Angelus glanced up at the sun from his shielded vantage point and had to admit it was nice to see it again. Angelus worked with, or for, nobody, surely The Beast remembered that much about him. But Angelus' pansy-assed souled alter ego cared about teamwork, so maybe The Beast had thought Angelus had changed.
It had been fun watching Faith and The Beast go at it, but in the end Angelus knew that if he let The Beast get out of the warehouse alive the world would become utter chaos. That idea was not abhorrent to Angelus, but he was not sure there would be room for vampires and other hybrids. He wasn't ready for a death sentence, even if it did mean he'd have to live out the rest of his existence with the fucking soul.
How had Soul Boy gone without realizing that his slayer was in grave danger? He needed to be in Sunnydale not Los Angeles. Somehow, though, Soul Boy had suppressed his true feelings and convinced himself he had found another mate. There was one problem with that, he had only one and she was in trouble. Only one woman had willingly given him her blood. Only one woman had he given up being human for. He hated the thought, but if it weren't for her he wouldn't be here any longer. He thought that deserved a bit of respect and attention, but evidently it took losing the soul for that to become obvious.
"Why would he want to replace her with that bitch Cordelia?" Angelus growled at the thought of the self-involved seer who had somehow gained Soul Boy's favor. She was cute, he'd give her that, but he much preferred the blonde slayer. A woman who could give him a good fight was the ultimate turn on as far as Angelus was concerned.
"Well, that and Buffy would never have fucked your son."
When he had first been released his thoughts had been of destroying his slayer. Thoughts of bringing her to her knees, begging for mercy had kept him awake some days. That had been after one hundred years of living bound with a soul. His thoughts were running a different path this time.
He doubted he'd have much time certain Soul Boy's band of do-gooders would have his soul on standby. He needed to act now. If for no other reason than to show Soul Boy that she still needed him. Still loved him. And, he had to admit, if there was the potential for a good fuck out of the deal, why not? It baffled him why the two love birds were living apart. How easily they had both moved on, talks of forever seemingly forgotten. He could forgive her, she hadn't retained memories of their last time together. Soul Boy had, though, and had no excuse.
Once night was upon them again Angelus found a car that he could hotwire and took it, heading south out of LA. He knew the way, had begged, tried to claw his way out to make Soul Boy head in this direction. He had been too strong, able to resist him when it came to Buffy. There were other times Soul Boy was not so in control and Angelus loved the opportunity to let loose once in a while. It helped keep things in perspective. But there was no hesitation, no straying from his decision when it came to Buffy.
Angelus was taking the chance that Buffy and her friends knew as little about what was going on in LA as those in LA knew about Sunnydale. It was beyond him how they could miss it, but his slayer had her hands full in Sunnydale. But he was on his way to her now. Some might wonder why he cared, but it was pretty simple really. No one could hurt her but him. He didn't care about the others, the lot of them could get taken out and he wouldn't even blink. But her, his mate, the blond slayer that had made him feel things he'd never felt in over two centuries of existence. She was his, no one else had the right to hurt her.
He had over two hours to decide the best approach. If he gave himself away too quickly he knew without a doubt his slayer would come after him guns blazing. Well, stakes and cross bow quarrels blazing anyway. There would be no hesitation this time around.
She had moved on, or made an effort to. Rumor was she had taken up with Spike. Angelus relished the thought of winning his slayer back, yanking the rug out from under Spike yet again. With the soul he had played the part of soulless vampire once or twice, there was a time or two that it wasn't much of an act. He could handle playing the opposite way to get information. And to prove to Spike that she was still his girl.
Thinking of forever chained to a slayer was about as sadistic a thought as he could come up with, but he knew it was what she had talked to Soul Boy about. He would play on that, milk it, and enjoy getting under her skin inch by glorious inch. Then he'd let her know the soul was no longer in charge. Maybe, if he went about it the right way this time, he could arrange to be without the soul forever.
