RATING: Uh…I'm not sure but I think that if you watch it, you can read it.
DISCLAIMER: Not mine, don't sue. The dialogue from 'Innocence' is from AleXander's Transcripts, which were an invaluable resource to fanfic writers until the idiots at Fox decided to shut them down.
DISTRIBUTION: Ask and ye shall receive
FEEDBACK: I crave it. It's like cigarettes, you know? Just when I think I've quit…
SPOILERS: Major for season 2, everything up to 'The Prom'.
NOTES: This has been wondering around in my head (and in fragments on my hard drive) ever since I first saw 'The Wish'. I'm just making the most of a wasted opportunity.
NOTES2: All S3 as far as 'The Prom' happened except 'The Wish' & 'Dopplegangland' which, for obvious reasons, didn't.
NOTES3: I know Giles says that Anyanka's only power lies in the wishes but I've given her to power to appear in dreams because I couldn't see Buffy telling a stranger her heart's desire in the normal way of things.
SUMMARY: What if Anyanka had granted Buffy's wish instead of Cordelia's?
Buffy stood in the centre of her bedroom and looked down at the bed which held her own sleeping form. She looked pitiful having finally cried herself to sleep after Angel had told her that he didn't want to be with her. A girl, who seemed to be about her own age appeared in front of her and they regarded each other in silence for a few moments.
"Who are you?" asked Buffy at length.
"This is a dream, right?"
"In a way. It can be what you want it to be – make a wish and it will come true here. What is your heart's desire?"
Buffy almost refused to answer but then she gave a mental shrug and, thinking it would be nice to have happy dreams for once, told the truth. "I wish that when the gypsies had cursed Angel they had never thought of putting a break clause in it and that I could relive everything from the moment he should have lost his soul."
"DONE." Anyanka decreed in a hoarse voice. He face changed from that of a young woman to that of a demon and the pendant around her neck glowed green. In an instant both she and the room vanished and Buffy found herself standing in Angel's old apartment, looking at herself and Angel lying asleep in each other's arms.
As she watched, Angel stirred. He opened his eyes and gazed tenderly down at the golden head that rested peacefully on his chest before pressing a soft kiss to her forehead. The love revealed in the gesture brought tears to Buffy's eyes, even as it caused the other Buffy to stir. As she did so everything started to fade and Buffy realised that she too was waking up. Desperately she clung to sleep, wanting to stay in this world where her other self and Angel could be happy together but it was too late.
At the Factory…
"I'm not happy pet." Spike announced "Angel and the Slayer are still alive. They know where we are, they know about the Judge. We should be vacating."
"Nonsense," said Drucilla, for once making perfect sense as she walked to his side and took his hand in hers. "They'll not disturb us here. My Angel's too smart to face the Judge again."
"What's Big Blue up to anyway?" asked Spike, glancing dismissively over his shoulder to where the Judge was kneeling in front of some storage racks, and then away, "He just sits there."
"I am preparing." The Judge responded without turning his head.
"Yeah. It's interesting to me that 'preparing' looks a great bit like sitting on your ass." Spike informed him, wheeling over to face him. "When do we destroy the world already?
"My strength grows and with every life I take it will increase further."
"So let's take some. I'm bored."
Drucilla suddenly started moaning and Spike looked over in concern, the Judge instantly forgotten. "Dru?"
She didn't reply, instead collapsing on the floor and beginning to cry. "Angel…" she moaned.
"Dru?" Spike manoeuvred the wheelchair until he was at her side, and asked, "What is it? Darling… Do you see something?" Her only response was an increase in the intensity of her tears.
It was raining she noticed without opening her eyes. Buffy listened to it while she thought about her strange dream but gradually reality intruded and she became aware that she was lying against something cool and firm. Cautiously she opened her eyes and discovered that she was lying in a man's arms with her head resting on the soft skin of his bare chest. Hardly daring to breathe, she looked up and her wildest hopes were confirmed when she met the chocolate brown eyes of her Angel.
She knew at once that it was him and not Angelus, the love in his eyes was unmistakable but they held something else as well, something that had never been there before: Peace.
"Hi," he said softly.
"Angel…Oh Angel! You're here, it wasn't a dream!" she exclaimed and then she wrapped her arms round his neck and burst into tears.
"No, my love, it wasn't a dream." He told her soothingly, assuming that she was talking about their night together as he had no idea of the months of torment which remained in Buffy's memory if nowhere else. "Shhh…it's all right, I'm right here and I'll never leave you, I swear."
Sensing her need to cry Angel made no attempt to stop the tears that ran in a flood down his shoulder, he just held her tightly and murmured soft words of love and reassurance until they subsided.
"I love you" she told him solemnly when she finally raised her head, "so very much."
"I love you…you're my world" he replied, his own voice suddenly hoarse. "I don't deserve you but I'd do anything to make you happy and keep you safe."
"Just stay with me – you're all it takes to make me happier than I've ever been before."
Angel's eyes glistened with unshed tears at this declaration and their lips met in a gentle kiss which rapidly became more passionate as their need for each other spiralled rapidly out of control.
"You know…we really should…check in…with Giles." Gasped Buffy between kisses.
"Right…the Judge…they'll be worried…"
"Who? Oh yeah…anyway…we need to…need to… Oh Angel!"
Some time later…
"We have to get up now."
"Mm-hmm. We have to go and see Giles and if we don't go soon you're going to get sunburn."
They helped each other dress, stopping often to kiss and caress one another, which slowed things down considerably but eventually they were ready to leave. It was still raining so Angel lent her a jacket, joking as he did so that soon he would have none left as she looked so much better in them than he did.
Their eyes met as he handed it to her and he gazed lovingly down into her beautiful hazel orbs. Then his brows drew together in a slight frown and he asked in concern "Are you all right? You look…different. Your eyes seem older somehow…sadder."
Buffy smiled, he knew her so well and could read her better than anyone else she had ever known. "I've never been better" she said truthfully and then added fervently, "Thank you."
"For what?" he asked in surprise.
"Being you," she said simply with a deeper meaning than he could possibly know.
Unsure how to respond, Angel pulled her into his arms and lowered his face to hers until their lips met in a gentle kiss.
As the kiss deepened and threatened, once again, to spiral out of control, Buffy pulled back and gasped breathlessly, "Giles…library…we should…go."
"Right…we should" he agreed. Their lips met in a final sweet kiss and then the two of them hurried out of the apartment.
It was nearly dawn when they finally entered the library. Neither of them wished to be any further apart than they had to so Angel had his arm around her and Buffy's head rested against his shoulder, where every so often he pressed his lips against her hair and inhaled the scent that was uniquely Buffy.
Giles looked up in relief as they entered and, on seeing Angel, immediately got to his feet, went to the windows and started drawing the blinds to protect the vampire from the rising sun. That done he came to stand in front of them, his eyes examining Buffy carefully, checking for any sign of injury. Finding none he relaxed a fraction and asked anxiously, "The Judge?"
"No assembly required, he's active." Buffy answered, ignoring the sudden feeling of deja vu. She knew that if this new world was permanent she would be feeling it a lot over the coming months.
That 'if' haunted her and she said abruptly, "Giles, I need you to find out everything you can about a demon called 'Anyanka' it's really, really important!"
Giles and Angel both stared at her in surprise for a moment before Giles stammered "Well…yes…but-but…why? And what about the Judge?"
I've got the Judge covered," she said ignoring their astonished looks "but we can't do anything about him until the others get here and I promise that I'll explain why later. For now just…trust me, please?"
Giles looked at her for a moment longer and then nodded. "All right, I'll see what I can find." As he turned and went into his office, Buffy closed her eyes, relieved that he was going to trust her.
