Angel knew. He obviously knew about the leukemia, and as that realization hit her, so did the truth, and her whole world started spinning around her.

"No, thank you, Angel. I know your decision to break up with her wasn't an easy one, but it was the right thing to do... I don't know how I'll ever repay you..."

An idiot, Buffy thought. I've been such a fucking gulliable idiot. As the truth of why Angel had really broken up with her continued to seep in Buffy felt herself go numb, and she wanted to laugh hysterically. She really was nothing but a happy. She really wasn't worth loving. Hadn't her mother and Angel just proved it. God, she wanted to cry, but she wasn't going to. Not anymore. She was sick of it. Sick of everything. These people made her sick, and she coulnd't stand the thought of being around them another day. She turned and headed up the stairs. She was tired of people ripping her heart to shreds, and because she was she wasn't going to stick around to give them the chance to do it again. Never again. No one was going to hurt her ever again, because she wasn't going to let them close enough to get the chance..."

***

Angel was heading was heading out the front door Sunday afternoon, and bumped directly into Cordelia, who was coming in. "Jesus, Cordy..."

"She's not there." Cordelia replied, breezing past him into the house.

"W-What?" Angel turned around to follow her back inside.

"Buffy." Cordelia moved into the living room, and sat down on the the sofa. "I know you were going to sneak to her graduation even though she told you to stay away from her, and I'm here to save you a trip. She's not there."

"What the hell do you mean she's not there, Cordelia?" Angel sat down in the chair across from her. "Where is she?"

"You wouldn't believe me if I told you."

"Don't play games with me, Cordy. Where the hell is Buffy. Is something wrong with her? Is she..."

"No. No, Loverboy. Calm down. It's nothing like that. She's fine. Well, as fine as anyone that looks like shit can be that is."

"Then what's going on?" Angel asked in concern.

Cordelia sat back on the sofa, and eyed him. "Doyle got a call from her Friday night, inviting him and I to a family dinner home on Saturday night. It was during that dinner that she ups and drops her news on everyone."

"What news?" Angel stared at his best friend.

"The news that she was skipping her graduation ceremony. Apparantly she made arrangements to have her diploma mailed to her without telling her mother and stepfather. Caused quite the stir with them and Doyle might I add. But if you think that was a shocker you're wrong. The real shocker came when she dropped her next little bombshell."

"And what exactly was that?"

"She informed everyone that she was going to LA for the summer..." Cordelia's eyes locked with Angel. "To stay with her Dad."

"What?" Angel asked in disbelief.

"I see you're just as shocked as everyone else, but I'm afraid it's true. She just up and decided to put in a call to him the other night. She wouldn't disclose what was said between the two of them except that they had talked, and he had agreed to let her come stay with him. She informed everyone that she was going whether they liked it or not, and that there was nothing they could do to stop her."

"I don't believe it." He muttered.

"Well, it's true. And I suggest you hold onto your hat because there's more. She hopped a greyhound out of town this morning, and she informed everyone before she left that none of them, and I mean none of them, are to contact her in any way, shape, fashion, or form. She said that this time was with her father, and that she didn't want any outside interference. She told the entire family that she didn't want them calling, or visiting her, period. That included when it was time for her to go back for her six month checkup. She told them that she planned to go alone, and that if there was anything she felt they should know she would call them."

"This just isn't, Buffy." Angel mumbled more to himself than to Cordelia. "She's not supposed to be doing this... She's supposed to be happy. She's not supposed to be..."

"She's not supposed to be what, Angel? Missing out on some of the most important events of her life? Shunning the people she loves? Well, I'm sorry to burst that little picture perfect world you tried to paint for her, but she is." She stood up, and looked down at him. "Jesus christ, Angel. What the hell did you think was going to happen to her when you broke up with her? Did you honestly think that she was just going to be happy about it, and go on with her life like nothing had ever happened?"

"Yes."

"Then you're a fucking idiot. That girl is hurting terribly, and she's lashing out. She loves you. I mean really loves you. I see it. Doyle sees it. And so does Giles. But you... You and her mother... I think the two of you are too busy trying to give her everything you think she deserves to let her decide what she really wants, and I can tell you now that I think... No, I believe Buffy really wants you, and I think you're an even bigger idiot for not seeing that."

"What do you want me to say, Cordelia? Do you think this is easy for me? I miss her so much... So much that I nearly fell apart on the delivery guy when he delivered her graduation present yesterday. I bought it while I was in LA picking up her..." Angel sat back in his chair, and closed his eyes against the pain. "I forgot about it, and then yesterday this truck pulls up in front of the house, and I really was a fucking idiot because I couldn't take my eyes off of it long enough to sign the god damn papers."

Cordelia took one look at her friend's face, and sat back down on the sofa. "Where is it?" She leaned forward to touch his leg.

Angel opened his eyes to look at her. "In the garage."

She blinked in shock. "O-Oh, God, Angel. Y-You didn't?"

"I did." He mumured "She was always depending on someone to take her somewhere or she was walking, and I was scared to death that she would... I didn't want her walking anymore. I knew she would throw one hell of a temper tantrum when I gave it to her, but I figured she would come around once I put the... I figured she would come around once we were really together, and when it arrived yesterday... God, I thought I would fall apart right there. Still, no matter how upsetting it was I couldn't send it back. It's hers... I knew it the moment I saw it, and I couldn't stand the thought of anyone else having it, so I kept it."

Cordelia sighed. "And the book? What are you going to do about it, Angel?"

"I talked to Pocket Books Friday. I told them I couldn't publish it right now. I told them that right now I was just too burnt out to travel to do the promotional things I would need to do once it was released, and that I couldn't do it right now. They were really understanding, and agreed to let me have some time, but I will eventually have to release it. It's the main reason they signed me. I'll just make the changes before it goes to the printers. All I know is that I can't do it right now. I just can't."

***

"So..." Buffy looked around the interior of Hank Summers' kitchen. "This is your house? It's nice. Very nice. A-And you look well."

Hank took a sip of his coffee before speaking. "That's because I am well. I wish I could say the same about you, but the truth is you don't look well at all. The truth is you look like shit."

"I'm not sick." Buffy met his gaze.

"If you're not sick then what's wrong with you, Buffy? Besides the fact that you're hurting, and trying to run away, I mean."

"I'm not running away. I left, Hank." Buffy's eyes turned cold. "There is a difference. I couldn't stay. What they did... It made me physically sick. The pain... The hate and bitterness... It's eating me up a little bit more everyday, and I guess when it all comes down to it, I have you to thank for it. If it hadn't been for you none of this would have happened."

Hank turned away from her cold eyes. "I didn't make your mother do it, Buffy."

"Yes, you did, Hank. In a roundabout way you did. You had a hand in it. You hurt her so much when you left that she doesn't trust people. She doesn't trust me. Her own daughter. She didn't trust me enough to let me make my own decisions. Because of what you did, she destroyed the one good thing I ever had. She took it all away from me, but don't worry. I don't hate you. I hate them for making me believe they actually loved me. Whereas you... I don't hate you anymore than what I already did. I'm actually very thankful to you. What you did to me... What she did to me... What he did to me... It opened my eyes. It opened my eyes, and it finally made me see the truth. I know now that I'm not worthy of being loved, and I guess in a way I can say thank you for that. I guess I can say thank you for doing it because by doing so you... All of you... opened my eyes enough to where I know now to never make the mistake of trying to love anyone ever again." She stood up on wobbly legs. "I just wanted you to know that. I wanted you to know the truth, and how I felt. And now I'm going to go to my room. Figure out what I'm going to do next. I appreciate the fact that you're letting me stay here until I do... Figure things out, I mean..." She turned to leave, but Hank's voice stopped her. "Buffy..."

"W-What?" She turned around to look at him.

"Where will you go?"

"I-I don't know." A half laugh, half sob tore from Buffy's lips. "It's not like I have a home to go home to. Not anymore anyway." She swiped at her tears. "You know, it's actually kinda funny. I was saving money to buy a car. Money from birthdays, and allowances. I didn't want anything fancy. Just a little red convertible. Stupid... The whole dream was stupid. Here I was dreaming about buying a car, and I don't even have a home. How can I think about owning a car when I... I drew all my money out of the bank before I left. It's not much. Just five thousand dollars, and it won't go far, but at least it'll keep me from having to sleep under a bridge for the time being."

Hank blinked back tears. "Buffy..."

Buffy laughed again. "Oh God, please don't tell me that you've suddenly got a guilty conscious, Hank?"

Hank shot out of his chair. "God damnit, Buffy! This isn't my guilty conscious. I love you! And if you think for a second that I'm just going to let you walk out the door, you're wrong!"

"You can't stop me, Hank. In case you didn't know, I'm eighteen. I'm a big girl now. I don't need a daddy. And I sure as hell wouldn't let you be mine even if I did. You don't deserve that title."

"You're right, Buffy. I don't. I know, I don't. But I'm hoping you'll give me the chance to be one to you anyway. I'm hoping you'll let me take care of you now. If you don't want to go back to Sunnydale, fine. Don't. Stay here with me instead."

"W-What?" Buffy took a step back in surprise. "Y-You have got to be kidding me?"

"No. It's no joke, Buffy. I want you to stay here with me. I can't take the thought of you... If something happened to you I would never forgive myself. I love you, honey. And I know I've been the biggest bastard of the century, but I'm here now if you'll just give me a chance. Let me help you through this. Stay here until you work through this stuff with your mom and Angel."

Buffy blinked in surprise again. "Why are you doing this?"

Hank sat back down in his chair. "It all started when I saw you in February. Seeing you again made me realize alot of things."

"You had an epiphany, huh?" Buffy eyed him, and he nodded. "Yeah. A big one. And I've spent the last four months trying to figure out a way to fix everything with you and Doyle. Graduation. I was going to come to your graduation, and beg for another chance. I called an old friend of mine that still lives in Sunnydale, and he gave me the date. I was getting ready to head that way for the weekend when you called me. You couldn't imagine how happy I was to hear your voice. Of course, all that wore off once you told me why you were calling. I've been worried sick about you every since then. When you told me what you were going to do... God, Buffy... I thought I was going to lose you again before I could get the chance to tell you how sorry I was for what I've done to you." He looked back up a her. "Please, honey. Let me help you. Stay here. Let me take care of you."

"I-I can't." She backed away. "I can't stay there, and I can't stay here. I just can't." She turned to leave again.

"You can't run forever, Buffy."

"I'm not running." Buffy spun back around to look at him. "I just don't want anything to do with them or you!"

"That's called running, honey and you can't do it. Sooner or later all that hurt will catch up with you, and it'll..."

"Kill me..." She finished. "It already has, Hank. I'm dead! Maybe not physically. Not yet, b-but inside..." She started crying. "I-Inside I am... I'm dead. I'm dead!" She sunk to the floor, sobs hitching her body, and Hank was immediately at her side. "Buffy..."

"D-Daddy..." Buffy flung her arms around him. "I just wanna d-die. The p-pain... I just w-wanna die."

"I know you do, pumpkin. I know you do." Hank murmured over and over again as he rocked her in his arms.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Thanks to Ryan, Sandy, Kim, Christine, Cristina, Kolumbyne, Jade, Emma, Court, and Karen for their feedback last chapter.
Chapter 37


THE NEXT MORNING...

Buffy entered the kitchen to find Hank at the kitchen stove. "Good morning." He replied without turning around.

"If you say so." She muttered, pulling out a chair at the kitchen table to sit down.

"You're still not a morning person are you?" He chuckled, and turned around to look at her.

"No, but how did you..."

"I never forgot." He smiled at her. "How could I when you took that after me?"

She eyed him warily. "Well, if I took it after you then how come you're all chipper, and I'm not?"

"Because I've had my coffee. It always gets me going."

"Great." She mumbled. "Looks like you and I have something else in common."

Hank laughed. "Would you like a cup?"

"That would be great, Hank. I mean, Daddy... I uhh... Well, you know what I mean." She buried her face in her hands. "That would be great, thanks."

Hank walked over to the coffeemaker. "I thought we settled this last night, Buffy? You don't have to call me Daddy. I haven't earned the title." He poured her a cup of coffee, and walked back over to sit it in front of her. "Hank is fine until you tell me otherwise, okay?"

"Okay." She murmured, looking up at him.

He looked down at her and took in her pale face, and the circles under her eyes. "You still look like shit."

"That's because I still feel like shit." She took a sip of her coffee, and looked over at the stove. "That's why I'm about to tell you not to bother cooking me me the eggs and bacon you were about to cook me."

"Buffy..."

"I don't eat breakfast, Hank. Coffee. I just need lots and lots of coffee."

Hank moved around the table, and sat down across from her. "She loves you."

"Yeah. Yeah. We covered this last night, too. And it doesn't matter. She hurt me, and I'm not sure I can forgive her for that. She made me feel like a whore. They both did." She took a big drink of her coffee.

"She was only doing what she thought was best for you."

"She pulled a you. Only worse." Buffy stood up, and moved to the coffeemaker to refill her cup. "But do you wanna know what hurts worse than that?"

"What?" Hank asked, staring at her back.

"He pulled a you, too."

Hank knew who the he was that she was referring to. She hadn't said his name. Not since he had talked to her on the phone three days ago, and she had poured her heart out to him. "I'm sorry, Buffy but I'm afraid you're going to have to enlighten me here. How did Angel pull a me?"

"I didn't tell him about the leukemia. That I'm in remission. I think Joyce told him. His dad died of cancer. A brain tumor. He was just six when it happened, but he remembered enough for it to leave a lasting impression. He told me about it a couple of days after we met, and he also told me that he didn't know if he would have the strength to go through it again... Watch someone he loved be taken away by such a horrible disease. When he told me that... It was too late... I was already in love with him, and I was afraid that if I told him he would leave."

"Like me?" Hank guessed.

Buffy turned around to look at him. "Yes."

"And you think now that because your mom told him, that's what happened? You think when he realized that you could get sick again and die that he took the coward's way out, and walked away, thereby pulling a me?"

"I don't know what to think." She took a sip of her coffee. "But it does make me wonder..."

"About?"

"Why he walked away. If he did it because he really couldn't handle it or if he did it because he simply couldn't love me for me."

Hank's eyes pooled up with tears. "I love you, Buffy. And I know you don't believe that right now, but it's true."

"This isn't about whether I believe you love me or not, Hank." She snapped, and turned around to slam her coffee cup down on the counter. "It's about Angel! I need to know if the reason he dumped me is because I can't have kids!"

"W-What?" Hank choked out. "What do you mean you can't have kids, Buffy?"

"Exactly that, Hank. Your little girl can't have little girls of her own. Little boys either. I'm sterile. It's a result of the chemo and radiation, and I'm pretty sure mom told Angel that when she told him about the leukemia. He wanted babies, and God help me I wanted to give them to him. But I can't... I can't... And now I can't help but wonder..." She clutched the counter with both her hands until her fingers turned white. "I thought he was different. I thought he was the one that could love me no matter what, and now it's eating me up inside... I can't help but wonder... I'm so hurt and bitter at him... Her... that it's eating me up inside, and I don't know how to stop it." "I don't know how you can stop it either, Buffy. I wish to God I did, but I don't. All I can do is remind you that you have a heart, and because you do maybe you should find a way deep inside of it to forgive them."

"It's not that easy."

"I know. It'll take a lot of time and a lot of soul searching to be able to do it, if you're able to do it all. But you have to try, honey. You at least owe it to yourself. That way you won't look back on it later on down the line and wonder why you didn't."

Soul searching. What a joke, Buffy thought bitterly to herself. How am I supposed to take time to do soul searching when I don't have a soul anymore? And time... That was a joke as well. How was she supposed to take the time to do this soul searching when she wasn't sure if she would have it to do it? His advice was a joke to her, but she wasn't going to tell him that. She wasn't that cold. Not yet anyway. So she decided to keep her thoughts to herself, and pasted a smile on her face before turning around to face him. "I'll keep what you said in mind, Hank."

"Thank you." He smiled warmly at her.

"You're welcome." She took another sip of her coffee, and leaned back against the counter. "So... I guess you have to work today, huh?"

"Actually, I don't. I called in this morning and told my boss I was taking a week's vacation to spend time with my daughter."

Buffy stared at him in shock. "You're kidding?"

"Nope." Hank laughed. "And he was just as shocked as you. He thought I was joking, but just as soon as I assured him I wasn't he changed his tune. He was really upset with me and even started to try and talk me out of it. That was until I pointed out called in this huge favor he still owedtried to talk me out of it, but he quickly changed his tune when I reminded him that he still owed me for this really ointed out that he still owed me this huge favor quickly changed his tune when I pointed out that I still have vacation time coming to me this year. would just have to deal because I had alot of catching up to do with my daughter, and we do have a lot of catching up to do, but there's something else I'd like to talk to you about first."

"What is it?"

He pointed to the chair across from him. "Come over here, and have a seat. This could take awhile."

Buffy pushed away from the counter, and did as he asked. Once she was seated, she eyed him across the table. "Okay. What's the sitch?"

"Well, the truth is I've been thinking about quitting my job to start my own ad agency."

"C-Can you afford to do that? I mean, I know you have money, but do you have enough to go out on your own like that? "

"Yes." Hank toyed with his coffee cup. "Alot has happened to me in the last eight years, Buffy. I didn't overly splurge my money like you think. The truth is with all the promotions I've gotten over the years I've been able to take the extra money that comes along with them, and invest it very wisely. The truth is I'm pretty financially set for life. Not nearly as set as Angelus O'Conner, but I am set. But the thing is that even though I am, I'm still not happy. It's not the money. Thanks to my little epiphany money isn't the most important thing in my life anymore. Neither is my job, and that's why I want to start my own ad agency. I'm sick of having to report to someone. Of having to just up and go somewhere whenever someone tells me to. I want to be able to make my own hours, I want to be able to take days off with out worrying about the hassle. I want to be able to have more time for the really important things in life. I want to be able to have my time with you and hopefully someday your brother, and if I do this... Start my own agency. I can do all that and more."

"So what does you quitting your job have to do with me? I mean, besides what you already said?"

"Well, I was thinking of going ahead and quitting, and then taking the whole summer off to spend with you. We could do whatever you want. Travel, or just stay here and do the local thing. And I was hoping that while we were spending this time together you could help me find some office space to use to start my new agency. Of course, the decision is all yours. I want you to tell me what you want."

"I might not be the best company."

"I understand that, but I'd still like to do it. That's if you want."

Buffy shrugged. "Sure, why not. I'm game if you are."

"Really?" Hank searched her face.

She nodded. "Yeah. It might do me good. Help keep my mind off things."

"Great. We'll do it then." He gave her a warm smile. "Now with that out of the way there are a couple of more things I want to discuss with you, and the first thing has something to do with what I have planned for us today, okay?"

"Okay. What is it?" Buffy asked as she raised her coffee cup to her lips.

"A car. I want to go shopping for a new car today."

"Why? Your other car is brand new?"

"The car isn't for me, Buffy. I want to buy one for you."

Buffy nearly choked on her coffee. "E-Excuse me? D-Did you j-just say you wanted t-
to buy me a car? A-A new car?"

"Yes, and before you go exploding on me thinking I'm trying to buy your love let me explain why I want to do this. I umm... This all goes back to that little epiphany I had, too. Once I had it I wanted to make things up to you and Doyle. It was my responsibility to help your mom raise the both of you in every aspect, and I know I shucked my responsibilities the last eight years, so I sat down a couple of months ago and figured out what I owed your mom in back child support for all those years. Not just that, I added in my half of what I should have given your mom on your doctor bills, what it would take to send you and Doyle to college, and then threw in a little extra for birthdays, holidays, and special occassions like graduation. Once I had it all figured out I had the total amount deposited into two separate savings accounts. There's one for you and one for Doyle. There both in my name right now because I didn't have the documents needed to set them up in your names, but now that your here I thought we could go ahead and transfer your account over to a checking account so that you could have the money to buy that car you wanted, and the rest is yours to do whatever you want with. I hope you will take it, Buffy. I owe it to you and your brother. And the car... I don't want you to spend the money you've been saving to buy it. Not when it was something I should have bought you myself. Consider it your graduation present."

"Just exactly how much money are we talking about here, Hank?"

Hank moved his coffee cup aside and pushed a small book across the table to her. "The amount's in here. Take a look."

Buffy reached for the book, and opened it. When she saw the amount she raised her face to her father in shock. "Is this figure right?"

"Yes, pumpkin. It's right." Hank laughed. "But if you don't believe me I would be happy to show you the monthly statements I get for them."

Buffy shook her head. "N-No. No. That's not uhh... Necessary. I believe you. It's just... I umm... I don't know what to say."

"Just say you'll take it."

"I'm sorry, but I can't, Hank." She slid the bank book back across the table to him. "I just... I'm not ready to take it. I may never be ready. It wasn't your money I wanted all these years, I wanted your love. Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to be a bitch here, but if you want back in my life you are going to have to prove yourself to me. This is your chance to do that. This is the chance you told me last night and this morning that you wanted. and I'm willing to give it to you."

"I understand. But if you won't take the money will you at least let me buy you a car?"

"No." Buffy shook her head. "But I will agree to driving the one you have, and then you can go out a buy you a SUV. You need a vehicle like that for the days your just chillin', and they're really nice. A..." She realized what she was about to say, and froze. "I umm... He had one, and it was really nice."

Hank raised an eyebrow. "An SUV, huh?"

"Uh huh. I'll even go shopping for one with you. Help you pick it out."

"Do you want to do that today."

"We could, but there's something else I need to ask you before we get ready to go anywhere else."

"What?"

Buffy looked down at her hands. "Well, I umm... I was wondering... If you quit your job and start this new agency will you umm... Will you bring Darla with you?"

"I thought about offering her a position. Why?"

"Don't..." Buffy looked up at him. "Hire me instead. I mean, I'm going to need a job since I'm not going to college, and I thought... I want you to give me a job."

"Buffy..."

"You need to dump the slut secretary and get a real one, Hank."

"And I take it you think you're the one that has the qualifications to replace her?"

"Well, no. I uhh... Does the fact that I'm prettier than her count as a qualification?"

Hank laughed. "No."

"But I'm still going to get the job anyway, right?"

"Of course. You're my daughter."

"Great." Buffy sat her coffee cup down on the table. "Then I guess I should go shower so we can get to work."

Hank held up his hand. "Actually, pumpkin there's something else I need to discuss with you first."

"It's not anything else really shocking is it?" She sat back in her chair. "Because quite honestly I don't think my stomach can take anything else right now." And she wasn't lying. She had basically been sick every day for the past three weeks.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Thanks to Ryan, Nina, Sandy, Court, Kim, Linda, Karen, Emma, Jenn, StellarDanz414, and Nathalie for their feedback last chapter.
CHAPTER 38


"So do you think she'll come?"

"She has to come. She's coming home to get ready to leave for school that weekend anyway."

"That doesn't mean she'll come, Doyle." Cordelia worried her bottom lip. "She told us not to call."

Doyle rolled onto his side to look at her. "I know she did, princess. But how else am I going to ask her if I don't call her?"

"You have a point, but that still doesn't mean she'll come. Angel's going to be there." She looked up at him. "I hope she comes. I've missed her. He's missed her. It'll be good for him to see her even if it's just for a couple of hours. He's been so broody. I've never seen him like this. I'm worried about him. If he's this bad, how bad do you think she is?"

"I don't know, and I won't until I see her." Doyle reached over to brush a lock of hair of Cordelia's face. "I've missed her too, you know?"

"I hope she comes." She repeated.

Doyle chuckled. "You've already said that, princess. I swear, by the way you talk about her one would almost think she was your sister instead of mine."

"Well, technically she will be soon, and I want her to be here." Cordelia smiled up at him. "I can't ask her to be a part of our big day unless she's here."

"Then I guess I should call, huh?"

Cordelia nodded. "You should."

"Well, then let's do it." Doyle rolled over, grabbed the phone off the nightstand by the bed, and punched in a number. It took several rings for someone to answer, but he would have recognized her voice anywhere. Even if it did sound kind of off. "Hello?"
"Hey, stranger. What's up?"

Buffy sat up in her bed. "D-Doyle? What are you doing calling here? I thought I told you... Is everything okay?"

"I was just about to ask you the same question, Munchkin. You sound tired."

"I'm fine, Doyle. Now tell me why you're calling."

"I'm getting married, Buffy."

"W-What? W-When?"

"Not until January, but Cordy and I have decided to have an engagement party. We've scheduled it for the weekend your due to come home. We're going to have a family dinner at seven o'clock that Friday night at Papazolli's, and then a dance at the Bronze for family and friends following that. I would have called you sooner to tell you the good news, but you told me not to call, and then I was afraid you would refuse to come to the party."

Buffy knew the moment of truth of arrived, and she needed to be positively sure of one detail before it all could fall into place. "H-He's going to be there, isn't he?"

"By he I take it you mean Angel, and the answer is yes, Buffy. He's going to be at both the dinner and the dance, but I'm hoping you'll come anyway. It'll be our last weekend together for awhile, and since it will be I was thinking that I could drive up that Friday morning, and go to your doctor's appointment with you then bring you and whatever you've accumulated over the summer home. That is if Hank isn't going to your doctor's appointment with you."

"Hank's not going with me, because I've already been, Doyle."

"What do you mean you've already been, Buffy? Is something going on?"

"No, nothing's going on, Doyle. In fact, I've never been better."

"Then why did you go see Dr. Jobson early?"

"Because I wanted to get it out of the way, so I called to see if they could work me in earlier and they did."

"And? What did he say?"

"He says I'm just peachy, Doyle."

"Thank God." Doyle murmured. "So I uhh... What about a ride home? If you'd like I could still come get you and bring you home. That way we could catch up."

"Thanks but no thanks, Doyle. I've already got a ride home. Don't worry, okay? I'll be there. At your engagement party, I mean. I'm just not sure what time I'll get there, because of the uhh... packing and moving my stuff back, but I will be there. You said Papazolli's at seven, right?"

"Right, but Buffy..."

"No, Doyle. I'm a big girl now. I think I can find my own damn way home. Now was there anything else you wanted?"

"You can bring Hank if you'd like."

"I'm not your lap dog, Doyle. If you want to invite Hank do it your own damn self."

"Jesus, Munchkin. I'm sorry. I just... I just thought maybe I should invite him because of you. I didn't mean to imply anything here."

"Are you sure about that, Doyle? Are were you really insinuating that I'm totally incapable of getting someone other than my own father to be my date?"

"O-kay, I'm sensing somthing's up here, Buffy." Doyle sat up in the bed, and swung his legs over the side of it. "And don't you dare say there's not because I know it's a lie. I'm getting an artic wind from your side, and I want to know why?"

"The only thing your getting from me is my hanging up, Doyle. See you next month. I'm looking forward to it. REALLY looking forward to it." The only thing Doyle heard after that was the slamming of the phone on the other end, but he was too speechless to even attempt to hang up himself.

"Doyle?" Cordelia slid up behind him on the bed. "Sweetie? What did she say? Is she okay? Is she coming?"

Doyle finally moved to lean over and hang up the phone, but he still didn't say anything, and Cordelia began to get worried. "Okay, Francis Doyle Summers, what the hell is going on? You're scaring me. Say something."

Doyle looked over his shoulder at Cordelia. "I've got a bad feeling, Delia. Whoever it was I just talked to wasn't Buffy. Not my Buffy anyway. Sh-She's coming, but I don't know... I just... I've got a really bad feeling."

***

Buffy took several deep calming breaths, and stared at herself in the restroom mirror. She could do this. She could. She would get it over with, and then she would never look back. Reaching up, she fluffed up her newly shoulder length cropped hair. She had gotten the cut last month to camaflouge her weight loss from her father, and while the tan she had gotten on vacation with him hadn't been able to conceal the circles under her eyes it had added a little color to the white pallor of her face. She just prayed that it along with her perfectly applied make up, and the long black floral slip dress she was wearing was enough to hide her true physical state from the people she was about to see for the first time in two months. She nervously rechecked her appearance one more time to be on the safe side, and then she took a couple more deep breaths, and left the restroom to approach the Maitre' de of Papazolli's Italian Resteraunt. "Welcome to Papazolli's. How may I help you this evening?"

"The Summers party, please."

"Ahh, yes..." The Maitre' de smiled at her. "Right this way, miss."

Buffy followed him to a private dining room in the back of the resteraunt, but instead of going straight in she stopped him, and gave him her drink order before sending him on his way. She needed to do this on her own, and with one final deep breath she did just that. She stepped inside the room, but everyone was too busy talking to notice her at first, and for that she was glad. It gave her the opportunity to study them. Her eyes traveled over each and every one of them until she finally reached the man she had given her heart to all those months ago, and even though there was intense pain at seeing him, she couldn't help but stare at him at the same time. He was still the most beautiful man she had ever seen. He was a little thinner, but still beautiful. And God help her for a moment she could feel herself melting. That was until his gaze suddenly raised to hers, and then all that anger and bitterness inside her resurfaced full force, and she made damn good and sure he saw it before her name slipped from his lips, and everyone raised their gazes to her. "Hello, everyone."

"Oh my God, Buffy..." Joyce Summers stood up, and turned around to face her. "Sweetie, look at you. You cut your hair."

Buffy clutched the small purse in her hands. "That's normally what people do when their hair gets long, Mother."

"What you're talking about is a trim, Buffy. Yours is a cut. I like it though." Joyce motioned to her. "Well, come here, silly. I haven't seen you all summer and I want to get a good look at you."

"I think I'd rather sit down if you don't mind." Buffy answered coolly, ignoring Joyce's funny look, and moving to the end of the table where the Maitre' de had returned with her drink, and was now standing, waiting with her chair pulled out.

After the Maitre' de had seated her and placed her drink in front of her, Buffy's gaze moved to her brother and the woman sitting beside him. "So... Married. Wow... Congratulations."

Doyle smiled hesitantly at her. "Thanks, Munchkin. But forget about Cordy and I for a second. How are you? I mean, really? The last time we talked I got the impression you were..."

"Tired..." She cut him off. "You're right. I was tired. It's been a busy summer. Busy and well, busy. Hank... Daddy... He and I just got back from our third vacation this summer. We went to the Bahamas one week, and then Arabu, and we just got back from Mexico two weeks ago. He's doing good by the way. Been a real sweetie to me. Spoiled me a little. He quit his job back in June, and opened his own ad agency. I've been helping him out some because he decided not to bring his old secretary with him when he changed jobs. I'm glad, too. She was a real bitch that one." Buffy's cold gaze moved to Angel. "I think her name was Darla something or another. She wasn't too disappointed that Hank... Daddy got rid of her though. She moved on really fast. She's dating Hank's... Daddy's lawyer now. Of course, she had to wait until I was finished with him before she could get him. He was... is a real hottie. His name is Lindsey Macdonald. Sounds kinda girly I know, but trust me when I tell you that he was... is all man. The thing is, he and I didn't agree when it came to the definition of fun, so I had to dump him. And God, listen to me. I'm totally babbling a mile a minute about myself and I haven't stopped to ask about you guys." She tore her gaze away from Angel, and looked over at Giles. "G-man. How has your summer been?"

"G-Good, Buffy. G-Good, but busy. I've been helping your mother out at the gallery, and the rest of my time has been spent reading, and doing outdoor stuff. Would you believe I actually got around to planting that flower garden you always wanted?"

"You did?"

Giles happily nodded. "Y-Yes, and I planted all your favorites. I even managed to get a sterling rose bush."
"W-What?"

"Sterling roses... I remember how much you liked them when A..." Giles realized his slip and quickly tried to cover it up. "I umm... I know how much you like them so I bought a bush for you. I paid quite a bit for it actually. They're rare, you know?"