He abandoned the stolen vehicle a few blocks from Buffy's house. No sense arousing her suspicions from the get-go. Driving around in a car that wasn't his was not Soul Boy's style. He talked to himself, practicing up on his Soul Boy persona the short walk to Buffy's house.
He ascended the steps leading to Buffy's house, trying to remember when the last time he'd been here was. He couldn't remember. He hadn't come here after Buffy's mom died. They'd met at the cemetery. It seemed appropriate to meet there, but Angelus now wondered if his slayer had been ashamed to be seen with him in front of her friends. That gave him pause. Maybe she had come to think of their time together as the freak show he had called it. Then why take up with Spike if that were the case? Spike didn't even have a soul, it was just a chip that kept him heeling.
It wasn't anyone he recognized that answered the door, which made him take a step back. He was at the right house he knew that. He'd find his way to this house blindfolded. Had she moved since her mom's death? No, he didn't think so.
"I'm looking for Buffy," he said to the young girl. He'd always liked the taste of girls. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, pushing back thoughts of making a meal out of her. For now.
"She's," the girl looked behind her and then back at Angelus. "I'm not sure where she is."
"Do you think you could look for her?" He wasn't willing to risk finding out she'd revoked her invitation somewhere along the way since he left Sunnydale.
"Who are you?"
His gaze dropped briefly to the pulse point in her neck. So tempting. He had to force himself to look away. Fresh blood. There was a houseful of it. He could smell them. Lots of them.
"Angel." It pained him to say that name. He'd much rather soak in a vat of holy water than stake claim to the pathetic existence that was Soul Boy, but if it'd get him in the door he'd do it.
"Uh, just a sec."
"Okay," he said, turning away from the door. He walked down the steps and sat on the top one, regarding the street. God it was dull here. There was absolutely nothing going on. How could she stand it? Maybe offering to take him with her to LA, Chicago, New York, or something would be incentive to let him remain this way. Even better, Europe. There was so much he could show her. He knew it would take a lot for his slayer to let him roam free without his soul.
He heard her talking within the house through the closed door. She sounded frazzled, frantic really. Instead of thriving on the idea he rebelled at it. Soul Boy had left her assuming it would be easier, had he left only to make her face her biggest battles alone. She'd already died once. Wasn't that proof enough she was living on borrowed time?
The door opened and he sensed her pause in crossing the threshold that would bring her to him. He picked up on her excitement, happy even and he hated that he didn't mind he brought those things to the surface.
The stunned and disbelieving yet hopeful tone made him turn to face her. She looked haggard, tired, as if she was hanging by a string threatening to break at any moment.
"You look like shit." He had to bite his tongue, remind himself he was here as Soul Boy not Angelus.
"Tell me how you really feel."
She offered him a slight smile, though, so she hadn't been too insulted. She tousled her hair, which did little to improve her look. It did make him think of ways he could alleviate her stress, though. Her blond hair fanning out over the expanse of his skin, a pillow, or draping over her lithe body while she rode him to the stars and back.
"I can't believe you're really here."
"I heard you were in trouble."
"How'd you hear that?"
He shrugged. "Word gets around."
"I thought you had your hands full in LA."
"The problem's been fixed." He stood then, it was apparent she wasn't going to rush and sit down beside him. "I couldn't let you down twice."
"Really?" She sounded so happy that he had come for her. He watched with rapt attention as she pulled her hair back. He had to squelch the roar that he wanted to emit when he saw the scar. His mark. They were mated. He wondered who knew it was there. Had Spike seen it?
"How did you get here?"
"I took the bus. Things were kind of crazy up in LA, it was the best way to get out."
"Oh. Do you want to come in? You don't have to stay out here. I've just told the girls no one's allowed to invite anyone in unless I've seen them. We've got baddies crawling out of the woodwork. Baddies that can't touch things. Baddies that can look like other people. Generally, people who've died, but staying dead must not be a requirement because it can be me."
"That bad, huh?"
"Remember the First?"
"Yeah, you know the First Evil? Accompanied by a bunch of Bringers. They claimed to be responsible for sending you back, wanting you to lose your soul in me."