A moment later she opened them once more as Angel turned her to face him and asked quietly, "Are you sure you're okay?"
"I'm fine, truly. I just want to be sure before I explain." A hint of desperation glinted in her eyes and she said again, more to herself than to him, "I have to be sure!"
His concern deepened but Angel could see that now was not the time for questions and instead offered to go and help Giles. The gratitude that shone in her eyes was all he needed to confirm that he had made the right choice and, with a quick kiss, he left her side and headed into the stacks.
Over the next hour the rest of the gang arrived and were immediately put to work researching Anyanka. They were reluctant to begin at first, wanting to know what it was all about. However, when it became apparent that Buffy was not going to answer any of their questions until she had the information she wanted, they hit the books to the accompaniment of loud complaints from Cordelia and concerned and reproachful looks from Willow.
Xander was the last to arrive; complaining as he did so of the unpleasantness of a night spent as the Sunnydale Bus Depot.
Buffy got to her feet when he entered and said, "Good, Xander you're here, now we can get rid of the Judge."
Xander froze like a deer caught in the headlights of a car and then glanced round uneasily; noticing that everyone else looked as stunned as he was.
"Uh…Buffy…it's nice to know that you think so much of my fighting skills but demon slayage isn't really my line of work." He joked uneasily.
"Relax Xander" she told him dryly, "I don't mean that you have to fight but you still remember Halloween, right? All that soldier stuff." It wasn't really a question; she already knew the answer. Although it had been over a year since she had last lived through these events, it was not something she was likely to ever forget. But even if it had been, if it had been the most insignificant detail, she would still have remembered. The pain and trauma she had endured had burned every detail of those painful months indelibly into her mind.
"How did you… Uh, yeah, sure…why?"
"I need you to get something from the army base for me."
"Yeah…I think I can do that – what do you need?" he asked almost absently, as he remembered the strange experience of being an observer within his own body.
"A rocket launcher."
"Okay, I…WHAT! Are you crazy?" he exploded as what she had said registered.
"No…she's right," said Angel softly at the same time Giles said approvingly, "Very ingenious, Buffy. Well done."
"Ohhh, I get it." Xander exclaimed, "but how am I supposed to get it? Getting onto the base is one thing but the armoury will be guarded."
"I'm sure you'll think of something." Buffy said confidently, "I don't care how you do it, just get one – by tonight. If you need any help ask for it, otherwise…we still have research to do, everyone so let's get to it."
"We do?" Xander asked Willow quietly, a little intimidated by this new, driven Buffy who seemed to have appeared overnight. "I thought we were looking for ways to stop the Judge and we've found one, what else is there to research?"
As Willow quietly filled Xander in on everything he had missed, everyone else turned back to what they had been doing before he walked in.
At the Factory…
Drucilla lay on her back on the table and looked blissfully up at the ceiling. Spike wheeled himself around to her and smiled, "Are we feeling better, then?" he asked leaning on the table.
"I'm naming all the stars," she sighed.
"You can't see the stars, love, that's the ceiling. Also, it's day." He informed her matter-of-factly.
"I can see them. But I've named them all the same name," her voice was dreamy as she tilted her head to look at him, "And there's terrible confusion."
"Did you see any further? Do you know what happens to Angel?"
"Angel…" she repeated, her dreamy smile fading as her face crumpled like a small child's.
"What is it Ducks?" he asked anxiously, "What did you see?"
"My Angel," she moaned "My Angel"
"What? What about Angel?" he asked again, keeping his voice gentle despite his urgent need to know what she had seen.
"Everything's changing." She told him, her voice far away as she relived the vision, "Glorious darkness is becoming light. My Angel's gone forever now, he's hers…she made him happy and she's changed things, he should have come back to us and now he never will! He's not my daddy anymore but she won't have him, will she, Spike? You won't let her have him?"
"No, Pet. Don't fret now, we'll kill them both, you'll see."
Silence reigned in the library, broken only by the rustle of turning pages and the click of the computer keyboard. By unspoken agreement, school had been blown off by everyone that day – a first for Willow – with the exception of Jenny Calendar, who as a teacher, had to be in class but she returned to the library to help in the search every chance she got.
Even Oz had joined in, having been enlisted when Xander decided that a van would be needed if his plan were to work. He had the details worked out with Willow, Cordelia and Oz and was now simply waiting for evening before he put it into operation as his excuse for being on the base would hardly be plausible so early in the day. While they waited, they researched; looking through musty old books until their eyes burned and the words blurred together on the page. No one had slept much the night before but Buffy's urgency had transmitted itself to them and no one was willing to rest until they had found what she needed.
At long last, Giles emerged from the stacks, looked up from the book he was holding and announced, "I've found it!"
Instantly, seven pairs of eyes focused on him to the exclusion of all else as he continued," Anyanka – wielder of the power of the Wish. She's a sort of…" He broke off abruptly and turned his head to look hard at Angel, who merely gazed back in confusion.
"A sort of what?" Buffy demanded. "Giles! A sort of what?"
He started and looked back at her "I'm sorry, Buffy. She…she's a sort of Patron Saint of…scorned women."
Now everyone but Buffy turned to look at Angel in astonishment, while he looked at her in pained confusion but she didn't even notice, her attention totally focused on Giles. "Okay…that makes sense," she said, oblivious to the way everyone turned to look at her as though she had suddenly grown a second head. "Once a wish has been granted…is it permanent?" anxiety leaked into her voice as she spoke, leaving no one in any doubt as to how important this answer was to her. Still not understanding but responding to the fear in her voice, Angel moved to her side and put a comforting arm around her. She leaned into him gratefully but her eyes never wavered from Giles' face.
"I…um…it would appear so." Giles told her tentatively, unsure if this was the answer she needed. "To…undo the wish would require the person who made it to desire things to be restored. Then either they, or someone who knows that was what they desired must confront Anyanka and find and destroy her power centre, even if someone else did succeed in doing this it would only effect their wish, not those made by others. So, yes…the Wish, once made, is permanent."
"Oh, Thank God!" Buffy exclaimed, then the thread of tension that had been holding her together snapped and she dissolved into tears.
Angel swung her up into his arms and then sat down in a chair with her on his lap, rocking her soothingly as though she were a child while the others gathered around them exclaiming in concern.
The tears passed quickly and it was with some embarrassment that she raised her face from its comfortable resting-place against Angel's shoulder and looked up into his concerned brown eyes.
"I love you," she said softly, not caring that the others could hear her, just savouring the knowledge that they could be together now, without restrictions, without always feeling that their love was bad thing that had to be fought against. His dark eyes glowed at her words, filling with love and hope and peace and the faintest hint of surprise that twisted her heart because she knew he still didn't understand how anyone could care about him.
"I love you," he told her, the words coming easier now, "you're a miracle…you're my miracle." His head lowered towards hers and their lips met in a gentle kiss. It was a kiss of dedication, rather than passion and when it ended they smiled at each other, their foreheads touching, reluctant to be any further apart that they had to.
Xander, clearing his throat loudly and making gagging noises, ended the beautiful moment. Cordelia and Willow both smacked him in the head but the mood had been broken. Buffy rolled her eyes and pulled back to look at the six people who were still hovering anxiously nearby.
"It's okay, guys, I'm fine…really, I'm sorry I worried you."
"Do you think that you could tell us what happened now, Buffy?" Giles asked. "It's clear from your behaviour that you have been…visited by Anyanka. Could you perhaps explain what occurred and how things have changed?"
Buffy's eyes darkened with pain as she remembered the world she had left behind only a few short hours ago but she nodded nevertheless. "I…" she began and then hesitated "I don't know where to start."