"Mmm... They die fast, too. Did you know that? A friend of mine told me once that they mean love at first sight which is kinda ironic if you think about it. I mean, everyone knows that love, real love, is really rare just like those roses, and even if you're lucky enough to get it that doesn't mean it'll last. Most of the time it dies. Rather quickly I'm afraid. Again, just like those roses. All alive one day, and dead the next. Go figure." She grabbed her iced tea, and took a long drink of the cool liquid before returning her gaze to Giles. "What about the Citroen? How's it doing?"

"I-It's fine. A tad testy at times, but you said it was from the dark ages, so I guess it's allowed it's moments. Even with it's faults though, I must admit I'm kind of glad I didn't have to sale it. I really would have missed it if I had."

"Well, then it's a REALLY good thing I got that scholarship when I did."

"You know, I don't mean to change the subject, Buffy." Doyle interrupted her. "But all this talk about Giles' car got me to wondering... How did you get home? Did Hank bring you or did you hop another greyhound?"

"Neither. I drove."

"Drove? Drove what?"

"A car, Doyle. A Jaguar to be exact. It's a pretty sharp car."

"Where did you get it? Did you rent it?"

"No. I got it from Hank... Daddy."

"What?" Joyce Summers leaned forward in her chair to look down the table at her daughter. "Your father got you a car?"

"Yeah, I guess you could say he got it for me." Buffy answered coolly.

"What about that little red convertible you wanted, Buffy?" Doyle asked, eyeing her.

"Changed my mind. I suddenly developed a taste for something a little more expensive like Hank... Daddy."

"So what are you going to do with the money you saved?"

"The money's gone, Doyle. I drew it out of the bank before I left in June and I spent it."

"Did you spend it on this other car?"

"Nope."

"Then what did you spend it on?"

"I'd rather not say, Doyle. It was my money after all." "I don't understand any of this, Buffy." Joyce Summers muttered from her seat. "You just blew five thousand dollars that you could have kept in savings? And a car? What the hell do you need with a car? You're going to be moving to New York in less than two weeks."

"I was thinking I would take the car with me, Mother. I thought maybe I might drive it to New York. I may need it after all. I've heard horror stories about dorm life and how it sucks. Especially when you're sharing a room with someone you don't know. I really don't want a complete stranger putting a crimp in my sex life. Especially now that I have an active one. Hence the car. I figured what the hey, why not take it to New York with me. Even if I don't drive it that much it'll still come in handy when I want to have sex and my own room isn't available."

Cordelia's gaze shot to Angel for his reaction to Buffy's words, but if he was hurting from the sting he wasn't showing it. He was too busy watching the blonde, who was now in a heated discussion with her mother.

"Okay, young lady that's it! You've had an attitude every since you got here, and I want to know what the hell your problem is?"

"It was a joke, mother. A joke as in ha ha very funny? Jesus christ, get a grip. I'm sorry, okay?"
"That's better." Joyce mumbled, and sat back in her chair.

Buffy sat in silence for a few minutes, focusing on the painting on the wall behind Joyce until she got her anger under control. Just a few more minutes, Buffy. She told herself. Just hold on for a few more minutes. She began to count silently in her head until she finally managed to regain control of the storm inside of her and then she immediately turned her attention back to her brother. "So... When is the big day? I know you mentioned on the phone January, but you never said what day."

"The twenty seventh." Cordelia answered for Doyle.

"The day you two met. That's sweet."

"You remember what day we met?" Cordelia asked Buffy in surprise.

"Mmm..." Buffy ran her fingers down the sweat on the outside of her glass. "Of course, there's alot of things I'd like to forget about that time period too, but yeah I remember."
Once again Cordelia's gaze shot to Angel for his reaction to Buffy's words, but he was doing one hell of a job hiding his emotions behind that mask that had been on his face since the day Buffy had left Sunnydale. "Buffy... I uhh... I would like to ask you something." She returned her gaze to Buffy. "Would you be my Maid of Honor."

Buffy's head shot up. "E-Excuse me?"

"Maid of Honor. I want you to be my Maid of Honor. So would you?"

"I umm... Gee, Cordy... I uhh... Could you give me some time to think about it?"

"Sure." Cordelia nodded.

"Thanks. Now let's get back to catching up. Other than the whole marriage thingie. What have you and my brother been up to this summer?"

"Well, I'm teaching summer school." Doyle answered. "And I gave up my bachelorhood early, and moved in with Delia last month."

"Wow..." Buffy replied. "That's just... Wow." She sat back in her chair. "And you, Cordelia? What have you been up to?"

"Nothing much. I'm still working for Angel. Oh, and I finally did learn to bowl. And I actually like it now. But that's not the real shocker. The real shocker came when I beat both Doyle and Angel the other night. Which is pretty historic in itself considering the two of them have been bowling a hell of a whole lot longer than I have."

Buffy's eyes moved back to her brother. "So you and Angel...You're becoming chummy?"

Doyle caught the look of hurt in her eyes. "I can explain, Buffy..."

"What's to explain, Doyle? If you want to be friends with Angel that's your business, not mine." Buffy replied in an unrecognizable voice. "But since we are on the subject of him..." Her cold gazed moved back to the man in question. "Angel... How are you?"

Angel's dark gaze locked with hers. "I'm fine. You?"
"Just peachy." She gave him a cold smile that left everyone at the table holding their breath in nervous tension.

"Umm, Buffy." Cordelia cleared her throat. "Getting back to the wedding..."

"Right. The wedding." Buffy tore her gaze away from Angel again. "Let's do get back to it because I've thought about it, and I'm afraid I can't be your Maid of Honor, Cordy. I'm sorry, but the thing is I really hate those tacky bridesmaids dresses, and since I feel the way I do I think maybe you should find someone else."

"Or better yet I could find someone that wouldn't make them look so tacky."

"What?"

Cordelia glanced over at her fiancee. "You, Buffy. I want you to make the bridesmaid dresses. Not just that, I was sort of hoping you would do the honors of making my wedding dress."

Buffy sat up again. "I-I'm sorry, could you repeat that?"

"I want you to design the dresses for my wedding, including my wedding dress, Buffy."

Buffy couldn't stop the hysterical laughter that erupted from her, and she buried her face in her hands as her body visibly shook with it. This was it. This was the moment she had been waiting for the last two months.

"Buffy?" Doyle placed a hand on her shoulder. "Munchkin? What's so funny?"

"N-Nothing. I just..." Buffy shook his hand off, and raised her gaze back to Cordelia. "I can't. I'm sorry, Cordy. But I can't do it. I can't make your dresses. Any of them."

"Why not?" Cordelia asked, a little shocked at Buffy's outburst. "I know you're going away to school and everything, but..."

"It's not that, Cordelia."

"Then why won't you make them?"

"Because I don't design anymore." Buffy answered, swiping at the tears her laughter had brought on.

Her answer got Joyce's attention. "What do you mean you don't design anymore, Buffy?"

"Exactly what I said, Mother. I don't design anymore. I don't do anything that has to do with it anymore. That includes sketching, and sewing. See, alot has changed over the summer. A whole whole lot. Not only have I given up designing, I've also decided to forgo college and go straight to work."

"You got a job? Buffy, I thought you understood that you can't work?"

"Oh, don't worry, Mother. I wouldn't really call what I'm going to do working. A prostitute. I'm going to be a prostitute on Hollywood Boulevard. And in case you're wondering, it's you I have to thank for my sudden career change. There's just one slight problem though. A pimp. I need a pimp, and since you did such a wonderful job pimping me out before I left Sunnydale I was sort of thinking of offering you the position." Buffy's gaze grew even colder as they focused on Joyce Summers. "What do you say, Mother? Would you do me the honors of being my pimp? With your encouragement I'm sure I could earn tons and tons of money."

Joyce Summers shot to her feet, and threw her napkin down on the table. "All right that's it, young lady. I don't know what the hell is your problem, but we're going to find out. We're going home. Now let's go."

"Sit down, Mommy dearest." Buffy sat back in her chair, and crossed her arms in front of her chest. "The jig is up. I know. And unless you want the good people of Sunnydale to know how you turned me into a whore as well, I suggest you do as I ask before I make a scene."

"Buffy..." Doyle's voice seeped through her red haze.
"Stay of this, Doyle." Buffy muttered, not taking her eyes from Joyce. "I'm waiting, Mother."

Joyce sat back down in her chair. "I don't have any idea what you're talking about, Buffy."

"Okay then, let me see if I can refresh your memory." Buffy held her fingers up to her ear in the shape of a phone. "Ring. Ring. Hello, Angel. I'm just calling to let you know that Buffy got those papers today, and the dumb blonde bimbo doesn't suspect a thing. She doesn't have a clue that I sold her like a whore for a fake scholarship. She doesn't have a clue that the only way you could ease that guilty conscience of yours for fucking her all those times you did and get rid of her at the same time was for you to pay for her to go to school far far away." Her enraged eyes slowly moved to Angel. "Ring any bells now?" Angel's face paled. "It's not what you think, Buffy."

"Gee, Angel color me shocked. When exactly did you figure out that I actually could think for myself?"

Angel opened his mouth to say something in response, but Buffy cut him off with the wave of her hand. "You know what, Angel don't bother answering that because it really doesn't matter. What matters is what you and my mother did to me."

Rupert Giles nervously cleared his throat, and leaned towards his wife. "I'm afraid I'm lost here. What did you do, Joyce?"

"What? You mean to tell me you didn't know, Giles? I thought everyone here knew?" Buffy's eyes traveled around the table. "Am I right?"

"Everyone but Giles." Doyle murmured, and looked away. And his response drew another round of bitter laughter from Buffy. "Well then, I'd advise you to hold onto your hat then, Giles because things are about to get pretty damn bumpy." She quickly sobered, and returned her eyes to Angel. "See, my mother, and my... Gee, I'm not really sure what to call you, Angel. Should I call you lover or better yet what about trick? Yeah, I think trick works considering my mother was the pimp, and I was the whore." She looked back over at Giles. "Well anyway, as I was saying, Giles... My pimp, and my trick somehow got together and I'm not sure what all was said, but they decided that the whore... That's me... They decided she should be paid for her services to the trick by sending her to school in New York on a fake scholarship. But you wanna know something really funny about the whole scenario? The really funny part is the whore never wanted to go to New York in the first place."

"That's not true, Buffy." Joyce started crying. "You did want to go."

"No, Mother. I didn't want to go, but I was going to go anyway. I was going to go for Giles. To keep him from having to sale the Citroen. Well, that and I was heartbroke over the fact that the trick didn't want me anymore."

Angel's very emotional gaze locked with Buffy's again. "Buffy... Baby, can't we go somewhere else and talk about this?"

"No, Angel we can't. I've been waiting two very long months for this moment, and I'm going to have my say. Now if you don't mind, since the rule states that ladies go first I need to start with my pimp. Oh, excuse me... I mean, my mother." Her gaze returned to Joyce. "I never in my life thought I could hate anyone as much as I hated my very own father, but I was wrong. The day I overheard you destroying my life was enough to turn the tables away from him. What you did to me was a hundred times worse than what he ever did to me and Doyle, Mother. And I hated you for that. I hated you so much all I wanted to do was get as far away from you as possible. The day I left town I had no intention of ever coming back. I drew every cent to my name out of the bank, and I was going to find someplace to start over. Hank knew what I was planning to do. I called and told him. His place was just a rest stop until I figured out where I was going to go, but while I was there... He offered me a place to stay, and although I wasn't exactly happy about the offer I realized that I didn't want to be alone. I was scared to be alone, and you want to know why? It's because I wanted to die. Pathetic, I know. But it's true. I really did want to die for the first time in my life... After already fighting for my life twice in the last six years, I actually wanted it to end, and you're the reason I did, Mother. You and Angel... The both of you made me feel like a whore. Worse than a whore. You both made me feel like nothing. A nobody. And the really horrible part about all this is you knew... You knew all along what I really wanted, and you knew that my designing wasn't it. Do you any idea what this has done to me? I really truly wanted to die. I still do at times, and death is something I have never ever wanted. When I got sick all I wanted to do was live long enough to have a future. And by a future I don't mean a career in designing. I wanted love. A family of my own. Of course, my plans were shattered when the doctor told me I couldn't have children. My chance at a future was gone. I knew it the day every guy in school found out the truth. I knew then that no one was ever going to be able to love me for just me, so I closed off my heart and focused on the only thing I had left. Designing... And yes, I loved it. Almost as much as I did gymnastics, but unlike gymnastics it was never about being famous. That was just a child's dream. I did it because I enjoyed making beautiful things for the people I cared about. I did it because it and the few people I did love were all I had. All I thought I would ever have, and you took it away from me. You took it away, and in the process you opened my eyes and you made me see that even the people that are really supposed to love you... They don't. If they really did they would listen to you. They would let you live your life the way you wanted. If you really loved me the way you claimed you wouldn't have done what you did. If you really loved me you would have let me live my life the way I wanted, and it was my life, Mother. I'm the one that fought so fucking hard to keep it, and I should have been the one to fucking live it. It was my life! Mine! And You ruined it. You ruined it because you didn't have enough faith in me to let me decide what I wanted on my own. And I hated you for that, Mother. I still hate you for that."

"Doyle..." Buffy's gaze moved to her brother. "You were the one person I thought would never ever hurt me, but it seems I've been proven wrong alot lately. Don't worry though, of all the people here I know you the best, too. How can I not when I carry a part of you around inside of me everyday? And it's because I do carry a part of you inside of me that I have pretty much figured out where you fit into all this. I suspect you didn't know. Not a first. But somewhere along the line I'm pretty sure you found out, and went all protecto guy on me as usual. You let your need to protect me be the most important thing, and I love you for that. I do, Doyle. But at the same time I'm angry and hurt at you for not telling me. I have always shared everything with you. The good and the bad, and I thought you loved and respected me enough to do the same, but you didn't and that hurts. You should have told me. Still, even though you didn't I will eventually be able to forgive you. I owe you that much. I owe you my life. But I need time... To get over the hurt, and I'm asking you to leave me alone and give it to me. When I'm ready to forgive you and let you back in my life I'll let you know. Until then stay away, okay?"

She moved her gaze to Cordelia. "I'm sorry that you got caught in the crossfire. I never wanted that. I never wanted to hurt you at all. You're his best friend and I understand that. I understand that you have to keep his secrets, and I don't hate you for that. That shows that you really do care about him, and I could never hate anyone for only doing what they were supposed to do in your situation. In fact, I don't hate you at all, and so the only other thing I have to say to you comes in the form of advice and a quote. Let your love be genuine, reject what is against love, take good hold of what assists it. In other words love Doyle the way he loves you, and don't let anyone or anything fuck it up."

"Giles..." Buffy turned to the man she would always think the world of. "I love you. You are my father. My real father. You've showed me that over and over again, and because you have I intend to keep you in my life for as long as I live. I'll be in touch. You can count on it."

Finally after taking a deep breath, Buffy's gaze returned to Angel. "And you... There are alot of things I could say to you, but I've decided to forgo all of it because I realize now that this whole mess is my doing. I should have told you about the leukemia, and I'm sorry I didn't. I'm sorry for alot of things. But most of all I'm sorry I wasted your time. It's over. Get your money back. I'm not going to New York. In fact..." She looked around the table at the others. "Not only am I not going to New York, I'm not coming back to Sunnydale either. This is just a visit. I'm leaving in the morning to go back to LA. I've accepted a position with Hank... Daddy's new ad agency, and I'm going to try to make some sort of life on my own. A life that right now, I'm not ready to let any of you be a part of, so I suggest you take my earlier advice and stay away until if and when I feel I'm ready to let you back in it. It's my life, and I'm going to live it the way I want. Don't try to fuck with it. If you do you'll be sorry, and that's not a threat, it's a promise." She snatched up her purse laying on the edge of the table, and walked out of the resteraunt without a backwards glance.


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Thanks to Shirley, Bobbie, Cassandra, angels_girl73, Kolumbyne, Linda, Nikki, Nathalie, Kay, Barb, Ryan, Christine, Sarah, Stephanie, Sandy, StellarDanz414, Emma, Kim, Jade, VengfulVixen3, Lari, Court, Carol Ann, and Heather for their feedback last chapter.
CHAPTER 39


After Buffy had left the resteraunt she had went to see Willow and Xander at Willow and Oz's apartment. The couple were now happily married and living in a apartment complex just off the UC Sunnydale campus. They had been so cute during her visit. The way they had been all touchy feely like all newlywed's were. Too cute for her liking, and to make matters worse Xander and Anya hadn't been much better. They were now officially in love. Xander had actually said the three big words to Anya and now the couple was basking in the newness of it by sneaking off every chance they got to show each other the way they felt, and that's exactly what had happened tonight to Buffy's disgust. They had disappeared into Willow and Oz's guest room, and reemerged a little while later glowing from head to toe, and it had sickened her to the point she had to cut her visit short. Numb... all she had wanted was to numb the pain, and that was the good thing about the seedy side of Sunnydale. If you were a woman looking to ease the pain and bitterness gnawing at your gut you didn't need a fake I.D. to do it. All you needed was a pretty smile for the bartender, and plenty of cash to make that drink you so badly needed appear before you just like magic.

Willie's bar. Buffy couldn't believe she was actually sitting in Willie's bar, nursing... Well, she wasn't sure what number the glass of vodka and orange juice she was now nursing was, and it wasn't important. She was sitting in Willie's bar, and in high school that was a no no unless you were a jock who wanted to flash money and get laid by white trash for free. No one else was supposed to come here. You were white trash if you did. Or at least that's what the snobby bitches at Sunnydale High had claimed, but evidently they didn't have a problem with letting their jock boyfriends do it. They had actually approved of it because they couldnt' think of themselves or for themselves, and would have done anything to make their men happy, including letting them fuck someone else. Airheads. Those girls had been total airheads, and she'd listened to them converse their air every monday morning in the ladies room at school. She had listened to their conversations, and had even rolled her eyes at the stupid bitches thinking she would never be like them, but boy had she been wrong. She had turned out to be just like them. She had cared more about him then she had herself. And now... Now she just didn't give a fuck. Not about him... Not about herself... Not about anything... And God, it felt fucking great to be this numb, and she wondered why she hadn't tried slumming it before as those high society bitches had called it. Although, in her opinion she wasn't really slumming it at all. Quite honestly, in her opinion Willie's bar was actually pretty cool. The place was nice and clean, and the very few patrons that were here were leaving her alone. Even the bartender was leaving her alone, which had totally surprised her since he had been so quick to get her a drink when she had flashed him her sexiest smile earlier. Numb... She was well on to her way to feeling numb, but she wasn't quite there yet, and until she was she wasn't leaving. Another drink. She needed another drink, she thought as she raised her glass to her lips, and only saw the bottom of it and nothing else. She placed her empty glass down on the bar and was waiting for the bartender to come and refill it when a voice sounded from behind her. A voice she recognized, but hadn't heard in a while. "Excuse me, is this seat taken?"

Buffy spun around on her stool. "Riley, hey."

Riley Finn blinked in surprise. "Buffy?"

"Yelp, it's me." She smiled, and fluffed her new haircut. "I guess you didn't recognize me with the new do. Like it?"

Riley frowned. "What are you doing here, Buffy?"

"I'm uhh... slumming it." She shook her head. "No, that's not right. I'm numbing it. Yeah, that's it. I'm numbing the pain." She motioned to the stool beside her. "Would you like to join me?"

Riley took the stool beside her and watched her spin back around to face him. "What are you doing here, Buffy?"

"Didn't you already ask me that?" Buffy asked as she watched the bartender appear out of nowhere, and place a drink down in front of both her and Riley, then disappear again.

Riley watched her as she tipped up her glass and drained half of it before setting it back down on the bar. "You're drunk."

"Uh huh." She nodded. "But it's not enough."

"Buffy..."

"You know something, Riley. I never thought I could forgive you for what you did, but I was wrong. What you did to me was nothing compared to what my the people I love did to me." She took another sip of her drink. "I forgive you because I know what it's like to think you know someone... love them... And them turn out to be someone you really don't know at all. Take my mother for example, she didn't actually kill anyone, but she did destroy a life. Mine, to be exact. And the love of my what will be a short life... God, don't even get me started on him, and what he did to me... I should have never gotten mixed up with him to start with. And you...You should thank your lucky stars that you didn't get mixed up with me either. It would have been a real waste of your time. I'm a waste of everyone's time. Even God's. Just ask him." She started to raise her glass to her lips again, but Riley's hand came out of nowhere and pushed it back down.

"Why don't you let me take you home, Buffy?"

She shoved his hand away. "I don't have a home, Riley. Not anymore." A half laugh half sob tore from her lips. "But I'm hoping that'll all change tomorrow. Tomorrow I'm leaving for LA and I'm never coming back to this hell hole again."

Riley reached for his own drink. "I'm leaving, too. In four days. I got a football scholarship to Notre Dame. I chose that school because I wanted to go somewhere where no one knew anything about my father or the old me. I just want to start over with a clean slate. I've decided to major in medicine. I want to be an obstetrician. I want to try and make up for all the things I've done over the years, and I figure I can do that by helping to bring new life into the world. For each one I help, I plan to let it's new soul cleanse mine."

"That's beautiful." Buffy sniffled.

"You think?" Riley looked back over at her for reassurance.

"Uh huh." She started crying, and she immediately reached up to swipe at her tears. "O-
Oh, God! Th-This isn't s-supposed to be happening. I've c-cried enough. N-Numb. I just w-
wanted to feel numb a-and I don't. W-Why is this h-happening to m-me? W-Why do I-I have to s-suck at e-everything?"

Riley reached in his pants pocket and pulled out a handkerchief, and leaned over to wipe at her tears. "You don't suck at anything, Buffy. You just make a lousy drunk. Now what do you say to letting me me drive you to wherever it is you're supposed to go to when you leave here? I've already got a guilty enough conscience about you as it is, and the last thing I need is to add your death to it."

"I'm already dead." She mumbled.

"No, you're not. And you're not going to die as long as I'm around." He stuck out his hand. "Now give me your car keys."

"Fine." Buffy reached in her purse, and pulled out her keys. "But I just want you to know right now that if you try to make a move on me I'll have to hit you, and I'm told I can hit pretty damn hard."

"Don't worry, Buffy." Riley stood up, and went to help her to her feet. "I'm not going to try and make a move on you. I've already been warned what will happen to me if I do."

Buffy unsteadily got to her feet, and looked up at him. "What do you mean you've already been warned? Who warned you?"

Riley immediately realized his slip, and seeing as she was already upset enough he decided it was best not to tell her who really had warned him. "You did, silly." He smiled down at her."

"That's right, I did." She shook her head as if to clear it, and swayed unsteadily on her feet again. "I guess I forgot for a second."

"Uh huh, I guess you did. Come on." Riley laughed, and slowly began to lead her out of the bar. "Let's get you out of here before you fall on your face."

***

It was funny, last year if someone had told Buffy that Riley Finn could be a man... A real man... She would have died laughing at the thought. But now... People changed. She'd found that out the hard way. But unlike the other people in her life that had changed for the worst, Riley wasn't one of them. A man. He'd grown up in the few short months since she had seen him last. Became a real man. A perfect gentleman. He had driven Buffy back to her hotel, and hadn't left until she was safely locked in her room with a hot cup of coffee in her hands. They hadn't talked alot. They didn't really have a lot to talk about. It wasn't like they had been friends. Far from it actually. But they wasn't enemies anymore either, and when he had left she had truly meant what she had said when she wished him the best of luck with his new life, and she knew he had meant what he had said when he done the same with her. The only problem with their well wishes to each other was that she truly believed Riley would get his dreams whereas she on the otherhand... God, she was totally depressing herself all over again, Buffy thought as she slipped from the chair Riley had parked her in before he had left. Coffee... She needed another cup of coffee. She was going to have to completely sober up before she went to bed or she was going to wake up with one hell of a hangover in the morning. The only problem was she wasn't so sure she was up to the trip down the hallway to get it. She was still a little tipsy, and she could just see herself staggering now, and spilling the very hot liquid all over her. She was already in enough pain as it was, and the thought of even more in any shape, fashion, or form wasn't her idea of fun. But then again, neither was the nausea or vomiting she knew was known to come along with hangovers, and the thought of doing that was enough to put her in motion. She hated getting sick at her stomach, and God knew if she could do something to avoid it she would. Especially since she had been experiencing enough of it the last two months to last her a lifetime.

She didn't bother to close her room door when she made the short trip to the coffee machine because she didn't want to have to fool with a key, and thankfully she hadn't seen anyone in the hallway on the trip there or on the way back, but when she reached her room and turned around from shutting the door it was a different story, and she ended up getting burnt by anyway. "You know, it's one thing to leave a door unlocked but to leave one completely open in a strange and very public place... That's not very smart, Buffy."

"H-How did you find me?"

"It wasn't hard. You wasn't staying at home or with Doyle, and I knew you wouldn't stay with Willow and Oz seeing as they haven't been married that long, so the only other place you could stay was at a hotel, and since there's not that many of them here in Sunnydale it didn't take me long..."

"Get out."

Angel stood up from the end of the bed where he had been sitting. "No. I'm not leaving, Buffy. Not until we talk."

"I said all I had to say earlier, Angel. Go home."

"See, that's the thing, Buffy. You said what you had to say, and now I think it's only fair that you listen to what I have to say."

"You want to talk about fair, Angel. Okay, let's talk about fair. Fair is you leaving me alone. You wanted out of our freak show, and you got what you wanted. You said you wanted to focus on work and being like other twenty three year old, so what the hell are you waiting for? Go do it. Go back to the life you wanted and leave me the fuck alone!" Buffy started to cross to the table against the far side of the wall to sit her cup of coffee down, but the moment she started moving her sudden movement sent the world spinning, and she staggered. Luckily, she was able to quickly right herself before she fell, but she was still swaying and she didn't know how to stop it. Not that it mattered. It was too late. Angel saw every bit of it, including the fact that she was now nursing another burn on her right hand, and once it dawned on him what he saw, his eyes flew to her face to really take in her true state. "You're drunk."

Buffy couldn't help but laugh. "No, I'm not drunk. I'm tipsy. I was drunk about an hour ago. Sorry you missed the party."

"B-But... you hate alcohol."

"No, Angel. The old Buffy hated alcohol. The new Buffy decided to give it a try and she likes it. So much so, she'll probably make it a part of her new life."

Angel swept a hand through his hair. "You're not supposed to be drinking, Buffy. I clearly remember your mom telling me that you're not supposed to be drinking. It's not good for you."

All it took was the mention of her mother, and all that hate, and bitterness resurfaced, causing Buffy's eyes to flare. "Get out!"

"I'm not leaving, Buffy." Angel stood his ground. "Now where is it?"

"Where's what?"

"Whatever it is you've been drinking. Where is it? I want it."

Buffy started laughing again. "Then you really will have to leave then 'cause it's at Willie's."

Angel had never been to Willie's bar, but he knew where it was and the the thought of her being there went all over him. "Willie's! Jesus Christ, Buffy! What the hell has gotten into you? First you tell me you've been drinking, and then you tell me you've been drinking in a bar on the wrong side of town. I suppose next you'll tell me you drove drunk."

"No, actually Riley drove me back here."

"R-Riley!" Angel sputtered. "You were with Finn?" To say he was angry was an understatement, and he knew exactly where he was going when he left here. The boy had been warned.

"Well, technically no. He just showed up at Willie's, we talked, had a drink, and then he insisted on driving me back here. You know, he's actually kinda nice once you get to know him. He was a perfect gentleman. Bummer, too. I might have fucked him if he'd made a move on me."

"How can you say that?" Angel choked out. "That guy... He almost raped you."

Buffy's eyes welled up, but she fought the tears. She wasn't going to cry. She wasn't. "Him almost raping me, isn't half as bad as all those times you fucked me."

His own eyes grew pained again at her words."I never... I made love to you, Buffy. I loved you, and I still love you. I never stopped and I never will."

That was it. Those three words made Buffy snap, but luckily for Angel he saw it coming, and ducked just as the cup of coffee went sailing over his head and splattered against the wall. "Love? You love me, Angel?" Buffy began to laugh hysterically. "No. No. You don't love me. YOU FUCKED ME! Pure flat out fucked me. But it's okay. I understand. I understand completely. Now get the hell outta here. Go home. Live your life, the life you deserve, and leave me the hell alone!"

Angel watched the play of emotions on her face, and then he was suddenly shedding his coat, and tossing it in the chair where she had been sitting moments before. "No. I'm not going anywhere, Buffy."

Buffy saw him remove his jacket, and began to panic. "Get out!"

"No." His dark gaze locked with hers as he slowly and deliberately began to inch towards her. "You think I don't know what's going on in that beautiful head of yours, Buffy Summers but you are so wrong. I know. I know exactly what you're thinking, and I'm going to prove you wrong."

"GET OUT!" She screamed again, and began to back away from him.

"No." He repeated firmly. "I hurt you, baby. I know that, and I'm sorry. God, I'm so sorry because now you doubt what we had. You doubt that you are worthy of being loved. You doubt that I love you, and I can't let you do that. Somewhere underneath all that hurt, bitterness, pain, hate, and doubt is the woman I love, and I'm going to find her and bring her back to me." He reached her and gently pushed her back against the wall, using his body to pin her to it. "You need convincing, Buffy and that's exactly what I'm going to do. I'm going to prove to you beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are worth loving. I'm going to prove to you that not only do I love and adore you, I worship the ground you walk on. I'm going to prove to you that I want you... All of you... Faults and all. Completely. Forever and Always. And before the night is over you're going to admit that you still love me just as much as I love you."

"That's never going to happen." She hissed, and struggled against him. "Now let go of me." She began to pound on his chest with her fists, but he effortlessly caught her hands with one of his own and pinned them above her head as he pressed himself even closer to her. "I love you..." He repeated, catching her eyes with his.

"I hate you!" She spat through gritted teeth. "And if you do this it'll be rape."

"No, it won't. Love. It'll be love." He murmured as he leaned down to seduce the nape of her neck with his lips, teeth, and tongue.

Buffy closed her eyes and tried to fight the electrical shocks that had been shooting through her every nerve since his body had made contact with hers, and God it was so hard because she could already feel the fire in her gut beginning to smolder from his simple ministrations. "Stop." She begged weakly.

"I can't. I can feel it, baby." He whispered as his mouth moved upwards to suck on her bottom lip. "Deny it all you want, but I can already feel your heart, body, and soul calling out to me." His free hand lovingly swept over the top of her dress, stopping to tease one of her nipples through the thin material of it. "Mates. We're soulmates, baby." His lips moved to her ear. "And nothing will ever change that. Not even death."

"Angel, please... You don't want me."

"You're right, I don't want you. It's more like I need you, Buffy. I need you like the air I breathe, and you can deny it all you want but you know the same is true for you. You know you need me to complete you as much as I need you to complete me."

Buffy closed her eyes and did her best to fight off the emotions overwhelming her, but it was hard. God, it was so hard. Everything she had tried so hard to bury the last two months was resurfacing in full force at just the touch of his hands. His words.

Angel's hand slowly began to move away from Buffy's breast, and scorch a trail over her body until he reached her hips and caught the material of her dress to hike it up around her enough to expose one of her legs to him. Glidding, tracing, soothing, rememorizing, he caressed her thigh as he raised it to plant it around his hip, bringing her into intimate contact with him.

Excitement, tense and searing, gripped Buffy as his arousal nudged into her hot softness, and a small moan tore from her lips.

Angel's head shot up as the breathy sound slid from her, and his chocolate pools locked with her emerald jewels. "I love you."

"I hate you." She panted as his fingers slid inside her panties to part her soft folds, and find the tight nubbin hidden in it's hood. "Liar." He murmured as he circled her with moistened fingertips.

"Oh, God..." Buffy cried out and arched into him.

"No. Not God, Buffy. Me..." He found her entrance and slowly, inexorably slid one finger into her heat. "Me... And I love you... So much... Tell me... Tell me you love me, too."

"No..." She groaned as he withdrew his finger from her only to slide another in beside it, deliberately stretching her, and smiling as she squirmed and rocked against them.