He remembered very well. The idea of sex with his slayer a second time had not been abhorrent to Soul Boy, soul-losing possibilities or not. Angelus had been right there with the First, encouraging Soul Boy on. He had been strong, despite his doubts, and had been able to abstain. And soon after had made his decision to turn his back on the love of his life, leaving her alone to fend for herself after promising her forever.
"Right, I remember."
"Well, it's back and badder than ever."
"Let's just say, its time with you wasn't even a prologue."
"I wish I'd come sooner." He was seething at having to be so sappy, but what frightened him was the fact that he actually meant part of it. How dare they go after Buffy?
"I understand you were busy."
"Right," he said, closing the distance between them. He touched her arm with his hand, grazing it with the backs of his fingers. "I'm never too busy for you, Buffy."
She tried to step back, away from him, out from his touch but he took hold of her arms with both of his hands and drew her toward him.
"Angel," she whispered as he captured her lips with his. Four years of pent up frustration, rage from being kept trapped with Soul Boy flooded from his lips to hers. There was nothing gentle, nothing hesitant or even considerate about his kiss. He would devour her if he could. She tasted so sweet, temptingly so. He could forget most anything for another minute of kissing her.
It took her a minute to respond but when she did it was full speed ahead. There was no holding back from his slayer. She had missed him as much as he had evidently. That was good, he would use that to his advantage. Stress could do wonderful things, like make her forget that being with him could bring on the next apocalypse. Of course, she was already battling one so maybe she wouldn't see the harm. The world was going to end, might as well let off some steam on the way out.
No, his slayer would never think like that. She'd never give up, not until she was dead. She'd proven that more than once. It was one reason he knew the first time he lost his soul they were doomed. She would never give up the good fight. She would never turn a blind eye and let him kill good citizens of Sunnydale.
"Oh great, Angel's here. Like we don't have enough distractions, we need Dead Boy here to make with the kissing our slayer."
He let out a low growl, heard evidently by his slayer who let out a small gasp at the primal sound emitting from him. She clutched the front of his jacket as if trying to shield herself from Xander's cutting words.
"Just what is it I interrupted, Xander?"
"Her moving on. You do this. You come to town and she's an emotional wreck for days afterward. We can't afford that now."
"Well, I'm not leaving til this is done so she won't be useless to you, Xander."
"No way, it's bad enough we have to put up with Spike. Both of them. Buffy. Did you send for him?"
"No, I didn't." The words were barely audible she had her head buried so far into his jacket he thought she might suffocate. He found himself smoothing down her hair, getting lost in the feel of it. So soft, so real, so Buffy. "But he's here."
"Get over it, One Eyed Jack, she wants me here." Okay, that was probably too out of character for Soul Boy. Temper it down a bit. His days of loving your mate are long gone. He's moved on, more than once.
"We'll see what Spike has to say about this."
"Like Spike could force me to leave. It's the Slayer's house last I checked. I think she has final say."
"I don't like it, Buffy. Wasn't he just battling his own big bad in LA? And suddenly he's here, hands all over you, offering help? He called here."
"And you didn't tell me?"
"I didn't take the call, someone mentioned it, didn't realize who he was I guess."
Angelus growled low at the knowledge that she really had moved on from her life with him in it. There were people in her life now that didn't know him, didn't know about them. Who didn't realize Spike wasn't her first vampire lover. They'd be in for a rude awakening, though, because she was about to ditch the latter for the former if Angelus had anything to say about it.
She drew away to face Xander. Angelus released her and noticed she swiped at her eyes. She'd been crying. It should have given him pleasure, except he hadn't caused the pain. It was not acceptable for anyone else to make her shed tears.
"What's he doing here?"
"I don't know. I haven't had a chance to ask him."
"Yeah, well, maybe if you were less busy kissing him you'd get some answers."