She thought for a moment and then asked, "You remember my dream, right? The one where Angel's killed?"
"Well, we misinterpreted it but it did come true." Unconsciously, Buffy held Angel tighter as she spoke. "It was never his body that was in danger…" she looked sadly away from the others and up at Angel, knowing that what she was about to say would cause him pain, "…it was your soul."
His eyes filled with horror, as she had known they would and his voice was little more than a whisper as he asked, "My soul?"
Her own eyes filled with tears as she nodded, "The curse had a break clause in it. If you were to ever experience a moment of true happiness, if your soul was ever at peace, you'd lose it."
"Oh God…" Understanding filled his eyes and he whispered so quietly that only Buffy heard it, "last night." Unable to speak, she nodded. "What did he do to you?"
"It doesn't matter anymore," she told him softly and then offered the only comfort she could, "he didn't win." He looked at her, seeking the truth of her words and her heart was in her eyes as she said, "He couldn't break me…couldn't make me stop loving you."
Angel released a shuddering and unneeded breath and closed his eyes. "I'm so sorry."
"No!" she said sharply, "It wasn't you…it was never you even then and in this world you don't even have his memories and I'm grateful for that. You don't deserve all the pain he's caused you."
He stared at her in wonder "How can you still love me? I don't know exactly what happened but I do know him."
"I love you because I know you – I love your soul. How can I blame you for what the demon did? The worst part of the months you were gone wasn't Angelus, it was you not being there for me to turn to. Now you're here and I am never letting go." He opened his mouth to speak, to argue that he wasn't worthy of her but before she could make a sound she grabbed him and pulled him into a kiss which held all the love and passion in her. When she finally let him go his brain had turned to mush and coherent speech was beyond either of them but she had made her point.
The others looked on in astonishment. They all knew that Buffy had feelings for Angel but none of them, not even Willow had even imagined the depth of the love, which existed between them. It was clear to them all that this was not a crush that would pass in time.
Even Xander recognised true love when he saw it and, at that moment, he gave up all hope of ever winning her. As he gave up the fantasy he finally acknowledged that his feelings for Cordelia went deeper than he was currently willing to admit and he looked over at her with a smile to find her smiling back and, unseen by the others, the two of them joined hands.
The emotional scene had effected everyone, Willow and Oz were smiling shyly at each other and the usually reserved Giles had his arms around Jenny.
Time seemed to stop and, just for a moment, all was right in the world. There were no demons, no danger, no fear, just love and friendship and happiness for all of them. But, as is the way of things, it didn't last. The bell sounding for lunch brought them back to reality and with a collective sigh they separated. For a while there was silence and they all knew that they would remember that one perfect moment for the rest of their lives.
The silence was broken by Giles asking quietly, "What, exactly did you wish for, Buffy."
"I…I wished that the Gypsies had never put the clause in the curse and I could relive everything from the moment Angel should have lost his soul."
"I assume that today is the first day of the altered timeline, yes?" he waited for Buffy's nod and then continued, "So at some point last night, Angel achieved true happiness and the curse should have broken?" Giles clarified events and Buffy nodded again, avoiding the sudden look of understanding that lit Willow's eyes.
Willow tactfully remained silent but Xander did not and his face twisted in confusion as he said, "I don't get it. You two narrowly escaped death, discovered that there was an immortal demon on the loose and had to hide in the sewers – why would dead boy be happy?"
Buffy flushed slightly but she met his eyes with a clear gaze, then turned to look up at Angel with a soft smile and said simply, "We were together."
The love in her eyes drew Angel like a beacon, the only source of light in his dark world and, unable to resist her, he found himself smiling back as the world around them faded into the background. The smile lit his eyes from within and Willow, Cordelia and Jenny all inhaled sharply at the sight; brooding he was amazingly handsome, smiling he was devastating. It was more than that though, it was the way he looked at Buffy, the love in his eyes was combined with a look almost of worship and it was very clear that no other woman could ever exist for him. It was a powerful moment and they knew that they should look away but somehow, they could not and, as they watched, each sent up a small and silent prayer that, one day, they would be blessed with a love like that.
Forcing herself to remember that they were not alone, Buffy pulled her gaze away from Angel's. She looked at her friends and for the first time, realised how exhausted they were. It was mid-afternoon and they had all been awake for over 30 hours researching the Judge and then Anyanka without complaint. Her chest tightened as she realised once again how much she loved these people and she said softly, "You guys should get some sleep. There's nothing we can do about the Judge 'til nightfall and it would be better if you had some rest before we attack."
No one argued they just nodded sleepily and headed for the most comfortable area of the library – Giles' office. Cordelia, Xander, Willow and Oz all sat down on the couch and, too tired for their usual arguments, fell asleep against one another like exhausted puppies in a basket. Giles, Jenny, Buffy and Angel looked at them through the window and couldn't help but smile at the picture they made.
Then Jenny glanced at her watch and gave a tired sigh, "I have another class in 20 minutes, I should go and set up."
Giles gave her a sympathetic smile and they kissed briefly before she turned to leave.
"I'll be right back." Buffy told Angel and then hurried after her.
Buffy caught up with her in the hall and the computer teacher looked at her in surprise. "Buffy, what's up?"
"I need to talk to you if you have time, It's kinda important."
"Sure, walk to class with me and we can talk while I get ready."
They walked together in silence, Buffy casting sideways glances at Jenny the whole way. She was unsure what to say; delight that the older woman was alive warred with guilt over not saving her in the world she had just left and her emotions were in turmoil. The anger she had felt had been destroyed long ago and she regretted the pain that she feared this conversation would cause even as she knew that it had to be done.
The short walk passed too quickly and Jenny closed the door and leaned against her desk, watching her curiously as she paced up and down like a caged lion, never meeting her gaze.
For a while Jenny just watched her but when it became clear that Buffy wasn't going to speak without prompting she asked, "What's up, Buffy?"
At the sound of her voice Buffy stopped, tension clear in every line of her small frame, and turned to face her. Her eyes were sympathetic as they met Jenny's and she said softly, "You have to tell them."
Jenny pretended ignorance but she had gone pale and her eyes fell from Buffy's as she asked, "Tell them what?"
"Don't!" The harsh command brought her gaze flying back to Buffy's and the pain she saw looking back at her held her transfixed. "You know what I mean, you have to tell them who you are, Janna. You have to tell them why you're here."
"How did you…?"
"I've been here before, I've seen the pain that secrets can cause – I won't let it happen again. Giles and Angel need to know the truth. They deserve to know the truth and, though it would be better coming from you, if you don't tell them – I will."
Jenny looked at Buffy and realised that she had changed. Suffering had left its mark banishing forever the girl that she had once been. Although Jenny didn't know that, she could clearly see that the young woman before her was no longer the child that she had been the day before, there was a dignity and maturity about her that was unmistakable.
The Buffy of yesterday would have been angry, aggressive but this Buffy would understand and Jenny desperately needed someone to talk to. "I'm scared." She admitted in a quiet voice, "I love Rupert so much and I'm afraid he'll hate me for lying to him." Her eyes filled with tears, she closed them, in an effort to force them back and then jumped when Buffy touched her hand. Instinctively she latched onto it, holding it tightly in hers as she looked into sympathetic hazel eyes.
"Giles could never hate you. He loves you – more than even he realises yet."
"You really think so?"
"I know so. I'm not saying that he won't be angry and hurt but he will forgive you – just give him time."
They would have said more but at that moment the bell rang, calling students and teachers alike to class.
"I'd better get back." Buffy said, giving her hand a slight squeeze before releasing it. "Are you okay?"
