Home Again

Picture from Raelyn.

They didn’t leave the next day, not from lack of trying on Angelus’ part. But there were still too many wounded to be moved, his wife and child included and too many still unconscious from over use of magicks. Plus, it was day. 

The restlessness that raced through the hotel because of those factors made everyone on edge. 

It was an added combination of wanting to return to their own home, worrying about their still injured people, and mourning those who perished in the fight. It surprised no one that Darla died saving Ariana, for those that knew the vampiress knew of her devotion to the princess. Her sacrifice in no way endeared her back to the kingdom she helped betray, however, because it was expected. Darla put Ariana under her protection, such a sacrifice was required; but it did go a ways towards restoring her name among the kingdom. 

Ariana, for her part, said nothing on Darla’s death. She mourned quietly in Andre’s arms, healing slowly as she did so. Her one regret was that she hadn’t told Darla how much Ariana appreciated the vampiress role in her life. But Ariana vowed that she’d let everyone know how much Darla meant to her. Especially her father, who never knew of his daughter’s relationship with his sire, and her mother, who could never quite forgive Darla for her part in Angelus’ leaving, soulling, and consequential staying away. 

Angelus, still concerned about Buffy and still coming to terms with…so many things about his new existence, barked orders at his people. Conversely, those same people did as he bade almost gleefully, so happy to have him back. It didn’t improve his mood. They didn’t care, which caused Angelus to snarl more. William thought it was one of the funniest things he’d seen in a good long while, and couldn’t help but laugh every time he passed his grandsire. 

The younger vampire stood at the base of the stairs, watching Angelus and Theophilus talk in Wesley’s office. William scowled at the thought of the watcher, but focused on making sure everything was okay while Angelus took over his duties; as the Ancient settled things with Aurelius, and made plans for them all to return to the kingdom. Truthfully, William wasn’t sure how he felt about that, not the return, but Angelus taking over his duties once more. For the last four decades, William had followed Buffy’s lead, that time when he was thinking coup notwithstanding, and found he enjoyed it. 

Buffy was a strong, fearless leader, who brought peace to the Continuum and alliances with the other Lands for the first time in millennia while Angelus was…elsewhere. William had his own ideas about that, but doubted anyone would confirm them, and wasn’t sure he wanted them confirmed, anyway. It was of necessity, he knew, those alliances, for Buffy wasn’t vampiric, needed to protect Aurelius, and Ariana, and still search for her husband. 

His gaze drifted to the ceiling, as if he could see the queen through the layers of concrete. To his knowledge, there hadn’t been co-leaders in any Land in…just about as long as there hadn’t been this level of peace. Maybe it was just one more ‘first’ to chalk up to the Angelus/Buffy marriage. Still, William couldn’t wait to see what happened when they actually went home again. 

Nodding at Gunn as the First walked down the stairs from his long overdue rest, William retreated to his and Drusilla’s rooms. She was still weak, and he worried about the aftereffects of her strange seer-joining with Doyle. Plus, she kept murmuring about helping the seer. He wasn’t sure what she was talking about, but that often happened. Considering the amount of time they’d been together, William thought that by now he’d have at least an inkling of her ramblings. No such luck. 

So long as there was no more of that ‘He won’t be there for her’ blather about Angelus and Buffy, William decided that Dru could talk about anything she wanted. It was when she had those visions of horrible unchangeable futures that he developed an ulcer. Opening the door to their room, William smiled at Dru’s sleeping form. She was beautiful, and his, and as long as she remained so, what did it matter? 

William hoped, as he lay down next to Dru, pulling her soft form closer, he hadn’t just doomed himself with that thought. 

Theophilus, equally glad not to be in charge, still offered his opinion, unsolicited as it was, before he realized it was one of the many things he wanted to change about the Council. He looked at his Ancient and handed Angelus the stack of papers he’d brought with him. They were immediate things that needed to be taken care of the dealing with this insurrection and the direct consequences for Aurelius, the Continuum, and the Lands. 

Angelus growled at the minister, not really wanting to be away from Buffy for any length of time, but realizing the need to start his duties once more. When Theophilus left without going on for hours about things Angelus didn’t know about, nor care about, the vampire became suspicious. So, the minister busied himself with making sure the guards who were leaving right away had a way back to the Portal, thus keeping himself out of Angelus’ way. 

All their magick conjurers capable of teleporting between realms were in the Lands; the ones in the Mortal Realms were too tapped to do anything more than sleep. Theophilus had it on good authority from William that the Aero Plant was the way to go; he didn’t, however, understand how a plant could transport beings across great distances. If the minister had spoken to Rupert or Tara, or any of the elves that accompanied them, he may have changed his mind. But it was too late, and the extra warriors were already in the air. 

Forty vampires and elves still guarded the hotel, not including the Firsts, and Angelus believed that was enough. There were no plans to stay past the next day, two at the absolute most, and he doubted the Watcher’s ability to regroup that quickly. Aslan’s Cult was destroyed; there were no survivors from the rebels. Theophilus brought word with him that the rebels in the Lands were either captured, and awaiting the Ancient’s execution order, or gone. 