Angelus heard Spike's voice coming from somewhere inside the house. He closed the small space between Buffy and him, his hands sliding to her hips while his mouth sought his mark on her neck. She was his. She tilted her neck, almost as if she knew what he was doing and it was all he could do to keep from reclaiming her right there and then. Instead, he did what Soul Boy would do and nuzzled her neck gently, affectionately even. It wasn't hard to put on the act of loving her, he knew full well what the fuzzy feelings he had for her were. He didn't have to like it or welcome it. Having her press her fine slayer ass against him was almost worth caging himself.
"Can you get rid of him so we can be alone?" he murmured, brushing his lips against her ear.
"I," she stammered and he chuckled softly. He let his game face fall into place and ran a fang over her earlobe. "Angel," she whispered.
"What? I can't help it, it's been too long since I've seen you."
"Has it?" He couldn't miss the hopeful tone in her voice.
"Yes," he said with a low growl.
"I was beginning to think you hadn't noticed."
"Never," he said gruffly. "You're my mate, my slayer. How can you think that?"
"I haven't heard you go all possessive on me in a long time."
"Get rid of him."
"I, Angel, the house is full of people, potential slayers."
"What?" That was one way to throw a proverbial bucket of cold water over his libido. No wonder the girl who had answered the door looked so tasty.
"The First. He, It, whatever you call it, it's waging war on us. The Council is gone. There's a dozen or so potential slayers that were sent to me from their watchers."
"They sent them to the hellmouth?"
"I guess it doesn't sound like it makes much sense, but I think they thought there was power in numbers. And that I could train them. I need the help." He knew how difficult that was for her to admit. He cursed Soul Boy's stupidity. He had minions to do his work for him and he hadn't seemed to want to lift a finger to help his mate.
"What a pansy," he whispered.
"Nothing, sorry. The watchers, not wanting to dirty their hands, that's all." It sounded feasible to him. "Why didn't they come themselves? If it's as bad as you say it is, you could use all the hands you can get."
"I think most of them are dead, Angel."
"Oh." There was nothing more to say to that. The Watcher's Council and its watchers gone. It sounded incredible. As long as he'd been a vampire there had been watchers and slayers. It wasn't a bad idea as far as plans go. Take out the potential slayers and demons and vampires would be free to walk the earth risk free for fourteen years or so. He didn't have the power or means to carry out such a plan, but it was an inspired one.
"I think we've held them off for a while. We closed off this seal."
"Yeah, they were trying to open it. The First has these Uber vamp henchmen. Big, burly, basically unkillable. Stakes don't do a thing. Sunlight irritates them, but that's about the extent of it so far."
"Yeah, it's," he felt her tremble in his arms.
He nuzzled her neck again, grazing his mark with his fangs. "Show me the seal."
"I want some time alone with you. Show me the seal, they'll buy that as an excuse for our going off together for a while."
"Angel, I don't know."
"Who cares about Spike?" The worrying over the scar tissue with his fangs grew more persistent as he tried to keep his jealousy in check. "I'm here now."
"Did I hear my name, Slayer? Oh," he said from the doorway. There was no question how it appeared. Buffy was snuggled up against Angel and vice versa. He was sure they painted a nice little picture.
He felt her stiffen ever so slightly when Spike came into view. Did she really have feelings for Spike? He found it unfathomable, but even he had to admit Spike could be charming when he wanted to be. Even if he was a moron most of the time. It was one of the things that had made them successful in the hunt. Together, the four of them could appeal to just about anybody.
"Spike." He spoke lazily, as if he hadn't a care in the world. Or knowledge that the other vampire was involved with his slayer.
"What the hell is he doing here, Buffy?"
"You act as if I don't belong here."
"You don't, you belong in LA."
"I'm here to help Buffy, I'll always help Buffy. She knows that."
"Right you were right there to catch her when she dove off that tower. Oh wait, no you weren't. Got the shit pounded out of you, too, while a god was on the loose looking for Niblet. Oh wait, no that was me."
"Had I known I would have been here."
"On your terms."
"What's your concern here, Spike?"
"Angel, don't." She turned to face him, her eyes searching his face. Briefly, he wondered what she saw. Was she able to tell the difference in him? No, she couldn't. "I'm going to take him to the high school. We'll be back in a bit."