"That's okay." He answered huskily as his lips inched closer to hers. "Before the night's over you will." And then he trapped her lips with his as he went three fingers deep inside her. He loved her with his mouth, tongue, and fingers until the fire in Buffy's gut became unbearable. But instead of giving her the release she so badly craved, he withdrew just enough to torture her, and a whimper escaped from deep inside her.

"Tell me, baby. Tell me what you want."

Buffy's fractured *fuck me* echoed in the room as she used the wall to arch up into him, and urge him to finish what he had started.

Angel's eyes met her hooded ones. "No, Buffy... I've never done that and I never will. Never... Now worship... Adore... Make love to you... I'm going to do all those things and so much more." He promised as he let go of her hands to rid her of her panties, and make quick work of the fly of his black trousers. Once that was done he urged her body upwards, and before she knew what she was doing Buffy had planted her other leg around his waist. The moment she did that Angel knew there was no longer a need to hold her to him, his body and the wall did that for him, leaving his hands free to push the folds of her dress the rest of the way up to expose her completely to him, and he couldn't help but groan as he leaned into her, and came flesh to flesh with her for the first time in three months. Buffy immediately retaliated by grinding herself up against him, and he happily took her invitation by plunging into her scalding heat.

Buffy gripped herself tighter around Angel as again and again he filled her like a sword slamming into it's sheath. Drunk... she was drunk again, but it wasn't from alcohol this time. She was drunk on him. Drunk on the power of their connection. Drunk on the words of love slipping from his mouth, and God help her as much as she was trying to fight him, deep down she knew she was fighting a losing battle.

"Ma' graih tu'." Angel groaned as his hands slid up underneath her to take away the brunt of the wall. He continued to repeat the words as he pulled her down harder, and surged up into her further. "Ma' graih tu', Buffy. Ma' graih tu'..." As the final moments of their union rushed towards them, he locked eyes with her once more. "Ma' graih tu', Buffy. Please, baby. Say it. Tell me you still love me as much as I love you."

The look in his eyes was her undoing and Buffy felt the wall around her heart give. "Ma' graih tu'..." She screamed as she reached the peak of ecstasy. "I love you. Oh God, Angel... I love you."


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I'm back! I've been doing a short stint in hell, but just like my fav vamp I've managed to find my way out of it and am now ready to give you chapter 40 of this ever continuing saga. Thanks to Ash, Karin, VengfulVixen3, Lari, Sandy, Court, Carol Ann, Heather, Shirley, Kolumbyne, Christine, Karen, Nikki, Sandy, Natalie, Kim, Ryan, Sarah, Bobbie, Cass, Linda, Nina, Stacy, and Lyaman. If it wasn't for you guys I'm not sure I would have had the strength to continue posting the rest of this. Thanks for your support guys! It means alot!
Anita
CHAPTER 40


They made love throughout the night, and it wasn't until they were completely sated for the moment, and laying face to face, that the words came. "I can't believe you kept them."

"What did you think I would do with them?"

"I don't know. I hoped..." Angel reached out to touch the chain around Buffy's neck. "You kept them, why?"

Buffy covered his hand with hers. "The necklace... I haven't taken it off since the day you gave it to me, not even to sleep or shower."

"Or make love." He smiled.

She nodded mutely. "Even after... I couldn't. Well, except to put this on it." She showed him the claddagh ring that was nestled against the guardian angel pendant on the chain. "I umm... I couldn't wear it on my hand anymore because it umm... it hurt. But I couldn't get rid of it or put it away either. Deep down I still loved you, but I didn't want to admit it to myself, so I kept it hidden away just like my heart." She reached up to smooth the tiredness around his eyes. "I thought your eyeballs were going to pop out when you saw them earlier."

"That's because they almost did. You didn't have to keep them."

Buffy abruptly rolled onto her side away from him. "I told you I couldn't get rid of them, Angel. What more do you want me to say? Do you want me to say I didn't hate you, because I can't. I did. You don't know how many times I started to take them off. You don't know how many times I kept running the days you gave them to me over and over in my head, looking for something... anything that would make me believe the things you said to me were all just lies and that they would give me a reason to let go of them, but I couldn't find anything... Not one damn thing... So I kept them because I believed that I must have meant something to you at one point or you would have never given them to me in the first place. Especially the ring... It belonged to your dad's family... It's too important for you to just give to anyone."

Angel spooned up against her, and rested his chin on her shoulder. "What's it been like for you the last three months?"

"Hell." She choked out. "It's been hell, Angel. What about for you? Has everything been just peachy for you? Did you date? Fuck anyone else?"

"Buffy..."

"God, I'm sorry, Angel." She stared out the hotel window at the dawning sky. "I just... Did you honestly expect me to just go on with my life like the time I had with you meant nothing to me? I loved you. I still love you, and I don't understand..." A sob tore from her throat. "M-Make me understand. Pl-Please, Angel. Because I don't, and I

n-need to know... I-I need you to make me u-understand why y-you let go."

"Because I loved you." He rolled her back over to face him. "Because I still love you, and I always will."

She searched his face. "Is that the truth?"

He frowned. "I didn't get scared, Buffy."

"It wasn't just that I thought you got scared, Angel. I thought..."

He turned her face back to his. "I was like the others? Because I'm not, Buffy." A-Angel swallowed against the lump in his throat. "Unlike them I was the one lucky enough to be loved by you. Unlike them I was the one lucky enough to get to love you back. I still love you and I always will. That's why I can't lie to you." His eyes welled up. "The thought of you dying... It did... does scare me. Terrifies me is more like it, but the thought of not having you in my life at all is even scarier."

"And th-the other part?"

Angel leaned over to feather a kiss across Buffy's lips. "From the very first moment I laid eyes on you all I've been able to see is you, Ioniun. All I want is you."

"You could have better."

"No, I can't." Angel feathered a kiss across her lips. "How can I have better when I already have the most incredible woman in the world?"

"Angel..." Buffy opened her mouth to argue with him, but he placed a finger to her lips to silence her. "When you're mom told me that you had been sick the first thing that came to my mind was how incredibly lucky I was to know you, Elizabeth Anne Summers. I always knew you were a strong woman, but I never knew just how strong you really were until she told me what you had been through, not once, but twice. God, I was so in awe of you I don't think I could have loved you anymore than I did at that moment, and the fact that you couldn't have children didn't bother me at all. I was too busy trying to stifle those *God, I love this woman and and I have to protect her* emotions that had kicked into high gear. You have no idea how badly I wanted to snatch you up and take you somewhere where nothing or no one could ever hurt you again, but unfortunately a place like that doesn't exist. I wish to God it did, but it doesn't. But you'd better believe that if it did I would gladly spend every penny I have to get you there."

"That still doesn't tell me why."

"I saw your face." Angel reached out to caress her cheek. "When your mom told me everything. It didn't scare me. It made me want to cling to you even more, Buffy. I wanted to hang on to you with all my might. God, I never wanted to let go. But then she told me about New York. How it had been your dream since you were eleven, and that you had lied about getting in because of me. When she told me that I hated myself because I saw your face... I remembered the look on it the day you told Cordelia about the first dress you made. If you could have seen the look in your eyes... It was... you were so beautiful. God, you were so beautiful. And when I remembered it...you... I also remembered the day you showed me your work for the first time. That look... it was there again... I didn't want to take that away from you. I didn't want you to end up hating me for holding you back. And that's what I was afraid would happen. I was so afraid you would end up hating me later on because you gave it up for me, but more than anything I really was afraid that was what would end up happening. Especially after I remembered the conversation we had after you told me you didn't get into New York."

"W-What conversation." Buffy asked in confusion.

"The one where you told me that Giles was going to sale the Citroen and you were going to go to UC Sunnydale instead. Do you remember me asking you if that was what you really wanted?"

"I do now."

"Do you remember what else you told me?"

"I told you no. That it would do for now. U-Until I did get what I wanted."

"Exactly, and when I remembered what you said I thought you were talking about New York. That maybe you were thinking about reapplying at a later date, and just didn't want to tell me."

"I-I wasn't talking about New York, Angel. I was talking about you... Us... I wanted..." She looked away again.

"You wanted what, Buffy?" Angel reached up to wipe a way a stray tear that leaked from the corner of her eye. "Come on, baby. Talk to me. Lack of communication is what got us in this mess in the first place."

Buffy's tear filled eyes returned to his face. "M-More... I wanted more..."

"OH..." His own eyes pooled.

"B-But I couldn't tell you because I wasn't sure if you w-were ready f-for that." She swiped at her tears. "Christ, I was s-so scared. A-All this stuff w-with me was hanging over our h-heads, a-and I wanted t-to tell you, I planned to, b-but I w-wanted to give you t-time..."

Angel's eyes met hers. "To love you for you, knowing all your faults?"

"Y-Yes." She nodded. "B-But it was more than that... Y-You had been through so much with Darla, and I h-hated keeping secrets from you for that simple reason, but I w-was hoping that in t-time that maybe just m-maybe you would w-want what I wanted. Th-
That's what I meant when I said that th-things would do for n-now, u-until I did get what I wanted. I meant th-that I wanted m-more between you and m-me... That I w-would make do with college a-and the w-way things were with us u-until you wanted the same thing I did. I meant I would w-wait for you... That I would wait for an us... And God, I can s-see now why you would misinterpret that."

"You do?" He searched her face.

"Y-Yes." She sniffled.

"Good. Now let me finish making you understand." He leaned in to brush another kiss across her lips, then pulled away. "After I remembered that conversation I got scared that you would end up hating me, so I decided to let you go. But before I could I wanted... needed to help you achieve your dream. I loved you so much, Buffy and I knew you had the talent to go all the way. I knew you were that damn good, and I still believe that with all my heart, but I also knew that you would always feel bad about Giles having to sale his car to send you. I remembered how upset you were about it, and you know me... I can't stand it... I can't stand to see you upset about anything. It kills me... And it was killing me to see you so upset about it, so I told your mom I wanted to help. I asked her to let me pay for you to go to school, and she tried to talk me out of it, but I wouldn't listen. All I wanted to do was give the world to the woman I loved even if she didn't want it, so I called my lawyer and asked her to go to New York and set everything up in the form of a scholarship in your name. And it's not a fake scholarship either, Buffy. Every year after this year someone will receive that scholarship for as long as I live or my money runs out."

"I'm not going, Angel."

"If that's what you want then I accept it, but I would still like to see you go to college."

"Maybe I will..." She smiled weakly. "Eventually."

Angel could see that there was something she wasn't telling him. "Eventually? Why eventually? Why not now?"

Buffy stopped breathing. The moment of truth was at hand, and she wasn't sure what his reaction was going to be. "I'm not staying, Angel. I'm going back to LA to live."

"W-What?" He blinked in surprise. "But I thought..."

"You thought wrong. I love you, Angel. I won't deny that anymore. And I hope you don't doubt it either. But this... Last night... This morning... It doesn't just make everything okay. You and mom... You hurt me, and I've forgiven you for that because I understand now why you did it, but even though I have there are other things... Somewhere in the last two months I realized that I don't know who I am or who I'm supposed to be. I'm not happy with me, and I need to be. When everything came crashing down around me I didn't care about me or anything else. I didn't care whether I had a life or not, and I need to care. I need to make myself care, and the only way I know to do it is to try to make it on my own. I need to prove to myself that I'm capable of being my own person."

Angel's face contorted in pain. "What about us? I love you, Buffy."

"I know, and I don't doubt for a second that you do, not anymore." She wrapped her arms around him. "I'm not saying I don't want you in my life anymore, Angel. I do. But I'm not sure how much of me I can give you right now, that's why I suggest we visit each other on weekends. We can take turns. You could come to LA one weekend, and I could come here the next."

"For how long?" He choked out.

She sighed. "I don't know. That's why I think you should consider..."

He knew exactly what she was about to say, and the thought of it sent him sitting up in the bed. "No! Absolutely not, Buffy. I don't want anyone else. I love you. You, god damnit!"

"I know that, Angel. That's why I want you to date other women." She sat up beside. "I love you so much, and I just want you to be sure you're not missing out on anything."

His eyes fired. "Is that it or is it your way of saying you want to date other men, Buffy? Other men like Lindsey Macdonald or Riley Finn?"

"No. That's not what I'm saying at all. And for your information, Angel I never dated Lindsey. I lied. I lied in the hopes it would hurt you as much as I was hurting. The truth is he asked me out, but I turned him down. The next week I saw him having lunch with Darla. And as for Riley... I've forgiven him. That's it! What I said earlier was the alcohol talking. God, how could you even think..."

"What else am I supposed to think when you tell me you want me to date other women, Buffy?"

"You're not supposed to think!" She exploded. "You're supposed to understand."

"Understand what?" He turned pained eyes on her. "That you love me, but you don't want to be with me? Oh yeah, Buffy. I understand perfectly."

"No, evidently you don't." She muttered, looking away again.

"Then make me understand, Buffy." Angel grabbed her by the shoulders, and shook her. "Make me understand why if you love me and I love you, we can't be together."

"Because I don't want you to end up hating me!" She screamed.

Angel stopped shaking her, but he didn't let go of his grip on her. "I could never hate you, Buffy. God, what else can I say or do to make you believe that?"

"Nothing..." A sob tore from her throat. "There's nothing you can do because it's not you." She started crying. "It's m-me. It's m-me. I c-can't give you babies! A-And I want to. God h-help me, I want t-to."

"Buffy..." Angel's own eyes filled with tears, and he pulled her into his arms, holding onto her like a lifeline. "Baby, I've already told you that I don't need children. All I need is you. All I want is you."

"Y-You say th-that now, b-but l-later... Y-You will. L-Later you will want them, Angel and I d-don't w-want you t-to hate me." She sobbed into his shoulder. "Th-That's why I w-want you to d-date other women. I'd m-much rather

l-lose you to someone e-else than for y-you to e-end up h-hating me."

"That will never happen. I could never hate you, Ionuin. Never." He murmured into her hair. "And you will never lose me either. Never. You're stuck with me, but I'm not going to promise you that. I'm going to prove it to you." He pulled away to wipe at her tears. "I love you, Buffy Summers. You. And I only want you, not anyone else. If you need time to see that, fine. I'll give you time. But I'm not going to date anyone else and I'm sure as hell not going anywhere. You are stuck with me."

"Angel..." Buffy started to argue with him, but his lips crashing down on hers killed her argument, and as the two lovers surrendered to the fire that quickly engulfed them the need for words dissapated in their need for one another.

***

Buffy slowly opened her sleep filled eyes on Sunday morning to find Angel laying on the pillow beside her, watching her. "Are you ever going to stop doing that?"

"Stop what?"

"Watching me sleep. I figured it would get old after the first time we woke up together."

"You figured wrong." He leaned in to kiss her. "When I wake up with you in my arms the first thought that enters my mind is God, this woman is so beautiful and I have to be the luckiest man on earth to have her here with me. In my arms... In my bed... In my life."

She blinked back tears. "You're too mushy in the mornings."

"And you, my love I know can't handle all that mushiness until you've had you're caffeine." He rolled away from her than returned a few seconds later with a coffee cup in his hand. "That's why I've already been up this morning and made you this." He helped her sit up, then handed her the cup. "Here you go, my lady. One mocchachino with lots of whipped cream. Now drink up so I can have some lovin'."

"You're a little sure of yourself, mister." She eyed him over the rim of her cup. "What makes you think you're going to get lucky?"

Angel took the coffee cup from her, and sat it back on top of the nightstand before reaching to pull her over on top of him. "Luck has nothing to do with it, beloved. This is just me taking the last few hours I have with you and making the most of them."

She looked down into his face. "Still sounds to me like you plan to get lucky."

"Well, I can't lie to you. That would be nice... Better than nice... I do need something to get me through the next five days."

Buffy giggled. "You, my dear are insatiable. Wasn't the last fifty times this weekend enough to last you for the next five days?"

"Fifty?" He grinned. "Was that all it was?" He pulled her up and began to devour the flesh of her neck with his mouth. "I think we need to make it at least sixty or seventy. Eighty would be even better."

"Uhh, honey..." She gasped as he made contact with a sensitive spot.

"What?" He growled, making little nips along her jawline.

"I-I'm h-hungry." She groaned, and tilted her head back to allow him better access.

"Can't you see I'm trying to feed you?"

Buffy pulled away to look at him. "I-I meant for food, Angel. I'm starving."

"So am I." He murmured huskily as his passion filled eyes locked with hers.

Lost. The moment his mahogany pools met her gaze she got lost, and food was quickly forgotten as the ache between her legs began to grow even stronger. In a flash she was sitting up straddling his hips, and with a soft sigh she reached down to guide him into her molten heat. With her thighs clutching him for purchase she rose above him, hovering on the end of his shaft, her inner muscles teasing and torturing the head of it.

"Jesus, Buffy..." Angel's eyes nearly bugged out of his head. "What are you..."

Buffy slammed down into him, burying herself to the hilt before coming back up to repeat the process. "Shh... I'm going to feed you." She panted, smiling mischievously. "And then when I'm done you're going to feed me." She withdrew again, and made slow, lazy circles around him, gripping him tightly.

"Oh God, Buffy... Baby... I need to..." His fingers dug into her hips as he tried to wrestle control from her.

"At at, loverboy." She began to increase her rhythm. "You wanted something to get you through the week, now just lay back and enjoy."

"Can't." He groaned. "Touch you... I need to... uhh, touch you. Please, baby..."

Buffy laughed a deliciously wicked laugh. She loved the way his begging sent pleasure coursing through her wave after stormy wave. And God, how she loved the way she could turn him into a puddle with her touch and ministrations. She leaned over to claim his lips, and Angel took advantage of the opening. He sat up, bracing his hands on her back while his lips went to her breasts to settle to feast.

"A-Angel..." Buffy cried out as he suckled, nipped, and laved at the swollen nubs of both her breasts. "God, that feels... Missed you... Love you..."

Angel could feel Buffy's inner muscles tighen even more around him, and knew that she was nearing ecstasy. He used the opportunity to gain control, thrusting up into her moist sheath he plunged into her over and over again. "Buffy... Love you... Love you, baby..."

At his words Buffy shuddered, and let out a long keening cry as her orgasm hit her. It didn't take long for Angel to join her, and she watched his face in awe as he drove up into her with such a powerful climax she could actually feel him touching the mouth of her womb. The moment was so incredible she thought she would burst from it, and she was on the verge of doing just that when Angel's bedroom door came crashing open...

***

Buffy barely had time to roll off Angel when the sound of his voice bellowed through the house. "Jesus fucking christ, Cordelia! What the hell are you doing?"

Cordelia stared at the man struggling to cover himself and Buffy on the bed. "A-Angel... B-
Buffy... Oh God... I'm so s-sorry. I thought..."

"You thought what, Cordelia?" He growled.

"I th-thought..." She backed away a little from the fire in his eyes, then glanced over at a blushing Buffy. "B-Buffy, I'm sorry. I thought... I saw th-the clothes, and I thought he was with some tramp."

Buffy stared at Angel's best friend. "Gee, Cordy it's nice to know what you really think of me."

"No. No." Cordelia shook her head. "Buffy..." Her eyes flew back to Angel. "Angelus, I'm sorry. I thought you were with someone else and all I could think about was beating the crap out of you for cheating on Buffy. I'm s-sorry. I didn't... Angelus..."

"Get out, Cordy." Angel muttered.

"R-Right..." Cordelia stammered, and motioned to the door. "I'm just going to... Wow..." She grinned. "Buffy, this is... Wow."

"Cordelia..." Angel warned her again.

"Right." She backed up to the door. "I'll just be downstairs if you two... Right." She spun, and quickly disappeared out the door, pulling it tightly closed behind her.

Buffy started laughing the moment the door shut. "And what the hell do you think is so funny, Miss. Summers?" Angel scowled at her.

"N-Nothing, honey. It's just..." She leaned over to kiss the scowl off his face. "I've never seen Cordelia speechless. You either for that matter. Broody and quiet yes, but never speechless."

"It's not funny, Buffy. She interrupted a very private moment between us in my own house of all places."

Buffy started laughing again, and flopped back on the pillows. "It could have been worse, honey. She could have walked in while we were still going at it."

Angel's eyes narrowed, and he scowled again. "Going at it, Buffy? Is that what you think of what we were doing?"

"No." She quickly sobered and locked eyes with him. "I know what we were doing."

"Then say it." He said in a pained voice.

"Making love..." She answered a little breathlessly. "She could have walked in on us while we were still making love."

He relaxed. "Technically we were still making love, and she didn't walk in on us, she barged in." He slid from the bed. "And now I'm going to go kill her."

"You can't do that, Angel. She's going to marrry my brother. Besides, you love her just as much as he does, and you would miss her terribly if you killed her." She argued as she watched his muscles rippling in the all the right places as he moved around the room in search of his clothes. For a moment she lost her train of thought as she drank him in. She hadn't really seen him like this since before they had broken up except for in the bed that is, and they had barely left it this weekend. The only times being when they had moved from her hotel room to his house, and to eat, and God, he looked so damn juicy. "Buffy..."

"Huh? What?" Buffy tore herself out of her daze, and raised her gaze to his. "I'm sorry, honey. Did you say something?"

Angel did say something, but he completely forgot what it was when his eyes connected with hers and he saw the look in them. "Stop."

"Stop what?" She asked confused.

He halted in his tracks, with his pants in his hands. "Stop looking at me like that."

"Like what?"

"Like you could eat me alive."

"Why? Is there something wrong with that?" Her tongue darted out to moisten her suddenly dry lips. "I mean, I just... I forgot how incredibly gorgeous you are, and I was just admiring..."

He raised an eyebrow. "Admiring what?"

"Everything..." She whispered as her gaze slowly traveled over his hard planes again, and stopped on the hardest of all those planes.

Angel hardened even more if that was possible as she continued to take him in. "Fuck it..." He muttered, and tossed his pants back in the floor before stalking back to the bed.

"A-Angel..." Buffy edged back against the headboard of the bed as he climbed back on it and started inching towards her. "Uhh, honey... What are you doing?"

"I'm going to make love to you again."

"W-What?" Buffy kicked at his hand as he reached for her leg. "A-Angel, we can't. We have company."

"Screw 'em." He muttered, as he finally managed to grab ahold of her leg and pull her towards him. "I'm not leaving this bed unitl it's time for you to head back to LA."

"Angel, we can't."

"Then you shouldn't have started something you couldn't finish."

She stared at him in wide eyed shock as he finally managed to pull her to him, and her to the bed with his body. "M-Me? What did I do?"

"What did you do? Jesus, Buffy how many times do I have to tell you that all you have to do is look at me with those ecstasy eyes of yours and I'm a goner?"

She gasped as he grounded his erection up against her. "O-Okay, you're a goner, b-but we still can't."

"Yes, we can." He began to nibble at her bottom lip. "It's my house, my bed, my woman, and I want to make love to her."

His mouth fused with hers, and soon tongues were slipping between seeking lips, meeting to dance, stroke, and twine. But as soon as it began it was over as Buffy suddenly shoved Angel off her. "Buffy... Baby, why did you..."

"Them." She sat up. "You said them, Angel. Is there someone else with Cordelia?"

Angel groaned and threw his arm over his face. "Doyle. I imagine Doyle is probably with her. I seem to recall now that I invited the both of them to breakfast this morning."

"Doyle!" Buffy yelled, jumping from the bed. "God, Angel I can't believe you wanted to make love knowing my brother was right down stairs!"

"It's not like he doesn't know that we've made love before, Buffy."

"True, but not with him in the house at the same time, Angel." She nervously looked around the room for her clothes. "My clothes, Angel. Where are my clothes?"

"Living room. That's what tipped Cordelia off , remember?" He mumbled.

"Oh, this is just great." She bent down to pick up the black silk shirt that she had removed from him last night. "All my clothes are laying in wide eye view for my brother to see. Do you have any idea how embarrassing that is? You threw my thong on the lampshade."

"What did you want me to do with it? I couldn't take time to fold it up neatly, Buffy. Not when you were begging me to..."

"Shut up! Just shut up." She threw his pants at him. "And get up!"

"I'm already up." He raised up to look at her with heated eyes. "And if memory serves me correctly..."

"Angel, honey, please." Buffy practically begged before slidding his boxers on underneath the shirt of his she was wearing. "Get dressed."

"In a minute." He muttered laying his head back down. "Go on down. I'll be down as soon as I can."

"Oh...I uhh... okay." She went to the door and opened it before turning back to him. "I love you if it helps."

"It helps, but I'm still going to kill her. Him, too. I'm thinking food poisoning will work quite nicely..."

"You can't poison them, Angel. You have to feed me, too. You owe me, remember? Now hurry up. I'm starving." She left, shutting the door behind her as she did, and God help him he missed her already.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Thanks to Sandy, Laura, Linda, Court, Emma, Cristina, Jen, Kim, Nicolle, Ryan, and Karen for their continuing support. CHAPTER 41


"You're kidding me?" Doyle replied in disbelief. "So that thing on the lamp..."

"Was mine..." Buffy stated as she entered the kitchen, and looked over at her stunned brother. "What, Doyle? It's not like I could stay in diapers forever. And just so you know, Angel happened to like that thing very much."

"I'll kill him." Doyle muttered, standing up."

"Oh, no you won't big brother. It takes two to do what Angel and I were doing when Cordelia interrupted us." She walked over to the capucinno maker. "Besides, no one messes with my honey. No one. Understand?"

"I'd listen to her if I were you, Doyle." Angel replied, walking into the room fully dressed now. "She nearly knocked my brother's teeth out once just because he insulted me."

Doyle's angry eyes nailed Angel. "You took advantage of my sister."

Angel started to say something, but Buffy spun around from the counter to look at Doyle. "Actually, I think I was the one that took advantage of Angel the last time."

"I can attest to that." Cordelia snorted from her seat beside Doyle at the table.

"Cordelia..." Angel shot her a dirty look.

Buffy giggled, and turned back to the capucinno maker. "I would zip it if I were you, Cordy. You screwed up our alone time so now he's pissed, and it's not a good kinda pissed either. It's a very pouty, very broody kinda pissed."

"Well, I'm not zipping it." Doyle's angry eyes moved to his sister's back. "What the hell is going on, Buffy?"

"What does it look like, Doyle?" Buffy turned around to look at him with coffee cup in hand. "Angel and I are having a weekend fling."

"Buffy..." Angel's pained eyes met hers, and she immediately felt bad at her choice of words, so she closed the distance to him, and stood up on tiptoe to kiss his jawline. "Sorry, honey. Bad choice of words, huh?"

He nodded.

"I'm waiting, Buffy." Doyle stated.

Buffy turned back to Doyle. "I umm... Angel and I are seeing each other again."

"I thought that after what happened the other night the chances of that happening were like a zillion to none."

Buffy shrugged, and took a sip of her coffee. "What can I say? My honey's power of persuasion is pretty fucking awesome. Especially when he goes all Irish on me."

Doyle groaned and sat back down in his chair. "Oh God, I don't even want to know what you meant by that."

"That's good." Angel slid his arm around Buffy's waist and drew her closer to his side. "Because I'm not telling. It's private."

Doyle shot Angel a dirty look before returning his gaze to Buffy. "Does this mean that things are okay between you and mom, too?"

"No. And before you go all ballistic on me and ask me how I can forgive Angel and not mom the answer is easy. There was miscommunication between Angel and I that caused the problems between us. We talked about it, he's sorry for hurting me, and I'm sorry for not being honest with him to start with. There wasn't any miscommunication between Mom and I. I never kept anything from her. She knew what I wanted and she went behind my back anyway. I can't forgive her for that. Especially when she's not the least bit sorry for what she did."

"I see. You can't forgive mom for loving you and wanting you to have the best, but you can forgive Hank because he was nice enough to put you up for the summer?"

"I haven't forgiven Hank or forgotten what he did, Doyle. But I am trying to because he's trying. He knows now what he did was wrong, and he's admitted to it. He's trying to make up for what he did, and that's more than I can say for mom."

"Hank is using his money to buy your love, Buffy and I cannot believe you are letting him do it."

"He is not using his money to buy my love, Doyle!"

"He's not, Buffy? What about the car he bought you? The three vacations he took you on? What the hell would you call that?"

"I call it you not knowing jack shit."

"Oh really?" Doyle raised his eyebrow. "Then answer me one question, Buffy. Did he offer you money?"

"Yes."

"Then I rest my case. He bought your love."

"I said he offered me money. I didn't say I took it, Doyle." Buffy pulled away from Angel. "Hank is not trying to buy my love. He gave me a place to stay when I had no idea where to go. I was leaving! Do you understand? I was planning on leaving and never coming back, and his house was just a layover until I figured out where to go. He knew that because I told him when I called him, but when it came time for me to leave he begged me to let him take care of me. He begged me, Doyle. And he did it right after I had just informed him that I still hated him. He asked me to stay with him because he said he was afraid something would happen to me before he could make amends with me. He told me he loved me, and he's been with me everyday since. He doesn't go anywhere unless I'm with him. He doesn't even have his little secretarys anymore because he doesn't have time. He spent the entire summer with me, and no that doesn't nowhere near make up for the last eight years and what he did, but he is trying. And as for the car, and the money... He offered to buy me a car for a graduation, and to keep me from spending my savings, but I told him no. The car I'm driving is his, not mine. And the money he offered to give me that I didn't take... It's alot of money, but it's not what you think. The money he offered to give me is rightfully mine anyway. It's back child support, and his half of my doctor bills. He set it up in a savings account, and he didn't just do it for me, he did it for you, too. And no matter what you think that money is rightfully ours, but let me repeat once again that I didn take it, and I won't. I told him that he had to prove himself to me before I would even start to think about taking it. The only thing that man has given me is a place to stay, and a job, and it was me that asked him for the job. The only money I get from him is on payday. Well, except for the advance I asked for when it was time to go to work for him. I needed a new wardrobe for work, and I didn't have the money to buy one, so he loaned it to me. Loaned. That's it. I paid him back."

"If that's the case then what happened to your money, Buffy? The money you saved to buy a car? Why didn't you use it to buy a new wardrobe?"

Buffy walked over to the sink. "I told you I spent it."

"I don't believe it. After two years of saving every penny you had to buy a car you just blew the money, Buffy?"

"No, I didn't blow it. At least I don't think of what I did with it as blowing it. I wasn't in the right frame of mind when I did what I did with it, but even now that I do have my senses I still don't think I blew it."

"Buffy..." Angel saw the stiff posture in her back and knew something was wrong, but before he could take a step towards her she spun around to look at him and the other two people in the room. "It didn't seem important anymore." Her pained eyes shot to his. "That little red convertible. It was a sick kid's dream. I started saving the money when I got sick the second time, and quite honestly I never thought I'd live long enough to spend it, and when it came time to do it, I couldn't. It just didn't seem important anymore." She let out a bitter laugh. "Nothing did. How could I think about owning a fucking car when I didn't have a home? How could I think about owning a fucking car when all I wanted to do was die? The day after I got to LA I let go of it. Just looking at it. Hell... I was in pure hell, and having that money... it still didn't seem right, so the day after I got to LA I let go of it. Just like I had plan to let go of all of you when the time came. I looked at the money and all I could think was just because I had stopped believing in my own dreams didn't mean everyone else should stop believing in theirs, so I decided to help someone do just that... I helped someone else get their dream." She tore her eyes away from Angel, and turned back around to pour her mocchachino down the sink. "I gave the money to the Make A Wish Foundation. There are lots of kids that deserve their dreams more than I ever did, and if anyone wants to call what I did blowing my money they can take a flying leap. It felt good. What I did felt good. Only for a second, because I stopped feeling after that, but it did feel good for that second, and once that feeling was gone I grew up. I don't dream anymore."

"Buffy..." This time it was Doyle's concerned voice that called out to her, and she spun back around to look at him. "I know what you're about to say, and I'm telling you now not to go all mushy on me Doyle Summers. Save it for when I leave."