Gunn and Oz had sent out portions of the Elite Guard not reassigned to the protection of Aurelius’ line, to track the rebels down, and apparently, they were completely successful. Those who were no longer in the Lands were thought to have entered the Mortal Realm and join Aslan here. If that was the case, they were now dead. There were no rumors of more insurrections either in the Lands, or in any corner of this planet. It didn’t mean that there’d never be another uprising, but that could be dealt with when the time came. 

For now, it was enough that this one was taken care of, the followers and leaders dust, and the strange peace they’d helped to unwittingly foster with their uprising, still intact. 

“How is she?” 

Angelus, scowl still on his face, papers clenched in his fist, turned to face the speaker. “Faith,” he said relief strong in his voice – he wasn’t sure he could deal with anything more from Theophilus at the moment. The papers he’d thrust at Angelus were enough to make the Ancient want to seethe; Angelus had forgotten – or maybe repressed – all that went into the running of a kingdom. “You’re okay?” 

The slayer nodded. “Yeah, you know me, hard to kill and all.” 

That wasn’t exactly true. According to one of the elves, and Faith didn’t know her name, she really had died. For seconds only, but technically, Faith was dead. They’d brought her back from death, healed her. She hadn’t asked how, she hadn’t wanted to know. 

Angelus raised an eyebrow, knowing exactly what happened to Faith, he’d received reports on everyone. The survivors and…those who hadn’t. Jaclyn was the one to heal Faith, she was the one to take the broken and bleeding body of the slayer and mend it; the elf assured Angelus it was seconds only that the slayer passed into the next life, but Angelus wondered. 

With his own awareness of souls and afterlives, he wondered if Faith was better off living the rest of time in a peaceful hereafter. The humans here believed in a heaven, where there were no worries, no troubles, no pain or grief. A slayer’s life was dedicated to eradicating the evil, as they saw it, that permeated this planet. If that was the case, and the God they believed in believed that as well, then didn’t it also go that slayer’s would automatically go to heaven? 

From the haunted look in the brunette’s eyes, he wondered if she thought that, too. 

“You didn’t have a choice, Faith,” he told her as they stood in the lobby, sunlight tickling the edges of the floor. He was more grateful than he could say that she joined the fight, that she chose him and their friendship, such as it was, over the beliefs Wesley had instilled in her. There were still evil ‘demons,’ but using the term for everyone not 100% human was as bad as stereotyping an entire culture based on the actions of a few. 

Still, the taking of a life was hard. And something Angelus knew, intimately, the pain of. He did not, however, know how to address it with Faith. He certainly didn’t want to talk about his own experiences, and yet that was the only way he could think of to get her to talk about what happened hours before. Was it even his place to talk to her about it? He was leaving, that much Angelus knew, even if he was unsure what was going to happen once they went back to the Lands, they were leaving this Realm. 

Could he, should he, talk to her about her role in saving his life, in killing the humans she was sworn to protect, when he wasn’t going to be there for her in the future? Angelus didn’t think so, but didn’t know who the best choice was. Doyle came to mind; the seer had his own issues he was working out, could he be of help to Faith? 

Maybe he’d suggest it to his friend, Angelus decided. Just because he couldn’t be there for Faith – he finally knew where he belonged, for better or worse, and that was with his family –didn’t mean someone shouldn’t be. He didn’t want the slayer to spiral down into the darkness, to lose herself because of her actions in saving the lives of her friends. 

“How’s the little wife?” Faith asked, changing the subject, not really wanting to deal with everything at the moment. Maybe later. Much later, when she had a chance to come to terms with it herself. Besides, she couldn’t resist the phrasing and wondered how Angelus would react to that. 

She didn’t want to think of the humans she killed, the vampires. Before, there hadn’t been a difference: in good verses evil or in vampires. Vampires were evil. She killed evil. Then she met Angelus and that changed. Everything changed. Angelus was a vampire but had a soul; everything she knew, been taught, was thrown into chaos at the new addition to the old equation. When she chose to help her friends, help them fight those who would do them harm, even if they were human, something inside Faith died. 

The small spark of hope she carried within her that never failed no matter what she saw or did or knew, that trust she had in the human race, contrary to what the news was filled with, died. 

Humans were just as evil as vampires were. It was worse, however, because they possessed a soul, a conscience, the ability to choose between right and wrong. When the Council sent those black ops watchers after them, Faith realized that it wasn’t just the vampires they were after. It was anyone who was in league with Angelus and in their way to get to Buffy.
And from what Xander told her, they were after Willow, too. Because that elfin princess, Tara, was interested in her. The Council wanted to know why, and wanted to exploit that power before anyone (or anything) else could. She warned Xander not to repeat that to Willow, under threat of extreme torture and death. No matter what happened in the past, Willow considered him her best friend, stood up for him numerous times, and would most likely continue to do so. 

There was no telling what would happen between them if the shy redhead knew her best friend from forever had sold her out. She talked to Gunn already, and made sure he knew not to say anything to Willow and extracted a promise from the good-looking vampire that Oz, or anyone else in that inner circle, wouldn’t either. 

Angelus’ eyes narrowed at her phrasing, as Faith figured they would, and she knew that they’d lost him. If they ever really had him to begin with, which she was doubtful of, now. The slayer could acknowledge, now, that none of them really knew anything about their friend, not even Doyle. It was strange, as before Buffy showed up, Faith would’ve sworn she knew most everything about Angelus. How wrong they were, and what an injustice they’d done to him because of that. 