His arm still at her shoulder, he slid it around her neck to draw her beside him. He did not intend to be back in a bit. If he had his way, they wouldn't see her for days. He was on borrowed time. He wanted to get his fill of her because there was no way Soul Boy would give into his baser urges where his slayer was concerned. Eventually they'd realize Angelus was gone and they'd get with their save the world ways and resoul him.
"Yeah, I remember how much work you two got done out together."
He placed a finger over Buffy's lips when she started to reply. "Don't make promises you can't keep, Buffy." It was loud enough Spike would hear, which was what Angelus wanted.
They walked in virtual silence to the high school. It made him laugh that someone came up with the idea of building the new high school in the same spot as the old one. Someone had a twisted sense of humor. Angelus could appreciate that. Buffy made with the small talk, updating him on life on Sunnydale and Spike's situation.
"Unbelievable." He couldn't believe it. Spike sought out his soul? Impossible.
"Yeah, it's pretty miraculous."
He tried to think of what Soul Boy would say. The type of questions he'd ask given the situation. It was not in his nature to care that anyone might be experiencing a hard time. "How's he handling it?"
"Better now," she said, and went on to explain what he'd been like when she first found him. They did stop a time or two along the way to kiss. One or two were at his prompting, one or two at hers. He had forgotten what it was like to kiss her. Gone was the innocent, inexperienced girl he'd first kissed years ago. But there was still an uncertainty to her.
She led him to the basement where the seal was. The area was dimly lit but he didn't need any to see it. He wasn't sure what to say. It didn't seem big enough to unleash evil. He glanced where she stood by the door and noticed for the first time she had a stake in her hand.
"What's going on?"
"You tell me."
"You're not Angel."
"Buffy, how can you say that?"
"One Eyed Jack?"
He winced, realizing she'd caught his slip. "It seemed to fit at the time."
"When did it happen?"
"Time means something different to me, Buff, surely you know that."
"A few weeks ago."
"Believe it or not, it was intentional. Those idiots Soul Boy has working for him believed that I'd have answers Angel didn't. They didn't stop to realize my memories are his memories. There is no separation."
"Boy, do I know that. And you went along with this idea."
"Well, I, Soul Boy that is, didn't realize they were going to be idiots. Not to mention I had help. They built a cage, the plan was a sound one, extract my soul, keep it contained, and as soon as they had their answers they'd put it back. Only problem is, I don't like to be anybody's lapdog, and I'm sure not going to give answers knowing they're just going to make me disappear again. I wasn't counting on Cordelia setting me free."
"Yeah, I couldn't believe it either. I mean, she was the only one of the group that had seen me in action without my soul. Go figure, right? I heard talk of the Slayer coming to town, found out it was Faith, not you."
"The phone call."
"Bingo. I've always told anyone who claims you're dumb not to underestimate you."
Her lips curled up into just the barest hint of a smile. "Thanks, I think."
He stalked toward her. She didn't seem the least bit frightened, and that made him hesitate. She smiled then. No hint, a full-fledged Buffy smile. "You're welcome."
"So, Faith did her magic?"
"You know she did. A little rusty from lack of practice, but I'm sure breaking out of prison and getting past all those guards got her real stoked."
"We could use her."
"I'm sure they'll send her down, but they're busy looking for me."
"Why did you come?"
"I needed to see you."
"It's the honest answer. You need to know some things Soul Boy would never tell you. So it's up to me."
"Why should I trust anything you say?"
"Have I tried to kill you yet? Harris? Your potential slayers? Do you have any idea how a house full of the blood of young girls appeals to me? Slayers."
"Oh, I will, Lover, but first I need another kiss."
"And I'd kiss you why?"
"You've known for how long I'm not your one true love? Yet you still kissed me, let me touch you in front of Harris and Spike, left with me."
"I wanted the others safe."
He shook his head as he closed the distance between them. "Liar."