"What do you mean when you leave, Buffy. Where are you going?"

"She's going back to LA, sweetie." Cordelia answered for Buffy and looked over at Doyle before moving her gaze back to Buffy. "Aren't you?"

"Yes."

Doyle's angry eyes shot to Angel. "And you're letting her? I thought you two were back together?"

"We are." Angel walked over to smother Buffy's protest with a kiss before turning back to Doyle. "Although your sister thinks otherwise. She wants to do the weekend thing, and then me date other women the rest of the week, but that's not going to happen. And as for her going back to LA... Buffy's a grown woman, Doyle. She can make her own decisions and I accept that now. It's not easy, but I do. This is what she wants... needs right now, and whether I like it or not I have to respect her wishes because I love her. Besides, like it or not she needs this time. She needs the time to sort things out in her head, and with her father."

Doyle's eyes shot back to his sister. "Buffy..."

Buffy shook her head. "I don't want to hear it, Doyle. I'm going. End of story."

"No wonder you got so mad at me." Cordelia met Angel's dark gaze. "That alone time is a little more important than I thought, huh?"

"Yes." Angel muttered. "And once Buffy's gone you and I are going to have a nice long talk about barging into someone else's bedroom."

"Meaning, Cordy that if the bed is rockin' if I were your I wouldn't come knockin' anywhere near the house or the bedroom."

"Buffy..." Angel shot her one of his zip your lip looks, and Buffy grinned. "Yes, honey?"

He scowled again. "Our private life is private, okay?"

Buffy looked back over at her brother, and rolled her eyes. "And you were worried he took advantage of me. He won't even let me call what we do *going at it* or anything that is a bad referral for it."

"That's because *going at it* is a bad referral. S-E-X is, too. I love you, you love me, so therefore what we do is private. Now zip it before I zip it for you."

"Oooh... I love it when you go all macho on me." Buffy grinned and met Angel's dark gaze. "It's so sexy and a really big turn on."

Angel's eyes darkened even more. "Really? You think it's sexy?"

"Uh huh..." Buffy breathed a little breathlessly.

"Okay, sweetie..." Cordelia stood up, and pulled Doyle up beside her. "I think that's our cue. It's time to go."

"What? No." Doyle argued.

"Don't argue with me Francis Doyle Summers. Just trust me, okay? We need to leave now unless you want to see your baby sister doing things you never imagined her doing."

"Cordy..."

Cordelia pointed to Angel and Buffy, who were standing close, but by the look in their eyes not close enough. "Look at them, sweetie. We need to leave NOW!"

Doyle took one look at his little sister, and let Cordelia lead him out of the kitchen.

"They're gone." Buffy said a few moments later.

"I know." Angel murmured.

"If you know then why are you standing so far away?"

"I thought you were hungry?"

"I am..." Her gaze slowly traveled over him. "So I was wondering..."

"About?"

She stepped into his arms and looped her arms around his neck. "Whether you were going to feed me at the kitchen table or upstairs in bed?"

In a flash Angel was scooping Buffy up in his arms, and clearing everything off the kitchen table with a sweep of their bodies across it. "Screw breakfast in bed." He growled as they both struggled to free themselves of the clothes restricting them from being flesh to flesh. "I've already had that this morning."

***

"I've got to get up and get going soon."

Angel's arms tightened around Buffy. "Stay..."

"Angel..." Buffy rolled over in his arms to look at him. "I thought we had already discussed this?"

He reached out to toy with the ends of her hair. "Did I tell you that I like your hair. I do, but honestly I liked it better long. I liked the way it fanned out on the pillow when you slept, and cascaded down your back in golden waves when you wore it loose. Those images of you and your pictures... That's what got me through all those months without you..."

"Don't change the subject, Angel..." Buffy reached out to caress his cheek. "I know what you're doing."

"I'm sorry, baby." He turned his lips into the palm of her hand, and feathered a kiss into it. "I don't want to pressure you, I understand why you're doing this. I do. And it's going to kill me to let you go, but I will because I would do anything in the world for you..." He turned his face back to hers, and Buffy didn't have to hear his words to know what he was thinking. "Anything, but date other women..." She spoke his words out loud. "Didn't you pretty much already tell me that earlier?"

"Yes, I did." He tangled his hands in her hair, and locked eyes with her. "But I wanted to make sure you knew that I meant it. I love you, Buffy. I don't want to be with anyone else. Just you. I only want to be with you, and I'll wait on you forever if I have to."

"I'm not going to live forever, Angel."

Her words caused a pain in his chest, but he fought it and met her gaze again. "Maybe not, but my love for you will."

"A-Angel..." Her eyes welled up with tears. "Forever's an awfully long time."

"No, it's the whole point, Buffy. That's why there's no since wasting our time together arguing. I meant what I said. I love you and I don't want or need anyone else."

"O-Okay, we won't argue. But if you change your mind..."

"I won't..." He cut her off.

"Damnit, Angel..." Buffy rolled away from him and sat up.

"What?" Angel sat up beside her. "What did I say?"

"It's not what you said... I just... Why won't you listen to me?"

"Why won't you listen to me? You told me what you wanted, and as much as I hate it I'm going to give it to you. Why can't you do the same for me, Buffy?"

"Because I love you!" She snapped and turned her head to look at him. "And I happen to think you can do better."

Angel could feel his own anger rising, but he quickly squashed it. He wasn't going to let her do what he knew she was trying to do. "If that's the case then why are you here with me right now?"

She sighed and buried her face in her hands. "Because I love you and I can't let go of you."

He scooted over beside her and rested his chin on her shoulder. "Then I guess were stuck with each other because I love you and can't let go of you either."

Buffy groaned in frustration, and turned her head to look at him. "Do you have any idea how crazy you make me?"

Angel chuckled. "Couldn't be any more than you make me."

She couldn't help but laugh. "God, I hate when you do that."

"Do what?" He asked innocently.

"You know what, Angel." She playfully shoved him off her. "And just so you know, just because you won this time doesn't mean I'm giving up."

"Neither am I." He grinned and reached for her. "Now shut up so we can kiss and make up."

"God, you really are insatiable!" She giggled as he fell back on the pillows with her.

"Uh huh." He threaded his hands in her hair, and pulled her down to hover above his lips. "But only for you, baby. Only for you..."

"Umm, honey..." Buffy eyed his lips that were just a breath away from hers.

"What?" He raised his head up to nibble at her bottom lip.

"I umm..." Buffy moaned as his tongue darted out to tease between nibbles. "H-Home. I umm... I have t-to go..." But she never finished the rest of her sentence as he raised up to claim her lips completely, and they soon lost themselves in each other once again...


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Thanks to Joanne, Danielle, Shirley, Sandy, Karen, Nathalie, Cristina, Court, Kim, Christine, Ryan, Emma, Laura, L.K., Jen, Karin, and Nicolle for their feedback last chapter. CHAPTER 42


Angel let himself into his penthouse, and shut the door. "Buffy!" When he didn't get an answer he got worried, and went through the penthouse searching for her. He knew she had to be there, her father's car was in the parking garage. He searched every room, and finally found her in the last one. Halting in the doorway, he let his gaze travel over her lovingly as she slept in his bed. It was when his eyes finally returned to her face the he found her awake, and watching him. "You're late. I called your cellphone, and when you didn't answer I got worried."

"I'm sorry, baby. I had a flat tire, and I was in such a hurry to get here I didn't bother to take time out from changing it to answer the phone."

"Well, next time make time, okay?"

"Okay." He smiled. "I will, I promise."

"Good." She scooted over and patted the empty space beside her on the bed. "Care to join me?"

That was all the invitation Angel need, toeing his shoes off, he closed the distance to the bed, and slid on it to pull her into his arms for a nice long kiss. "God, I missed you."

"Mmm... I can tell." She murmured sleepily, and sunk into his embrace. "So how's things in Sunny D?"

"Everyone's fine. Including your mom, Giles, and Doyle. He wants you to call him on Sunday, by the way. I think he's hoping you'll help him with his latest problem with Cordy."

Buffy pulled back to look at Angel's face. "What's going on?"

Angel eyed her warily. "Are you sure you want to know?"

Buffy saw his look, and tensed. "Does this have something to do with the wedding?"

He nodded. "She took two days off this week and went to San Francisco with your mom to look for a wedding dress."

"I'm taking it that things didn't go well."

"She likes your mom. She does. But their tastes differ. Everything she liked your mom hated, and vice versa. She came home dressless and has been in tears every since, and you know Doyle..."

"Yeah, I do. He's like someone else I know, and shall remain nameless, so I guess that leads to the next question. What does her utter despair have to do with me?"

"Your brother is hoping you'll reconsider uhh... He's hoping you'll reconsider making Cordelia's wedding dress."

"No. Absolutely not, Angel." Buffy sat up in the bed.

"Buffy..." Angel sat up in the bed beside her.

"No." She shook her head vigorously. "I won't do it."

"Why, Buffy? I thought you had forgiven me for all that? It's been three months, baby."

"I know how long it's been, Angel and I did forgive you, but I'm finished with designing. I made that plain and clear to you and everyone else."

"I know you did, Buffy. But I don't understand why. You've got a tremendous talent that you shouldn't let go to waste. I'm not telling you to make a career out of it. I just think you should consider going back to it even if it's just for fun."

"I don't want to go back to it period, Angel." She slid from the bed, and crossed the room to look out the windows at the evening skyline. "I've given it up. End of discussion. End of story."

Angel eyed her stiff back. "Does the reason you don't want to do it anymore have something to do with prom?"

"W-What?" She turned around to look at him.

"Prom? The last thing you designed was your prom dress, and you never got to wear it. You uhh... you..."

"I what, Angel?" Buffy locked eyes with his very pained ones. "Ripped it to shreds?"

"Yes." He choked out. "And since we've been back together we haven't discussed it."

"What's to discuss? I ripped it to shreds. Big fucking deal. I wasn't my best work anyway. And prom... totally overrated. I didn't miss much at all. Well, except for the part where Will and Oz got prom king and queen, but I didn't miss anything else. I'm glad I didn't go." She turned back to the window as she struggled to rein in her tight emotions.

"You're lying, Buffy."

"No, I'm not, Angel." She spun back around to look at him with firey eyes. "What I am is pissed. At you in case you're wondering. I told you I didn't want to design anymore and I meant it, and you agreed to go along with what ever I wanted, but you went back on your agreement all because your best friend can't find a fucking wedding dress!"

"Buffy... Baby..." He started to slide from the bed, but she held up her hand to stop him. "Don't, Angel. I don't want to hear your excuses." She stormed to the bedroom door.

"Where are you going?" He asked, watching her yank the bedroom door open.

"Out! And don't you dare follow me because it will only piss me off even more!" She disappeared out the door, and it slammed shut behind her, the noise of it vibrating all through the penthouse, and another door slamming shut moments after that confirmed to Angel that she had indeed gone out.

She came back two hours later, crying her eyes out, and soaked to the bone from the cold rain that was steadily falling outside. Without a word, Angel stopped his frantic pacing and scooped her up in his arms, and carried her to his bedroom where he started a hot shower before stripping off both their clothes. He placed her in the shower, and joined her, massaging the circulation back into her entire body before washing every inch of her including her hair. And it wasn't until he had her in his lap in the bedroom floor toweling her dry, that he finally spoke. "You scared me."

"I-I'm sorry." She sniffled.

"No, I'm the one that's sorry, Buffy and I'm going to leave it at that. I don't know why you still feel the way you do about not going back to designing, but for whatever reason I shouldn't have pressured you, and I'm sorry I did. It won't happen again. Just know that I'm here if you decide you want to talk about it. Now as for the walking... That's a different story. I should turn you over my knee and spank you for that. You know I don't like you walking period. I can't believe you were so stupid. Do you have any idea what it would do to me if something were to happen to you?" He began to towel dry her hair, muttering under his breath as he did. "I swear, if I wasn't so afraid you would throw it back in my face I would make you take the car I bought you. At least then I wouldn't go half out of my mind worrying about you like I did earlier tonight."

"C-Car?" She jerked her head around to look at him. "W-What c-car?"

Angel realized his slip, and looked away.

"O-Oh God, Angel. Y-You didn't? You bought me a car?"

"Yes." He turned back to meet her gaze.

Buffy started crying. "W-When?"

"Before we broke up. It was supposed to be your graduation present."

"A-And you kept it?"

"It's your car, Buffy. I knew it the moment I passed by the lot and saw it. I couldn't send it back when the dealership delivered it to my house the day before your graduation. Even if I couldn't give it to you, I didn't want anyone else to have it."

"B-But... Where is it? It's not in your garage at the h-house."

"In storage. I put it in storage. I held out hope that I might be able to give it to you someday."

"A-Angel..." Buffy started to say, but he silenced her with a kiss.

"It's your car, Buffy. I'm not taking it back. Besides, you won't be able to resist it once you see it."

"H-How do you know?" She sniffled. "There could be a g-good chance that I might n-not like it."

"Oh, I happen to know that you'll like it." He grinned that sexy lopsided smile she loved so much. "You'll more than like it."

"It's not a Ferrari is it?" She sniffled again, and eyed him warily.

"No, and don't you dare ask me how much I paid for it. I love you and I want you to have it."

"Oh, God..." More tears began to spill from her. "That means it's as expensive as the Ferrari. It is isn't it? It's as e-expensive as the Ferrari."

"I'm not telling." Angel reached up to wipe away her tears. "But I will tell you that, it's red, and a convertible, and I happen to know for a fact that you have a thing for cars that fit that description."

His words brought more tears from her." A-Angel, you h-have no i-idea what it means to me that y-you remembered th-that I-I have a thing for little r-red convertibles, but I-I still c-can't..."

"You can and you will." He told her firmly then brushed a kiss across her lips. "Now hush. I need to get you warmed up before you catch a cold."

Buffy reached up to caress Angel's cheek. "And just exactly how are you planning to warm me up, Mr. O'Conner?"

"Well, I always heard that body heat is a very good remedy." He grinned devilousily. "Want to see if it's true?"

***

Angel rolled over in the bed early the next morning, and reached for Buffy only to discover she wasn't there. His eyes immediately flew open upon his discovery, and he sat up in the bed. "Buffy?" That's when he heard a noise coming from the bathroom, and noticed the bathroom light seeping out from under the door. Slidding from the bed, he padded towards the bathroom. He knocked on the door, and didn't receive a response. "Buffy?" He knocked again, and after still not getting a response he began to panic. Testing the door knob and finding the door unlocked, he opened the door, and his panic rose even higher upon his discovery. "Buffy? Baby, what's wrong?" He quickly closed the distance to her, and dropped to his knees beside her.

"S-Sick." Buffy lifted her pale face up from the toilet. "I-I think I got f- food poisoning from the Chinese w-we had last night."

"It can't be food poisoning, Buffy. I ate the same thing you ate, and I feel fine." He brushed her hair away from his face.

"I-If it's not food p-poisoning then why have I-I been puking m-my guts out half the night, Angel?" She laid her head back down on the toilet seat.

"Maybe you caught something from the rain last night." He murmured, eyeing her in concern.

"Y-You catch colds from the rain. You don't throw up, A-Angel. Doesn't m- matter anyway. I-I still feel like shit."

He reached out to smooth her hair. "Why didn't you wake me?"

"Gee, I don't know, A-Angel. Maybe it's because I've been hugging the toilet half the night and can't seem to stop long enough to d-do much of anything."

"I'm sorry, baby." He pushed himself up off the floor. "Come on, let's get you back to bed."

Buffy shook her head. "No, thanks. I-I think I'll just stay here if you don't mind."

"I do mind, Buffy. You're sick, and I'm not letting you stay on this cold ass floor." He bent down and swept her up in his arms.

"I-I'm sorry, honey." She laid her head on his shoulder. "I d-didn't mean to snap at you. I just feel yucky."

"I know." He kissed her forehead on the way out of the bathroom, and was relieved when he didn't feel any signs of a fever. It didn't take him long to get her situated in the bed, and once he did he went around to the other side and climbed in beside her. "Rollover."

"W-What?" She asked tiredly.

"Rollover on your side." He gently ordered her again.

Buffy did as he asked, and she felt him spoon up against her, his hands immediately going to her stomach to smooth it in soothing circles. "Does that feel good?"

"Uh huh." She murmured sleepily.

"Good. Now close your eyes, and go to sleep."

"I-If you keep this up you'll sp-spoil me." She mumbled.

"Shh... Sleep." He kissed her shoulder and continued to rub her stomach until he finally felt her relax, and her deep even breathing alerted him that she was asleep. He continued his ministrations for a few more minutes until he was absolutely sure she was going to stay asleep, and once he was convinced he pulled away from her to do what he'd been wanting to do since he had found her in the bathroom floor. Pulling the bed covers off of her, he gently began to check her body. Nothing. He didn't find anything, but he doublechecked to be on the safe side, and when he was done he covered her back up, and slid back out of the bed. Five minutes later he was sitting at his desk in his office waiting for someone to answer the line on the other end of the phone. "Hello?"

"Doyle, it's Angel. I didn't wake you, did I?"

"Are you kidding?" Doyle chuckled. "I've been an early bird every since I started teaching. That's the only thing I hate about it. Can't sleep in on weekends with my woman. And speaking of sleeping in with a woman, aren't you supposed to be sleeping in with my little sis?"

"Actually, Buffy's the reason I'm calling. She's sick."

Doyle sat up on the sofa he was sitting on. "What do you mean by sick, Angel?"

"She's been up half the night vomiting, but she didn't wake me. I found her sitting in the bathroom floor hugging the toilet about thirty minutes ago. I just got her back to sleep. I'm worried, Doyle. She doesn't look so hot."

"Does she have a fever?"

"No."

"What about bruising. Have you noticed any bruising?"

"No. I checked, and as far as I know she hasn't had any kind of infections since we got back together."

Doyle sighed in relief. "Then it's probably a bug or stress. Did you two have a fight or something?"

"Well, we sorta did have an argument last night."

"About?"

"I think you know, Doyle."

"I take it she no, and who the hell am I kidding? I pretty much figured she would. If I were in her shoes I probably would have said no too. It must be hell for someone to ask you to make them a wedding dress when you thought that it would be your very own that you would be making next."

"W-What?"

"Oh, boy." Doyle muttered. "Looks like things cut a little more deeply than I thought. She didn't tell you, did she?"

"Tell me what, Doyle?"

"Buffy... She uhh... Her prom dress wasn't her last design, Angel. She was working on another design. It was just on paper, but it was still incredible. Stunning even, and it was the most important to her..."

"Let me guess, It was her own wedding dress, wasn't it?" Angel asked in a pained voice.

"Yeah. Seems that was her dream. You... Her... Married. The dress was the one she wanted to wear the day she married you. I didn't know about it until the day after you broke up with her. The night before... when I found her... She was clutching a balled up piece of paper in her hand. I tried to pry it from her, but I didn't have any luck until after she went to sleep the next morning. She mumbled alot after I took it. More or less spilled the whole story to me."

Angel swept a hand through his hair. "Do you uhh... Where is it now?"

"I put it in my safety deposit box at the bank. I showed it to mom that day and she told me to throw it away, but I couldn't. I knew it was too important to Buffy, so I kept it just in case... Well, you know?"

"Yeah, I know. I was going to. Ask her to marry me, I mean. Prom night. I had the ring and everything."

"I know. Cordy told me."

"I've still got the ring. I couldn't... It's hers just like the car. I didn't want anyone else to have it."

"Does she know?"

"Not about the ring, but she does know about the car now. I had to tell her last night after we were winding down from that little spat. I sort of slipped, so I didn't have a choice but to tell her."

"What did she say?"

"You know, Buffy. She started to fuss, and then she got all teary eyed. I swear, she has been so hormonal lately."

"Hormonal?" Doyle started laughing. "I hate to say this, but I think she's rubbing off on you, buddy."

Angel couldn't help but smile. "That's okay. I'm not complaining."

"If that's the case don't you think maybe it's time you started thinking about trying to slip that ring on her finger again?"

"That's all I've done is think about it, Doyle. Every day since the day we made up."

"Then what the hell are you waiting for, buddy? Do it."

"It's not me that's the problem this time. It's her. She's forgiven me for what I did, and I know she loves me, but she has it in her head now that she isn't good enough for me. She thinks I deserve better. She won't commit to me because she's afraid if she does I'll end up hating her because she can't..."

"Have children." Doyle finished.

"Yeah, and no matter how hard I try to convince her that she's all I want, that she's all I'll ever want. She still fails to see it. She's so convinced she's not good enough for me that she gets mad at me for saying we're back together. She tells everyone we're dating, and she's still insisting that I date other women when the two of us aren't together."

"Sounds like Buffy. When she gets something in her head it's really hard to change her mind about it."

"But I am changing her mind, Doyle." Angel murmured. "I've got a hole punched through that wall around her heart, and I know eventually I will get through it. I'm not giving up. The day I get completely through that wall is the day I'll be able to slip that ring on her finger where it belongs...."


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I know some of you were beginning to wonder if I was still alive, and I'm happy to inform you I am by posting Chapter 43. Thanks to Sandy, Linda Cristina, Christine, Karen, Kelly, Marshae, Nikki, Lindelea, Karin, Maureen, Carol Ann, Court, Emma, Stacy, Ryan, and Danielle. This chapter is for you guys. Enjoy! Anita CHAPTER 43


Something was wrong with her. Buffy knew it. Last night and this morning hadn't been the first time she had been sick. She'd been sick since May, but she had blamed the cause of it on the stress of the breakup with Angel, and for over a month after they had gotten back together it disappeared. Then, two months ago the nasuea and vomiting had returned along with other symptoms such as fatigue, restlessness, and the dizziness, that she had not only ignored but had hid from her father and Angel. That was up until this morning. Angel finding her this morning had finally opened her eyes up in more ways than one, and she now knew she couldn't deny what was so obvious anymore. She was sick. Really, really sick. And God help her, she was wasn't just scared, she hated herself too. How could she not hate herself? She had wasted so much time. Time she could have had with him. Angel... Her Angel. And he was hers. She knew that now. That wasn't even a question anymore. The real question, or questions in her case, was for how long would she be his, and how exactly was she going to tell him that she may have fucked up any chances of them having a really long future together?

God, she really, truly hated her messed up life. But if truth be told that hatred didn't even come close to the hatred she felt towards herself for dragging Angel into it. He deserved better than her and her messed up life and yet, even though she knew that she still didn't have the strength to let him go.

Buffy rolled over onto her side to look out the bedroom window at the late afternoon sun as her thoughts drifted back to the love of her life. He was close by. She could feel him with every ounce of her being, and she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he would appear before too long to check on her. Every since she had let him back into her life he pampered her even more so than he had before, and she knew it was because he was afraid she would come out of remission, or that she would catch something that would wear her weak immune system down. Protecto guy... He taken over Doyle's role of her protecto guy and he took his role very seriously. Last night had just been one example of how seriously. God, just thinking about the way he had put her in the shower and tended to her like she was the most valuable thing in the world to him made her want to cry all over again. Incredible. He was so incredible, and she was lucky to have him. More than lucky. Blessed... She was really really blessed. And it was a fucking shame that she had and was taking advantage of her blessing...

Flipping onto her back again, she toyed with the guardian angel necklace he had given her all those months ago, and silently prayed that there was a real guardian angel out there looking out for her, and as she prayed she asked them and God to forgive her for being such a coward. And she was a coward. She'd been one for the last three months, but she was just too afraid to admit it. She had been too afraid to admit that deep down the reason she wouldn't fully give her heart to Angel and commit to him was because she was afraid he would end up hating her for not being able to have kids. Even with his continuing swearing that that would never happen she had still had her doubts. Doubts that in the end he would he would indeed really end up leaving her. And now... Now when she had finally came to her senses and realized that that wasn't going to happen it may be too late. Now the truth was it wasn't him she was afraid would end up leaving, it was her.

"What are you thinking about?"

Buffy snapped out of her reverie, and turned her head to look at the person behind her heavy thoughts, who was now standing in the bedroom doorway. "You actually."

"And were they good thoughts?" Angel stepped further into the room. "Because from where I was standing it didn't look like it."

"Well, you wasn't looking hard enough because it was." Buffy smiled at him. "It was really good thoughts."

Angel wanted to say something, but he for the life of him he couldn't do it becuase he couldn't seem to get past seeing her pale face. "How are you feeling?"

"Much much better now that you're here." She scooted over and patted the space beside her. "Come lay with me."

"Uh uh, Buffy. No way. You're sick."

"It's just a bug, Angel. And it's not contagious. If it was I would be running a fever, and I'm not."

"I'm not worried about you being contagious, baby. I'm worried about you. You need to rest."

"I slept the day away, Angel. I've rested enough. Now I want to spend time with you." She wiggled a finger at him. "Come snuggle with me."

"No, Buffy." He shook his head.

"Pretty please?" She pouted. "I'll make it worth your while."

"I'm sure you would, baby but the last thing you need right now is me pawing on you.."

"Who says you'll be the one doing the pawing?"

"No." He muttered even though his eyes were saying something different. "You need to rest and eat. You haven't eaten all day. And speaking of that, how about I fix you some chicken and stars?"

"I don't want any soup." Her pout grew even bigger. "I want you."

"You have me. Completely, Buffy. Heart, body, and soul. But you're not getting the body part until you're better so right now you'll have to settle for the soup instead. I'll be back in a few minutes." He pointed his finger at her. "And don't you dare get out of that bed."

"Angel..." Buffy sat up.

"Stay." He ordered again before disappearing out of the bedroom.

When he returned ten minutes later she was laying on her side staring out the window again so he moved around the bed, and sat the breakfast tray on the bottom of it. "Okay, sit up. Soup's on."

"I don't want it." She mumbled, ignoring him.

"Buffy..." Angel moved to the head of the bed, and knelt down to come face to face with her. "You have to eat, baby."

"I'm not hungry." She quickly glanced at him then back out the window. "You can have it."

"I don't want it, Buffy. I had a sandwhich while you were sleeping." He stood up, and moved back to the end of the bed to pick up the breakfast tray. "I tell you what, I'll just sit it over here on the dresser. If you change your mind and decide you want it just yell for me, and I'll reheat it for you, okay?" He moved to the dresser, and sat the breakfast tray down on it. "Try to get some rest. I'll be in my office."

She quickly rolled over to look at him. "You're not going to stay with me?"

"No. You need to rest. Besides, I'll just be in the next room."

She sat up in the bed again. "Well, can I at least have a kiss before you go?"

Angel sighed, and closed the distance to her. Leaning over, he placed a kiss to her forehead, and when he pulled away he found her frowning. "What's wrong?"

"That wasn't a kiss." In a flash she was on her knees pulling his head down to hers. "Now this is a kiss..." After the briefest of contact Angel intended to pull away, but Buffy wasn't having any of it. She kissed him like there was no tomorrow, and the fact that there very possibly might not be one for them agged her on even after she realized he was only halfway kissing her back.

Damn him. Even now he was trying to be her Stealth Guy by maintaining control of the situation and as much as she loved him for it the truth was she didn't want or need that right now. What she wanted was him. All of him. Pressed up against her. Inside her. Warming her from the cold she could slowly feel enveloping her. And she was hell bent on getting what she wanted. So hell bent she did the one and only thing she knew would snap his control and snap it quickly. She used her tongue and lips to seduce his mouth, his chest, his navel, and she continued her downward journey fully intending to let them seduce something else...

Zip... Score... A tremor shot through him as her hand closed around him, but just as quickly as her hand made contact and her lips planned to do the same she and they were pulled away. "No, Buffy." Angel choked out as he struggled to get breath back. "Those feminine wiles of yours are not going to work this time."

She raised her emerald eyes to his chocolate ones "Are you sure?"

His eyes darkened at her words. "Yes."

"Liar." She reached down to touch the open crotch of his trousers. "You want me to."

God, help him, she was right. He did want her to. But more than anything he wanted her. Alive, healthy, and not looking like death warmed over. And it was that fact that stopped him. No, it was his love for her that stopped him. He loved her. More than anything. And his love for her won out over his body's desire for her any day. Always. That's why he quickly zipped his pants and backed away from the bed. "No, what I want is for you to get some rest, Buffy." And then he was gone, disappearing into his office, and leaving a hurt and teary eyed Buffy alone to stare after him.

***

Angel emerged from his office for the last time at a little after one a.m. and all he could think about was how badly he wanted to crawl into bed beside Buffy and just hold her, but as usual he should have known that things wouldn't go his way, and he found that out the minute he stepped into the bedroom and found Buffy sitting up with her back against the headboard of the bed, waiting for him. "I thought you were asleep." He said as he halted in his tracks.

"Thought or hoping?" Buffy glared at him. "Buffy..." He started to answer her, but quickly shut up when a pillow came flying across the room and hit him full in the face before falling to the floor. "What the hell did you do that for?"

Buffy leaned back against the headboard of the bed again. "You're sleeping in the guest room."

"W-What?" He stared at her in disbelief.

"I'm sick, remember? Wouldn't want you to catch whatever it is I've got, so that means guest room city, mister." She waved her hand at him. "Bye bye."

"You're not contagious, Buffy?"

"Are you sure about that, Angel? Because from the way you've been avoiding me today I could almost swear I was."

Angel bent over to pick up the pillow. "I know what you're trying to do, Buffy and I'm not going to do it. I'm not going to fight with you. It's late, I'm tired, and I want to go to bed."

"Fine, go." She crossed her arms over her chest. "In the guest room."

He raised back up to look at her. "I can't believe that you're actually going to kick me out of my own bed."

"I KNEW IT!" She yelled. "I knew you would eventually get around to that, which only goes to show you what I've been trying to tell you for the last three months. We are not back together. A guest. All I am is a guest." She climbed off the bed. "And since I am the guest I guess that means I'm the one that'll be sleeping in the guest room tonight." She stormed past him intending to leave, but he grabbed her arm and spun her back around to face him. "What the hell is wrong with you, Buffy?"

"Me? Me! What the hell is wrong with me? What about you, Angel? You're the one that's been avoiding me." She thumped his chest with her hand. "Do it. Go a head and dump me. I want you to. But before you do I want to know who she is?"

"W-What?" He asked in shock.

"The little tramp you've been..."

"Don't!" Angel yelled at her, his face turning blood red with rage. "Don't you dare say it, Buffy!" He grabbed her by the upper arms, and began to shake her. "I love you, god damnit! You, Buffy! And it's because I do that I know that something isn't right here. Something is wrong with you, and I want to know what it is." He shook her again. "Answer me, Buffy? What the hell is wrong with you?"

"I don't know!" She screamed, pushing away from him. "I don't know!" She sank to the floor in a muddled heap, and started sobbing. "I just... Oh God... A-Angel..." Her tear filled eyes flew up to meet his. "I-I'm sorry. I-I'm so sorry. Pl-Please don't leave me."

"Buffy..." Angel sank to his knees beside her. "Baby..."

"I'm sorry." She threw her arms around him, and began to litter his face with kisses. "Don't leave me. Please. I-I'm sorry. I love you." Her lips closed over his, and she kissed him slowly... tenderly until the need for air forced her away with a whimper. "I n-need you, Angel. Please." Her emerald gaze locked with his. "Please. I n-need you. I'm c-cold and I need you to warm me. P-Please warm me."

With a groan Angel pulled her back to him, and swooped down to take her lips with his. Within seconds passion flared to the point that the two lovers couldn't part from each other long enough to make it to the bed, so they surrendered to it and each other right there on the bedroom floor instead.

***

Buffy looked up from her barely touched breakfast plate the next morning to find Angel watching her with his dark orbs, and frowning. "What? Do I have something on my face?"

"No. Your ring. I just noticed that it's gone. What happened to it? Did you lose it?"

"No." She held up her left hand. "It's right here."

She watched the play of emotions wash over his face, and wanted to kick herself in the ass for putting him through the hell she had put him through the last three months. "I umm... When did you do that?"