A low rumble sounded in his chest yet he smiled at the slayer. Faith had a feeling that wasn’t meant to placate her. It didn’t. 

The Queen is doing just fine, Faith,” Angelus said and that baring of teeth didn’t lessen. But then his shoulders relaxed. This was Faith, this was how she was, what she was like. She’d been through a lot in the past day, considering she wasn’t 100% stable to begin with – he wondered if any slayer was or could be – he was amazed she held up as well as she was. 

Angelus had seen Faith on one of her benders, giving into the slayer within and wreaking havoc on those around her. The damage usually wasn’t physical, she saved that for her nightly patrols when even the most vicious of demons became wary of her, but she had a wicked mouth on her and used it to lob accurate missiles at those nearest and dearest. 

More than once, when everyone else left her alone, crawling away to lick their own wounds as she worked hers out in her own way, Angelus had gone after the slayer. They didn’t understand it, he knew, didn’t fully understand her, though they tried to, to a certain extent. Riley, especially, didn’t understand the woman he professed to love; yet he was always there for her. It was his only redeeming quality, as far as Angelus was concerned. And the only reason he still lived. 

“Thank you,” he said, nodding to Faith. Then, more awkwardly, not really having a point of reference for this, “Did you want to see her?” 

“Maybe later,” Faith said with another wicked smile. “I want to talk with this woman who’s got you all grr.” 

“Grrr?” 

“It’s a Willow thing,” Faith laughed, and didn’t explain. She wasn’t sure how to, actually. “You’re leaving with her, aren’t you.” It wasn’t a question. 

“Yes. She’s my wife,” the vampire said straightforwardly and with no hesitation. “It’s time I went back to her; it’s been too long already. I’ve neglected her, my daughter, my kingdom. I have to return. I want to return.” 

Faith nodded and smiled at the handsome vampire. “I’ll miss ya, Angelus.” 

“Thanks, Faith,” and they both knew he meant it. “How’s…how’s Riley?” It took a lot for him to ask that and Faith knew it. 

“He’ll live, I’m told,” and Faith felt her heart harden at the thought of him. “He…” Tears she would never shed pooled in her eyes and she forced them back. “Thanks.” 

“For?” Again, it was a growl.

“You didn’t have to let him live, I know you didn’t want to.” Her voice grew quieter as she went on, not used to thanking someone for the life of her lover, when she wanted to beat the shit out of said lover. “You didn’t have to let those elves heal him. I know you wanted him dead, for what he did, and I…I know you did it for me. So, thanks.” 

There was a thick silence between them for several long minutes, as Faith squirmed under Angelus’ steady gaze. Finally, he let out a breath and stepped closer to Faith. He couldn’t believe he was going to do this, couldn’t believe the words that were about to come out of his mouth were actually about to come out of his mouth. 

He already knew he wasn’t back to who he was before the gypsies, knew that the last two hundred years had made an impact on him whether he wanted them to, or liked it, or not. The differences were clear to him, even if everything felt a little fuzzy. He’d have never let Riley live before, no matter what he meant to Faith, because he wouldn’t have cared if Faith loved him or not.

“Do you love Riley?” 

“What?” That wasn’t what she expected. 

“Riley,” Angelus repeated, and the name was a growl even as he tried not to let his rage at the boy seep through. “Do you love him?” 

Faith shrugged. “I guess.” 

“Yes or no, Faith.” His patience was wearing thin, mostly at himself for feeling the need to ask the question. And he could feel Buffy waking. He didn’t want her to wake alone. If they were truly going to start again, to repair their relationship and work on their future, then he wanted to start it right. And that meant being there when she was healing from the battles yesterday.

Faith stared at him. Why was this so important? She didn’t know how she felt about the man; she enjoyed him, she didn’t want anything to happen to him, and she knew he loved her. She didn’t want him to leave, she wanted him around and alive. But did she love him? 

“Yes,” yes she did. Maybe not in the all consuming way it was obvious Angelus did his wife, but Faith loved Riley, she needed him, she wanted him. 

“Then if it’s that important, if he’s that important to you, don’t let this stand between you. You’re absolutely right in that I’m letting him live for your sake. If he’s that important to you, work through this. If he’s not…” Angelus smiled again, that wicked smile that made Faith want to shudder in fear, agree to anything Angelus said, and kiss him all at once. He really was a handsome man, vampire or not. “Send him to me, and I’ll make him regret that, too.” 

Faith nodded at that. She felt like she had to show him how much that meant to her, kiss his cheek, hug him, or something, but wasn’t comfortable in doing so. So she settled for saying, “Thanks,” again, a carefully guarded tear tracking down her face as she stared at the closest thing to a guardian angel she had. Angelus smiled at her, not commenting on the tear, and Faith wondered if it was possible to keep in touch with the man. 

He turned, then, and Faith didn’t think that was a wise idea. They lived in two different worlds, literally. So she tucked everything he taught her, everything he tried to help her with, everything he ever said to her or wanted her to learn, and watched him return to his wife. 

She really was going to miss him. 

Willow descended the steps then, as Angelus raced up them. She glanced at the vampire as he passed her without a look through tired eyes then down at the slayer. She could’ve sworn Faith had tears in her eyes, but by the time Willow got close enough, they were gone. 

“Hey, Willow, how’s the head?” 