Buffy smiled and headed for the door, but turned back inquiringly when Jenny called out, "Buffy!"
"You're welcome, Ms Calendar."
"Jenny…Ms Calendar is for my students, not my friends."
Buffy smiled again and nodded, "Jenny, then...at least when we're not in class." She agreed and then slipped out the door just seconds before the first of the computer class arrived.
Everyone but Angel was asleep when Buffy returned to the library, even Giles had dozed off at his desk with his head resting on one of his beloved books. Angel looked up when she came in and, without a word, held out his arms to her.
For a long time he just held her, letting her lean on him with her head pressed against his chest while he stroked her back soothingly and pressed gentle kisses into the fragrant gold of her hair.
Finally she gave a contented sigh and pulled away just far enough to look up into his eyes with a smile, "Thanks, I needed that."
"Anytime," he said smiling back at her, then his eyes grew serious and he said quietly, "We have to talk about it, you know? I have to know what he did to you."
"I know but not here, not now?" she pleaded. "We still have to face the Judge and right now I just want to be with you. Please?"
His reply was a gentle kiss that soothed rather than excited. "I love you," he said when it ended, his lips so close to hers that she could almost feel his words as well as hear them.
"I love you, too." She stroked his cheek with one small hand then closed her eyes and rested her cheek against him. "I'm so tired," she mumbled.
Angel swept her up in his arms and sat down with his back against one of the bookcases and her cradled in his arms, "Sleep, Beloved," he said softly, I'll wake you when it's time to go."
Buffy mumbled something that even his enhanced hearing couldn't pick up and snuggled closer in his embrace as though seeking his non-existent warmth. A moment later she was asleep.
Angel gazed down at the tiny blond girl in his arms and his heart ached for the pain she had endured. He didn't know what had happened exactly but he could see it in her eyes. The last remnant of her childhood was gone, her innocence had been ripped away and she was intimately acquainted with all the things that he had never wanted her to know. He knew that the others had seen the change in her but they didn't understand like he did. He had lived with guilt and grief and pain for too long not to recognise them when he saw them in the eyes of someone else. Her light had been dimmed but it still shone, a stubborn spark, which fought against the encroaching darkness and, as he held her closer, he silently vowed to nurture that spark until it burned strong and steady the way it always had before.
He held her for hours, sitting silent and unmoving except for the gentle stroking of his hand against her cheek and in her hair.
The school day ended and Jenny returned, she took one look at the sleeping Slayer and said quietly, "I'll wake the others, let her rest until they get back - there's nothing she can do unarmed."
Angel didn't speak but his dark eyes conveyed his gratitude and she gave him a quick smile before walking into the office, carefully closing the door behind her.
Even without his enhanced hearing he would have been able to hear Xander's grumbles about having to get up but Buffy never stirred, her exhaustion so complete that it would have taken a brass band to disturb her. Jenny had obviously warned them that Buffy was sleeping because when the office door opened Oz, Willow, Cordelia and Xander crept out through the library as quietly as mice, without any of the usual chatter. Giles stood in the doorway with Jenny and watched them go before turning his attention to his Slayer. His eyes softened at the sight of her sleeping so peacefully in Angel's arms, the love he felt for her clear in his expression as he gazed at the small girl who was his daughter in all but name.
Jenny looked up at him and her heart ached as she suddenly realised that, not only had Buffy given her the push she needed to tell Giles the truth, she had given her blessing, as the most important person in Giles' life, to the relationship between them. She hadn't known until that moment, how much she had needed it.
Gathering all her courage she said quietly, "Giles, Angel…there's something that I need to tell you…something you need to know."
The both looked at her in surprise, and then Giles glanced at Buffy. Realising what he was thinking Angel said softly, "As long as we're quiet I don't think we'll disturb her, she's exhausted."
It was clear that Angel had no intention of moving so Jenny lowered herself to sit cross-legged on the floor near him. A moment later Giles joined them and, recognising her nervousness gently took her hand in his.
She gave him a grateful look and then stared down at the floor, unable to look at the two men she had betrayed. For a long time there was silence and Giles and Angel made no move to break it or hurry her. When she finally spoke her voice came out as an almost non-existent croak. Clearing her throat, she tried again, "I…I haven't…Oh, God" she muttered, then forced herself to go on, "…I haven't been entirely honest with you." She finally admitted, "I'm not who you think I am."
"Who are you then?" Giles asked, his voice seemed calm but Jenny was vitally aware that he had released his grip on her hand.
She said without looking up, "I'm a Kalderash Gypsy."
Giles inhaled sharply but she didn't dare look at him, Angel's deep voice was calm and thoughtful as he said, "You were sent to watch me."
It wasn't a question but she nodded anyway. "I was told to keep you and Buffy apart, to…to see to it that you still suffered for what you had done." Her voice broke and she whispered, "I'm so sorry, I wanted to tell you but I thought I owed a duty to my people. You saved my life and I betrayed you." Without a word Giles abruptly got to his feet and walked away. Jenny stared after him for a moment, then looked down, knotting her hands in her lap until the knuckles turned white.
Angel's hand reached out to touch hers and she jumped, startled both by the coldness of his touch and the fact he would willingly reach out to her after what she had just told him. "Don't," he said quietly, "You never did anything to hurt me, no guilt because of me, please, I've been the cause of too much pain already. You've always tried to help Buffy and for that I thank you and shall always be your friend."
Jenny gave him a watery smile and said, "You're a good man, Angel. My people were wrong to want your soul to suffer for the actions of the demon."
One corner of Angel's mouth kicked up in return, "Maybe, but I can't regret the curse. Without it I could never have loved Buffy and she makes my whole long, ugly existence worthwhile. She's my miracle, my sunshine." He looked down at her as he spoke and gently smoothed her hair away from her face, his touch as light as the brush of a butterfly's wings.
Jenny had never heard Angel voice his emotions so clearly before and she knew that he was only doing so now in an effort to ease the guilt she felt for what her people had done to him. "Thank you," she said softly.
He nodded, not looking away from Buffy's face. "She knows, doesn't she?"
The question needed no clarifying and Jenny nodded, "Yes, she gave me the courage to tell Giles." Her gaze drifted to the office where Giles was just visible through the window sitting at his desk. Without a word she got to her feet, walked over to the door and went in, closing it behind her.
"YOU LIED TO ME!" Giles' shout echoed around the library, making him wince at his own volume as he remembered Buffy, sleeping outside. With a great effort he lowered his voice but his sense of betrayal and anger was clear in ever word he spoke as he told Jenny to get out of his sight.
"Rupert…please, listen to me…"
"Get out." Giles turned away, refusing to look at her as she sighed in defeat and left. His chest ached with rage and the loss of the woman he had believed her to be was like a great hole within him. Tears burned his eyes but he refused to let them fall, telling himself fiercely that she wasn't worth it.
Giles' caution came too late; Buffy had jerked awake the moment he raised his voice. She summed up the situation instantly and, with a loving smile at Angel, quickly got to her feet to intercept Jenny before she could run from the room.
When Buffy called her name Jenny stopped but didn't turn around, not wanting her to see that she was crying. But she knew and with a gentle hand on her shoulder, Buffy turned her towards her and said softly, "It will be all right, Jenny, I'll talk to him."
"You will?" she knew she sounded like a child in need of reassurance but she couldn't help it.
"I will." Buffy looked at her, noticing the exhaustion that shadowed her eyes, "you should go and get some rest, Jenny. We can handle the Judge," she smiled slightly, "Trust me, I've done it before."
She nodded and turned to leave then, impulsively, she turned back and gave Buffy a hug before hurrying away.