"This morning." She locked eyes with him. "I love you."

"I love you, too." He had to clear his throat to get the lump out of it. "So much... Don't ever doubt that again. Do you hear me?"

"I won't." She gave him her best smile. "If I do you have my permission to punish me the way you did earlier this morning."

He scowled. "I'm serious, Buffy. I don't understand how you could ever think that I would want... I love you. Only you. Haven't I went out of my way to prove that to you the last couple of months?"

"Yes."

"Then why would you think that I... What happened earlier?"

The smile quickly left Buffy's face, and she pushed her plate away. "What can I say, I was overly hormonal, and being sick kicked things into overdrive. I told you I was sorry."

"And I don't doubt for a second that you are. It's not even about that, Buffy. I'm worried about you, baby. I've never seen you like that before. It scared me. It's still scaring me."

"What more do you want me to say, Angel? I was sick, I was hormonal, and I took it out on you. I'm sorry. I'm fine now, and it won't happen again. End of story."

"I don't think it is the end of the story, Buffy." His gaze traveled over her pale face. "You're still as white as a sheet which tells me that you're not feeling as fine as you claim. When is your next doctor's appointment?"

"W-What?"

"Your next doctor's appointment. When is it, Buffy?"

"I don't know. They always call and schedule it a couple of months before it's time to go."

"Okay, what did Dr. Jobson have to say when you went last time?"

"How did you know..."

"I love you, and whatever concerns you concerns me, so I had Doyle tell me everything he could. Now tell me what the doctor said at your last visit?"

Buffy grabbed her plate, and stood up to take it to the sink. "He said I was just peachy."

"Did your dad go with you?"

"No. I went by myself. I'm not a little girl anymore, Angel. I don't need anyone to hold my hand. And why are you even bringing this up? What does it have to do with what happened earlier?"

"You tell me?" He turned around to eye her stiff back.

"Okay, fine. I'll tell you." She practically threw her plate in the sink before spinning around to face him. "Nothing. Not a god damn thing. It's not even important, so why don't you just drop it?"

"Not important, Buffy? How can you say it's not important. This is your life we're talking about. YOUR LIFE! And it's important to me because YOU'RE THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THIS WORLD TO ME!"

"Did you ever stop to think that maybe just maybe the reason I don't want to talk to you about it is because I don't want to have to be constantly reminded that I'm fucking up your life, Angel? God! All I want to do is just forget for awhile! All I want is to go just one day without having to think about the fact that I can't have kids or that my life is hanging over our fucking heads! All I want is to go one day without having to think about leukemia, chemotherapy, hospitals, needles, or fucking dying for that matter! I JUST WANT TO LIVE, GOD DAMNIT!"

Angel's face paled at her words, and he stood up. "Buffy..."

"Don't, okay, Angel?" Buffy muttered as she felt her stomach lurch. "I just... I'm sorry, I can't do this right now. I'm sorry." With a sob, she turned and ran out of the kitchen.

***

The knock on Angel's office door forced him out of his thoughts, and he spun around in his desk chair. "Come in."

Cordelia walked in and shut the door. "Hey."

"Hey. Aren't you supposed to be having dinner with Doyle?".

"Yeah, and I still plan to, but I wanted to stop by and check on you first." She crossed the room, and sat down in the chair in front of his desk. "Are you going to tell me what's been going on in that head of yours all week?"

"Who says there's something going on in my head?" Angel asked as he fidgeted with some papers laying in on the desk in front of him.

"Oh come on, Angel. This is me you're talking to. I'm your best friend. I think I can tell when there's something wrong with you. You haven't been this broody since you and Buffy broke up. What's going on? Are you two having problems?"

"No. Yes." He sighed. "I don't know. She loves me. There's not a doubt in my mind about that. She's even wearing the ring I gave her again."

"Then what's the problem?" Cordelia asked, eyeing him across the desk. "I know it can't be that you don't love her anymore, because the liklihood of that happening is like ten zillion to none."

"Even greater." He murmured. "I'll always love her, Cordelia. Even in death."

"Is that what the broodiness is all about? The possibility that she could get sick again. Did her having that bug last weekend scare you, Angel?"

"Yes." Angel finally looked up. "But not the way you think, Cordy. I could handle... I can handle it... Her being sick. It would kill me and it does kill me to see her hurting or in pain, but I could... can handle no matter how hard she makes it for me. And trust me, Cordelia she does make it hard for me. She's not the best patient in the world when she's sick. She pushed me to the limit last weekend, but I did handle it and I could. What I'm not handling and don't think I can handle for very much longer is every day that I'm away from her. I don't know what it is... I get the feeling something is wrong, and because I do I look at the time I have with her and it's just not enough. Two days out of the week isn't enough time. The other five days I'm not with her are just wasted days to me, and that's what scares me. If she were to get sick again, I don't think I would ever be able to forgive myself for sitting here and letting all those days go to waste. That's five days a week, twenty days a month, and two hundred forty precious days a year that I could have had with her."

"I seem to recall that you were going to propose once before, but never got the chance to. Have you thought about trying again?"

Angel swept a hand through his hair in frustration. "That's what I've been trying to get at here, Cordelia. I want that more than anything in this world."

"Then what are you waiting for, Angel? Do it."

"I'm not sure she's ready, Cordy. She still has it in her head that she's not worthy of me, and I'm afraid as long as she believes that she'll never want to commit to me. If she said no... I don't take rejection very well. You know that."

"Yes, I do. But just answer me this, Angel. If she said no what would you do? Would you end it with her?"

"No. I love her. And because I do I'll take her anyway I can get her. "

"Okay, now that we've established that, then I think you know what you need to do. All you can do is try, and if she says no then I suggest you tell her how you feel. If that doesn't bring her around then you'll just have to keep drilling it into her head until it does." Cordelia stood up. "Now I suggest you get up and snap to it, mister. She'll be here in less than twenty four hours, and that doesn't give you very much time to prepare for giving her the most important night of her life."


"I know." Angel murmured. "I'm going to need your help pulling it off, but after that I think maybe you should..."

"Take a long weekend?" Cordelia asked, and Angel nodded in agreement. "Oh, don't worry, boss. I plan to. And as for my help... Just call me and let me know what you need me to do once you iron out all the details. Now get going, loverboy. Make this entire weekend one she'll never forget."

Angel broke into a grin. "Oh, I plan to. I plan to."

***

Hank Summers' office door came open at a little after five, and a smile lit up his face when he saw the person stepping inside. "Didn't I send you home about an hour ago so you could pack to go to Sunnydale for the weekend?"

"Yes, and I did pack. Everything is in the car, and ready to go." Buffy replied as she made her way over to the chair in front of Hank's desk.

"Then what are you doing here? Aren't you supposed to be Angel bound?"

"Angel, won't worry too much if I'm late. He knows that my sense of time sucks. He understands that it's a girl thing. He learned that early on in our relationship." She took a seat in the chair, and looked across the desk at her father. "Besides, I needed to ask you a favor. That's why I stopped back by here. Well, that and there's something else I need to talk to you about."

Hank laid his pen down, and searched her face. "What's wrong? Are you still feeling the effects from that bug you had last weekend? Because from where I'm sitting I would say the answer is yes, and I'm sorry that I just now slowed down enough to notice it. Becoming your own boss is turning out to be more than I bargained for."

Buffy smiled weakly. "Oh, you love it and you know it. And if you think the reason I want us to talk is because I've felt neglected this week, you're wrong."

"Then what's wrong?"

"I umm..." Buffy looked down at her hands. "Well, I've uhh... I've sort of been keeping something from you... Not just you... A-Angel, too."

"I see." Hank sat back in his desk chair, and let his gaze take in her pale face as she raised it back up to him.

"Do you? See, I mean. I mean really see, Daddy?"

Hank blinked back tears. "Yeah, I think I finally do. The question is what are you going to do about it?"

"I'm going to do what I have to do. But not today. I want the weekend. I need to be with Angel. I umm... I finally figured it out. Me out. He's my life. I love him more than anything, and I've been such an idiot for letting my fears get in the way of us being together. I've wasted the last three months... Not my time with you. I'm glad we had this time. But my time with him..." She struggled to keep from crying. "I don't want to be away from him anymore. I just pray it's not too late."

Hank nodded, too choked up to say anything at first. "So... What happens now?"

"I need you to drive me to Sunnydale. I don't want to take your car when I'm not going to need it anymore. Besides, I'm kind of afraid to drive it anyway. I'll spend the weekend with Angel, get some rest, and then be back here first thing Monday morning prepared to do what I have to do."

"What about your mom, and your brother, Buffy?"

"I umm... I'm going to tell them. I am. But not until Sunday. I need to rest to prepare for all this. I haven't been sleeping so hot lately, and the only time I do sleep is when I'm with..." She blushed. "Well, I always sleep good on the weekends."

Hank couldn't help but chuckle. "I may be your father, pumpkin. But I'm also a grown man. Do you honestly think I believe you and Angel have separate bedrooms on these weekend visits of yours?"

Buffy shifted nervously in her chair. "No, so I guess the question is are you about to give me a big parental unit speech, because if you are I can save you the time."

"You don't even have to do that, sweetie. I was married to your mother for nine years, and I know her better than you think. I know she raised you and your brother the way you should have been raised and I'm going to leave it at that, and end it by telling you I know that it's not easy to share your life with someone, and not miss them when you're apart. It took me forever to get used to sleeping without your mother after we split up."

Buffy's eyes welled up with more tears. "I'm glad you understand, Daddy because I'm exhausted and I really need you to get me to Sunnydale so that I can be with my honey."

"Then what are we waiting for?" Hank stood up and shrugged on his suit jacket. "Let's go going."

"Yes..." Buffy shot to her feet, but the moment she did the room started spinning, and the last thing she remembered was the sound of her father's panicked voice screaming her name.

***

Meanwhile, back in Sunnydale Angel was going over the checklist in his head to make sure everything was ready for his special weekend with Buffy. As he made his way down the stairs to the first level of the house, he very happily checked two items off his list. The place, and the meal. He had spoken to Tony Martin earlier, and Tony had assured him that everything was a go there. The caterer had already arrived at the Bronze and was seating up to prepare dinner. Now all that was missing were three things, and hopefully one of those things, the most important thing, was on her way right now. With that thought, he made a beeline straight for his office to retrieve another very important piece of the evening out of his safe. When he pulled the black velvet box out of the place where it had been nestled for the last six months, he couldn't help but smile as he double checked everything and made sure things were still as perfect with it as the way they were the day he received it.

"I'm gathering by the smile on your face that it's still as perfect as the last time you checked it?"

Angel shut the safe and turned around to look at the woman standing in the doorway. "Not quite. The real perfection comes when I'm able to slip it on her finger."

Cordelia smiled, and moved into the room. "I put everything you asked me to get upstairs in your room."

"Did you have any problems?"

"Nope. Not a one. Thanks to the little memento you kept and my keen eyes I think you'll be impressed. It may not be her dress, but I came pretty damn close to it."

Angel pocketed the black velvet box in his tux jacket, and moved around his desk to sit down. "I don't doubt those keen eyes of yours Cordelia. Why do you think I let you pick it out instead of hiring a personal shopper? I knew you'd move heaven and earth to help me make tonight perfect and I want you to know how much that means to me. Thank you."

"You're welcome." Cordelia said as she crossed the room and took the chair in front of his desk. "And just wait until you see her in it. She's going to knock your socks off."

"She's already done that, Cordy. And she didn't need a fancy dress to do it."

"Nope. Just a pair of black leather pants, and a rearend in your face."

Angel scowled, but only for a second, then he broke into a grin. "If you don't mind, Cordy I would really appreciate if you kept that a secret."

"Why?" Cordelia grinned back. "I think she would get a kick out of knowing that you were practically salivating over her cutie potootie."

"I was not..." Angel started to argue with her, but the ringing of the phone interrupted him. "Speaking of her, how much you want to bet that's her calling me to tell me she's running late as usual?"

"Probably." Cordelia replied. "But you'll never know for sure unless you answer it."

Angel reached for the phone. "Okay, you... You'd better not be calling me to tell me you haven't left yet. I made plans for us."

"Angel, it's Hank Summers."

"Mr. Summers..." Angel's gaze flew to Cordelia just as a cold chill settled over him. "I-Is something wrong? Buffy?"

"I have her at the hospital, Angel. She collapsed in my office about thirty minutes ago. I think you should get here as soon as you can. We're at Children's."

"I'm on my way." Angel hung up the phone, and shot to his feet.

"Angel?" Cordelia eyed him worriedly. "What is it?"

"It's Buffy." He moved around his desk. "I've got to go, Cordy. Do me a favor and call the airport tell them to be ready when I get there. I have to get to LA as soon as possible. I'm leaving it up to you to get Doyle, and the others there. She's at Children's." He managed to call over his shoulder as he quickly disappeared out of his office.

***

It was the longest forty five minutes of Angel's life, but at least flying had cut the trip by half and he was thankful for that. It took him another twenty minutes to get to the hospital from

LAX, and by the time he arrived and found Hank Summers his nerves were about shot. "Mr. Summers?"

Hank Summers pushed himself away from the wall he'd been leaning against, and met Angel's panicked gaze. "She's uhh... They've uhh... They've admitted her. All I know right now is that she's severly dehydrated. The ER doctor got an IV started, and managed to draw some blood but that's it. Buffy was so hysterical... I couldn't take it. I demanded they leave her alone until her doctor got here, and thankfully they listened to me, and agreed to admit her."

"Has Dr. Jobson got here yet?"

Hank shook his head. "He's stuck in traffic. Some kind of accident's got the freeway backed up for miles going both ways. It's a good thing you flew or you would probably still be stuck in it."

"How did you know..."

Hank smiled weakly. "You told me the first time you came to my house for dinner that you used your plane in emergencies, and this is our girl we're talking about..."

Angel nodded mutely. "Can I see her?"

"Of course." Hank gave him another weak smile. "You can calm her better than I can. I'll be in the waiting room."

"Thanks." Angel watched Hank Summers disappear down the hallway before he turned back to the hospital room door, and pushed it open to step inside. Buffy was laying on her side facing him with her eyes closed, but the moment the sound of the opening hospital room door reached her, they flew open in panic, and the first thing he noticed besides the panic was how pale she was. That was until he saw the tears start to fall, and then they only thing he could think about was her. "I-I'm sorry." A sob tore from her throat, and he was immediately beside her, kneeling down to catch her tears. "Shh... There's no reason to be sorry, baby. I'm here. I'm right here, and we're going to get through this." He leaned over to feather a kiss across her lips, but when he tried to pull away she wouldn't let him. She clung to the lapels of his jacket. "I-I never wanted to subject you to this."

"You didn't subject me to anything, Buffy. Its my choice to be here. That's love, baby. When you love someone you share everything with them. The good and the bad."

Buffy started crying even harder. "You might ch-change your mind a-about that o-once I t-tell you w-what I have to tell you."

"Buffy..." Angel pulled away to look into her eyes. "Baby, there is nothing you could say to me that would ever change the way I feel about you. Now tell me."

"I-I lied to you last weekend."

"About?" His eyes searched her face.

"I-I didn't keep my last doctor's appointment."

"You didn't go?" Angel frowned. "But Doyle..."


"I lied to him, too. I told him I had the appointment moved up, but the truth is I didn't. The truth is I called and cancelled the actual appointment and never called back to reschedule."

"Why, Buffy? Why would you do that?"

Buffy looked away. "There were alot of reasons why, but the main reason was me. I hated myself for not being the woman you needed back then, and I still hate myself for not being her now." She returned her teary gaze to his. "And then there's Dr. Jobson. That's the other reason I didn't keep my appointment. Don't get my wrong, I like him. He's great. He had a part in saving my life, but at the same time he had a part in taking it away. And that's why I cancelled my appointment. I couldn't face him. I just couldn't. I knew if I did seeing him would just be another reminder to me of everything that's hanging over my head."

"But we got back together, Buffy. Why didn't you reschedule? Why did you continue to lie to me?"

"Because he still had..has the power."

"The power to what, Buffy?"

"To take it all away."

The truth of her words hit Angel full in the face. "You're sick and you knew." He choked out. "That's why you didn't reschedule. You knew he was going to tell what you already knew yourself. That's it, isn't it, Buffy?"

"No!"

"Don't lie to me, Buffy! How long? Answer me, god damnit! How long have you known you're sick?"

"A few months. It started right after we broke up." She rolled over and took his hand in hers when she heard his strangled Oh God. "But I wasn't for sure it was that. I mean, I knew something was wrong but I thought it was stress, and things did get better. When we found each other again I was better for about a month and then two months ago it started again, and I still didn't think... It was different than the other times, so I never even thought about it being the leukemia. And then last weekend... I realized last weekend that it might be that, and I wanted to tell you. I swear I did, Angel. But I couldn't because..."

"You were afraid I would leave if you were sick again." He finished, and pulled his hand away. He started to stand up, but she grabbed his arm. "No! That's not it at all, Angel." She started crying again. "Last weekend made me see e-everything so clearly. I put you through hell, literally. I-I know that, and I'm sorry. I'm sorry because I've been such an idiot. You stuck by me the entire weekend. You put up with me even though I put you through hell, and it made me see just how much you really did love me, and once I finally realized that I hated myself even more because of what I've put you through the last three months. I hated myself because I realized that I fucked up again. I wasted so much time. Time I could have had with you, and now..." She kissed his hand. "I was coming to Sunnydale to tell you. E-Everything. I swear. This week made me realize that if I was going to get a chance to have a life with you then I was going to have to quit being a coward and fight for it. And I do want it. I want an us so much, Angel. I love you. And I know I should have told you everything, but once I realized what we could be facing I just... I needed you. I just wanted to take this weekend, and spend it with you. I needed to tell you how I felt, and I just needed to be with you. You're my strength, and I needed you to help me prepare for the worst. I wanted this weekend with you to be special because I was afraid that we might not get another one like it for a long time, if at all." She looked up at him with such love in her tear filled eyes. "I'm sorry, Angel. I'm so sorry. I-I wasted so much time. Time I could have had with you. I-I'm sorry. I'm s-so s-so sorry." Sobs began to hitch her body, and he couldn't take it. He sat down on the bed, and pulled her into his arms.

"Shh... It's okay. It's okay, baby. I'm here." He stroked her hair. "I'm here no matter what. We'll get through this. We'll do it together, I promise. No matter what we'll get through this together..." He held her until her tears subsided, and had turned into little hiccups. Then and only then did he dare to pull away to look at her. "A-Angel, what if..."

"Shh..." He placed a finger over her lips to silence her. "We'll get through this no matter what. I believe that with all my heart, Buffy. And because I do I need you to swear to me that from now on you won't lie or keep anymore secrets from me."

She looked up into his eyes. "I-I swear."

"That's my girl." He murmured brushing a kiss across her lips. "I love you." "I-I love you, too." She sniffled, clutching his shirt. "I-I'm so glad you're here. You'll stay with me, won't you?"

"How can you even ask me that when you already know the answer, Buffy?" He leaned over to brush another kiss across her lips. "Together, remember? We're going to get through this together."

No sooner had the words left Angel's mouth, the hospital door came open, and Buffy's eyes grew wide with fear as they landed on the person standing in the doorway.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Thanks to Linda, Sandy, Brittany, Kattie, Christine, Karen, Emma, Kim, Court, jeditheskyisblue, Cristina, Kolumbyne, Ryan, Danielle, and Timandmaureen for their feedback last chapter. CHAPTER 44


"D-Dr. Jobson." Buffy reluctantly let go of Angel's shirt to let him stand up to turn around and face the man in stepping into the room.

"Hello, Buffy and..." Dr. Jobson closed the distance to Angel, extending his hand. "I'm sorry, I don't think we've met."

"Angelus O'Conner." Angel shook Dr. Jobson's hand. "I'm Buffy's fiancee'."

"Fiancee'?" Buffy looked up at Angel, and he turned around to smile at her. "Later, baby. We'll discuss it later." He turned back to look at a smiling Dr. Jobson. "Finally managed to get off the freeway, huh?"

Dr. Jobson nodded. "I'm sorry about that. I wish I could have been here sooner."

"It's not your fault. I understand that. It comes along with living in LA. That's one thing I don't miss since I moved away from here." Angel muttered. "I'm just glad you're here now."

"So am I." Dr. Jobson smiled, and waited as Angel took a seat in the chair beside Buffy's bed, then let his eyes move to Buffy. "Buffy, how are you feeling?"

"Yucky." Buffy answered, and laid back in the bed. "I didn't help that those stupid nurses in the ER didn't know how to stick a pig."

Dr. Jobson opened Buffy's chart. "Was that it or where you being your normal *I hate needles, and if you stick me I'll kill you* usual self?"

"They didn't know how to stick me. They said I had bad veins, but you know as well as I do that that's a crock. Even during chemo I kept good veins. That's why I never had to have a portacath. But if you don't believe me you can take a look." She stuck out her arms, and Angel couldn't help but flinch at the bruises on them, but he didn't say anything. He just watched as the doctor stepped closer to the bed to take a look.

"You're right. I can see several very good veins, Buffy. But knowing you the way I do I can pretty much figure out what happened here. I'm pretty sure you gave the ER nurses a hard time, and they got nervous and ended up having to stick you several times. And you might as well admit it. Did you give them a hard time in the ER?"

"I uhh..."

"Yes?" Dr. Jobson raised an eyebrow.

"Okay." Buffy sighed dejectedly. "I admit it. I may have been a little upset and gave them a hard time. I'm entitled don't you think?"

"Yes, you are. But you have to stop to think too, Buffy that they wouldn't be sticking you unless it was absolutely necessary. They're only here to help you. You had to have an IV, and I needed some bloodwork. You know the drill."

"Did they get enough blood or are you going to have to stick me again?" Buffy looked up at him, and watched as his gaze moved over her chart.

"They got enough blood for me for now, but you will have to have more bloodwork and I would appreciate it if you would try to cooperate with whoever it is that comes to do it, okay?"

Buffy looked over at Angel. "I'll try, but I can't make any guarantees. It might help if you let Angel stay with me when they do."

"If Angel being here will make you feel any better, I don't see a problem with it." He looked up from the chart. "Just know that you will be getting stuck whether you like it or not, understand?"

She nodded. "Perfectly."

"Good. Now let's talk." Dr. Jobson sat down on the end of the bed. "I understand you had a conversation with your father's office desk and floor today? How do you feel right now, and I want it in terms other than yucky."

"I umm... I'm still sick at my stomach, and tired. I'm really really tired. But I can't tell you anything about the dizziness because I haven't tried to stand up."

The only response Dr. Jobson gave her was to lay his chart down, and stand up to move up beside her. He pulled the bed blankets off her, and raised her gown to gently prod at her stomach. "What about pain? Do you have any pain here?"

"No." Buffy shook her head.

"What about cramping? Is there any now or have you had any?"

"No."

He lowered her gown, and covered her back up before moving to sit down on the end of the bed again. "How about fainting or the dizziness. Have you had any before today?"

Buffy's gaze shot to Angel, and she saw the concern on his face. "Yes." She sighed in defeat, and returned her gaze to Dr. Jobson. " I've had several dizzy spells the last month. Usually it's after the nausea and vomiting, but not always."

"And you've already said you were fatigued." He made a note on her chart, then looked back up at her. "Tell me about the nausea and vomiting. How long has it been going on?"

"Well, as you know I always get sick at my stomach when I'm stressed and I was really stressed from May to August." She looked down at her hands. "And then in August things got better, and I felt better for about a month, and then all of a sudden it was back. Only it was worse than ever."

"So it's been going on off and on for over six months, but it's gotten worse the last two?"

"Yes."

"Is there a certain time of day that you experience it?"

"No, not really. All I know is that I see the toilet more than I do Angel."

"And exactly whose fault is that?" Angel asked, scowling at her.

"It's mine, and I admit it. Now get that scowl off your face before you get permanent wrinkles around those gorgeous eyes of yours, honey."

Dr. Jobson chuckled at the couple then returned to jotting down notes. "What about infections or fevers, Buffy? Have you had any during the time period you've been experiencing everything else?"

"No."

"Any bruising?"

Buffy pointed to her arms. "Just these." Then she pointed to a faint bruise on her right cheek. "And this. My dad told me I caught the corner of his desk."

"Yes, I know. I talked to your father, and the ER doctor before I came in to see you. The ER doctor assures me it's just a contusion. You were lucky. Now back to the questions. What about your periods? Have they been normal?"

"No. But I'm pretty sure it's because I quit taking my pills."

"When?"

"In May."

"Was that when you had your last period?"

"Yes."

"And nothing since then? Not even spotting?"

"No." Buffy shook her head.

Dr. Jobson began to make more notes, and Buffy reached for Angel's hand while the two of them waited in tense silence for him to finish. The moment he laid the chart on his lap, the grasp Buffy had on Angel's hand tightened. "Well, Doc what's the sitch? Is it... Is it back?"

"No, Buffy the leukemia isn't back. You're still in remission."

Buffy couldn't move or say anything in response at first, she was too overwhelmed. "A-Are you sure?" She asked meekly.

"Yes, but if you're not convinced we could always do a spinal tap."

"No!" She practically yelled, and then she regained her control. For about a second that is. "No, I umm..." She turned her head to look at Angel through tear filled eyes, and found his equally as tear filled. "A-Angel, I umm..."

Angel nodded in understanding, and cleared the lump from his own throat. "Dr. Jobson, if she's still in remission, then what's wrong with her?"

"There are a couple of things, Mr. O'Conner." Dr. Jobson's eyes returned to Buffy. "I don't know what's been going on with you, Buffy but whatever it is you need to get it straightened out. You've lost twelve pounds since I saw you in January. For a person your size that's not good. It's even worse when that person has a weak immune system. It also doesn't help matters when you stop coming to your doctor's appointments. You told the office you would reschedule, and I can see now why you didn't. We've talked about this. You know how important it is that you keep those appointments. Missing one could be the difference between life and death. You know that, and I trust it won't happen again?"

"It won't." Angel answered for Buffy. "I'll make sure of it."

"Good." Dr. Jobson smiled at Angel. "I'm going to hold you to that." His gaze returned to Buffy. "Now let's get back to discussing what I found out from your blood tests. You're severely anemic. It's probably a result of you not taking care of yourself, but I can't really be sure. It can be treated with medication, a healthy diet, and plenty of rest. You should be fine in a couple of weeks if you do as I tell you, and you will. Understand?"

"Yes, sir." Buffy muttered, looking down at the IV in her hand again.

Angel sat up in his chair. "Dr. Jobson, you said there was a couple of problems. What else is wrong with her?"

"The other problem is the one that has me the most concerned because it's a little more long term than the anemia. It's also the one that quite frankly has left me as a medical professional a little baffled to explain."

"Baffled?" Buffy glanced at Angel, then back at Dr. Jobson. "What do you mean by baffled? Like there's no cure?"

"Oh, there's a cure alright. In about six months to be exact."

"I don't understand Dr. Jobson."

"You're pregnant, Buffy. How that's possible is what has me so baffled."

Buffy stared at Dr. Jobson in disbelief, too afraid to move or speak for fear she had heard him wrong, and evidently Angel wasn't fairing much better because he hadn't said a word either. Finally though, the need to make sure she wasn't dreaming forced her to break the eerie silence in the room. "I-I'm sorry, but d- did you just say I-I was p-pregnant?"

"Yes, I did, Buffy. Twelve weeks to be exact."

A hysterical half laugh, half sob tore from Buffy's lips. "W-What kind of c-cruel sick j-joke are y-you... I-It's not funny! I-It's not funny, god damn you!" She snapped and lunged at Dr. Jobson. "I-It's not funny!"

Luckily Angel was able to grab her and pull her into his arms before she was able to tear into Dr. Jobson. "Buffy, baby, listen to me." He cupped her face in his hands. "I heard it, too. I heard it too."

"No. No. H-He's lying. H-He's lying. H-He knows how badly I..." Buffy started sobbing uncontollably, and buried her head in Angel's chest while Angel's worried gaze shot to Dr. Jobson. "Are you sure? A baby?"

"Yes, and I know this has come to a shock to her, Mr. O'Conner. It's as equally shocking to me as well. Especially since I was the one that told her she could never have children. The radiation and chemo damaged her ovaries to the point that there was no way... She was going through puberty during the time that she was given the strongest doses of both, and after the transplant I had to put her on birth control pills to bring on her periods because her ovaries were too damaged to do it on their own. That's why I'm so baffled. Medically there is no explaination for how this is possible, but spiritually... All I can say is that a higher power must have had a hand in it."

"So what does all this mean?" Angel asked as he stroked a sobbing Buffy's hair.

"I wish I could say that everything is going to be okay with her and the baby, but I can't. Buffy faces the complications of all pregnant women if she decides to keep the baby, but she also faces other complications due to the effects of the leukemia. She's going to have to decide whether she wants to risk her life in order to have this baby or if she wants to terminate the pregnancy."

"A-And the baby? Is it okay? R-Right now, I mean?"

"I don't know, Mr. O'Conner. Buffy's last period doesn't match up with her weeks of pregnancy, but that doesn't mean that there is something wrong with the fetus. Like I said before, her ovaries were severally damaged and the damage messed with her menstrual cycles. There's also the fact that she's severally anemic. That could have threw her periods off as well. The only way to tell if there is something wrong with the fetus is to do a ultrasound, but even if I do one of those there's no guarantee it'll show if there's any problems because the fetus is still in the developmental stage. All the ultrasound can show me is if the fetus is still alive."

"And you could do one of those while she's here?"

Dr. Jobson nodded. "Yes, and I'd like to as soon as possible."

"That's fine, but first things first, doctor. I need to know what complications Buffy's facing if she decides to keep this baby."

"Like I said before, Mr. O'Conner. Buffy faces the same complications that all expectant mothers face, but the main concern with her would be the return of the leukemia while she's pregnant. If that were to happen she would have to decide if she would want to go ahead with chemotherapy or delay it until the baby could be born. The problem with these two scenarios is that there are no real winners in either case. If she decides to go ahead with chemo while she's pregnant it could affect the fetus. Unless of course, we went ahead and delivered it early, but we couldn't even begin to think of that until at least the seventh month of pregnancy. The odds of survival for a fetus younger than that is next to none. Premature babies... Any baby delivered before the ninth month of pregnancy face a long line of complications."

"And the other scenario? What if she decided to delay chemo until she could have the baby?"

"It's hard to say. It would depend on how long she would have to delay it, and how agressive the leukemia is. But most likely the result of delaying would mean her death. The type of leukemia Buffy had is really aggressive, and is usually even more so after each relapse. The last relapse was really difficult for her. She almost didn't make it. The chemo wasn't fighting the disease like we had hoped. That's why we decided to try a bone marrow transplant. If we hadn't I honestly don't think she would have made it, and if she were to come out of remission for a third time... The survival rate is very slim."

"What else?" Angel replied, kissing the top of Buffy's head, and looking back over at the doctor.

"More complications. There's a good chance that she might not even be able to carry this baby to term. The treatments weakened her immune system and her organs. So far we haven't seen any problems because of it, but the pregnancy could trigger them, and they could be life threatening to both her and the baby."

"Is there anything else I should know?"

"That's all I can think of right now, and I'm sorry I know this all must be a little overwhelming for you..." Dr. Jobson's gaze moved to a now hiccuping Buffy. "For the both of you, but you needed to know everything so you can make a decision about the pregnancy."

Overwhelming. Angel wanted to laugh. Everything he had just heard was more than just overwhelming. No matter what, he was still facing the possibility of losing the most important thing to him, and to make matters worse the powers had to go and throw a baby into the loop, only making matters worse for him. Too much. It was too much, and he couldn't even begin to digest any of it until he was able to talk to the woman he was holding in his arms. He lovingly threaded his hands in her hair, and combed his fingers through her long tresses to reassure her that he was still there before returning his gaze to her doctor. "Dr. Jobson, do you think that Buffy and I could have some time alone to try and sort through all of this?"