“Believe it or not, still attached.” 

Faith snorted, draping her arm around her friend and leading the other woman in to the kitchen. There was nothing, in the slayer’s high metabolism opinion, that a little food couldn’t help. “So glad to hear that.” 

“I was too, but at the moment,” Willow said as her hand drifted upwards to make sure her head really was attached, “I’m not so sure.” She seated herself at the island counter and gratefully waited while Faith prepared them both sandwiches. “Have you heard about Oz?” 

“The elf?” Willow nodded and Faith noted the apprehension in her eyes. A sinking suspicion settled in the pit of her stomach and the slayer wondered if she was losing another friend. “Gunn says he’s fine, just needs some rest before they head out.” 

“Oh,” Willow whispered as Faith set a plate in front of her, suddenly no longer hungry. “They’re leaving? When?” 

Oh, boy, this was going to be tough on her friend. “As soon as they’re able, I guess.” She shrugged and bit her own sandwich, chewing the bread and meat without really tasting it. “Though I’m thinking Angelus’ll carry that wife of his out of here if it’s too much longer.” 

“Yeah,” Willow said as she ate a bite of her food, uninterested in it, and rested her head on the counter. “I guess so.” 

“Are you going with him?” The words were out of Faith’s mouth before she could think about them, let alone stop them. Where had they come from? 

Fuck, the slayer thought, what was she doing? She didn’t want Willow to leave, wasn’t sure she could go on without her best friend. While it was Riley who stood by her no matter what, it was Willow who prodded her more than once. Willow and Cordelia who helped her get over Walsh’s betrayal, who pushed her in Riley’s direction when it was clear the soldier cared for her despite the situation they found themselves in. 

It was Willow and Cordelia who stood by her when she went a little crazy, who let her do so. Who sent – Faith was sure – Angelus out to look for her that first time she lost it and left the hotel. It was because of them Faith had the chance to finally work with Angelus, get to know the vampire enough to consider him a friend. 

What was she thinking, urging Willow to leave with Oz? Which she hadn’t actually done yet, so what was the problem? 

“Oz, I mean,” her mouth said as her brain frantically told herself to shut the hell up. “Are you leaving with him? 

“What? No!” Willow said as she raised her aching head from the counter. Man, those magicks hurt when used so forcefully. “He’s leaving, and I’m…I’m staying.” 

“Do you want to?” Shut up, mouth, just shut up! 

Willow was silent for several moments, absently eating her sandwich, not even realizing she was. “I don’t know,” she finally admitted at length. “I like spending time with him, but I haven’t known him for that long. I mean he might not want me, or eat disgusting turnips, or, or, snore!”

Faith laughed and said suggestively, “Won’t know until you find out, eh?” 

“Faith!” Willow said, not really shocked at her friend’s behavior, and laughing. “But the problem is that I don’t know, I mean it’s been, what, two days, three? What do I know about him? He’s Buffy’s First, and I get the feeling he takes that seriously. Really seriously. They don’t exactly live around here, it like a totally different dimension where time doesn’t even work the same way! What…what if I get there,” Willow said as her breath hitched. 

“Assuming I even go, I want to go, he wants me to go, and I get there. And I hate it, and things don’t work out and it’s horrible and awful and then what happens? I come back here, but more time passed here than there and no one will remember me and I’ll be the same age but you all will have aged and, and, and…” 

“Willow!” Faith shouted, clasping her friends’ shoulders and shaking her. When she got going, Willow really worked herself up. “Chill, girl!” Waiting a few minutes for the redhead to get herself back under control, Faith smiled and kissed her forehead. 

“I will always be here for you,” And now she realized where the words were coming from. She loved this girl, this incredible woman who helped her through so much, who stayed with her, sat with her, and held her as she shook after the C. she loved Willow like a sister, like an extension of herself. 

Faith only wanted what was best for her friend, for her sister of the heart. She’d miss Willow terribly, but wasn’t it better to know that her friend was happy, even if it wasn’t in the same hotel? And it wasn’t as if they couldn’t communicate. Sure, telephones might not work, Faith was sure the phone company didn’t have an interdimensional calling plan, but there had to be a way.

She’d find it, before Willow left, Faith cowed to find a way. 

“I love you, Willow,” and damn it, Faith felt herself tear up again. “You are my best friend, my sister. But I see the way you look at Oz, and the way he looks at you. I see the way you act together, and sure, it’s only been a few days, but take it. If things don’t work out, I’m sure you’ll know fairly quickly, and you know you can always come back here. But if they do, Willow, what if they do? Don’t you want that?” 

Willow, tears running down her face at her friend’s words, hugged the slayer. Faith wasn’t an overly emotional girl, but sometimes, Willow thought, sometimes she really knew the right things to say. 

“So,” Willow said as she wiped the tears off her cheeks and went back to her half eaten sandwich. “Think Doyle and Cordy really will tie the knot?”
**********
Angelus hurried up the stairs to his room, just as Buffy woke fully, reaching for him. It was a comforting sensation, a familiar one and one long missed, as she contacted him through their bond. She was still mostly asleep, reaching out for him unconsciously as she struggled through the pain to wakefulness. 

Opening the door with a nod to Gunn, Angelus quickly crossed the room and to the bed. 