Buffy watched her go for a moment and then turned her attention to her Watcher.
Giles stood up in surprise as Buffy walked into his office and closed the door behind her, saying as she did so, "I need to talk to you."
"Yes? What about?"
"Buffy, this is really none of you're business. Now, I appreciate your concern but…"
"Giles, don't do this," Buffy pleaded, "there's never as much time as you think there is, don't waste it in anger. I know that you love her."
"I don't know her!" He exclaimed angrily. "She lied to me – to all of us! I don't understand why you are so calm about all this. She was sent here to harm Angel, I would have thought you'd be furious!"
"Oh, I was," she agreed, "When I found out who Jenny was after Angel lost his soul I thought I hated her. I shut her out, refused to talk to her and, out of loyalty to me, the rest of you did the same. I saw how much it was hurting you to stay away from her but for a long time I did nothing about it. Because of me, because I needed someone other than myself to blame, the two of you missed out on weeks that you could have spent together, weeks you could have been happy." Her eyes filled with tears and she angrily dashed them away as she continued, "and despite the way I treated her, she still tried to help. She found a way to recreate the curse."
"And?" Giles asked, knowing from the look in her eyes that there was more.
"And Angelus somehow found out what she had done…and he killed her for it."
He paled and dropped unsteadily into his chair, closing his eyes against the wave of pain brought on by the thought of Jenny's death.
"You see, I know you love her. You told me so as we stood at her graveside. I'll never forget the pain in your voice that day and I'll always feel the guilt of not saving her, of not killing him when I had the chance when he first turned, even though it never happened here.
Be happy with her, Giles, I know for certain that without her, you won't be."
He looked at her, his eyes filled with tears, clearly badly shaken by what she had told him, "You're right, I…I'll talk to her but she might not listen. I…didn't react well."
He started to get to his feet but Buffy's gentle hand on his shoulder stilled his movement, "I sent her home, the two of you can talk tomorrow when all this is over and you've both had some sleep," she smiled at him, "Don't worry, she loves you. That's why she was so afraid of telling you the truth, she didn't want you to hate her."
Giles looked up at her and saw the truth of her words in her face along with a wisdom that had not been there the day before and he wondered what had occurred to make her grow up so much so fast. He got to his feet and impulsively pulled her into his arms, hugging her tightly, "Thank you, Buffy," he said gruffly, "I don't have the words…"
"Just be happy," she told him, her voice muffled against his chest, "I love you, you know? Since I met you it hasn't mattered that my father is never around."
His breath caught in his chest as she gave him the greatest gift he had ever received and he gently eased her back far enough to look into her eyes, "I…love you too, becoming your Watcher was the best thing that's ever happened to me." His words were a trifle stiff as he forced them past his usual British reserve but there was no doubting his sincerity and a smile lit Buffy's face, then faded as a shadow darkened her eyes.
"What is it?" he asked in concern.
"I just…I hope that you always feel that way. Knowing me caused you a lot of pain…there."
"Do you want to talk about it?"
"No…not now," she said, easing out of his arms and turning slightly away from him, "Later there are some things I'll have to tell you, things which have to be prevented. Maybe we can stop the swim team from turning into fish this time 'round." Seeing Giles' puzzled expression she waved her hand in dismissal, "Never mind, I'll explain later. It'll be weeks before that happens."
"Buffy…just how much of the future of the other timeline do you know? What was the date when you made your wish?"
"I know enough." She told him firmly, refusing to be more specific and before he could enquire more closely, the others returned with the rocket launcher.
"So, Buff, what made you think of a rocket launcher?" asked Xander curiously as Angel pried open the crate with a crowbar, "I mean, it's not exactly your usual style."
"I didn't," she told him with a smile, "you did."
"Mmm-hmm. This was your plan and since it worked last time, I thought we should use it again."
"I had a plan? A good plan?" he repeated incredulously.
He grinned, "Cool!" the grin faded, "I just wish I remembered thinking of it."
Despite themselves, everyone smiled at his crestfallen expression and Buffy said consolingly, "Cheer up, Xander, I remember and we never could have got it without you."
He brightened at that and then everyone became serious as they followed Buffy out of the library towards Oz's van and the mall, Giles and Angel carrying the crate between them
"Is everyone ready?" Buffy asked looking round at the group before her. They all nodded. "Good, take out any lesser vamps that you can, stay away from Sparky."
It was like rewatching a movie; Buffy thought absently as she faced the Judge, every word he spoke, every gesture he made was the same as it had been the first time and yet there were differences, the supporting cast had changed. Instead of Angelus standing at the Judge's side, there was Spike, sitting in a wheelchair, which he quickly vacated to launch himself over the railing with Drucilla when she raised the rocket launcher to her shoulder. Instead of staying to fight, he was half carried away from the destruction by a shrieking Drucilla who seemed totally unaware of the fact that she was banging his already battered form against walls and doors and scraping it against the floor as she ran. Instead of the numbness that had filled her before, there was amusement as she listened to Spike's cursing fade into the distance. And instead of the agonising pain of loss, there was the joy of finally being whole again after so long.
Handing the weapon to Xander she hopped down from the counter on which she had been standing and into Angel's arms. The two of them kissed briefly and then pitched in to help with the task of tidying up the bits of the Judge.
When all the bits had been gathered up and stored in dozens of carrier bags the exhausted group returned to the library to discuss the best way to dispose of them. They sat and stared at the mountain of bags and then, almost as one, turned to look at Buffy who was nearly asleep in Angel's arms. Gradually she became aware that they were watching her and roused enough to ask, "What?"
"I think they want to know what you did with him last time," Angel told her softly.
"Oh, right," she said, forcing herself to wake up and pay attention, "Uh…we gave them to Oz to throw in the sea – he said he knew a good place for it."
Oz looked thoughtful, "That's not a bad idea, I know a place where the current's so strong that they wouldn't wash up on shore – not this shore any way – it's a couple of hours drive down the coast."
"That's an excellent idea, Oz," said Giles approvingly, "you could drive down after school tomorrow."
"Actually, I think I'll go now. Unlike the rest of you, I slept last night and I'll be happier when he's gone for good."
"Everyone agreed emphatically with that sentiment and Willow offered to go with him while she and Xander helped him gather up the bags to carry them out to the van.
They were almost out of the door when a sudden thought occurred to Buffy and she scrambled off Angel's lap calling, "Oz!" He stopped and looked back at her questioningly as she hurried towards him.
"I nearly forgot!" she announced when she reached him, "Your cousin…Jody?"
"Jory." Oz corrected, beyond confused by this point.
"Right, Jory. Don't let him bite you when you see him next. He's a werewolf and it's kind of a pain having to lock you in the book cage three nights a month."
"Right, thanks," he replied, slightly dazed by this information. Buffy nodded and turned back to the library, only to discover that everyone was staring at her.
"What?" she asked innocently, "it is a pain having to lock him up and by my reckoning he got bitten next week!"
"Yes, quite…I imagine it would be." Giles agreed, "Uh…three nights?"
"Uh-huh, you see the werewolf is such a potent, extreme representation of our inborn animalistic traits that it emerges for three full consecutive nights: the full moon and the two nights surrounding it." Giles gaped at her, it was obvious to all of them, even him, who she was quoting but at the same time it was something that he had never said.
Buffy giggled at the astonished expressions on everyone's faces, then yawned as exhaustion swept over her once more.
"Yes, well, I can see that life is going to be…interesting…until Buffy rejoins the rest of us in our ignorance about the future," Giles observed dryly.
"Tell me about it," she mumbled, "I'm gonna be suffering from near-constant deja-vu!"
