"So are you going to tell me what you were doing on campus?" Buffy asked.
Angel could not miss the look she cast down at their joined hands. They had spent the last hour walking around campus hand and hand, catching up without getting too in depth. They were on their way back to the bear statue to meet up with the others. Angel found he did not dread meeting up with Buffy's friends as much as he used to. "Not now," he replied knowing he was being cryptic. He was not sure how to tell her, or even what to tell her.
Buffy was the only person he would think to trust with the truth about Connor and what he had done. On the other hand, if he told Buffy he had a child she might not take that news too well. They were getting along, Angel did not want to ruin it with talk of Darla or Connor or anything else.
"Okay," she said with a pout.
"It's not that I don't want to," he said.
"Then what is it?"
"It's that now is not the time. You came to me for help; I don't need to burden you with my problems."
"I wish you would, Angel. Part of our problem was that we both tried to solve everything on our own. I know my shoulders aren't as big as yours are but I'm pretty strong."
"You don't think I know that? I saw you wail on that guy at the temple."
"I can handle things a lot better than I could when we first met, Angel."
"I know, you've grown up," he said, not entirely sure if that was a good thing. She had hardened somewhat and he felt like he had missed more than a year or two of her life sometimes.
"Don't sound so happy about that fact, Angel."
"No, it's not that," he said, feeling like he was once again apologizing for something he did not quite understand. "You're just not the same girl."
"I haven't been since the day you left Sunnydale, Angel."
"I know," he whispered. Memories of a day only he remembered came rushing back to him, memories he had purposely locked away into the recesses of his mind hoping to never have to relive them until years after Buffy was gone and he could cherish them rather than dread them. He had not been the same since he left Sunnydale either, but he had to live with that.
It gnawed at him a bit that he had left four years ago to give her the chance at a normal life and here he was getting hopeful that maybe this time, now, they could have a chance at something. He had called their relationship a freak show to her face, but he had not truly felt like that. Somehow it seemed appropriate that the only woman he had ever loved was this woman, this Slayer. Just as it did that he was the one person she ever loved. Unless she was lying about her feelings with Spike, which he did not believe she was. It was Spike after all.
"Where's Cordelia," she asked, and Angel thought he noted a hint of jealousy in her voice.
"She's dead," he said softly.
"It's okay," he said as they stopped near the bear statue. "One casualty compared to the ones you lost is minimal."
"Casualty? Is that what you said about me when Willow told you I had died?"
"What?" he asked. His voice was shrill with both shock and absolute horror that she would even think such a thing.
"You heard me."
"Of course not, how can you even say that?"
"Well, you were like involved with her weren't you?"
"I was sort of. We went out a few times, but it wasn't meant to be."
She looked up at him, he always thought she looked so cute when she looked at him in this way. He felt like he mattered, like he belonged. "Did you love her?"
"No," he said, though he did not sound overly convincing even to himself.
"Uh huh," she said, crossing her arms over her chest in a show of defiance. Typical Buffy.
"I thought I might have, okay?"
"But you don't?"
"I didn't. I think I wanted to, wanted her gift, her visions, her becoming my connection to The Powers That Be to mean something."
Buffy touched his cheek lightly and it was his turn to bask just as she had wanted to do when he had arrived in Sunnydale only a few months ago. Her hand felt warm and soothing against his face. "I'm sorry. I took for granted that you didn't mind being alone, that you didn't mind being us apart from my friends."
"I have friends."
"I know you do," she said with a slight smirk and a twinkle in her eye that suggested she might be teasing him. He kissed the palm of her hand just before Buffy drew it away and he saw her focus shift to behind him.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com