He knew Buffy was in pain, it was coming clearly through their marriage bond, it was evident on her face, the way her eyes were squeezed closed, her mouth was drawn, the paleness of her beautifully bronzed face. Sitting on the bed, the vampire ran his hands over his wife’s body, checking for tenderness and bleeding. 

Whimpering at the touch, partly out of pain, but partly out of familiar comfort, Buffy woke fully. When she opened her eyes to see Angelus, she smiled, the pain forgotten for a few moments. She captured his hand and tugged him down beside her, grimacing at her own weakness. She hated being weak, hated having to rely on someone else, even if that someone was Angelus. For far too long she relied on only herself, building up walls and barriers until no one noticed her pain, no one knew the agony she was in. 

“Baby,” he said as he kissed the top of her head, pulling her carefully into his embrace. “You should be sleeping; you’re still injured.” The wound on her side had closed, but there was still bruising and tenderness in the area, a serious amount. Not to mention the rest of her scrapes and scratches. 

Buffy sighed, moving further into his arms, careful not to pull her side. “Can’t sleep,” she admitted. 

“Why not?” He resisted, barely, crushing her body to his, capturing her lips in a panicked kiss and reminding the both of them what they’d missed these past years. Her health came first, so Angelus restrained himself. But the memory of her bleeding body in his arms was still vivid in his mind, and Angelus didn’t think it was going to fade anytime soon. They had time now, he reminded himself, they had all the time. 

“How’s Ariana?” Worry for her child laced the question Buffy was afraid to ask. “How’re William and Drusilla, Gunn, Oz, the rest of the guards?” 

Ah, now Angelus understood and kicked himself for not realizing it sooner. He’d been so worried about his wife, her injuries, his daughter and her injuries, that he hadn’t thought Buffy might be worried over others. He assured her earlier that day, and then only briefly, that Ariana was alive and safe, but hadn’t gone into detail. 

If he could, he’d protect her from everything; he’d done a lousy job of it these last years, but vowed to start fresh. Now. Angelus didn’t want to tell Buffy that Ariana nearly died, that her arm was still damaged and Tara wasn’t entirely sure she’d have the use of that arm anytime soon. He didn’t want to tell her that Andre blamed himself, and that he, Angelus, blamed himself as well. He didn’t want his wife to worry, because Ariana was alive. But knew Buffy well enough to know she’d also blame herself. 

“She’s fine, love, Andre’s with her. She had a nasty slash on her arm, but Tara healed her.” He didn’t tell Buffy of the concussion Ariana suffered, figuring she didn’t need the added stress while she was still so weak herself. 

“And everyone else?” Buffy thought he was hiding something from her, but figured it was something to do with everyone else. 

When they’d talked earlier about the causality list, Angelus told her numbers only, not specifics, not names, not acquaintances. He’d told her enough to allay her fears, that both Ariana and Andre were safe and recovering nicely, that both Gunn and Oz were safe, that William and Drusilla were alive, that her father and sister were fine, if exhausted. But Angelus hadn’t told her about anyone else. 

“Darla’s dead,” he said as he pulled back a little to look into her eyes. He wasn’t sure how he felt about his Sire’s death, there was still too much animosity on his part to really think about her, let alone mourn her. But he knew that, strangely enough, Ariana cared for Darla. 

“Dead?” So, that was what the feeling was, Buffy thought, that was what the sudden loss was, the tugging feeling within her. “I knew…how…?” 

“The details aren’t clear, but she sacrificed herself to save Ariana.” How had Buffy known Darla was dead? She was his sire and he hadn’t known, there was only one bond more potent, more powerful than the Sire/Childe bond and it was a mate’s bond. 

“Baby,” he asked, looking into her unfocused eyes. Part of that was due to pain, Angelus knew, could see as well as feel, but part of it was something else. What? “How did you know she was dead?” 

He didn’t know, Buffy realized. She’d never told him, they had discussed so much over the past days, but not that. At the time there was too much else to talk about, but now Buffy wondered why he hadn’t asked, when she knew he knew. Buffy was surprised to feel nothing at that, not anger at him for leaving her no other alternative, not hatred. Only pity, pity towards the vampiress who sired him and who loved their daughter as if Ariana was Darla’s own. 

It was something Buffy never thought she’d feel towards the blonde vampiress. 

“When you were…gone,” she began, settling into a more comfortable position against Angelus, careful not to wrench anything. Her side throbbed and her head ached, but she wasn’t tired. Logically Buffy knew that was a lie, but figured it was the news Angelus just gave her.

“When you were here, during Ariana’s pregnancy, I needed…I needed my mate’s blood.” Looking at him, Buffy saw how he sucked in a breath he didn’t need, how his eyes hardened. Was it because he realized where she was going with this story, or was it something else? 

“I was dieing, we both were. Ariana was half vampire, and needed her father’s blood to continue to grow. Drusilla, she realized this and offered herself to me. Being of your line, made directly from you, it was a logical choice. It helped, I was finally able to sleep and heal, but when I woke up I realized that I needed something more.” 

Buffy stumbled over her words. It wasn’t that she was uncomfortable with this, and, yes, she really was, then there was the fact that she never talked about it, with anyone, before. The words she needed to describe everything weren’t there. 

“Dru’s blood was fine, it nourished Ariana, and helped me, but it wasn’t enough. I needed your blood, but you weren’t there. Darla was. Because…because I’d drank from you before, my body was used to it, craved it. You once warned me that drinking from one another was addicting. I was, addicted that is.” 