"Well we can worry about that tomorrow. Angel, why don't you take Buffy home, she's practically asleep on her feet."
Angel nodded and put his arm around Buffy's shoulders. She leaned heavily against him and after a moment he bent and curved his other arm under her knees, lifting her up into his strong arms and cradling her gently against his chest. She gave a contented murmur, wrapped both her arms round his neck and was almost instantly asleep.
Angel gently deposited Buffy on her bed and brushed her hair gently away from her face. Pressing a gentle kiss to her forehead he whispered softly, "Sweet dreams, Beloved," and turned to leave.
Seeming to sense his absence she stirred, reaching for him even before her eyes opened and murmuring sleepily, "Stay with me? I want to fall asleep in your arms."
Unable to resist what he wanted as badly as she, Angel lay down beside her and pulled her to him. Like a sleepy kitten she snuggled against him until she was half sprawled across his chest with one arm around his neck and the other around his waist and her slender legs were entwined with his long ones.
Even though they were both still dressed, a contented purr rumbled in his chest at the feel of her body wrapped around his, warming his cold skin. He felt her smile against his chest at the sound, then she whispered, "I love you," and was asleep almost before she had finished speaking.
Angel didn't sleep, he just lay awake watching her; awed by the trust she showed by lying with him this way. She was the Slayer, her every instinct should have been screaming at her to stay alert in the presence of a vampire and yet she felt safe enough to relax, the instincts of a hundred thousand Slayers silenced by her love for him. It was a gift that he knew he would never be able to take for granted a blessing he could not have dreamed of in the dark years after his soul had been restored. He was a monster, a creature of darkness and yet this beautiful soul knew the worst of him and still found something within him worthy of her love. In her eyes he found his redemption.
It was almost dawn when Angel finally left Buffy's side, escaping into the sewers just seconds before the sun rose over the horizon. He had been tempted to simply pull the blinds and remain where he was but the sound of Joyce beginning to stir had convinced him that it would not be a good idea. The last thing that Buffy needed was for her mother for find her asleep in a man's arms and her mother would probably draw the blinds which would not prove a good thing for him either.
The first time he had seen Buffy he had loved her and that love had given his life purpose bringing hope to his despair. Now he knew beyond doubt that, as he loved her, she loved him and the knowledge that they could be together filled him with joy. For the first time since childhood, he was happy and at peace. The guilt of his past remained and he would always feel the pain of what he had been but it was tempered by the knowledge that he was more than he had believed himself to be, for Buffy could never have given her heart to a monster. With her eyes as his mirror, he was a man once more.
Buffy smiled and stretched contentedly. She knew before she opened her eyes that Angel was gone, so attuned was she to his presence that she would be able to tell if he was present among a crowd of thousands, let alone in an empty room. The warmth of the sun on her face provided an explanation for his absence and she thought longingly of the night when she would see him again.
She rolled over and looked at the place beside her where he had been. The indentation left by his head was still clear on the pillow and in it rested a folded sheet of paper. Buffy sat up and pushed her hair away from her face with one hand as she reached for it with the other. Just for a moment the memory of the drawings that Angelus had left for her intruded then she forced the thought away and looked at what Angel had left for her.
It was a rose. Beautifully drawn, the simple pencil sketch was so perfect that Buffy was almost surprised by the fact that it had no scent. Beneath it was written in Angel's strong, flowing script,
I love you, A.
Smiling, she kissed the paper and then hugged it to her chest, her heart overflowing with love and happiness.
As she dressed to go to school she sang to herself and kept stopping whatever she was doing to go back and touch the little picture, savouring the sense of connection it gave her to Angel
Giles paced nervously in front of the computer classroom, waiting for Jenny to arrive. He heard footsteps behind him and turned to see her walking towards him. Her eyes were a little red, as though she had been crying, but to Giles she had never looked more beautiful.
"Jenny…" They both spoke at once and then both fell silent, waiting for the other to continue. After an awkward pause they said together, "I'm sorry." And the both immediately fell silent once more.
They stood looking at once another in silence for a minute or so before the absurdity of their behaviour struck Jenny and she began to giggle.
For an instant Giles stared at her as though she had suddenly grown a second head (not as unlikely as it sounded, considering where they lived) and then he too began to laugh.
The ice between them broken, Jenny unlocked the door and the two of them talked quite naturally together until the bell rang to summon students to the first lessons of the day.
"Hey, Giles," said Buffy as she bounced cheerfully into the library at lunchtime, "I saw Jenny in the hall and she seemed happy, are the two of you…?"
"We're fine, thank you, Buffy. We, we…talked this morning."
He looked at her searchingly and she self-consciously touched her hair, "What?"
"Oh, I'm sorry, it's nothing," he said looking away but after a few moments his gaze was drawn back to her again. She didn't comment but her expression spoke volumes and he sighed and explained, "I…I was just-just wondering what had happened to change you so much. Two days ago you would have been saying how 'gross' it was for someone of my age to be in-in love and now… You've grown up overnight."
"Not overnight, Giles," she told him sadly, "definitely not overnight."
Giles wanted to question her further but the pain in her eyes made him hesitate, "You don't ever want to talk about this, do you?" he asked gently.
She shook her head.
"It'll help if we know what's coming so that we're prepared for it."
"I know, but it can wait. As long as Oz doesn't get bit, the next few weeks should be quiet, nothing more than the usual vamp hi-jinks but... We shouldn't get complacent - I can't predict what Spike and Drucilla might do, you know that, right? Without Angelus, everything they do will be different, if we're lucky they'll just leave town but…"
"But we can't be sure. I understand and I'll warn the others to be on their guard."
Buffy nodded, "I have to go meet them for lunch, I'll see you later."
She reached for her bag but his voice made her pause, "Will you… Are you going to tell Angel?"
"Some of it - probably most of it, I'm not very good at hiding things from him - but not everything. He'll only blame himself and he has too much guilt about things he couldn't have prevented without adding this."
She reached the door of the library and looked back, "One thing…you might want to start researching Ascensions in your spare time, the Mayor is planning on having one. We have months before it becomes a problem but we weren't getting anywhere and the extra time might help."
"Uh-huh. Interesting guy, he's over a hundred years old." She informed him and, with a nod to Jenny who had just entered, slipped out of the room before he had a chance to say anything. The last thing she heard was Jenny's voice asking, "Who's over a hundred years old?"
Buffy sat in her English class that afternoon and briefly contemplated the weirdness of actually knowing the work before slipping into a happy daydream about Angel. Even when the teacher noticed and asked her a question it wasn't a problem because she remembered the last time that she had been in that position. Admittedly then she had been worrying about Angelus rather than daydreaming but she still hadn't been paying attention so now, even though she hadn't heard the question, she managed to give the right answer leaving him nonplussed.
Despite her daydreams the day seemed to drag by as Buffy counted the minutes until she could be with Angel once more. When at last the final bell rang she quickly made her way to the library, pausing only to tell Xander that he should tell Willow about his 'romance' with Cordelia before she found out on her own. Not waiting for him to stop spluttering and reply she dutifully reported to Giles for training and five minutes later she was on her way to Angel's with permission to skip training that night and for the rest of the weekend and to take the night off from Slaying. The unwonted generosity probably had something to do with the fact that Giles was kissing Jenny when she walked in on them but whatever the reason she wasn't about to argue.
Buffy knocked gently on the door of Angel's apartment, wondering if perhaps she should have waited 'til after sunset since he had got no sleep the day before and was probably tired. The speed with which he responded reassured her that she probably hadn't woken him, then the door opened and she forgot all about it as she launched herself into his arms. Reacting instinctively he caught her as she wrapped her arms and legs around him and their lips met in a long sweet kiss.