"Of course, Mr. O'Conner. Since she's already had enough tonight why don't we hold off talking further until in the morning when I make my rounds. We can do the sonogram then as well. That'll give you two the rest of the night to sort through things." He gave Angel a weak smile. "I'm going to be sticking around the hospital for awhile so if you should happen to have any other questions just have the nurse page me. I'll be in the doctor's lounge." He turned and headed for the door, but Angel's voice halted him. "Dr. Jobson?"

"Yes?" Doctor Jobson turned back around to look at Angel.

"Her family. The rest of them should be getting here soon. Could you not say anything to them when they do. I think maybe this is something Buffy and I should tell them together."

He nodded. "I understand. I won't say anything."

"Thank you." Angel gave him a weak smile.

Dr. Jobson returned his smile. "You're welcome, and remember if you need anything just have the nurses page me."

"I will." Angel murmured, and watched him leave before returning his full attention back to the woman in his arms. "Buffy..."

"It's yours." She mumbled.

"Jesus Christ, Buffy. What kind of idiot do you think I am? I never doubted for one second that it wasn't, but..."

"No!" Buffy shoved away from him. "No buts, Angel. I'm keeping our baby. If you don't want any part of it just say so now. I'll raise it own my own."

"And how exactly will you be able to do that if you're dead, Buffy?" Angel snapped as the events of the last hour overwhelmed him. The look on her face and the realization of what he just said sent him staggering back to collapse in the chair behind him. "Oh God, baby. I'm sorry. I didn't..." He buried his face in his hands. "Do you have any idea what the thought of having a little you would mean to me? I would love it. I already do. How can I not when it's a part of you? But if it has to come down to choosing between you or..." He raised his pain filled eyes to hers. "You, baby. I would chose you. You!" He leaned over to take her hand in his. "Did you hear any of what the doctor just said? The complications you face?"

"I don't care." Buffy laid back on the bed, and stared up at the ceiling. "I'm keeping our baby."

Angel's eyes welled up with tears again. "You could... You might not make it, Buffy. And I don't... I can't lose you."

"Why not?" Buffy rolled onto her side to look at him. "What changed, Angel? A few minutes ago you were prepared for that possibility."

"No, I wasn't. Not really. But I would have managed as long as I knew you were fighting for an us. Now... It's like the fight has left you."

"No. No. That's where you're wrong, Angel. I'm still fighting. Even more so now. This baby is a part of me... Of you... A-And it was created out of love. O-Our love. And I don't care what he says. This baby is okay. Our baby is okay. I know it because I know when it was created. The weekend we got back together. We created this baby the weekend we got back together, Angel and I remember every beautiful second of that weekend. It's a sign. I know it. We made a baby the same weekend we reaffimed our love. A baby I was told I could never have. A miracle. This baby is a miracle. A miracle created from our love, and I can't destroy it. I can't destroy something that is a part of you, the man I love. D-Don't you see? This baby is us. It's parts of both of us, and it's our future. I can't destroy it. I won't. And as for the dying part... We were already facing that no matter what. Nothing's changed. Nothing. Except for the fact that there is another life added to the equation. A baby... Our baby... And if you think I'm just going to let anyone fuck this up you are wrong. If I die it'll be worth it because of the simple fact that I gave our baby life. But I'm not planning to die. Not without a fight anyway. I plan to stick around for a long, long time. I intend to grow old with you, and I intend to watch our child grow up to give us grandbabies. But I can't do it alone. I need you, Angel. I need you to be by my side. This baby is a part of our future, and I need you to help me fight for it. I need you to help me fight to give our baby life. Our baby, Angel. A little you. And I want so very much to see him. To love him. The way I love you."

"You know, that little he could be a she? A little you." Angel stated matter of factly, smiling through his tears. "Did you ever to stop to think about that?"

"Uh uh." Buffy sniffled. "It's hard to do that when I can't get past seeing anything but another Angel just like you. I'm keeping our baby." She repeated.

"And if the leukemia should return while you're pregnant?"

"You already know my answer to that, so I guess the next question is will you raise our baby on your own if something should happen and I don't win the battle?"

All Angel could do was nod mutely, too choked up for words.

"It won't happen." She reassured him with a teary smile. "But just in case it does, I'm going to tell you I love you like a million times a day from now until I take my last breath. I don't want you to forget it. I want you to remember that I'll love you even in death."

Angel reached his breaking point at her words, and the tears flooded out as he fell to his knees beside her bed, and pulled her into his arms. Incoherant words flowed from the both of them as they clung to each other, and it wasn't until the events of the last few hours had finally sunk in for the both of them, that Buffy finally got up enough nerve to ask Angel something that had been plaguing her since the moment he had stepped into her hospital room. "

A-Angel?"

"What, beloved?" He pulled away to look at her with red rimmed eyes.

"Well, I was wondering..." She chewed on her bottom lip, and stared at him.

"About?"

"The tux. Why are you wearing a tux? Not that I'm complaining, mind you. You look pretty damn hot, but it's just... Why are you wearing it?"

"Well, Ionuin..." He smoothed a lock of hair from her forehead, then locked eyes with her. "I sort of had a very special evening planned for you tonight."

"You did?"

"Uh huh." He smiled through teary eyes.

"A-Are you going to tell me about this special evening or do you want to reschedule it?"

"We could reschedule." He murmured. "But honestly, I don't want to. I have everything I need right here, and I'm already on my knees, so I think I'll just go ahead and do this." He took a deep calming breath, and reached for her hand. "A soulmate is someone who has the locks to fit our keys, and the keys to fit our locks. When we feel safe enough to open the locks, our truest selves step out and we can be completely and honestly who we are: we can be loved for who we are and not for who we're pretending to be. Our soulmate is the one that makes life come to life. Richard Bach said that, and I think it describes us to a tee, Buffy. I never knew what living was until the day I met you. I love you so much. You're my meaning. My everything. My soulmate. I can barely breathe when you're not with me, and time... You were right. We shouldn't waste it. It's so precious. My time with you is precious, and I don't want to waste another second of it being apart. I want you in my life... In my home... my arms... my bed. I want you with me every second of everyday. I want you with me always." He reached inside his tux jacket pocket, and pulled out black velvet box, and flipped the lid open to reveal the most beautiful ring Buffy had ever seen in her entire life. "Marry me, Elizabeth Anne Summers. Be my wife. Let's not waste anymore precious time. I want us to spend it together. Building a future." His hand went to her flat stomach. "Raising a family. Marry me, Buffy. Complete me. Because you're the only one that can do it. You're the only one that has the keys to my locks, and the locks to my keys. You're the only one that makes my life come to life, and I don't want to live another second of it without you..."


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Thanks to Karen, Kattie, Marshae, Christine, Linda, Nikki, Karin, Nathalie, Court, Emma, Allie, Kolumbyne, Isis, Briony, Ryan, Danielle, and Ashleigh for their feedback last chapter. CHAPTER 45


She couldn't breathe. All Buffy could do was stare back and forth at Angel, and the ring nestled inside the black velvet box in his hand. This was it. This was her dream come true, and she couldn't even find the words to tell him what he wanted to hear. She was completely and utterly speechless.

"Buffy..." Angel's eyes met hers in concern. "Baby, say something. You're scaring me here."

A sob tore from Buffy's throat. "A-Angel, I umm..." Her eyes flew to the ring then back to his face. "A-Are you sure?"

"God, yes." He murmured softly. "I've never been more sure about anything in my entire life. When you leave this hospital I want to take you home with me where you belong, Buffy." Angel leaned over to rest his forehead against hers. "Say yes, baby. Make me the happiest man on the face of this earth. I promise I'll do my damndest to make you happy."

Jesus, she was a goner. Those eyes. Those incredibly gorgeous chocolate pools. They had completely swallowed her up months ago, and she could see the love for her shining so brightly in them. "Y-Yes." She choked out. "Yes." She repeated more clearly. "Yes, Angel. A hundred times yes. I'll marry you. I'll be your wife."

"Oh God, baby..." Angel framed her face with his hands and began to rain kisses all over her face. "Thank you. Thank you. Just you wait... I'm going to make you so happy. You'll see. I'm going to make you so happy, I promise."

"Too late." She sniffled, and leaned in to brush a kiss across her lips. "You already have." She pulled away to smile at him. "Well, what are you waiting for, mister? Seal the deal."

"With pleasure, my lady." He grinned, and pulled the ring from it's resting place, then reached for her left hand and that's when Buffy saw it... The glint of silver already there. "A-Angel, wait..."

He looked down the IV in her hand, then back up at her with a frown on his face. "The IV. I didn't think about the IV. Maybe I should wait..."

"Screw the IV." She leaned over to brush a kiss across his lips, then held up her hand to show him the claddagh ring. "Now this... This on the other hand is a different story. I want to keep it. It's important. You gave it to me the first time you told me you loved me, and I have to keep it with me until I die. I can't... I have to keep it."

"And you will." He took her hand and slid her claddagh ring off and moved it to the ring finger on her right hand. "See, problem easily solved." He gently took back her left hand, careful to avoid the IV as he did, and slid the new ring on her ring finger, then planted a kiss to it before looking up at her again. "Now anytime you have doubts or fears all you have to do is look at both your hands to know that no matter what I will always love you and be there for you."

Buffy's eyes welled up with tears as she glanced down at both hands. "I love them. The both of them." She looked up at him and beamed. "But I love you more."

"I'm glad to hear that." He grinned. "Because you're stuck with me now. Neither one of those rings are coming off your hands again. Do you understand?"

"Perfectly." She smiled and wiggled her finger at him. "Now come here and kiss me so we can finish sealing this deal."

"Yes, ma'am." He murmured, pulling her into his arms to claim her lips. It was a kiss full of promise, hope, and love. A sweet, tender kiss and Buffy couldn't help but whimper in sadness that it had to end so soon. "I love you." Angel whispered as he kissed the tip of her nose, and reluctantly stood up.

"I guess this means the evening's over, huh?" She looked up at him.

"Don't worry, baby." He sat down in the chair beside her, and reached for her hand. "They'll be lot's more evenings like this one. Minus the hospital, of course. I promise."

Buffy tiredly laid back on the mattress of her bed. "So what now?"

"Rest. You need to rest. I want you well as soon as possible so I can take you home."

"Rest. How the hell do you rest in this place when everytime you close your eyes someone's coming in the room to stick you. I hate needles." Buffy muttered. "I already feel like a pin cushion."

"I know you do, my love. And I hate seeing you in any kind of pain, but if you want to get through this and have a healthy baby, you're going have to do everything the doctor tells you. Just remember that I'm right here, and we'll get through this together."

"Mmm... Together." She smiled dreamily. "Sounds nice."

Angel looked down at his watch. "I suppose the rest of your family is here by now, and wondering what's going on. Do you want me to go talk to them?"

Buffy shook her head. "No. Let's do that together, too. I don't want you dealing with my mother on your own. I have a very funny feeling this is not going to sit to well with her. Oh, and speaking of mothers, I think you should call yours."

"I'll call her in the morning. Right now, I just want to be with you."

"Uh uh, mister. You'll call her now and tell her to get her butt down here."

"Why?"

"Because, silly." Buffy smiled. "We have two very big announcements to make, and I think she should be here when we make them."

***

One hour later, Buffy's hospital room was packed with family, including Angel's mom, and they all waited quietly while Angel helped Buffy to sit up in the bed. Once he was sure she was comfortable, he moved to the head of the bed and laid his hands on her shoulders to reassure her he was there, and to give her his support. "Okay, guys. Here's the deal. I'm tired, I feel yucky, and I'm very hormonal right now so no lip from anyone. We have a lot to talk about, and we've only been given ten minutes to do it before Dr. Jobson comes in a kicks everyone out."

"Just tell us what's going on, Munchkin." Doyle Summers spoke up on behalf of the group.

"Well, first Angel and I have something else to tell all of you." Buffy tilted her head back to look at Angel. "Honey..."

Angel's gaze traveled over everyone in the room before returning to Buffy's smiling face. "Buffy and I are getting married. I proposed to her earlier tonight, and she accepted."

"See!" Buffy beamed, and flashed everyone her ring.

"Buffy..." Joyce Summers started to say. "Sweetie..."

"Don't, Mom." Buffy held up her hand. "This is what Angel and I want and we don't care what anyone else thinks. Now let's get back to why I'm here, and I'll start by telling all of you that I'm still in remission."

"Oh, thank God." Joyce gasped, and sagged against her husband in relief.

"Then if you're still in remission what's wrong with you, pumpkin?" Hank Summers stared at his daughter in concern.

"She's anemic, Mr. Summers." Angel answered, and looked down at Buffy. "Her doctor says that it can be treated with medication, a healthy diet, and plenty of rest."

"But the anemia isn't the only thing wrong with me." Buffy added.

"What else is wrong with you, Buffy?" Rupert Giles asked his step daughter.

Buffy braced herself for the storm she was afraid was about to blow. "I'm pregnant, Giles. Angel and I are going to have a baby. And before anyone starts asking us how that's possible, Dr. Jobson doesn't know. He can't explain it except for the the miracle that it is. That's why it took Angel and I so long to let you know what was going on with me. To say this is a shock.... Well, that's an understatement, and there's so much... The reason Angel and I didn't tell you sooner is because we've been discussing what all this means with Dr. Jobson, and with ourselves. I'm not going to lie to any of you. There are risks involved and we had to weigh our options, and make a decision about what we were going to do."

"And just exactly what are you going to do, Buffy?"

"I'm going to have this baby, Mom. Angel and I are going to get married, and we're going to raise our baby together. And don't you dare tell me that I can't do it, because I can and I am. We haven't discussed everything with Dr. Jobson, but I pretty much have an idea of what I'm facing, and I don't care. I'm having this baby."

Joyce's angry eyes shot to Angel. "I thought you loved her? If you really loved her you wouldn't let her do this."

"I love Buffy more than anything in this world, Joyce. And believe it or not I did try to reason with her, but when it came down to it the decision wasn't mine to make. It's hers, and this is what she wants. All I can do now is give her the love and support she needs to help her get through this."

"S-So what happens now?" The question came from Giles.

"We're not sure. Like I said, Angel and I haven't discussed our decision with Dr. Jobson yet, but I can tell you this. I've already made up my mind that if the leukemia should return while I'm pregnant I'm going to delay chemo until the baby can be born."

"What!" Joyce yelled. "Buffy, do you have any idea what could happen to you if you do that? No. No. No. I will not let you do this! You're sick right now, and you're not thinking clearly. You have to get rid of it!"

"It!" Buffy screamed back at her mother. "This baby is not an it, Mother. It's a real live person." She started crying. "It's alive, and it's a part of me. It's a part of Angel... And I won't kill my own flesh and blood. I won't kill my own child! I w-won't!" Sobs started hitching Buffy's body, and Angel moved around the bed to pull her into his arms, his gaze focusing on Joyce over the top of Buffy's head. "That's it. Everyone out. Buffy's sick and exhausted and she doesn't need the stress right now. She doesn't need the stress period, and I suggest you remember that if you want to see her again because the next time... There won't be a next time if this happens again."

"No. I'm not going anywhere until I talk to my daughter." Joyce argued.

"Shut up, Mom!" Doyle yelled at Joyce.

Joyce spun around to look at her son with angry eyes. "What did you just say to me, young man?"

"I told you to shut up, and I meant it, Mom." Doyle stood his ground. "You heard, Angel. Buffy doesn't need this." His gaze moved from a gaping Joyce to his stepfather. "Giles, take Mom out to the waiting room. Cordy and I will be out in a few minutes."

Giles nodded, and pulled a fussing Joyce out of the room.

"Thanks." Angel gave Doyle a weak smile as he stroked Buffy's hair to try and soothe her sobbing.

"No problem, buddy. Just take care of my little sis." Doyle's gaze moved to Buffy. "And tell her I'll be back tomorrow."

"I will." Angel looked over at Cordelia.

"I know." She smiled at him. "You're staying here, and if I need anything I can reach you either here or at the penthouse, right?"

He nodded.

"Okay then, now that that's been established I guess we're going to go." Cordelia reached for Doyle's hand. "If you need anything just call and I'll try to bring it with us when we come back tomorrow, okay?"

"Okay." Angel watched Cordelia and her fiancee' leave before letting his gaze fall on his mother. "Mom..."

"Don't." She smiled at him. "I'm proud of you for handling things like the gentleman I raised you to be. Honestly, I don't think I could have handled things as well as you did."

"I second that." Hank Summers spoke up. "Joyce... I uhh... Okay, I'm not going to say anything. I'm shutting up right now. I'm not exactly one to comment on her behavior, but it doesn't mean that I approve of it either. And with that said, I'm going to go and let Buffy rest. I'll be back tomorrow."

"Me, too." Katherine O'Conner replied, and returned her gaze to her son. "If you need anything, honey..."

"I'll call." Angel finished. "Thanks, Mom."

"You're welcome." She smiled at him again, then turned to Hank Summers. "Mr. Summers, would you like to walk out with me? I think it's about time we got to know each other. Especially now that our kids are about to tie the knot."

"I'd like that, Mrs. O'Conner." Hank grinned at her before turning to Angel again. "Angel, you know to call me if either one of you need anything or if her condition changes?"

Angel nodded. "Yes, sir. I have both your home phone number and your cellphone number memorized."

Hank chuckled. "And I wonder why that is?"

"Don't know, sir." Angel grinned.

"Sure you don't." Hank laughed, and turned back to Katherine O'Conner. "Mrs. O'Conner." He offered her his arm. "Bye, honey..." Katherine O'Conner called over her shoulder as she let Hank Summers lead her from the room.

Once they were gone Angel returned his attention back to a now quiet Buffy. "The coast is clear." He murmured kissing the top of her head.

"A-Angel, I'm really sorry about my mom." She mumbled into his shirt.

"It's okay, Buffy. She didn't upset me. I understand the way she feels. She's afraid she's going to lose you, and it's scaring her."

"Well, if she keeps this attitude up she really will lose me."

"You don't mean that, baby. She's your mother and our child's grandmother. Just put yourself in her position for a second. Wouldn't you be scared?"

"Yes." Buffy sniffled and pulled away from him. "But I wouldn't make things harder on my daughter by acting the way she is."

"People react differently to fear, Buffy. It's their way of coping with it."

"How can you be so level headed about this, Angel? She was horrible to you."

"I kept my cool with her because she is the mother of the woman I love." Angel leaned down to brush a kiss across Buffy's lips. "Without her there would be no you, and I wouldn't be so lucky to have you in my life right now."

"Stop." Buffy clung to his jacket. "You're being incredibly sweet, loving, and terribly mushy and I can't handle it."

"You're exhausted." Angel gently pushed her back on the bed, and took the chair next to it. "You need to get some sleep."

"Can't sleep." She rolled onto her side, and raised her left hand to look at the ring on it. "Not until you tell me about this gorgeous ring. Where did you get it?"

"I think maybe I should hold off on that story for a while, Buffy."

"There's a story to it?"

"Uh huh." He murmured. "And now isn't the best time to tell you."

"Why? Does it have to do with how much it costs, because if it does I'm not a dummy, Angel. I know it probably cost you an arm and a leg."

"And does that bother you?" His eyes narrowed as he looked at her.

"N-No."

"Then why did you mention it?"

Buffy broke into a smile. "Because I was trying to worm you into telling me the story anyway."

"Well, it didn't work. I told you it'll have to wait until some other time."

"Why, Angel?" She huffed. "Why won't you tell me?"

"That's why." He chuckled. "Those hormones of yours are in overdrive. I'll tell you when things settle down some."

"It's going to make me cry, isn't it? That's why you won't tell me."

"I'm not saying. Now hush, and try to get some rest."

"I can't..." Buffy quickly rolled back onto her back.

"Buffy, baby you have to get some rest."

"I know that, Angel." She muttered. "The only problem is I don't think the baby is going to let that happen." She closed her eyes. "Oh God, I think I'm going to be sick."


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Thanks to Barb, Ashleigh, Marshae', Christine, Nikki, Danielle, Nina, Kim, Kristina, Carol Ann, Court, Sandy, Emma, Karen, Ryan, and Bobbie for their feedback last chapter. If you want the disclaimer you'll find it at the beginning! CHAPTER 46


Forty five minutes later Dr. Jobson was back in Buffy's room, standing beside her bed. "Is the medicine helping, Buffy?"

"Uh huh." She reached for Angel's hand. "And I'll feel even better once you tell us our baby is okay."

Dr. Jobson eyed the young couple. "So you've decided to proceed with the pregnancy?"

"Yes." Buffy nodded. "And I need to know what I'm... I mean we... Are going to have to do to make sure the both of us get through it okay."

"Well, for starters you're going to have to start taking better care of yourself. That means eating a well balanced diet, and getting plenty of rest."

"How exactly can I eat when I start puking my guts out everytime I swallow something?"

"I'm going to prescribe you something when you leave the hospital. Probably the same medication that was in the shot you received earlier if you tolerate it well. It's not uncommon for women to have severe nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Some more severe than others, which is your case."

"This medicine your giving me, is it safe? It won't hurt the baby will it?"

"No. But it will make you drowsy. Which will probably be good in your case. You're going to need to rest alot. Even if you're not tired. If you're working it might be best if you take a leave of absence until after the baby is born."

"Quit my job, huh? I don't think that'll be a problem. My honey over here is rich. I'll just live off him."

"Is that why you're marrying me? Because I'm rich?" Angel stared at her.

"Uh huh." She smirked at him. "You know it is." She looked back at an amused Dr. Jobson. "What else?"

"No heavy lifting."

"What about running? Can I still run?"

"Not for the time being. Just walking, and not brisk walking. Of course, that will have to stop too if you should start cramping, or spotting." He looked over at Angel then back at Buffy. "You can basically resume a normal life, Buffy. We'll just have to monitor you more closely than we would another pregnant woman because of the fact that you're in remission. By monitoring you more closely I mean blood work every two weeks. That's to watch your white cell count for any changes, and to make sure the anemia doesn't return or get worse after you finish your medication."

"I've... Angel and I... We've discussed it, and we've decided to delay chemo if I should come out of remission while I'm still pregnant."

"Okay, I'll note that in your chart, and pass the information onto the specialist I'm going to call in to work with me on your case."

"Specialtist?" Angel eyed Dr. Jobson.

"Yes, Dr. Marlene Covey. She's a gynecological oncologist. She's going to be the one to get Buffy through this pregnancy and deliver the baby. She's a very good friend of mine, and if you want my honest opinion, she's the best in her field. That's why I'm recommending her."

"So I'll be seeing her, too?" Buffy looked up at Dr. Jobson.

"No, Buffy. You'll only be seeing her. She's going to be doing your bloodwork as well. The only time you will be seeing me is if the leukemia should return before you deliver, and your next checkup which I plan to schedule sometime in the next three months. And just a warning, young lady. Don't miss anymore appointments with me. You know how crucial this time period is. We still have three years to go, and you know how important it is for you to keep your appointments."

"More needles. Yeah." Buffy muttered.

"Maybe you should think about bringing Angel with you to every visit. He seems to have a knack for distracting you from needles, or at least that's what Nurse Moore tells me. Of course, she had a few other things to say which I won't bother to repeat."

Buffy blushed at the memory, and Angel cleared his throat nervously. "Dr. Jobson, I umm... I would like..."

Dr. Jobson started laughing. "Don't apologize, Angel. If anyone is to blame here it's me. I told the nursing staff you would be staying with Buffy, but I guess they didn't get that I meant at all times. It's all been cleared up now, and you shouldn't have anymore problems. Besides, I'm glad that you questioned my orders. It showed me that you really care, and on top of that you managed to save us from having to restrain Buffy." He looked over at Buffy, and couldn't help but laugh again because of the look on her face. He reached out and patted her hand. "You know I'm just picking on you, Buffy. I'm just trying to make things easier for you. If you want to keep this baby and live a long and happy life you're going to have to deal with the needles."

"I understand." She relaxed and looked over at Angel then back at Dr. Jobson. "Last question. Do I need to stay in LA or can I uhh... Can I..."

"Go home to Sunnydale." Angel finished for her. "I want to take her home to Sunnydale."

"I don't see why not as long as there's not any problems. I would however recommend that as your due date gets closer you consider sticking closer to LA, but I think you should discuss all of this with Dr. Covey and see if she agrees since she's the one that's going to be your doctor." He looked back and forth at the couple. "Anything else?"

Buffy shook her head. "No. Not right now. So can we get the show on the road, Doc. I'm anxious here."

"Okay, Buffy." Dr. Jobson walked over to the machine that was sat up at the end of Buffy's bed, and sat down in the stool in front of it.

"Angel, would you mind hitting the button on Buffy's bed. I need to have her flat on her back." Angel did as Dr. Jobson asked, and helped Buffy get situated before sitting back down. "Buffy, I need you to raise your gown to expose your belly." He turned with a bottle in his hand, and waited while Buffy did as he asked. "Now this is just a lubricating jelly, Buffy. All I'm going to do is apply some to your stomach. It helps move the ultrasound traducer around, okay?"

"Kay." Buffy replied and gasped as the jelly hit her stomach. "Th- That's cold."

Dr. Jobson chuckled. "Sorry about that. I warmed it up earlier, but I guess it must have gotten cold while we were talking." He reached for the tranducer on the ultrasound, and turned back to the couple.

"Are you ready to see your baby?"

Buffy nodded, and nervously reached for Angel's hand. He grasped it in his and leaned as close to her as possible while Dr. Jobson applied the transducer to Buffy's stomach, and began to slowly move it around. It didn't take long for him to find what he was looking for, and he pointed to the monitor. "Buffy, Angel, take a look." He moved his finger to a place on the screen. "Can you see this little white figure right here? That's your baby."

"A-Angel..." A sob tore from Buffy's throat as her eyes landed on the tiny white spot. "Do you s-see it?"

"I see it, Ionuin." Angel kissed her fingers. "It's so tiny."

"A-And beautiful." Buffy started crying, and turned her head to look at Angel. "Oh God, Angel that's our baby."

"I know." He smiled through his own tears and leaned forward to kiss her. "She's beautiful. Just like her mother."

"She?" Buffy sniffled. "H-How do you know it's a girl?"

He brushed another kiss across her lips, and looked back at the screen. "I just have this feeling, that's all."

"W-Well, I hope it's a b-boy. A little boy with your eyes." Buffy looked over at Dr. Jobson. "Dr. Jobson, can you tell what it is?"

He shook his head and moved the transducer around a little more. "No. It's too early to tell. Give it a few more weeks. I'm sure Dr. Covey will do several more of these, and if you want to know the sex you can tell her then."

"Does that mean that there's something wrong?" Buffy asked alarmed.

"No. No, Buffy. Actually everything looks really good. The fetus' development looks great so far, and it has a really strong heartbeat."

"So our baby's okay?" Buffy started crying again.

"Yes, it is." He turned back to the couple. "Now the goal is to make sure it stays that way."

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Forever...That's The Whole Point has been nominated for Best Angst in the Sweet Misery Awards. Thanks to those who nominated me and loved reading the story as much as I loved writing it. Also, thanks to Sandy, Kim, Jennifer, Ryan, Gretchen, Karen, Emma, SW, Court, Jade, Carol Ann, Linda, Christine, Diana, and Tiffany for their feedback last chapter. Anita (Angellover) CHAPTER 47


Buffy was laying on her side watching Angel sleep in the chair beside her bed the next morning when her hospital room door came open. She rolled over to see who it was and immediately tensed when her eyes landed on the person standing in the doorway. "Can I come in?"

"If you're going to scream and yell at me the answer is no. It's been a long night, and I want Angel to sleep."

Angel sat up in the chair. "It's okay, baby. I'm awake." He ran his hands over his face before focusing on the woman in the doorway. "Joyce."

"Angel." Joyce replied, actually smiling. "I uhh... Do you think maybe I could have some time alone with Buffy? I promise I won't upset her."

"Buffy?" Angel looked over at Buffy.

"I'll talk to her." Buffy glared at her mother. "But I'm telling you now that if she starts giving me a hard time I'm calling security."

Angel stood up and leaned over to feather a kiss across Buffy's lips. "If you need me I'll be in the waiting room. Just have the nurses come get me." When he started to pull away Buffy gripped his shirt, and pulled him back down. "Go home."

He blinked in surprise. "What? Buffy..."

"Please, Angel." She reached up to caress his cheek. "You got less sleep than I did last night. Go back to the penthouse and sleep a couple of hours and then come back. The last thing we need is for you to get sick, too. Do it for me, okay?"

"But..." He started to argue with her.

"No buts, Angel." She pouted. "Go home. If I need you I'll call. I promise."

His eyes locked with hers. "I hate when you do that." He muttered.

She giggled. "No, you don't. You love it because you love me. Now get out of here."

"I do love you. That's the reason I'll do as you ask." He gave her another kiss. "I'll be back after while."

She let go of his shirt and watched him straighten. "I'll be here."

"Do you need anything?" He asked as he turned back to the chair to grab his coat.

"Pajamas, underclothes. All that good stuff." She pointed to her hospital gown when he turned back to her. "I hate these damn things. I want my own."

"Okay." His worried gaze met hers. "You'll call..."

"I will." She pointed towards the door. "Now go."

He mouthed I love you to her then shot her one last parting glance before turning and closing the distance to his future mother-in-law. "Joyce, I'm going to the penthouse. Do you still have the number?"

She nodded as he stopped to look at her. "Yes, and I have your cellphone numbers as well."

"Good. If she needs..."

"Angel..." Buffy warned from behind him.

"You'll call?" Angel asked quickly.

"I'll call." Joyce answered, and gave him a reassuring smile.

"Thanks." He returned her smile then quickly disappeared out the door.

Joyce turned to watch him leave, and didn't turn back around to face Buffy until the door closed shut. "Was he here all night?"

"His name is Angel, Mother." Buffy answered coolly. "And the answer is yes. He wouldn't leave me. I started vomiting again after everyone left last night, and he made the nurses page Dr. Jobson. Luckily Dr. Jobson was still here, so we decided to go ahead and talk to him about everything, and after that... He's scared. Even after the shot they gave me knocked me out he stayed by my side and I know for a fact he didn't get get any sleep except for the thirty minutes he got before you got here. The last thing I need is for him to get sick from exhaustion. It happened before and it could have very easily killed him. I would never be able to forgive myself if something happened to him out of his concern for me."

Joyce watched the play of emotions on Buffy's face. "You really do love him, don't you?"

"More than life." Buffy locked eyes with her mother. "Why do you think this baby is so important to me? It's a part of him." Her eyes welled up with tears. "Where were you all those months I tried to tell you that, Mom?"

"I was there being a mother." Joyce replied, and closed the distance to the chair beside Buffy's bed. "And before you go ballistic on me will you please just hear me out?" Buffy nodded, and Joyce sat down. "A mother, Buffy... She wants to give the world to her child. I wanted to give the world to you. Even more so than most mothers because of the fact that you missed out on so much after you got sick. The first time was so hard on you, but you bounced back after you went into remission, and you were even happy. But the second time... You were right. You did change. I saw it. I saw how you gave up dreaming of a future. I saw that you wouldn't even plan for one. I saw the way you tried to live each day to the fullest. Like you thought it was going to be your last, and it killed me to watch you do it. I watched you, and it was almost like you were wishing the leukemia back. And God, I hated to even say the word around you because I knew it was the reason you were holding back. I knew it was the reason you wouldn't dream about designing and love anymore. I knew and saw everything, baby girl and it killed me because I knew how much you loved designing. I knew, too that you had a gift. I saw it everytime you created something. Saw how proud you were to see the people you made those beautiful creations for wear them, and I wanted to see you shine. You were that good, but you failed to see it because you failed to see a future, so I started dreaming for you. I wanted to see you go all the way."

"And what about love, Mom? Didn't I deserve to succeed in love, too?"

