***Part 9***

Buffy walked home from campus reliving Angel's words to her earlier that morning on the phone. She was still daydreaming and playing the conversation over in her mind when she unlocked the back door and went upstairs to change her clothes.

"I woke up and you were gone."

"I had class," she said.

"I thought it had all been a dream," he had sounded legitimately concerned.

"It wasn't a dream," she replied.

"You got home okay?"

"Yeah. You got my phone number so Spike didn't tear my note into shreds."

Angel had sighed into the telephone audibly then. "No."

"Listen, you two working together is a good thing. You don't need me coming around there causing problems."

"You'll never cause or be a problem, Buffy."

He had sounded so sincere she wanted to believe him. She knew it was impossible, though. She would not be able to go to their house and be herself and relax. She had lied to Spike when she said she had to work that night. She did not want him to think that her life was going to become ALL ABOUT ANGEL like it once had been. She was not that girl anymore and both vampires would have to accept that.

"I just think it's better if I stay away from your place for a while."

"So we have a night like last night and that's it? I can't see you again?"

"I didn't say that."

"I hope not, because last night was the happiest I've been in years, Buffy."

"Me, too," she had whispered. She hated admitting that to him, hated showing him how vulnerable and open to him she still was.

"So, I can come to you, right?"

"Yes," she had said right away. She had been unable to stop her heart from racing at the idea of Angel being in her house again. The house did not seem small or overly girlish when she was there by herself, but the morning after he had been there a couple of weeks ago she had looked at her house and its furnishings objectively. Everything about the house screamed "single woman with no man in her life living here".


"I guess," she had said coyly. She did not want to appear too anxious, even though she was. "I don't work."

"Well, we were going to do a quick patrol tonight. Spike says they took out a vamp nest."

"Yeah, he mentioned it to me before I left."

"We plan on going back to make sure everyone was taken out. Spike thinks there were more living there."

"Spike's pretty good at that thinking thing."

Angel had laughed then, a low rumbling that made her smile. He did not used to laugh this easily nor this openly. "Yes, I'll give him that, there are times him doing that thinking thing has saved my neck."

"Well, I'm glad to hear that. I like your neck the way it is."

"Me, too," Angel had said, his voice soft like a whispered caress even through the phone.

This had been followed by a prolonged silence and then they had hung up. Neither had said "I love you", but it was there spoken or not. Buffy suspected the silence was because Angel had wanted to invite her to come along on their patrol but held back. If he had asked her, had made any attempt to push her into joining them she would not be rifling through her weapons chest.

It had remained in the back of her third bedroom's closet, buried underneath assorted clothes and other things. Out of sight had not necessarily meant out of mind but not seeing it every day made it easier to deny who and what she was. She had thought when she put it away like she had that it was therapeutic, but what Buffy had needed was merely time.

She glanced out the window to see the sun was still shining brightly. This meant that she still had time to get over there but not much time as sunset would be on them soon and she had no idea what time they were planning on leaving. Spike and that ex-god woman had left before sunset. She did not know if that was normal practice or if it was Buffy's presence that brought that on.

She grabbed the few things she would need knowing vamps were on the menu for the night and placed them in the duffle bag she used to carry her dancing clothes around. It was weird to let her slaying bleed into the life she had strived so hard to keep far away from it. She grabbed her leather jacket in case it got cold later, took the stairs with a quick bound in her step, bypassing that creaky step, and was out the door on her way to Angel's.

She debated the logic of what she was doing the entire way to Angel's house. More than once she started to turn back but something kept her going. She wanted to believe it was the idea of patrolling with Angel again that held its appeal, but she suspected that good old fate and destiny had a hand in this as well. She had known all along she could not hang up her slaying gloves and expect to never look back.

The sun was just getting ready to set when she got off the bus only a few blocks of Angel's house. She was going to make it in time. She would feel like a complete fool if she got there and Angel said he did not want her along. Maybe he did not ask because he decided he did not want her with him.

She dismissed those thoughts almost immediately. Angel would not turn down anybody wanting to join in on the cause. She imagined he would welcome any slayer back into the fold enthusiastically.