"Hi," Buffy said softly when the kiss ended, pressing her forehead against his, "I missed you." She smoothed her fingers over the bare skin of his shoulders, savouring the satin smooth texture of his skin over the resilient strength of his well-defined muscles. A purr rumbled in his throat at the feel of her hot little hands warming his cold skin and she felt as well as heard the vibration where hers breasts were pressed against his bare chest.
Keeping one hand on her back to support her, Angel slid the other up until it tangled in her hair and caught her lips in a kiss that left her breathless. His tongue traced her lips and then demanded entry to the moist cavern of her mouth. She opened to him willingly as he filled her senses to the exclusion of all else. Nothing existed except the touch of his hands, the taste of his mouth and the scent of his skin.
Still kissing her he moved further into the apartment and kicked the door closed behind him before carrying her into the bedroom. He toppled the two of them to the bed, bracing himself carefully on his arms so that his weight didn't come down on her too hard.
Raising his head he looked down at her shining eyes and shuddered at the intensity of the feelings she inspired within him. "God, how do you do this to me?" he asked, drawing in an unneeded breath as he unknowingly echoed her thoughts, "I love you so much, when I'm with you it's like the rest of the world disappears."
"I know," she moaned, reaching for him, "It's the same for me." Then their lips met and there were no more words only their gasps and moans of pleasure as each strove to get ever closer to the other.
Buffy screamed in ecstasy as he entered her, his great size stretching her to the limits, filling her almost to the point of pain. He tried to move gently, to give her still largely untried body time to adjust but she would have none of it. Her hands clutched at his back and her body clenched around him with all the strength of her Slayer muscles, holding him as tight as a fist within her.
Angel grasped for the ragged edges of his control and missed. Acting purely on instinct he pulled back, driving into her so hard that a normal human would have been broken by it. Buffy arched to meet his thrusts, matching his strength with her own, urging him to move ever faster. The knot of tension within her tightened unbearable as she neared her release and, drawn by a compulsion she did not understand, she arched her neck, offering him access to her throat.
His gaze was drawn, almost hypnotically, to the pulse that beat rapidly beneath the silky smooth expanse of her skin and then flashed to face. Through a haze of passion she saw the disbelieving question in his eyes and in answer she reached up and pulled his head down until his face nestled against her throat.
Unable to resist the temptation of what she offered him so freely, Angel pressed a gentle kiss to her throat, his tongue darting out to gently caress her skin, before allowing the demon to emerge and tenderly biting down to tap into the life that flowed beneath it. He took only a mouthful but as her blood hit his tongue the power coursing through it was enough to send him over the edge into ecstasy. As he exploded within her, in the moment before his brain overloaded and shut down, he realised in awe that he could actually taste her love.
At the same moment, as she felt the slight prick of his fangs entering her neck, Buffy climaxed, her whole body convulsing as wave after wave of pleasure washed over her leaving her spent and blissfully happy.
They lay together in an exhausted tangle, Angel's large form covering Buffy like a blanket. He started to shift sideways but her arms tightened around him and she murmured protest, unwilling to lessen the connection between them so soon.
"I'm too heavy," he explained.
"No," she disagreed, "you're perfect."
He smiled down at her, then gathered her firmly against him and rolled over, reversing their positions so that she was on top. She giggled at the sudden movement and then snuggled against him with a contented sigh, her cheek pillowed against his chest.
"Aren't you supposed to be training," Angel asked at length, lazily stroking her soft blonde hair.
"Giles gave me the weekend off. I think he wanted some alone time with Jenny."
"Mmm…I know just how he feels."
Buffy propped her chin on her hand and looked at him mock-severely, "You want some alone time with Jenny? Should I be jealous?"
"Wretch!" he murmured affectionately, "You know what I meant."
She grinned at him for a moment, then her expression grew serious, "Thank you for the rose," she said softly, "it was beautiful."
"*You're* beautiful. I didn't want to leave you long enough to find a real one."
"It's better than a real one! MY rose won't wilt so I'll be able to treasure if forever – the only one like it in the world!"
Angel reached up and gently traced the outline of her face with his fingertips, his touch almost reverent. "I wish that I could have been there when you woke up this morning. I wanted to."
"I know." They smiled tenderly at one another and their lips met. There was no passion in the kiss it was, rather, a dedication. A promise of love as deep and true as any marriage ceremony.
Then Buffy laid her head down on Angel's chest once more and asked contentedly, "Do you think that we could stay here like this forever? I don't think I'll ever want to move." As if to refute her words, her stomach growled loudly and she blushed as Angel began to laugh. She savoured the precious sound for a moment before joining in. She didn't think that she would ever take anything about being with him for granted but especially not his laughter, she had heard it so seldom that in her mind it had become like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow – the ultimate prize.
"I'm sorry. The food in the cafeteria today looked like the remains of something I'd slay so I skipped lunch. I don't suppose that you've got anything to eat around here?"
"Eww! I was thinking more along the lines of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich!" she kissed his chest and sat up, looking around for her clothes. "Come on, we have to go to the store," she glanced at him seductively from under her lashes; "I seem to have worked up quite an appetite somehow."
Angel's arms came round her from behind and he gently kissed her neck where the mark from his bite was already almost gone before nibbling his way down to her shoulder and biting it gently with blunt teeth. She shivered at the delightful sensation but reluctantly pulled away saying in what she hoped was a firm tone, "Uh-uh, feed me first!"
He pressed a final kiss to her shoulder and then stood up to pull on his pants from where they had landed on the floor. Buffy shivered for a different reason than before and wondered how it was that a body that generated no heat could warm her so completely. Getting to her feet she too pulled on her trousers but instead of her camisole top she went to the wardrobe and pulled out one of Angel's shirts. The huge garment swallowed her and she was forced to roll the sleeve up more than half way before her hands became visible. Then she knotted the shirttails at her waist and turned to face Angel.
He swallowed, there was something terribly erotic about the sight of Buffy wearing his clothes; it was as though she was voluntarily branding herself as his. She wore his shirt, bore his mark on her neck and, primitive though he knew it to be, the sight filled him with a fierce satisfaction. She was his.
She closed the distance between them, and wrapped her arms around his waist. "Can I stay with you this weekend?"
"I wish that you could…but what about your mother? Won't she be worried if you don't come home?"
"Mom's in New York until Tuesday. I'll find a note waiting for me when I get home, telling me about the great opportunity for the gallery that she couldn't pass up."
Angel frowned, "She went all the way across the country without telling you or leaving a way to contact her? And I thought that the two of you were going shopping for your birthday tomorrow?"
Buffy shrugged, "She left the number of the hotel for emergencies and we go next week instead, it's no big deal." His frown deepened and she kissed his chest gently, "It happened a long time ago, I'm fine." She frowned, "and it hasn't happened yet…this is going to get confusing. It's suddenly sinking in that I'm younger than I was two days ago – only I'm not, everyone just thinks I am."
He smiled at her confused rambling, and then a thoughtful gleam entered his eyes. "Could you wait a couple of hours before getting something to eat?" he asked.
"What? Um…yeah, I guess so. Why?"
"Would you like to spend the weekend with me in L.A? We could go out to dinner, see a show and just…forget the Hellmouth for a while."
With a squeal of delight Buffy went up on tiptoes to kiss him, her arms sliding up around his neck so that she could run her fingers through his hair. He wrapped his arms around her, lifted her up until her face was level with his and her feet were dangling inches above the floor, and deepened the kiss. When they finally parted she was breathless and he would have been had he needed to breathe. He rested his forehead against hers and asked teasingly, "Was that a yes?"