Angelus held himself rigid as Buffy went on. This was what he’d felt, then. This was what that feeling was, he remembered so clearly. He remembered feeling Buffy drink from another and thought, however irrationally and however fleeting that thought was, that she was drinking from her new lover. He was close in his guess, for the act of drinking from another was sometimes more intimate than any sexual act two non-mated beings could do. 

“You drank from her even after Ariana was born,” Angelus said and it wasn’t a question. 

“Yes, I still needed your blood, but it wasn’t often, every few months or so, maybe three times a year. No one ever knew; it was a secret more guarded than your soul.” Another thing they had to discuss, as Buffy had a strong suspicion the mystical element that kept them apart all this time was no longer an issue. 

It was bad enough, Angelus thought as he struggled with both jealously and guilt, that he felt that act, thought it was with a new lover, and vowed to rip the man’s eyeballs out through his nose. Now, now, it was worse. Because he had to contend with the fact that because he wasn’t there both his wife and child could have died; that because he wasn’t there, Buffy was forced to turn to a woman she hated above all others. 

He hated the fact that Darla shared in what he wanted, hated that she was a more integral part of Ariana’s life than he was, hated that she knew the ecstasy that was Buffy drinking from her. Guilty that he left his beloved in the first place, forcing her to go through all that. Alone. 

“…How’d you do it?” Buffy was asking but Angelus had no idea what the question pertained to. Digging deep within him, tapping the well that was their bond, he grimaced as he realized her question. 

“I didn’t. Or not very well, at least. The first night we were together,” he admitted as he looked into her beautiful green eyes, nothing the fine haze of pain there, “I drank from you, remember?” 

“Yes,” of course, she remembered, she remembered a lot about that night, including the feel, the taste, of his blood flowing down her throat. Darla’s was potent and necessary. Angelus was…better. In a thousand ways, big and small, his blood was better. 

“In all the time we’d been apart, I’ve drank from others,” Angelus continued as he looked at her, willing her to understand. “I’ve feed from the lowlifes that plague this plant, I’ve tried to still the ache within by feeding from other vampires, ones not of Aurelius, and yet nothing worked. I had horrible shakes, that drinking from them couldn’t control, nightmares and vivid dreams that seemed almost real. It was only at the first taste of you I felt something approaching sanity return. 

“I’m addicted to you, Buffy; it was never a question of that. The thought of you made me shake, not only you, your presence, your body, your spirit, but also your blood. It made me mad with hunger and wild with need. But now, now that I’ve had another taste, now that I’ve assuaged that ache…there’s no going back. Without you, I’m as good as dead. I don’t really know how I survived this time. I know I won’t do so again.” 

“You won’t have to,” Buffy assured him but wondered if it were possible to live without drinking from each other again. Could they try, or were they destined to need each other in that way as well, forever? 

“Never again,” she finished with a smile. And then, because she wasn’t completely sure, because she did have some small insecurity left, because they did still have so much to work through. “You are still returning, right?” 

Angelus laughed, feeling like his old self again. He ignored her wounds and crushed her to him, his mouth seeking hers in a kiss that curled her toes – the one place that didn’t hurt. “Yes, my love, yes I am.” 

“Good,” Buffy whispered, another fear put to rest. She wasn’t sure when all her fears would finally cease to be an issue, but decided that confronting them one at a time was best; it was the only way she’d survive with her sanity, and her marriage, in tact.

They lay together for the rest of the morning, dozing in the comfort and safety of each other’s arms. There were things they needed to see to, duties that never let them truly rest. But that wasn’t for now, those duties would still be there, that was the one thing about ruling a kingdom; the same things awaited you day after day. 

“Is it possible,” Angelus asked at length, “For you to get pregnant again?” 

Buffy raised her head from his chest and looked into the hooded gaze of her husband’s eyes. “Yes,” she said finally, her tone neutral. “Yes it is.” 

“We’d been together ten years when Ariana was conceived, why hadn’t it happened before then?” 

Another thing Buffy realized they hadn’t talked about was this. Oh, Angelus accepted that Ariana was his, it was hard not to when the girl looked so much like her father. But they hadn’t talked about it. Not really. 

“Elves are fertile for nearly all their lives, beginning at their Second Birth Rite. Because we are immortal, our bodies evolved to compensate for that; only once every twenty years is it possible to conceive.” 

“Technically vampires are dead,” Angelus said. “We exist in an animated body but have no heartbeat, have no breath, have no way to conceive children; that’s why when we produce offspring, it’s through the exchange of blood.” 

“Elves are highly magickal beings,” Buffy said as she sat up, facing Angelus. Her hand reached out to trace his beloved face, “We can conceive a child with another elf, when the time is right, with a human, and with vampires. Only master vampires,” she qualified, “They’re the only ones who possess enough strength to work with our magicks, they’re the only ones with enough power themselves, to conceive a child. No matter if they’re strong magickally or not, being a Master is strength enough.” 

 “Why,” he asked, his own insecurities coming out even in light of her admission. The remembered anger, the mistrust, the wondering. “Why have you never told me? Why didn’t you say something to me when we married, why didn’t you warn me this was even a possibility?” 