She rang the doorbell and turned to face the street as a car drove by. A young boy, probably about six or seven, though Buffy was not really a good judge of children's ages, gave her a smile. She smiled back, chuckling lightly at his toothless grin.

"It is the slayer," Buffy heard Illyria say, not having heard the door open. "You are not supposed to be here today."

"Is that a problem?"

"No problem, no, but it is odd that you would just show up without an invitation."

Buffy rolled her eyes and entered the house. She was not going to debate with this woman. "I don't need an invitation. Not a vampire," she said, knowing full well that was not what Illyria had meant.

"Buffy," Angel said from further in the living room. "What are you doing here?"

"I don't think she's that special and she is severely lacking in manners."

"Illyria," Angel said curtly.

The ex-god cocked her head slightly to the side, glared from Angel to Buffy. "Very well," she said distantly and walked to the kitchen.

"What is her problem?"

"Don't push her, Buffy. She's far stronger than she looks and even though her powers have been tempered down some she's still powerful."

"I'm not pushing her," Buffy said, feeling chastised for no reason. "All I did was come here," she said, setting her duffle bag on the floor by her feet.


"Do I need a reason?"

"Well, no, but you just said earlier today that you weren't going to come here anymore."

"So I did," she said with a shrug. "A girl's prerogative and all that. Do you want me to go home?"

"No, of course not," he said. He walked toward her, closing the distance between them in a matter of seconds. "Are you planning on staying the night?" he asked as he took her into his arms.

"What?" she asked. He expected her to think coherently when he was holding her like this? She glanced to her duffle bag and realized too late what that might suggest. "No," she said, drawing him toward her so she could kiss him. "I came to patrol with you tonight," she whispered as she drew away from the kiss.

"Really," he said. Buffy thought she noticed a little smugness in his tone.

"Yes." She was not going to justify her decision to him, she did not think she needed to.

"I'm surprised."

"That's kind of why I did it. Besides the fact it was either this or study for Anthropology and," she shrugged. "I'm all epoch'd out for the time being."

He chuckled lightly. "What happened to your studying coming first?"

"One night isn't going to kill me. I'm not getting brainiac grades or anything, but I'm getting by."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, I decided to try it. I can't say I'm going to come out with you every night and I'm so not getting rid of my job. Don't think this is you winning. You are not getting your way."

He smirked devilishly. "I haven't even begun having my way with you, Buffy."

She felt her face grow warm and was surprised it was only her face blushing. A comment like that should have made her entire body blush. He probably meant it in a totally innocent way and her blushing was going to reveal she was not taking it that way.

"That's not what I meant," she said and felt a low rumbling in his chest. It was almost like he was purring, but she knew it was a demon instead of a cat making the sound. Oddly, it calmed her when she heard Angel's demon instead of a heartbeat. She had never grown accustomed to hearing a heartbeat when she put her head against Riley's chest.

"I know, Buffy. Well, this certainly is a surprise. So, it's slayer supplies you have in the bag?"

"Well, I didn't pack a toothbrush if that's what you're asking me."

"You don't have to ask for permission to spend the night, Buffy. It was your idea not to spend time here, not mine. You can stay here as often as you want."

"Okay," she whispered.

"So are you going to bail on us then, Angel?" Spike asked from the kitchen doorway.

"No, Buffy's going to join us."

Spike arched a brow in her direction. "I do not want her with us," Illyria said. "She will pose too much of a distraction for both of you."

"Hardly, Luv," Spike said to Illyria. "You've yet to see a true champion for the good in action until you've seen a Slayer do her thing."

"She will get us all killed, clouding your minds with lust, anger and pride. You will go on patrol distracted."

"I'm not going to get anybody killed," Buffy said, pulling out of Angel's comforting embrace. "And it's not up to you if I go or not. I'm the slayer, it's my job."

"You weren't doing your job when both men Fred was fond of died. Wesley and Gunn are dead because the slayers refused to come."

"I did not refuse to come. I would have been right there with you and those who died if Giles had called me."

Illyria glared at Buffy and turned to look at Angel. "If she causes your deaths I will not sweep up your ashes."

"You won't need to do any ash sweeping because of me, not the ashes of these two vamps any way."

"She believes what she says, I feel that," Illyria said. "Very well, she can come," she said and strode out of the room as if dismissing them.

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