Angel walked Buffy home, despite her half-hearted protests that he didn't need to, and then left her to change and pack a bag for the weekend with instructions to 'wear something dressy'. He also took the opportunity to read the note that Joyce had left exactly where Buffy said she would. He had been stunned by the utter insensitivity the woman showed and he shuddered at the thought of what it must have done to an already hurting Buffy the last time she had come home to this. Joyce seemed to be blissfully unaware that she was telling her daughter that she meant less to her than business, a message that she received too often from her father as it was.
He arranged to pick Buffy up at seven after she swore that she could be ready in just under an hour. Then he returned to his apartment to feed and pack two bags of his own, one containing clothes and the other a cool box with a stout padlock into which he put several bags of blood. That done, he began making phone calls in an effort to ensure that the weekend was a close to perfect as he could make it.
He got a pleasant surprise when he called the hotel and, after pulling a few strings, he hung up with a satisfied expression on his face. As soon as he had confirmed the reservations he phoned Giles to explain the situation, check that it would be all right for them to leave and give him the number where they could be reached. Angel had expected him to be annoyed by Joyce's behaviour but he was surprised at how readily he gave his permission, even his blessing to their weekend away.
Giles seemed to sense this and when he had finished muttering about 'idiotic women who couldn't see how special their children were' he said, "It's all right, Angel, Buffy is no longer a child in any sense. Whatever happened to her it is clear that it forced her to grow up extremely fast, if she wants to be with you that is entirely her decision, although I will say that I can think of no one to whom I would rather entrust her than you."
"Thank you, Giles," he said huskily, "that…means a lot to me."
"Yes, well… have fun, I would tell you to take care of her but I know it's not necessary. I imagine that I'll see you on Monday; maybe you could train with Buffy for a while and spare me a few bruises."
The rueful note in his voice made Angel smile, "I'll be there," he promised, "bye, Giles."
He started to put the phone down but at the last second he heard Giles call his name, "I'm still here, what's up?"
"I-I was just…wondering, has Buffy spoken to you about…what happened in the-the other timeline? I get the feeling that it was terribly traumatic but she won't talk to me or any of the others about it."
"No, she hasn't and I don't want to push her before she's ready, I'm hoping that she'll tell me while we're away."
"Good luck, I think…she needs to talk about it, it must be very hard to carry memories that no one shares."
Giles' words lingered in Angel's mind as he finished his phone calls and changed his clothes. What would it be like, he wondered, to suddenly find that months of your life had never happened? To have memories that no one else shared even though they had been there? She had changed but her friends had not, creating an inevitable distance between them because she was suddenly more mature than they were. She had survived the fire and been tempered by it, changing forever from what she had once been. The bonds between her and the others were strong and he had no doubt that they would hold and adapt but things would never be the same again.
That thought led to another and he suddenly remembered what Buffy had said, 'I'm younger than I was two days ago'. He realised then that he didn't even know how old she was any more. To him she had just turned seventeen but there was no way for him to know how long ago that had been for her. Everyone was assuming that the timeline she had been living extended for only a few months but what if it had been longer?
The question continued to trouble him as backed the car he almost never used out of the underground garage and drove the short distance to Buffy's house.
There was a thoughtful frown on his face as he parked the car, walked up to the front door and raised his hand to knock. He looked up in surprise when it opened before he could touch it, then his gaze alighted upon Buffy and his mind went blank, unable to think of anything except the vision before him.
She was dressed in a sleeveless gown made of dark green silk that shimmered when the light touched it. The fitted bodice lovingly hugged every curve of her exquisite figure and the skirt flared out and fell to her ankles, swirling around her at the slightest movement. On her feet were delicate white sandals and a matching handbag hung at her side. She had left her hair loose and it framed her face in a glorious, soft cloud that made him long to touch it. Her usual cross was gone and round her neck hung a simple gold chain and from her ears hung two little gold stakes. The only other jewellery she wore was the ring that he had given her for her birthday, the heart pointing inwards to show the world that she was taken.
Realising that he was staring he cleared his throat and said huskily, "You look beautiful."
"So do you!" she told him dazedly, still reeling from the sheer physical impact of Angel in a tuxedo
"I do?" he asked with a smile and she blushed slightly as what she had said registered
"Uh…I meant handsome, you-you look great!"
They kissed gently but when it threatened to become more passionate, Angel forced himself to pull back. Spying the rather large bag she had left by the door he picked it up and held out his hand saying, "Are you ready?"
"Just let me get my coat." She hurried into the living room and returned a few seconds later, shrugging into a slightly battered leather jacket that in no way matched the rest of her outfit.
Angel's eyebrows rose slightly as he recognised it as the one that he had given her not long after they had first met but he didn't comment and they left the house hand in hand.
Buffy was delighted by the car, running her fingers over the shiny, black convertible and exclaiming incredulously about the fact that she could have known him for so long without ever knowing that he could drive, let alone owned a car.
Her comment reminded Angel of his earlier thoughts and, after opening the door for her and sliding in behind the wheel, rather than starting the engine he turned to look at her and asked quietly, "How old are you, Buffy?"
"That's a strange question when you were at my Birthday party two days ago!" she said with a laugh but the sound was forced and she had tensed, unable to meet his eyes.
He didn't speak and after a moment s he glanced over to find him watching her patiently, his eyes sympathetic and a little sad but, most of all, filled with love. She looked away again and her shoulders slumped as she said quietly, "Eighteen and a half." Her eyes filled with tears and she surreptitiously tried to wipe them away but then Angel's hand was on her shoulder, turning her towards him so that she could bury her face in the broad expanse of his chest.
Her tears evaporated as she felt his strong arms surrounding her and breathed in the clean scent that was uniquely his and with a contented sigh she shifted to get closer to him. Sadly, the car had not been designed for this sort of activity and she gave a little squeak as something dug painfully into her thigh. Reluctantly Angel released her and started the car as she righted herself. He drove with one hand on the wheel and the other entwined with one of hers.
Buffy leaned back in her seat and watched him instead of the passing scenery. Her eyes sparkled with pleasure in his company and he could feel them stroking his face, almost like a physical touch, making it hard for him to remember to keep his eyes on the road. He glanced over at her with a smile and took her hand in his, raising it to his lips, "I love you," he told her softly.
A warm glow spread though her at his words and gentle touch and she shifted in her seat so that she could rest her head against his shoulder, ignoring the awkwardness of the pose. She pressed a lingering kiss to the skin of his neck just below his ear and was delighted when he shivered with pleasure at her touch, "I love you, too."
As they left Sunnydale behind them and headed into the night, for one, too-brief moment in time, they were both completely happy and at peace. Each knew that there would be problems in the future – adjustments to be made, problems to be solved and, inevitably, battles to be fought upon their return but for now all thoughts of duty were forgotten and they were content simply to be together.
For two precious days they would make love and play like children in the night and then, when the sun rose, hold each other tight and have long, healing talks that lasted hours and left no secrets between them, before sleeping in each other arms. They were not the Slayer and her guardian vampire but simply Buffy and Angel, two people who shared a love deeper than any the world had ever known.
I'm sorry that this ended rather abruptly, I was originally going to write about Buffy & Angel's trip to L.A but I have run into a nasty case of writers block and am VERY unhappy with everything I've written after this point. Rather than have this be a story that is never finished I have decided to end it here and write a sequel if I ever get it figured out. I have a few ideas for the problems Buffy's friends have dealing with the changes in her but they are very fuzzy and aren't supposed to happen for at least another three chapters or so. If I write it as a sequel then I can skip over the bit in the middle but I don't recommend holding your breath waiting for it, it could be months before I write any more on this, I have seven other stories in the works.