“You never asked,” Buffy said with a smile. “And,” she sighed, realizing that she should have said something, years earlier, “I thought you knew. It wasn’t common knowledge, in fact it’s extremely rare for an elf and a vampire to be close enough to produce a child; I’ve found references to only a few others, and couldn’t find any of them during my pregnancy.” 

Buffy shifted closer, her side twinged as she did so. Ignoring the pain, she said, “You’re the Ancient of the strongest kingdom in the Continuum. I know the Ancient before you was well versed in magicks, even if he didn’t possess much power himself. Our records are filled with his attempts to control things, his acquirement of knowledge. I just figured…” she trailed off, shrugging. 

“I figured that you knew.” 

Angelus was silent for several long minutes and Buffy grew increasingly worried. They’d come so far, but not, it seemed far enough. Well, it didn’t matter. She wasn’t going to give up, not after all this, not after finding him again, not after Ariana already met him. If he thought he wasn’t coming back with her, Buffy growled as she let these thoughts flow uninterrupted from her to him, her husband had another thing coming. 

‘Relax, love,’ Angelus smirked as he sat up. ‘It’s just a lot to take in.’ 

Blushing as she realized her unguarded thoughts, Buffy smiled. “So no more of that ‘vampires can’t have children’ business?” 

“No,” Angelus shook his head, “But you have to admit, if we’d actually talked about that, the last two hundred years wouldn’t have happened.” 

“I know,” she sighed as she straddled his hips, cuts, scrapes, bruises, pain be damned. She had her husband back, she wasn’t about to let him out of her sight anytime soon. “But I really thought you knew. And,” she said with a frown, “I never expected you to react that way.” 

“I’m sorry,” he said as the guilt he still felt over that day welled within him, and Angelus knew Buffy could feel it. “I’m sorry I ever hurt you, it was the last thing I ever wanted to do. But I really thought you lied to me. And then afterwards…when you wouldn’t even talk to me…things spiraled.” 

Tears pooled in her eyes as Buffy remembered those days, those horrible months that turned into nightmare years without Angelus. “I guess even with our mating bond we never really talked about things. Just thought that everything we needed to know could be learned through that.” 

“Communication seems to be the key,” Angelus confirmed. “We’ll have to work on that.”
Smiling as he leaned in, capturing her lips with his, Angelus’ mind whispered, ‘There are many kinds of communication,’ his mouth trailed downwards to suck briefly on her scar, ‘We’ll have to work on all of them.’ 