"Yes. God yes, Buffy. I wanted that for you, too. But I was hoping it would come after you had finished achieving your dream in designing. I wanted you to go to college, and then leave there to go and make your mark in the world. And unlike you I believed with all my heart that there was a man out there that could love you no matter what. I believed there was someone out there that could love you beyond imagination, but I just hoped that he would come along later. After college and you making your mark in the world. And then Angel came along, and it wasn't that I didn't like him. I did. I do. He's every mother's dream for their daughter, but he came at the wrong time. At least that's the way I looked at it. I thought you were settling, honey. I knew you cared for him, but I was afraid you were doing what you had been doing since you got sick the second time. I thought you let yourself fancy yourself in love with him because you were afraid you would get sick again and you would never have the opportunity to experience the kinda love you deserved. Real love. And a mother... A mother doesn't want her child to settle, Buffy. She wants her child to have the best life has to offer. And education, a career, and love. And my heart was set on them coming in that order because that's the way my parents drilled it into my head. I made the one mistake I swore I would never make. I did exactly what may parents did. I didn't listen to you. But you have to believe me when I say it wasn't intentional. I was just being a mother. A mother who wanted the best for her daughter. And I hope that maybe someday you can forgive me for refusing to listen to you. For being so blinded by my love for you to see what you really wanted."

"It wasn't that I couldn't forgive you, Mom. I could and I did. I forgave you when I forgave Angel because he made me see why the both of you did what you did. The problem now and for the last three months has been the fact that even after I told you how I felt you still wouldn't listen to me." Buffy's eyes welled up with tears. "And gods, as much as I tried not to, I hated you. You planted doubts about myself in my head by doing what you did. You pulled a Hank, and it hurt. It hurt so much, and it made me hate myself. By doing what you did, I doubted my own worthiness. I've spent the last six months believing I wasn't good enough for anyone. For Angel... Even after he has proved his love for me over and over again from the day we got back together, deep down I didn't want it. I didn't want his love because I didn't think I was good enough for him, and by doing that I wasted so much time. I wasted three months with him. Three months of precious time with him, and when I realized I could be sick again I hated you so much for planting those doubts in my head. I hated you because those three months were time I could have lived. Really lived." Buffy swiped at her tears. "Angel is my life, Mom. The only time I have ever felt alive is when I'm with him. So if you ever doubt that I settled again, don't. I got that world you wanted me to have. I got the best. I got everything you wanted me to have and so much more with Angel. He's my dream. My life. My everything. And without him I'm nothing."

"Oh, Buffy..." Joyce started crying, too. "I'm so sorry, honey. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make you cry. Please don't cry. It's not good for you or the baby. He or she can sense when you're upset."

Buffy stopped crying, and stared at her mother. "I-I didn't know that."

Joyce half laughed, half sobbed. "Well, that's what some experts say, but then you've got the one's that are idiots and swear up and down they can't. Mainly men. And I can't help but wonder how the hell they would know when they can't have babies."

"Do you think i-it's true?"

"I do." Joyce nodded, and watched as Buffy began to rub her belly. "A baby..." She started crying again. "My baby's going to have a baby. I'm going to be a grandma."

"Please stop crying, Mom." Buffy sniffled. "I can't handle it. I'm really emotional lately."

Joyce smiled through her tears. "Raging hormones, huh?"

All Buffy could do was shake her head because she was too choked up to speak.

"It gets better."

"I-It does?"

"Mmm..." Joyce leaned over to smoothe the hair from Buffy's forehead. "For awhile, and then it all starts up again. Poor Angel... He has no idea what he's in store for."

"Y-Yes, he does." Buffy couldn't help but giggle. "He's already gotten several doses of it. Last weekend being the worst so far."

"And how did he handle it."

"Let's just say he lived up to his name." Buffy smiled. "He can be so sweet sometimes. W-Well, most of the time actually. But he has a mean streak in him, too. I know you probably don't want to hear this, but it's so funny I have to tell you anyway." She rolled onto her side to look at Joyce. "When I got sick last night he had the nurse call Dr. Jobson to see if he would give me something. Well, the nurse returns a few minutes later and it turns out the medicine is in a shot."

"Oh, Boy..." Joyce muttered.

"Exactly." Buffy grimaced. "Well, Angel sees my reaction, and being the brain he is he thinks to ask the nurse why she just can't put it in my IV instead of where she wants to put it."

"Did she?"

"No." Buffy shook her head. "She couldn't. She went back out and called Dr. Jobson then came back a few minutes later and gives us some rigor maror about fatty tissues, and too much medication in my veins would blow them, and that I had to have the shot in my hip. Needless to say I wasn't happy, and to make matters worse she ordered Angel to leave while she gave it to me. Angel, of course refused and the nurse refused to give the shot to me until he did. In fact, She took this attitude with him. Apparantely she's really old fashion and she thought it was inappropriate for him to be in here to see my uhh... Well, my rump. And then she told him that in those exact words."

"What did Angel have to say to her after that?"

"Well, at first he didn't say anything. He just looked at her with this *I know you didn't* look, and then he nailed her with those dark, gorgeous eyes of his, and very calmly told her that he had seen a hell of a whole lot more than my rump, and it was because he had that I was in the condition I was in. Then he very simply told her that I was his mate, and as such he couldn't stand to see me suffer any kind of pain and that if she didn't give me the shot to stop it he was going to rip her F'n head off."

Joyce stared at Buffy in shock. "He didn't?"

"Yes, he did." Buffy started giggling again. "And of course, you know me... Shot equals needle, and I'm totally freaking out because I so don't want it, but he insists that I have to have it, and orders the nurse to do it anyway."

"Did she?"

"Uh huh, and as usual he came to my rescue. Totally ignoring the dirty looks the nurse from hell is giving him because apparantly she thinks PDA's are inappropriate behavior as well, he went about using those incredibly sweet lips of his to distract me while she's giving me the shot."

Joyce leaned back in her chair. "And his uhh... Did his distracting you work?"

"Like a charm." Buffy beamed. "Several minutes had went by before I finally realized she had already stuck me and left."

"Wow, honey. That's uhh..." Joyce murmured. "Wow."

"My sentiments exactly." Buffy grinned from ear to ear. "Of course, that old hag of a nurse didn't agree with me. She went straight to Dr. Jobson and told him what happened with Angel."

"What did Dr. Jobson say?"

"I'm not exactly sure what he said to her, but I can tell you that the end result wasn't to her liking because now she has to deal with mine and Angel's inappropriate behavior for as long as I'm here. Dr. Jobson told Angel that we wouldn't have anyone else telling him him he had to leave. He also suggested that maybe I should consider bringing Angel to all my doctor's appointments since he had such a knack for distracting me from needles."

Joyce swallowed against the lump in her throat. "You're practically glowing." She started crying. "Oh God, Buffy... Honey... I'm so... I haven't seen you th-this happy since you were little. I mean I saw it before... The night I m-met Angel... I saw that same look, but I d-didn't want to see it, you know? I-I'm sorry, Buffy. I-I'm so sorry for what I did. For not seeing how much he really meant to you. C-Can you forgive me?"

"I already have..." Buffy started crying again, too. "I n-need you, Mommy. My baby needs it's grandma. I umm... If something happens to me... I n-need you to p-promise me that you'll h-help Angel take care of our baby. I n-need you to promise me that you'll take care of the t-two most important people in my life. W-Will you d-do that for me, Mommy? W-Will you promise me that y-you'll take care of them?"

Joyce reached for Buffy's hand, careful to avoid her IV. "I p-promise, baby girl. I promise."

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Happy Holidays everyone and thanks to Tiffany, Diana, Cristina, Christine, L.K., Carol Ann, Jade, Court, Sandy, Emma, Karen, Gretchen, Isis, Ryan, and Danielle for their continuing support. Anita CHAPTER 48


Buffy woke later that afternoon to find Angel sitting in the chair beside her bed deep in thought. So deep in thought that he didn't notice that she was awake, and watching him. "Hey you, what are you thinking about?"

Angel shook himself out of his reverie, and raised his eyes to her. "I was thinking you're supposed to be sleeping."

"And you're avoiding my question. Why?" She searched his face. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing." He murmured.

"Angel... Honey, don't lie to me. Something is wrong and I want to know what it is."

"It's nothing, Buffy. Just some thoughts in my head. I swear." He scooted his chair closer to the bed, and leaned over to kiss her. "I'll tell you some other time." He pulled away from her, but stayed within touching distance.

She reached up to caress his face. "You still look tired. Did you get any sleep?"

He shook his head. "Couldn't."

"Angel..." Buffy frowned.

He cut her off by leaning in to kiss her again, then rested his forehead against hers after he pulled away. "I'll sleep when I get you home."

"Mmm... home..." Buffy murmured. "Sounds really nice. And oh, speaking of home, Dr. Jobson was in earlier and he said that I have one more bag of fluids left and then he'll take the IV out, and if I do good for the rest of the night he'll release me tomorrow."

This time it was Angel's turn to frown. "Tomorrow? That's a little soon, don't you think?"

"You're asking me if I think tomorrow's too soon to be sprung from this place?" Buffy asked in disbelief, and stared at him. "Okay, now I know you really are tired, honey because you know damn good and well that if I had it my way I wouldn't be here at all. No, tomorrow is definitely not to soon. To me it's not soon enough."

"I know exactly how you feel, Buffy. I'm just upset that you didn't call me. I should have been here to talk to him."

"I know you wanted to be, Angel but it's not like a doctor's appointment where you expect to see him at a certain time. He makes rounds when he makes rounds, and even if I had called you wouldn't have been able to make it here on time. Besides, there's nothing to worry about. I wasn't alone. Mom was here."

"And?"

"We're cool."

Angel searched her face. "Really?"

"Mmm... We understand each other perfectly now. She's even excited about being a grandma. She bought me that book *WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU'RE EXPECTING* and I showed her the sonagram picture Dr. Jobson gave us of the baby last night. She cried."

"She did?"

"Uh huh. She hopes it's a boy."

"But she would be happy with a girl, right. Because it's going to be a girl."

Buffy turned on her side to look at him. "Why a girl? I thought all men wanted their first born to be a boy?"

"Not this man." Angel smiled. "This man wants a little girl that looks just like her mother." He scooted even closer to the bed, and laid his head down on her stomach. "Tell her little one. Tell mommy that you're going to look just like her."

He kept his head there, and Buffy's hands went to his hair to thread through it as she lovingly watched his face. "Is he saying anything back?"

"Mmm..." Angel's smile grew even bigger. "She told me to tell you to quit calling her a he."

Their eyes locked. "Do you really want a girl, Angel?"

"Yes, I do." He whispered. "I want a little girl with golden hair and emerald eyes just like her mother."

"Seriously..." Buffy combed her fingers through his hair. "Do you want to know what it is? Dr. Jobson said Dr. Covey would do more sonograms. We could find out if you want."

"I don't need to find out because I already know."

"Angel..." Buffy rolled her eyes. "I'm serious, honey. Do you want to know or not?"

"No. I honestly don't care what it is as long as he or she is okay."

"Liar... You want a girl. You wouldn't have said it if you didn't."

"Okay, I admit it. I do want a girl, but I'll be happy with whatever you give me simply because it's a part of you."

"Good, I'm glad you said that because it's a boy."

"Girl." Angel kissed her belly. "Isn't that right, baby?"

"What is he doing?"

Buffy's eyes flew to the hospital room door. "Oh, umm..."

"I'm talking to my daughter, dumb ass." Angel muttered and raised his head to look at the owner of the voice. "What the hell are you doing here, Spike?"

"Well, hello to you too, peaches."

"I asked you a question, Spike. What are you doing here?"

"I was in the neighborhood." Spike sauntered into the room. "Thought I'd stop by and say hello." His gaze moved to Buffy. "Hello, pet. Long time no see."

"Hello, William. How are you?"

"I'm much better than the last time I saw you." He grinned. "What about you, luv? Are you feeling better?"

"Spike..." Angel growled. "Buffy is not your love, and I would appreciate it if you would refrain from calling her that."

Spike pointed to Angel, but let his eyes remain on Buffy. "He's just a tad jealous, isn't he?"

"Just a little." Buffy murmured. "I umm... Would you like to sit down?"

"As a matter of fact I would like to take a load off, thanks." Spike moved to the empty chair on the other side of Buffy's bed, and sat down. "So... A baby. Congratulations, peaches."

"Thank you." Angel replied coolly.

"And you, Buffy... Congratulations to you, too." Spike returned his gaze to her. "I also heard the two of you are planning to tie the knot. Have you set a date yet?"

Buffy shook her head. "No. But Angel's already given me my engagement ring. See..." She lifted her hand to show Spike the five carat heart-shaped diamond ring. "Isn't it beautiful?"

Spike reached out to catch her hand. "It's more than beautiful, pet. It's stunning." His eyes returned to Angel. "And what exactly did you pay for that little bauble, nancy boy? I mean, I'm no jeweller but I would have to guess at least a hundred grand. Am I right?"

"A-A hundred grand?" Buffy choked out as her stunned gaze flew to her fiancee'. "A-Angel..."

"You're worth every penny and more." He murmured, meeting her gaze. "And don't worry. I got it insured." His very dark orbs moved back to his brother. "And you make sure you tell Darla that when you talk to her."

Spike chuckled. "I never could fool you, could I, brother of mine?"

"No. Now get the hell out of here before I rip your fucking head off."

"It's not what you think, Angelus."

"It's not?" Angel growled through gritted teeth. "I said get out, Spike. If you and Darla want to snoop into my life, be my guest. But don't and I repeat... Don't ever come at me through my mate and my child again. EVER! If you do I'll kill the both of you."

"Then you'll have to kill me now, Angelus because I'm not leaving. Not until you let me explain." Spike's eyes moved back to Buffy. "Darla heard the news, pet. That Angelus got engaged, and I swear it wasn't from me. I didn't find out myself until this morning. I've been in London all week, and I didn't get home till late last night. I didn't even talk to mom, and she was gone when Darla called me this morning all upset and asked me if it was true."

Buffy eyed Spike warily. "If you didn't know then how did she find out?"

"There's a leak. Apparantly here in the hospital. The news broke on the both the telly and the radio sometime this morning. I didn't believe it myself until Darla told me to turn on the telly. And like I said before, she wanted me to verify if it was true." Spike's gaze returned to Angel. "I didn't come down here to snoop for her like you think, Angelus. I came to warn you about the leak, and it's a good thing I did because the press is filing in downstairs. Pretty soon this place is going to be crawling with more snoops than you could ever imagine trying to get a story."

"Sonofabitch!" Angel muttered, and shot to his feet.

"Angel..." Buffy laid her hand on his arm. "Honey, it's okay."

"No, it's not okay, Buffy. The last thing you need right now is more upset." Angel's stormy eyes traveled to his brother. "No one comes in this room unless Buffy knows them, understood? Not even the nurses. Not until I get back."

"Gotcha." Spike grinned.

Angel nodded, and leaned over to give Buffy a quick kiss. "I'll be back, baby."

Buffy's concerned eyes locked with his angry ones. "B-But... W-Where are you going?"

"To take care of this. I won't be long."

She grabbed his hand in panic. "A-Angel, you don't..."

"Yes, I do, Buffy. No one's going to hurt you or our child. Now let go. I'll take care of it and come straight back, I promise."

"I love you." She squeezed his hand.

"I love you, too." He brought her hand to his lips, and grazed a kiss along her knuckles, then let go and turned back to Spike. "Spike..."

"I know. I know, nancy boy. Trust me. I'm not going to put the moves on her. I want to keep my body parts, thank you very much. Now get the hell out of here and go take care of business. I'll guard her with my life."

"Thanks." He took one last look at Buffy then disappeared out of the room, leaving her alone with his brother.

"Poor, peaches." Spike turned back around in his chair to look at Buffy. "He's got it pretty bad for you, goldilocks." He chuckled. "Wait till I tell Darla just how bad. The bitch is going to have a heart attack and die, and I'm going to be the first to dance on her grave."

Buffy stared at Spike in stunned silence. "B-But... You d-don't like her?"

"Nope. Never did. I just used her for the whore she was. And the only reason I slept with her the last time was because I was trying to open my little brother's eyes."

Buffy frowned . "I-I don't understand."

"What's not to understand, pet? I dated the girl for almost five years. She claimed I was her one and only, but I knew better. She was nothing but a high priced whore. I was glad to get rid of her, and just when I was getting used to not having her around, Peaches ups and takes her to his bed. To say I was upset was an understatement. I knew she was using him for his money, but he was too blind to see it. Even after the little incident where he nearly croaked. He never loved her though. I think he just enjoyed the fact that he eventually got her after years of trying. Then when he found out the problems she had... The drugs and alcohol. He thought he could change her, but you can't change a woman that doesn't want to be changed. He became so obsessed with helping her he started talking about marrying her in the hopes she would straighten up, but I couldn't let him do it. I started looking for something... anything to break them up, and I finally got the evidence to prove to him who she really was. It turned out she used an old friend of his, Charles Gunn, to find out when he was going to be in LA again and arranged to be at that party the night she hooked up with him. It's funny what a scorned lover will admit to when he's three sheets to the wind. Gunn told me everything. He said Darla planned to seduce Angelus into marrying her, and then she was going to take him to the cleaners. When I found that out I knew if I went to Angelus and told him he wouldn't believe me, so I did what I had to do. I slept with her to save him from making a very big mistake. See, what Darla didn't know is that we O'Conners take marriage very seriously. It's very sacred, and we live up to our vows no matter how bad things are. When we marry we marry for life." Spike looked down at his hands. "I couldn't see my little brother shackled in a loveless marriage because believe it or not I do love him, and I want the best for him. I wanted him to have what our Mom and Dad had. Darla wasn't the one for him and there was no way in hell I was going to let that fucking guilty conscience of his get him shackled into a marriage with her."

"So you slept with her to save him."

"Yeah." Spike grinned. "It wasn't so bad. I liked playing the bitch. She deserved it for the hell she put him through the three years she was with him. I convinced her that I hated him because he had everything I wanted, and I agreed to help her take him to the cleaners for a cut of the money. I'm telling you, pet. Angelus doesn't know just how evil that woman really can be. She's sick. Into the kinky stuff and she had me do unimaginable things to her that day in every room of their apartment because she said she was sick of being with someone that didn't know shit about fucking. I know what I did was wrong, but I don't regret it. I saved him from fucking up his life. I wanted him to have a woman that could love him the way he deserved, and now he will because he found you. His true mate."

Buffy's eyes welled up with tears. "Why haven't you told him what you just told me?"

"Don't have to, pet." Spike grinned again. "He's already figured it out. He wouldn't have entrusted you into my care if he hadn't."

"And why exactly he did entrust me to you is totally beyond me." Buffy pointed to him. "I mean, look at you. How exactly can you protect me?"

Spike busted out laughing. "Now don't go all cocky on me, goldilocks. I may look scrawny, and I may have let you nearly knock my teeth out once, but believe me my looks are deceiving. You caught me off guard that day. Well that and I would never hit a lady. Dad taught Angelus and I to always respect them and to never take advantage of them, and we took his teachings to heart. And there's something else I should tell you in case you didn't know, Dad also made sure that Angelus and I learned how to protect ourselves from an early age. We started taking Karate from the moment we could walk, and Mom made sure we continued our lessons after he died. The both of us are very well trained, and more than capable of defending our lives and the lives of others. And although I'll never admit it to him, I will admit it to you that Angelus is much much better at the arts than I am. He wasn't joking when he said he would rip my fucking head off. He can and he very easily could do just that if he really wanted to."

"Oh God..." Buffy's eyes flew to the door. "Why did you have to go and tell me that, Spike? Now I'm going to worry myself sick. You saw how angry he was."

"Now, now, pet. Don't go gettin' your knickers in a bind. I agree he was angry, but even though he is he'll keep his cool. He knows he has too much to lose if he doesn't. Now quit worrying your pretty little head off and tell me all about yourself. It's time I got to know the mother of my little nephew."

Buffy started laughing.

"What?" Spike started at her. "What did I say."

She sobered, and shook her head. "Nothing, it's just if I were you I wouldn't let Angel hear you call this baby a he. He has his heart set on it being a little girl."

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Happy New Year everyone! And a special Happy New Year to Christine, Kim, Jade, Sam, Court, Sandy, jeditheskyisblue, Emma, Cristina, Ashleigh, Karen, Kolumbyne, Gretchen, Danielle, Nicole, Rusty, Ryan, and Jenn. Thanks for your continuing support guys! Anita CHAPTER 49


"Mmm... This is nice. Don't you think this is nice?"

"Better than nice." Angel murmured into Buffy's hair. "You're home where you belong."

Buffy trailed her fingers up one of his arms. "Well, if you're happy that I'm home then why haven't you relaxed? Are you still upset about yesterday?"

"Yes."

"Angel, honey it's not your fault that our favorite nurse from hell got her revenge on you by leaking our engagement and the fact that I'm pregnant to the press. She was money hungry and saw potential dollar signs."

"How can you be so calm about it, Buffy? Your name was plastered all over the tv and radio not to mention what was in the papers and tabloids this morning. I promised Doyle I wouldn't let that happen, and I broke that promise."

Buffy rolled over to look at him. "First of all, mister. You did not break your promise to my brother and he knows it. And second of all, the reason I'm so calm is because the press would have found out eventually. You know it as well as I do, and I can't understand why you're so upset about it. You made sure she paid for what she did. She lost her job, and she'll probably never be able to work as a nurse again because she broke patient confidentiality. In the end you won."

"No, I didn't win, Buffy. All I did was threaten to sue her ass and anyone else involved if something happened to you or our baby. All I did was stop the snooping. That's it. It didn't stop the stories. The tabloids..." His eyes grew pained. "They made you out to be some hypochondriac who faked your illness to play on my sympathy. They made you out to be the greedy one, and they claimed you intentionally trapped me into marriage by getting pregnant, and that's what pisses me off. I love you. And what they did... The things they said... It hurts because people will actually read that crap and believe every word of it. People are actually going to believe that's who you are."

Buffy reached up to caress his cheek. "Do you think that's who I am?"

"Of course not, Buffy. You know I don't."

"Well, that's all that matters then. As long as you know who I really am then I don't care what anyone else thinks about me."

"I care, baby." He took her hand and brushed a kiss to the inside of her palm. "And I thought you did, too."

"That was before."

"Before what?"

She smiled. "Before this really terrific guy made me see that what was between us was just between us and no one else. Great advice from a really smart man. I'm thinking I might marry him someday."

"Someday?" His eyes narrowed as he looked at her.

She giggled. "Yeah, someday. It's a word used in a sentence when you don't know specific dates or times. It can easily be replaced once an actual date or time is established."

Angel wrapped his arms around her, and pulled her up against him. "Is that a hint Miss. Summers?"

"No, Mr. O'Conner it's not." She snuggled into his chest. "I was just stating known fact."

"So maybe we should think about it." He buried his face in her neck. "Setting a date, I mean."

"We could, or we could wait until after the baby's born. That way people would know it wasn't a shotgun wedding."

He pulled back to look at her. "I thought you said you didn't care what people thought?"

"I don't. It was just a suggestion, Angel. I don't want you to think you have to marry me just to give our baby your last name. He or she will have that whether we're married or not."

"Is that what you think, Buffy? Do you think I asked you to marry me just because your pregnant."

"No." She mumbled, and looked away. And the moment she did he swore under his breath as he realized what she was thinking. "God damnit, Buffy..." He sat up in the bed. "I don't fucking believe this. You think I asked you to marry me because I thought you were sick."

"Angel..." Buffy sat up beside him. "It's not that I doubt that you love me. I don't. I know that. I do."

"But you still think that I proposed to you because of the leukemia, don't you, Buffy?" He turned his head to look at her.

"I uhh..."

"You know what, don't bother to answer that, Buffy." He cut her off. "I see it in your eyes, and as much as I hate to upset you right now, I'm going to do it anyway because I want you to know the truth. You need to know the truth because there is no way in hell I'm going to let you continue to think I..." Angel reached for her right hand, and began to toy with the claddagh ring on her ring finger. "Do you see this. I gave this to you because I loved you. Not just that..." He sighed. "You and I... As much as we love each other we still have a tendancy to keep things from each other because of our fears. The thing is you just didn't keep things from me, I kept something from you, too.

And the only reason I did it was out of fear of scaring you." He looked back over at her. "Do you remember the day I gave this to you."

Buffy nodded. "I remember every word you said to me that day."

"I do, too. Remember everything about that day. Everything we did, and said to each other. And I remember telling you the story of how my father gave this exact ring to my mother. Do you remember that?"

"Uh huh." She searched his face. "Why?"

His dark orbs locked with hers. "Because I sort of left out a part of the story. A very important part."

"I don't understand, Angel... What important..." And then it hit Buffy. She looked down at the ring he was toying with and somehow she just knew. Love, Loyalty, and Friendship... Heart, Body, and Soul... Oh God... He put it on my left hand. My left ring finger with the heart facing towards me. He said it meant I belonged to him. Like a wife... A wife... "Oh God..." A sob tore from her throat and her eyes flew back to his. "Th-This ring... I-It's a... I'm your... Oh God..." She choked out and slid off the bed.

"Buffy..." Angel was off the bed, and purposely moving towards her as she backed away.

"H-How could you do th-that? H-How could you n-not tell m-me?"

"Because I didn't want to scare you. I didn't want to rush you into something you wasn't ready for. I knew. Somewhere deep inside of me I knew from the very first moment I laid eyes on you that you were meant to be mine. Of course, it took me awhile to figure it out, and even longer to tell you how I felt about you, but thanks to my mom, and a little eye opener from you, I finally did see it. When mom gave me those rings, and you told me that you loved me all in the same day it was like a sign... I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that day that you were mine... My other half... My completion... My soulmate... My wife. And just like my father the day he gave my mom the very same ring I gave you, I didn't need a piece of paper to tell me that. Just like my father gave my mom the same ring I gave you, I took you and I made you my wife in every way. Heart, body, and soul, Buffy. And I planned to tell you. I did. When the time was right. And trust me, baby. It wasn't easy for me to keep it from you. Especially after we got back from LA. Those two weeks that I spent with you while your mom and Giles were on their honeymoon made me feel like we were on ours, too. And God, you have no idea how hard it was for me to crawl out of your bed and leave you every morning. But if you think that was the hardest part, you'e wrong. The hardest part for me came when Giles and your mom came back. I missed sleeping with you... Holding you in my arms... I dreamt of you every night, and it only made the next morning even worse for me. Waking without you by my side... it was killing me, and the few short hours that we snatched in the evenings. It wasn't enough. It was killing me, Buffy. So much so that I finally reached a decision. I finally decided to quit being scared. I wanted you with me every second of every day, and once I reached that decision I wanted to do it right this time. I wanted to make you my wife in every way... On paper... In the eyes of God... In front of our family and friends. I wanted to make you my wife for real, and once I knew that I wanted that more than anything, I called my mom. My dad had an old childhood friend in Galway that's family had been making Claddaghs and other Irish wedding rings since the seventeenth century and had a reputation for being the best at what they did, and I knew that my mom had kept in touch with him after my dad died. I called her to ask for his number. I told her I was going to ask you to marry me, and that I wanted my dad's friend to design your ring."

Silent tears coursed down Buffy's cheeks. "W-When? W-When did you call him?"

"The first week in April. I called him the same day my mom gave me his number, and I told him who I was when I called. We talked a few minutes, and then I told him the real reason for my call. He then proceeded to ask me questions about what I wanted the ring to look like, and I told him. I knew I wanted the center stone to be heart shaped to keep in the tradition of the claddagh and to symbolize my love for you. That's when he told me about the this diamond he had just purchased. He said it was exquisite, and the moment he said that I knew it was meant for you because in my eyes you are and always will be exquisite. The moment he told me about this diamond I knew it was meant to be yours and I told him to get started on designing the ring. I wanted the best for the best. He told me he would work up a few designs and fax them to me when he was finished, and evidently he does know what he's doing because the next day he faxed me a design that was to tee exactly what I had pictured your ring to look like and within minutes I was back on the phone with him telling him to get started on it and not to spare any expense. I told him it was very important that I have that ring in my hands by May twelfth."

"May twelfth." Buffy stopped in her tracks. "P-Prom? Y-You were going to ask me to marry you p- prom night?"

Angel's eyes locked with hers. "Yes."

"Oh God..." Buffy felt her stomach lurch and spun away from him.

"Buffy..." Angel closed the distance to her and slid his arms around her waist, pulling her back against him.

"I h-hated you. A-All that time I th-thought... N-No... I b-believed..." She spun around and pounded his chest with her fists. "God damn you, A-Angel! I-I hated you. H-How could you? H-How could you let go of me after what you just told m-me? H-How could you l-let me h-hate you?"

Angel's own eyes pooled, and he pulled her to him, clinging to her like a lifeline. "Because I never could have let you go if you had still loved me."

"Oh God..." Buffy sobbed into is shirt.

"Shh..." He smoothed her hair. "It doesn't matter anymore, baby. We're together. We're together and nothing... I swear, nothing will ever tear us apart again."

***

"I can't believe you guys skipped classes today." Buffy looked over at Willow who was leaned back against the headboard of the bed. "Especially you, Will. You've never missed school. Remember the time you had the flu?"

Willow giggled. "Yeah. You and Xander practically had to carry me to my classes that week. I was delirious with a hundred and four fever, and still managed to ace my Chemistry test." She quickly sobered. "That was then, this is now. When Angel called us yesterday and told us you were home, we couldn't go another day without seeing you."

"Or your belly." Xander mumbled through a mouth full of doritos on the other side of Buffy.

"What belly, Xand?" Willow placed a hand on Buffy's stomach. "Are you sure there's a baby in there?"

"Very." Buffy murmured, laying her hand on top of Willow's. "And if it wasn't for the medicine I'm taking he would be reminding me he's in there."

"He?" Xander looked over at Buffy. "It's a boy?"

"We don't know what it is yet, Xand. Dr. Jobson says it's too early to tell."

"Yeah, I guess it is. I mean from the picture you showed us all I could see was what looked like a lima bean."

"Xander Harris!"Buffy slapped his leg. "Do not refer to my child as a lima bean. Refer to it as a he."

Willow giggled. "So you and Angel have your heart set on a boy, huh?"

"You would think Angel would be like all father's to be and want their first born to be a boy, but leave it to him to go and ruin my impression of the male race again by wanting and swearing up and down it's a girl." Buffy rolled her eyes. "Says he wants her to look just like me. Go figure."

"Yeah, I guess I can understand why he would..." Willow gave Buffy a sad smile. "He's afraid isn't he?"

Buffy nodded mutely. "He is... But he's happy, too. Scared, happy, and very overprotective. That's why I'm up here stuck in bed while he's downstairs fixing lunch."

"And that's bad how?" Xander asked, slidding down on the bed pillows to lay down. "You know I would give anything to have someone wait on me hand and foot the way he does you."

"Of course you would, Xander. But it's because you're what we call lazy."

"Hey!" Xander sat up. "I resent that, Buffster. I am not lazy! I'm simply slow at getting things done."

"Isn't that the same thing as lazy, Xander?"

"No." He pouted.

"Oh, poor baby." Buffy patted his leg. "I'm sorry I hurt your feelings. You know I love you no matter how lazy or slow you are. Just like you'll love me no matter how fat and waddlely I get."

"You're damn right I'll love you. But from a distance. A great great distance. I don't want Mr. Tall, Dark, and overly protective going all psycho on me and ripping my head off because he thinks I'm looking at you the wrong way. I'm like that brother of his. I cherish my body parts."

"I guess I shouldn't have told you how scary my honey can get, huh?"

"Actually I'm glad you did. I'll know now to keep my mouth shut. It gives me chills just thinking he could actual do what he threatens to do to me."

