“I don’t understand, Buffy. Are you…in love with him?”
Buffy sighed and looked down at her hands, nervously twirling her fingers in her lap. “I don’t know. It’s too soon for that.”
“I’ve told you. There’s something there, between us.” She paced around his office in LA, wishing she had decided against coming to see him before finally settling down on the air of a lounge chair.
“Between you and Spike. There’s something between you and Spike,” Angel said uncomprehending.
“How did this happen? Why?!” he said, his voice rising.
“I don’t know, Angel. It started a while ago. He’s…different now.”
“Are you…dating? Sleeping with him?”
“That’s none of your business,” she snapped, her anger bubbling.
“He’s the same guy who for several years running tried to kill you and all your friends, to kill me,” Angel pointed out.
“And if I remember correctly, you’ve tried to do that too,” she shot back, then immediately felt bad. “I’m sorry, that wasn’t fair. You didn’t have your soul then.”
“Neither does he, Buffy. I don’t care if he’s got a chip in his head. That’s not a replacement for a soul,” Angel spat.
She sighed again. “Look. I came here because I wanted to tell you in person. I didn’t want you to find out from someone else. Not something like this, considering your history, and my history and all our histories. So…I’ve told you. I’ll leave.” Pushing off the chair she had been seated in she grabbed her coat and headed to the front door.
Angel stopped her, grabbing her arm. “You’ve told me, but you haven’t made me understand. You owe me that much.”
She whirled around to face him, green eyes flashing. “Why?! Why do I have to make you understand? Angel, that can’t be my problem any more. I had a hard time making people understand about us too, remember? But eventually they came around.”
“Xander never liked me. Does Xander understand this?” he asked, eyes blazing. “Or Willow? Giles?”
She became quiet.
“I’ll take that as a no,” he smirked.
Her eyes shifted to the ground and she shuffled her feet. “No…none of them understand. Not even Willow.”
“Does that tell you anything?” he shouted, throwing his arms wide.
She shifted uncomfortably. “They’ll understand someday.”
“Someday? So you’re looking to make this long-term, is that it? Gonna marry him? Have kids…oh wait…that’s impossible!” he shouted, pacing around his office.
Her head jerked up and she met his glare dead on. “That’s unfair.”
“Is it? Tell me why. Tell me what makes this different than between you and me. Tell me why you think you can make this work with him, a soulless demon, when it couldn’t work with us.”
She smirked. “He’s never left me,” she told him, her tone icy.
Angel jerked back as if he’d been punched. “Now that’s unfair. You know my reasons for leaving. You know why I couldn’t stay, why I couldn’t hold you back.”
“Yeah, I do. I can recite them,” Buffy shot back, her chin coming up. She ticked off each point on a finger. “You couldn’t marry me, you couldn’t have a family with me, you couldn’t see me in the sun, you’d outlive me by a hundred years or more, you couldn’t do this, you couldn’t do that.”
Angel took an unnecessary breath to calm himself. “Neither can he. What kind of life can he offer you?” he asked her softly. “Aren’t those things important to you? They were when we were together…you admitted that in the end. Sometimes loving someone isn’t enough to make it work. I loved you enough to let you go.”
Buffy leaned against the nearest wall and let out a harsh laugh. “Yeah, you’re a stand-up guy.” She regretted the words and her expression showed it. “I—I don’t know if those things are important to me anymore, Angel. But I guess I’ll find out.”
“Buffy…we haven’t been together in a long time. You’ve moved on…I’ve…been trying. I have no right to tell you what to do, and I know that. But I don’t understand this.”
“It’s simple, Angel. I’m with Spike now. He cares about me…he protects Dawn.”
“So it’s hero worship? Is that it?”
She glared at him. “No…I do care for him.” She closed her eyes. “When you left…it ripped my heart out. I was lost, for a long time, and I hurt people…certain people…because I didn’t have anything to give them.”
It remained unspoken, but he knew she was talking about Riley Finn.
“Throughout everything, I hated Spike. I used him for information, to pound on sometimes…until one day he was just a part of the group…I accepted that he was going to be around me.”
“Accepting him doesn’t equate loving him,” Angel told her quietly.
“No, it doesn’t,” she conceded.
“Buffy…you’re going to get hurt here. What happens when Spike’s chip deactivates some day? Or he gets it removed? What happens when he lets the bloodlust overcome him? He’s a demon. A military chip doesn’t change that. Demons don’t change, even for love. It’s natural instinct for him to kill.”
She had nothing to say to that.
“I left you…I know that. I hurt too. It wasn’t a one-sided deal. I want you to move on, I do,” he told her, unconvincingly. “You deserve happiness, you deserve children,” he stressed. “You deserve a love that you don’t have to second-guess, that won’t leave you wondering if he’s going to kiss you or kill you the next time he sees you.”
“I can take care of myself,” she insisted.
He rolled his eyes and sighed, turning from her and walking back to his desk. He leaned against it, arms crossed, his head down.
“I’d better go,” she said after a moment. “I just wanted you to know.”
He grunted. “Thanks.”
She turned to walk out then turned back to him. “Angel, I know you don’t understand. I don’t really get it myself. And I’m sorry if I’ve hurt you. I thought I was doing the right thing by coming here and telling you in person. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I’m even wrong about Spike. I know, better than anyone, the problems of dating a vampire. And I know he doesn’t have a soul. I don’t know how we’d make this work, if it couldn’t work with you. Maybe it’s not even meant to last…but for the first time in a long time…I’m feeling something. Any emotion right now is good. I’ve been numb for a long time.”
He didn’t look at her when he spoke. “He has the face of a human, like me. But he has the heart of a demon, the soul of a demon. The only reason he is capable of the emotion of love is because he knew it before he was turned. No matter how many times he helps you rid the world of bad guys, no matter how many times he professes his devotion to you, no matter how helpful and useful he might seem, he is a demon, Buffy. The thing you spend your life fighting to stop. I’m not saying you should kill him…” he told her when she looked about to protest. “But please, for me. Be careful. Don’t be so quick to give your heart. Your heart is…beautiful. Pure. I’ve seen it. I’ve felt it. It deserves more than what he can give.”
She stared at him for a moment, noted the sincerity in his voice, and nodded. Turning on her heel she walked out of the office and into the sunlight, where she knew he couldn’t go.