Buffy didn't respond, frankly, she didn’t have to. This was the one area words weren’t needed.
~~~~~~~~~~
Doyle nervously shifted from foot to foot as the big black vampire stared at him. 

He wanted to remind the vampire they were on the same side, that they just fought two major battles together, winning both of them against the odds. That he was Angelus’ friend and everything that happened the past several years with the souled vampire would remain between them, no one in his kingdom needed to know about it. But Gunn continued to look at the seer as if her were a menace to everything the vampire held dead and not to be trusted. 

Doyle hoped he was as good at his job in that kingdom of Angelus’ as he was here. 

“I need to speak with him,” Doyle said finally. 

“He and the Queen are not to be disturbed.” Gunn wasn’t afraid of the seer before him; it had nothing to do with that. He was concerned Doyle was going to try and talk Angelus out of leaving here for home. 

The haphazardly thrown together plan for this scenario was basically to keep any and all humans away from both the king and queen and hope they left before any one of them could talk the Ancient out of leaving this backwater realm. 

It was not one of their better plans. 

“Look, I know you’re his First, his guard, but I need to ask him something.” Doyle looked down the hallway to his own suite of rooms, hoping Cordelia still slept soundly. He’d left her to speak with Angelus before anyone else woke, needing to talk with his best friend. 

“He and the Queen are not to be disturbed.” Gunn repeated and hated that that was the best he could come up with. He was getting too old for this, and at the moment, he was exhausted. He so needed a vacation. 

“Yeah, yeah, look. I just need to ask him a simple question. It doesn’t involve his wife; it doesn’t involve his family, kingdom, land, whatever. It’s simply-” A door opened and Doyle stopped, a panicked look on his face. When he realized it was just one of the elfin guards leaving their rooms, he relaxed. 

He was too jumpy for this, the seer thought. Too tired and too nervous. “It has nothing to do with him, and everything to do with my continued existence on this planet.” 

Now Gunn was intrigued. “Explain.”

Heaving another sigh, Doyle did just that. In short to the point sentences, he laid out the problem. “Big fight yesterday, big fight I wasn’t sure we were going to win. I promised Delia I’d marry her tomorrow, which is today, and now I have no idea how to do that.” He paused as he gauged Gunn’s reaction. 

“Have you no wish to marry your woman?” 

Doyle snorted. “I’ve every wish, man,” he admitted with a silly grin. “But that’s not the point. There’s this whole big thing where you need time and money and a church. None of which I have, and it’s tomorrow already.” 

He couldn’t help it, Gunn realized; he had to laugh at the poor human’s predicament. “Does she have a plan for this wedding?” 

“Probably,” Doyle admitted with another silly smile. “But that’s not the point. The point is that I promised I’d marry her tomorrow, and since it’s now tomorrow, I need to make good on that promise. As I’ve no way of doing that on my own,” the seer continued, increasingly desperate, “I need help.” 

Without a word the First knocked on the door, turning to face front as soon as he did so. Gunn really missed the large nearly soundproofed wooden doors of the palace. He couldn’t wait to get home. 

Within moments the door opened revealing a sleep tussled Angelus with a scowl on his face. “What?” Then, seeing Doyle, he relaxed his stance, nodded to Gunn, and motioned his friend inside.

Closing the door behind them, he waited for Doyle to say why he was there. Angelus figured the seer would still be asleep, but that obviously wasn’t the case. And now he was looking strange, like he was trying to figure out some great secret. 

“You’re leaving,” Doyle said, “Aren’t you?” 

“Yes,” Angelus confirmed. 

Still peering at Angelus, Doyle tried to figure out what was different. “What happened? You were dead set against it, man, what changed your mind?” And then he saw it, saw what he was looking for, saw the difference, the change in his friend. He was so shocked he didn’t even realize that the prudent thing was to take a step backwards or maybe run for his life. 

“You’ve lost your soul,” he breathed in awe. 

“No, no I haven’t,” Angelus said with no inflection as if it didn’t matter one way or another. “It’s still here, I can still feel it. I just don’t feel it as strongly; it’s a part of me now the way it never was before.” Which was true, before all Angelus felt was divided, the duality of the two beings within him often in open conflict. Now it was as if they’d reached a kind of accord with each other, and lived, together, inside of him. The agreement between the soul and demon relieved most, if not all, of the tension he often carried within him, as well. 

“Whether I have or not,” Angelus continued, “Doesn’t matter. But then, it never mattered; not to Buffy. Truth be told, who and what I was never mattered: Buffy loved me regardless of who or what I was or what I did before. And thankfully, Ariana feels the same. I've made them suffer long enough it’s time I go back to where I belong and who I belong with. ” 

“Wow…and your wife? What does she think?” He heard Angelus’ words, but was in a state of semi-shock and had to ask. Doyle couldn’t believe it. The only vampire in existence to have a soul and Doyle knew him, and he was still alive to speak about it when that being’s soul and demon…merged. 

“It no longer matters, Doyle,” Angelus said again with a smile as he looked in the direction of the bedroom. “They accept me for who I am, soul or no. It doesn’t matter. Buffy always accepted me, always loved me.” 

“Wow,” Doyle said, then again, “Wow.” 

“What did you want, Doyle?” Angelus asked. He didn’t want to be rude, a concession to the soul who considered the half-demon before him a friend, but he wanted to return to Buffy.

“Want?” Doyle stared blankly at Angelus. “Oh, right! Listen I need your help. I promised Cordelia I’d marry her the day after that battle. That’s today. I have no way to plan a wedding in a matter of hours.” 

Angelus smirked. Vampire hearing being what it was, there were few secrets in his hotel. “I happen to know that she’s already got the wedding planned, all it needs is execution.” He laughed at Doyle’s shocked look. “But if you’re serious about it being today, I’m sure Judge Wilson will be happy to help.” 

“That judge we saved a few months ago from the pack of Hell Hounds?” Doyle forgot about him until now, having no real need for a legal judge. He had quite enough worries with the atonement judges he knew he faced on a daily basis. 

“Yes, I’m sure he’d be happy to help you and Cordelia.” 

Doyle’s face took on it’s now perpetual silly smile at the thought of marrying his princess. “Yeah, thanks, Angelus.” 

The vampire turned to leave, obviously considering that a fine dismissal. Doyle, however, had one more thing. “Listen, I know you’re leaving and all…” damn he was going to miss his friend. “But I’ve one last favor to ask of ye.” 

Angelus turned back to his friend and waited. Doyle was possibly the only thing he was going to miss in this realm, the man turned out to be a true friend. And Angelus was sure he’d never had one of those before. 

“I want you to be my best man.” At Angelus’ confused look, Doyle elaborated, “It means kinda like my second, you stand up for me, witness the whole thing. You…” he couldn’t believe he was getting choked up over this. “You’re my best friend, Angelus, without you I’d never have made it this far, never even met Cordelia. Please.” 

Slowly Angelus nodded. “Okay, yes. But it has to be today. We’re leaving tonight.” If he had to carry Buffy all the way back to the Portal, he’d do so, but now that they were leaving, he wanted to be gone. He missed home.  

“Thanks, man,” Doyle said and, without thinking, hugged the vampire. “You have no idea how much this means to me.” 

Unsure if he was doing the right thing, Angelus returned the hug, briefly. When Doyle pulled away that same smile was back. Without another word the seer left, he had calls to make, plans to put into action. He was getting married today! 

Angelus shook his head at the whistling Irishman, and returned to his bed, his body already calling out to Buffy’s. Shedding the robe, he slipped beneath the covers once more, his naked body molding automatically to hers. 

‘You’re going to miss him,’ Buffy’s thoughts whispered to him. 

‘Yeah, he’s been a good friend here.’ 

‘If he understands you the way it seems he does, then I agree. I’m glad you found him, love.’ 

Angelus chuckled. ‘It was the other way around, beloved. He found me.’ Changing the subject before Buffy fell back asleep, he said, ‘We’ll leave right after they get married. I want to be gone from this Realm. I miss home.’ 

Smiling, Buffy told him before she fell back asleep, ‘Home’s missed you too, Angelus, we all have.’

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