Buffy giggled. "It's not just you that he threatened, Xander. He's threatened the entire male race with the exception of Giles and Doyle, and I'm sure he would probably have no qualms about ripping their heads off either if they ever hurt me. He even wanted to kill my Dad before my Dad had his epiphany, and he had never met him back then."

"I think he's cute." Willow giggled. "He's always so serious all the time except for when it comes to you, and then he's just like a mad man. It's fun watching the change in him."

"Sexy too, Will." Buffy murmured dreamily. "Very sexy."

"Okay. Hold it right there, Buffy. Will and I do not, I repeat, do not want to hear about yours and Angel's sex life anymore. The last time you mentioned it to us it was just a little too much to try and stomach. It's also why I now have an extreme fear of kitchen tables."

"Shut up, Xander." Buffy slapped his leg. "He doesn't know that I told you guys about that, and he would be extremely upset if he found out. He thinks that what happens with us should be between us and no one else."

"Well, he should have thought about that before he put the little bun in the oven. Now everyone in Sunnydale and half the world know about you two's sex life."

"Xander!" Willow yelped.

Buffy giggled again, and patted her belly. "It's okay, Will. He does have a point, and in about a month everyone that doesn't know will. Not that it bothers me. I love Angel, and he loves me. And we are going to love and raise this baby together."

"You know, not trying to get off the subject or anything, but have you guys set a date yet?" Willow asked curiosly.

Buffy frowned. "No. We started talking about it last night, but something happened and we never got around to it."

"What happened, Buffy?"

"Well, I umm... It turns out that the ring he gave me... My claddagh ring is an Irish wedding ring."

"What?" Willow blinked in surprise. "But that would mean..."

"Exactly..." Buffy murmured. "We're married. I'm Angel's wife. Well, it's not legal. Not anymore. But in the past it would be."

Xander eyed Buffy's face. "So why aren't you happy about it? Shouldn't you be happy even if it's not legal."

"I am happy, Xander. It's what I wanted. In my heart I'm already Angel's wife. It's just..."

Willow sat up. "It's just what, Buffy. Come on, whatever it is you can tell us. We won't say anything to Angel. We swear." She leaned over to look at Xander. "Don't we swear, Xander?"

"You bet we do." Xander replied. "We more than swear. We pinky swear. Now spill."

"Well umm... He umm... He didn't tell me what I just told the two of you until last night, and it hurt... Really hurt. But what he told me afterwards hurt even more." Buffy sniffled. "It turns out he was planning to make it legal. He was going to ask me to m-marry him prom night."

"Oh, Buffy..." Willow's eyes turned sad again as they fell on her best friend. "I'm so sorry."

Buffy looked down at the rings on both her hands. "I uhh... It was my d-dream, you know? And when I say that I mean it. I actually dreamed it, and i-it was so vivid. I could see everything so clearly. The church... My bridesmaids, and all these beautiful flowers... And I saw me... Me walking down the aisle to him in the perfect dress. A dress I made. And the really weird part is I woke up after that, and I spent the rest of the night sketching that dress. My dress. I sketched it. Not just sketched it, I recreated it on paper. It was identical to the one I saw in the dream. It was in my head so clearly when I woke up I was afraid to go back to sleep, so I sat up all night sketching it, and when I was done there it was, and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was the dress that I wanted to wear when I walked down the aisle to him." She shook her head. "Devestated. When he broke up with me I was so devestated. I couldn't breath. I didn't want to breath. I don't think I did the whole time I was running home. And when I got there... God it hurt... the thought of not being with him anymore, and the pain was worse than anything I had ever experienced. And that includes the time I was sick. I just... I went crazy from it. My room... I tore my room apart... Tore my prom dress up... And then I found my sketches of all my designs, and there it was... Right on the very top was my dress... The sketch of my wedding dress, and I don't know... I don't know what happened after that. I think... I think I stopped living... I know I stopped dreaming at that very moment." She swiped at her tears and looked up. "I don't know what happened to it. My design... My dress... I guess I must have torn it up. All I know is that when I pulled myself back together enough to remember that it existed, it was gone. Gone... It was gone. And that picture that I saw so clearly in my head, it was gone too. Completely destroyed by hate and bitterness, and I can't get it back. I've tried so hard to get it back. I've thought about it so many times over the last few months... But I can't... It's gone and I can't get it back."

Willow reached for Buffy's hand. "Is that why you gave up on designing?"

Buffy nodded. "Yeah, I-I think so. Before... No matter how bad things got for me, I still had designing." Buffy looked over at Willow. "Do you remember how easy it was for me before?"

"I do." Willow murmured. "It was like you knew exactly what you were seeing before you actually sat down to sketch it."

"That's because I did. See it, I mean. Take your prom dress for example. I remember you wearing a plum colored shirt to school one day, and how beautiful you looked. The color... It was like magic. It brought out your eyes and your hair to the point you were more than beautiful. Stunning. You were so stunning, and the whole day I kept picturing you in a dress that color. The picture of you in that dress was so vivid I went straight home that day and didn't stop sketching until it was there in front of me. A picture of you in the perfect prom dress. I could even picture Oz's face when he saw you in it. It was the same with my dress. I could see Angel's face so clearly as I walked down the aisle towards him in it..."

"Have you tried again, Buffy?" Xander asked, obviously a little choked up. "I mean since Angel proposed. Maybe that's what you needed to bring it all back. Your entire dream."

"I tried, Xander. Last night after Angel went to sleep I laid awake for hours trying to picture it in my head. And I tried again this morning while he was downstairs working... He always kept a sketch pad here for me, and last night I found it and tried to put my dress back on paper since I couldn't get it back in my head, but I couldn't. It's gone. My dress is gone." She muttered. "Not that it matters anymore anyway."

"Why would you say that, Buffy? You can still have your fairy tale dress and wedding. What's stopping you?"

"Me. That's what's stopping me, In case you've forgotten there's a good chance I might not make it through this."

"So? That doesn't mean you still can't have your dream come true before it happens."

"A wedding like that takes time to plan, Xander. Time I may not have. And then there's the fact that I'm three months pregnant."

"What does the fact that you're pregnant have to do with anything, Buffy?"

"Well duh, Xander. It's not proper for a pregnant woman to get married in a church that's what. Even if the leukemia wasn't looming over mine and Angel's head, time still would be. If I were to plan a wedding like I've always dreamed of by the time I got everything together I would be ready to drop this baby at any second. I don't think that would make for a very good honeymoon, do you?"

Xander chuckled. "Okay, I can see your point about that. But I still don't see what's stopping you from having your dream wedding."

"I don't need you to see, Xander. I see. That's all that counts."

"Then wait, Buffy. Wait until after the baby's born. You can use this time to start planning for that fairy tale wedding and you can still have it and the honeymoon after the little one comes along."

"That's just it, Xander. I don't want to wait. It all goes back to that time thing. I may not have time, and I know I told Angel last night we could wait, but honestly I don't want to." Buffy looked down a her hands again. "The truth is I don't want to waste anymore time. I want to be Angel's wife now. That's why I'm thinking that if the subject comes up I'm going to tell him that I think we should do a quickie wedding." She looked over at Willow. "You know the type of wedding, Will. A wedding like you and Oz had."

"You know why Oz and I did that, Buffy. My parents... A-And then we're both not really the big wedding types. But you... You on the other hand, you've been dreaming of that fairy tale wedding since you were four and saw Cinderella for the first time."

"I don't dream like that anymore, Willow."

"Don't fib to me, Buffy Summers. And don't fib to yourself. You want it and you know it."

"Okay! Okay, I admit it! I want it." Buffy sighed. "B-But I want to be Angel's wife more. A-And besides, m-my dress... I don't want to do it unless I can wear my dress and I've already told you that it's gone. Gone just like that fairy tale wedding. Now can we please change the subject."

"Okay, consider the subject changed." Xander replied. "Let's talk about food instead. I'm starving."

"God, Xander! Is that all you think about?" Buffy groaned.

"No. I think about other things too, Buffy."

"Like what?

Xander grinned. "S-E-X. I think about it alot. More than food actually."

Buffy got a image of Xander and Anya having sex, and the picture of it made her stomach lurch. "Oh God..." She closed her eyes, then took a deep breath. "Stop. Stop now, Xander. The thought of you and Anya doing the happy is making me sick."

"Then it looks like I showed up just in time." Angel replied, walking into the bedroom carrying a breakfast tray. His eyes immediately shot to Xander. "Harris, didn't I warn you earlier not to be upsetting my girls."

"Girls?" Xander looked over at Buffy and Willow. "I don't remember upsetting... Oh. OH!" He laughed nervously. "Girls! Right. By girls you meant Buffy and the baby." He caught Buffy's amused glance. "He did mean you and the baby right. Because if he's cheating on you I just might have to risk my limbs to kick his ass."

Angel walked over to the dresser and sat the breakfast tray on it. "I would never cheat on my mate, Harris. And as for you kicking my ass..." He grabbed a glass of water and turned around. "Dream on because that will never happen." He walked over to the bed, and extended the glass of water to Buffy. "Medicine time, baby. Open your hand."

Buffy did as he instructed, and looked down at the two pills he dropped into the palm of her hand. "Iron pill and nausea pill." Angel informed her. "Now hurry up and take them so you can eat."

Willow looked up at Angel than back at Buffy. "That is so sweet. You have your own private nurse."

Buffy rolled her eyes as she plopped the pills into her mouth and washed them down with a sip of water. "He's worse than any nurse I've ever had, Will. And trust me, I've had alot." She handed the water back to Angel.

"Maybe you have, baby. But did any of them ever distract you from a needle the way I did the other night when the nurse from hell was going to give you that shot in your rump?" He smirked.

"Angel..." Buffy blushed.

"Okay." He chuckled. "I'm shutting up. For now." He winked at her then walked back over to the breakfast tray. When he returned to the bed he had two plates in his hand, and handed the first one to Buffy. "Here you go, my lady. One turkey on rye with lettuce, tomato, and light mayo." He hand the other plate to Willow. "And you madame, Here's your ham on rye with lettuce, tomato, and lot's of mayo." He then moved his gaze back to Buffy. "I want you to eat every bite. Understood?"

She nodded. "I'll try."

"Good." He smiled.

"Hey!" Xander interrupted. "What about my food? Where's my food?"

"Over there." Angel replied, shooting him a dirty look. "I don't wait on men, Harris. Just the ladies. If you want it, get your lazy butt up and get it. And while you're at it grab Buffy's milk, and Willow's tea. I've got to get back downstairs."

Buffy's eyes shot from her sandwhich back to Angel. "You're not going to stay and eat with us?"

"Can't, baby. I have some stuff I have to do. I'll be back in a little while." He started to leave, but Buffy's voice halted him. "Hold it right there, mister."

"What?" He turned back to look at her.

"Did you eat?"

"No, not yet. But I will."

Buffy's gaze turned troubled. "Promise?"

"I promise." He reassured her. "Now I got to go. If you need anything just send Harris' lazy tail downstairs to get me." He disappeared before Buffy could say anything else.

"Man, Buffster." Xander slid off the bed. "I don't think I've ever seen him in the same room, and him not touch you." He walked over to grab his sandwhich off the tray and turned back around to look at Buffy. "By chance, does that mean there's already trouble in paradise?"

"Shut up, Xander!" Willow muttered before looking over at Buffy, who was picking at her sandwhich. "Buffy?

"I-Is there? Something wrong with you two, I mean?"

"I umm..." She looked back up at the door where Angel had disappeared, and frowned. "I-I don't know."

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Sorry it's taken so long to post this chapter, guys. Once again RL has been a bitch and put a restraint on my time. Better late than never though, right? Oh, and before I forget I would like to thank everyone that sent feedback the last chapter. I would have recognized all of you individually like I always do but I got a new computer for Christmas and lost alot of your email addresses so I'm going by memory when it comes to alot of you. Forgive me if I forgot anyone, and please send me your email addresses again if you'd like for me to send you the newest chapter when I post it.

And now, without further ado here is chapter 50 of "Forever...That's The Whole Point" CHAPTER 50


Angel made his way back into Cordelia's office, and plopped down in the chair in the front of her desk. "So how's the little mommy doing? Is she having a nice visit with her friends?"

"Hmm..."

His short answer made Cordelia look up from the computer screen. "Is something wrong?"

"No." Angel shook his head. "I uhh..."

"You what? Come on, Angel. I can tell there's something. Talk to me."

"I uhh... I wasn't eavesdropping or anything. I was on my way up to give her her medicine and take them their lunch, and well... I overheard her talking to them..."

"About?"

"Her dress... Her wedding dress. She thinks it's gone. The sketch. She doesn't remember what happened to it."

"Well, that's easily resolved. Doyle has it."

"I know. He told me the weekend she got sick, and I called him."

"Then don't you think you should tell her?"

Angel toyed with his hands. "There's more, Cordy. I heard her tell Willow and Xander about how she dreamed of it. She said she got the idea for the dress from a dream. A dream she had about us. She dreamt about our wedding day, and she said she saw the dress so clearly that when she woke up from the dream she stayed up all night sketching it, and that she knew the moment it was done that it was the dress that she was supposed to walk down the aisle to me in. I also heard her tell them about what happened the day I broke up with her. She told them that she died that day. And that her dream... Us getting married, and her wearing that dress... She said it died with her. She thinks she tore it up. The sketch, and she said she's tried to remember what it looks like, and she even admitted that she's tried to sketch it again, but she can't. That's why she won't go back to designing. She said when her dream died she didn't have it in her to design anymore." He finally looked up at Cordelia. "She wants that fairy tale wedding, Cordy. She wants to wear her dress, but she's willing to settle for a quickie wedding because she doesn't want to wait. She told Willow and Xander that she wants to married to me in everyway now... In case something happens to her... She doesn't want to waste anymore time, and she said that us being married is more important than her having a fairy tale wedding."

"I can understand how she feels, Angel." Cordelia eyed him across the desk. "And I know you understand. But even though you do you don't want that do you? You want her to have her fairy tale wedding don't you?"

Angel nodded. "Yeah, I do. I love her, Cordelia and the thought of losing... I want to give her everything, including her fairy tale wedding. But it can't wait. She's right about the time... Soon. We have to have it soon."

"How soon, Angel?"

"As soon as possible." He murmured. "She has it in her head that she can't get married in a church since she's pregnant, and she definitely won't if she's showing. And then there's her dress... She wants to wear her dress. If we wait she won't... You know Buffy, Cordy. We have to do this as soon as possible."

"You can't just throw a wedding like that together as soon as possible, Angel. Look at me and Doyle. We set our wedding date for six months after we got engaged because we thought we would have plenty of time to get everything done, and I hate to admit it, but it wasn't enough time. I mean, look at me. I'm getting married in two months and I don't have a wedding dress yet. You can't just throw a weddding like your talking about without alot of time and preparation."

"You can if you have money, and alot of people that love her just as much as I do to help you."

Cordelia's lips curled up in a smile. "And you have both."

"Yeah." Angel grinned. "Are you game?"

"You know I am. Just tell me what you want me to do."

"Doyle... First of all I need to get that sketch from Doyle, and I mean pronto."

"Consider it done. He always calls at lunch. I'll talk to him about it then."

"Good." Angel smiled. "Now on to the next step..."

***

"Will you please put me down, Angel. I can walk. Dr. Jobson said I could walk."

"Yes, he did. But he didn't say anything about up or down steps, and until Dr. Covey clarifys that, no steps. I mean it. Now hush." Angel shifted Buffy in his arms and started down the stairs to the first floor of the house. When they came into view of the living room Buffy's eyes widened in surprise as they landed on all the people in the room. She looked up at Angel. "What's going on, Angel? Why is all your family and my family here?"

"Dinner." Angel stopped on the steps. "I invited everyone to dinner."

"Including my father?" Buffy whispered. "Do you realize how big of a mistake that was, Angel? Rule number one. Never ever put two ex's in the same room for just normal chit chat. Especially if one of the ex's cheated on the other one."

Angel looked down into the living room at Buffy's father, who was in an animated discussion with said ex. "They seem to be doing okay right now."

Buffy also glanced at her mother and father, and even though she had to admit it was nice to seem them actually be able to talk to each other civilly, she couldn't help but worry. "Still..." She chewed on her bottom lip.

"Relax, baby." Angel leaned in to brush a kiss across her lips. "I think they reached a mutual understanding over the weekend. Everything's going to be just fine. You'll see. Just sit back and enjoy the evening."

She looked back down into the living room. "Okay, but don't say I didn't warn you."

"Shh..." He gave her another chaste kiss. "Now smile and say hello to everyone." He murmured as he started back down the steps.

"Hey, guys." Buffy called out as Angel took the last step into the living room, and began to cross the room to everyone.

Joyce Summers and Katherine O'Conner were the first to reach the couple. "Hey, Angel. Hey, sweetie." Joyce leaned into kiss Buffy's cheek. "You look much much better. You're not pale anymore."

"That's because I'm not puking my guts out anymore. You'd be surprised how much that'll improve your complexion."

"So the medicine is working?"

"Mmm..."

Joyce's gaze moved to Angel. "What about rest? Is she getting plenty of rest?"

"I'm getting plenty, Mom. He won't even let me walk. Hence the carrying. Now quit worrying him." Buffy looked over at the other woman standing beside her and Angel. "Hi, Mrs. O'Conner."

"Hi, Buffy. And let's get one thing settled now. I want you to call me Katherine." Katherine O'Conner smiled at her. "We're going to be family after all. And who knows, maybe in time you'll feel comfortable enough to call me mom."

"How about grandma?" Buffy smiled through her tears. "Do you like grandma better?"

"I like both." She smiled. "Now tell me how my son's being treating you?" She looked over at Angel. "Is he controling that Irish temper of his any better?"

Buffy giggled. "Well, I can tell you he hasn't had to sleep on the sofa yet."

"Very good boy." Katherine smiled up at Angel.

"And speaking of the sofa." Angel glanced down at Buffy. "Is that where you want to sit?"

Buffy nodded. "The sofa's fine."

After exchanging a few more words with Joyce and Katherine, Angel carried Buffy to the sofa, and sat her down on it before taking a seat beside her.

Hank Summers was the next person to converge on them, shaking Angel's hand first then leaning down to kiss his daughter on the cheek. "Hi, pumpkin."

"Hi, Daddy." She smiled up at him. "You're an awful long way from home, aren't you?"

"I had to check on my girl. Besides, I had to come this way eventually. Unless of course, you didn't want the rest of your stuff back."

"You packed it up?."

"Don't look so surprised, pumpkin." Hank chuckled. "I'm not that old. Although, I do have to admit it nearly did kill me doing it. I never knew a woman could own so many clothes or shoes."

"Hey, I'm not that bad. Cordelia's ten times worse than I am."

"I'm ten times worse than you at what?" Cordelia asked, coming over to sit down on the sofa beside Buffy.

"At shoes and clothes. My dad thinks I have too many shoes and clothes."

"I hate to tell you this, Hank but Buffy's right about Delia being worse." Doyle muttered as he took a seat beside Cordelia. "I thought Angel was exaggerating when he told me, and then I moved in with her and there they were... A whole guest room full of shoes and clothes."

"Well, Buffy's coming in a close second then. She has a half a closet of shoes alone, and that's just what she's acquired since she moved in with me." Hank walked over to the love seat, and sat down. "Angel, I think you might want to think about remodeling to make room for all her stuff."

"I've already had some remodeling done, sir. But I'm going to have some major remodeling done in the next five to six months."

Buffy looked over at Angel. "What do you mean you're going to have some major remodeling done, Angel. You just spent a fortune..."

"Shh..." Angel kissed her hand. "Later, baby. We'll discuss that later."

"B-But..."

"Later, Buffy." Angel interrupted her. "Right now you and I have more important things to discuss."

"W-We do?"

"Yes." He smiled, and watched as the rest of the people in the room began to take seats. "And now that we're all here I think we should get started."

Buffy looked around, and to her surprise and unease everyone in the room was staring at her. Her gaze immediately flew back to Angel's in panic. "Okay, what's going on? Everyone's staring at me. Why is everyone staring at me?"

"Buffy..." Angel squeezed her hand. "Baby, do you remember last night when we were discussing setting a wedding date?"

"Uh huh..." Her eyes narrowed as they looked at him. "We never actually got around to it because..." She looked away. "We never got around to it. But I don't understand what that has to do with this?"

"Well, it does." Angel turned her face back to his. "I've been doing alot of thinking today, and it's like I told you before. I don't think we should waste anymore time."

"I agree. I think we should set a date."

"So do I." He smiled. "But before we do there's something I need you to do for me, okay?"

"I uhh... okay." She nodded. "What is it?"

"Well actually, I just need to ask you something, and I need you to tell me how long it would take you to do it."

"Okay, Angel. You're going all cryptic guy on me again, and I really hate that. Just get to the point. You were wondering how long it would take me to do what?"

Angel's eyes moved to Cordelia and she immediately pulled something out of her purse and unfolded it. "He was wondering how long it would take you to make this?"

Buffy's gaze flew to Cordelia, and a sob caught in her throat when she saw what it was. "W- Where... Where d-did you get that?" She said in a barely audible whisper.

"From me." Doyle answered. "I had it, munchkin. I've had it all along. But that's not important right now. Right now you need to answer Angel's question. How long would it take you to make it?"

"I umm... C-Cordy... That... I... P-Please don't..." She returned her eyes to her brother. "I-I can't m-make th-that... P-Please d-don't ask me to m-make that f-for her."

"Okay, Angel..." Cordelia leaned over to hand the sheet of paper to him. "I think Buffy is misinterpreting things here. Maybe you should be the one to make her understand."

Angel took the sheet of paper and cleared his throat. "Buffy..." His eyes connected with her tear filled ones as she turned her head to look at him. "Baby, I'll explain. I promise. But first I need you to answer my question for me. How long would it take you to make this dress?"

"I umm..." Silent tears began to slip down Buffy's cheeks. "I-I don't k-know. Two, Three weeks if I umm... If I work on it all the time." She swiped at her tears. "B-But, Angel..."

"Shh..." He leaned over to wipe at a new flood of tears. "It's okay, baby. I know. I know this is your dress, and I'm not asking you to make it for Cordy. I'm asking you to make if for you to wear on our wedding day just like you dreamed of doing." He rested his forehead against hers. "I want us to have that fairy tale wedding you wanted, Buffy. No more wasting precious time. Let's get married in three weeks."

"A-Are you crazy, A-Angel? You c-can't just throw a wedding like that together in th-three weeks."

"You can if you're rich." Cordelia spoke up.

"And you can if you have lots of family and friends to help you." Doyle added.

"See..." Angel brought his hands up to cup Buffy's face. "We can do this, baby. All you have to do is say yes. That's why everyone's here. The moment you say yes their going to help us have the wedding of our dreams."

Buffy pulled away from Angel, and turned to look at Cordelia and Doyle. "B-But what about your wedding? Won't helping us take away from g-getting ready for yours."

"No." Cordelia shook her head. "Everything's done, or ordered. Well, except for my wedding dress. I still haven't found one yet, but I've got two months, and as everyone knows anyway I've always been a last minute woman. The dress can wait. You and Angel are more important than any dumb dress."

Buffy's gaze moved to her mom. "Mom?"

Joyce smiled, and held up a notebook. "I'm ready whenever you are. And so are Giles, and your father."

"And me." Katherine O'Conner piped in, and held up her own notebook.

Angel smiled at his mother, and returned his gaze to Buffy. "What do you say, baby? Do you want to do this or not?"

"D-Do you?" She sniffled. "I mean, really, Angel?"

He reached for her hand again, and toyed with her engagement ring. "Well, the holidays are coming up... Thanksgiving's next week, and after that there's Christmas and your birthday. And quite honestly I couldn't think of anything better than to be able to celebrate those with us as husband and wife." He looked up and locked eyes with her. "Could you?"

"You're crazy." She murmured. "You know that don't you?"

Angel grinned that sexy grin that had always caused her stomach to flip flop. "Yeah. Crazy for you. Say yes."

"Yes." She broke into a smile that pretty much had Angel's stomach flip flopping as well. "Yes. Let's do it. Let's get married in three weeks."

Forever... That's The Whole Point

Author: angellover

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Thanks to Emma, Melissa, Marie, Danielle, Amanda, BklyAngel, CelticAngel, Christine, Karen, Kolumbyne, Ryan, Cristina, L.K., Court, Sandy, Kim, Carol Ann, Isis, Jade, Kal, and Maria for their feedback on chapter 50. Anita CHAPTER 51


"Okay, Buffy. You can sit up." Dr. Marlene Covey pushed away from the exam table, and slid her stool over to the small desk on the wall of the exam room.

"I umm... Is everything okay?" Buffy asked, sitting up on the exam table, and staring at Dr. Covey's back.

"Everything's looks good with the baby so far." Dr. Covey answered as she jotted some notes down on Buffy's chart.

"And with me?" Buffy asked meekly. "I'm sensing something here. Is there something wrong with my blood work?

"No. You're still a little anemic, but you have another two weeks on your medication and hopefully by your next visit it will have taken care of it. I'll make sure Dr. Jobson gets a copy of everything."

"Then what's the problem?"

"You tell me, Buffy?" Dr. Covey turned around to look at Buffy. "I know this is your first visit, and I don't know you very well, but I am a woman and I have eyes." She scooted her stool back over in front of Buffy. "Do you want to tell me why you wouldn't let your boyfriend stay in the exam room during the exam? Isn't he the father of this baby?"

"Y-Yes." Buffy looked down at her hands.

"Then why wouldn't you let him stay? I myself like it when a expectant father takes an active role in the expectant mother's pregnancy. I think it's good for the both of them, and I also think it's good for the baby, although others would disagree with me. He wanted to stay. I could tell, and if you don't mind I'd like to know why you wouldn't let him?"

"It's personal." Buffy muttered.

"I see." Dr. Covery murmured, staring at the top of her head. "Okay, since it's personal I won't push you to tell me what it is. But I will push you to tell me why you've lost another five pounds since you were released from the hospital. Because whatever it is I can tell you now that unless you change whatever it is it's eventually going to take it's toll on both you and the baby. Is it the nausea and vomiting? Is the medicine not working?"

"It's not that."

"Okay, what about eating? Are you eating?"

"I-I'm trying."

"And sleeping? Are you getting enough sleep."

Buffy looked up. "That's all I do is rest, Dr. Covey. I'm in the bed all the time. Angel won't let me do anything else. I've gotten to the point that I hate that god damn bed. Especially since he won't..."

"Since he won't what, Buffy?"

"Nothing." Buffy muttered, looking back down at her hands.

"Does this have something to do with sexual relations?"

"Yes, no. I just... I don't sleep. It's kinda hard to sleep when your getting married in a week, and suddenly the man you love doesn't even want to touch you anymore." She looked back up at Dr. Covery. "Should make for an interesting honeymoon, huh?"

"So this is about sexual relations?"

Well, I don't sleep so I guess you could say I lay on the other. I think it's me. I think the fact that I might not make it... I think he just asked me to marry him because he was afraid that I might not make it through this, and now that he's got me to agree to marry him he doesn't... I think all this hospital stuff, and my being pregnant has turned him off. I don't think he's attracted to me anymore."

"Did you stop to think that maybe he's scared, Buffy? I've seen this before. The expectant father gets scared that he might hurt the expectant mother or the baby, and those fears only double when the expectant mother is having complications. I imagine it's even worse for your fiancee' because not only are you facing a long list of possible complications, you're also putting your life at risk to have this baby. His baby. He's probably terrified, and in order to keep you from seeing just how scared he really is he's withdrawn physically and emotionally to keep you from finding out."

"Do you really think that's it?"

Dr. Covey gave her a smile. "Well, I can't say for sure because I'm not him, but I can tell you that that's what I think it is. You should talk to him."

Buffy busted out crying. "A-And tell him what? Th-That I'm having doubts about his r-reasons for wanting to marry me? Yeah, that will go over j-just great considering he just spent the last three months t-trying to prove to m-me that he loved me no matter what. If I t-tell him th-that it will h-hurt him and th-that's the last thing I w-want to do."

"I can understand you not wanting to hurt him, Buffy. But the only answer here is for you to do just that. You can't continue to keep this to yourself. It's not just affecting you emotionally, it's affecting you physically and eventually it will take it's toll on the baby, too."

"I-I could handle this... I could if it wasn't for the fact that I umm..."

"You what, Buffy?"

"I umm..." Buffy sniffled. "This is so embarrassing but my uhh... my sexual uhh... I think my hormones have affected my uhh..." She sniffled, and took a deep breath. "I think my hormones have affected my desire for him because when he won't touch me I feel like I could die."

Doctor Covey laughed. "That's not uncommon, Buffy. But the affect is usually the opposite. Most pregnant women see a decrease in their sex drive. Some don't even want to be touched."

"So what I'm feeling is normal. Please God tell me it's normal, Dr. Covey because I really do feel like I want to die. He umm... He has always made me happy in and out of the bedroom, and I want it back. And I don't just mean the sex part. I miss the closeness between us, and I feel like I'm going to die if I don't get it."

"I promise you it's normal, Buffy. And like I said before I think you should talk to him. Tell him everything your feeling then tell him what I said. If he's still have fears after that then give him my number and tell him to call me."

"O-Okay."

"Good." Dr. Covey smiled at her again. "Now is there anything else you need to discuss with me?"

"No. I umm... I just have a couple of more questions. Angel... He umm... He won't let me climb up and down stairs, and he wanted to ask you about that but since I wouldn't let him stay in here, I'll do it for him. Can I? Climb up and down stairs, I mean?"

"You can as long as you're not having any cramping or spotting. The same goes for sexual relations, and exercise. But I want you to limit your exercise to just walking for now. Anything else?"

"Our honeymoon. Angel thinks we should hold off on going on a trip for now. What do you think?"

"I think he may be right in his decision. You're still anemic, and the travel may fool with it."

"I understand."

"Good." Dr. Covey stood up. "Now let's clarify a few more things, and then I'll let you get dressed. First thing, I expect you to keep all your appointments with me. Dr. Jobson told me you called and cancelled your last one with him, and he wanted me to remind you just how important it is for you not to do that anymore. We're not just thinking about your health anymore. We're thinking about your baby's, too. Do you understand?"

Buffy nodded. "Yes, ma'am. I understand the importance of all my visits now."

"I'm glad." Dr. Covey gave her another smile. "Because now I want you to take this little tidbit to heart. The next time I see you I expect things to have improved with you both physically and emotionally. I also expect you to let that new husband of yours come in with you your next visit. He should be here to hear your baby's heartbeat for the first time."

"Th-The b-baby's heartbeat?"

"That's right. We can listen to it with a device called a doppler. I would have done it this visit, but I felt that I needed to make this talk between us first priority. Now I'm going to go. Stop at the front desk, and schedule your next appointment for two weeks. I'll see you then."

Buffy smiled. "Thanks, Dr. Covey."

"You're welcome." Dr. Covey headed for the door, but turned around to look at Buffy before she opened it. "Oh, and Buffy..."

"What?"

"Congratulations on your upcoming marriage. I hope your wedding day is just as beautiful as mine was."

***

Buffy laid her fork down and looked across the table at Angel. "Are you still pouting at me?"

"I don't pout. That's your speciality." Angel stood up and took his dirty plate to the sink.

She stared at his rigid back. "Okay, let me rephrase the question then. Are you still brooding at me?"

Instead of turning around, Angel gripped the counter with both his hands. "I'm not going to fight with you, Buffy so if that's what you want you might as well forget it because it's not going to happen."

"Angel..." Buffy scooted her chair back, and stood up just as he spun around to look at her. "I said I don't want to fight, Buffy. I'm going to my office. I have some things I have to do. You should try to get some rest." Without another word he disappeared ot the kitchen, leaving her staring after him.

"Oh great..." She plopped back down in the dining room chair. "Way to go, Buffy." She buried her face in her hands. This was so not the way she wanted things to go. He was more than broody, he was pissed. And she knew she was going to have to give him time to cool off before she even attempted to try to fix things with him. Until then