He growled softly, grabbing her and dragging her toward him as he had on her porch earlier. Here at least he could kiss her as he wanted to. Devour her. Didn't she understand she'd be no good to him dead? And there was no chance of him turning her. He wasn't foolish enough to believe she'd become subservient or relish the lifestyle.
"How did they do it?" She finally got free of his hold on her, but she didn't flee.
"Take your soul?"
"Some magic guru, gave me visions. I thought I was making love to Cordelia."
He placed a hand at her chin and tilted her face up to look at him. She looked hurt by his confession. Of course, he knew that would be her response which is why he'd told her the unedited version. "It was your name I called out when I felt my soul leaving, Buffy. It was you I thought of when I reached that moment of happiness. I've been with women since you and never lost my soul."
"I'm not here to sweet talk you or candy coat things for you, Buff."
"Why are you here?"
"You're making a mistake being with Spike."
"And you have say over my love life since when?"
"Your lover has made an error in judgment. He needs you. I need you. He was human you know? And gave it up for you."
"What are you talking about?"
"Well, now," he started. He was excited at the opportunity to tell her this. Soul Boy had been an absolute idiot to let her walk out his door not knowing, believing they'd done nothing but fight. She'd returned to Sunnydale and, within a month, into the arms of Riley Finn.
She backed against the door, distancing herself from him. He wasn't the one who'd hurt her, who'd taken away and altered her memory of that day. Her eyes were wide. He saw pain there, revulsion even. There was no question she believed him. She slumped and slid down the length of the door until her cute ass made contact with the cement floor. She crawled to the edge of the steps and began to wretch.
"Stay away from me."
He turned away. This wasn't the reaction he had expected. He wasn't sure what he'd hoped to gain by revealing the truth of that day, of Angel's actions, but her getting sick was not it. He heard the sticky sound of sweaty, bare skin meeting cement and turned to face her again.
He knelt beside her, pulling her hair away from her face. "Come on, Buff."
"I said stay away from me."
"I don't see why you're getting sick, Buffy."
"Explain it to me."
She looked at him then. Her eyes normally strong and full of life held so much pain, guilt, revulsion he didn't understand. And he wanted to. It rocked him to his very core, but so help him he wanted to understand.
"I was with Riley."
"Oh my God. Maybe that doesn't mean anything to you, but it does to me. Weeks after being with Angel, you, I was with Riley."
"I'm already aware of this and don't think I need to be reminded."
"No wonder you were so angry. I didn't get it, tried to but I didn't. Our last visit as far as I know had ended badly."
"That's how Soul Boy wanted it."
"Why? What is so wrong with me that you'd give up everything we dreamed of? You talked about my chance at a normal life, but you didn't want to give it to me?"
He brushed her tears away with the pads of his fingers, licking them clean. She didn't seem to notice, which was probably best. He placed his hands on either side of her face and made her look at him. "Because with the soul I'm a pathetic person who would rather suffer than see you get hurt. And God forbid I be the reason you're hurt."
"You mean that?"
"It seems this is my day for being honest, so yes."
She stood then, brushing off her jeans. "I'm going to go find a bathroom."
"I'm going to check out this seal."
"Curious minds want to know."
"You're not going to reopen it, Angel."
"Not with you standing right here, no. It's been a while since I've been out, roaming free but I'm not dumb."
He took the stairs back down to the basement floor and walked to the seal. He didn't know what about it interested him. This close to actually seeing the hellmouth he imagined. What demon wouldn't want to pay homage to such a sacred thing? His slayer, his mate had managed to close it. He wondered what that meant exactly.
She returned a few minutes later, looking better. That wasn't a difficult order to fill considering the shape she was in then.
"Hi," she whispered.
"Hey," he mumbled. He cursed himself for talking so pleasantly to her.
"Why did you come here?"
"I told you."
"I know what you told me, Angel. But if you wanted to run amuck, coming here wasn't the wisest course of action. You'd have to know I'd realize sooner or later."
"I was counting on later," he admitted with a shrug.
"I told you, you're making a mistake being with Spike."
"He has his soul, Angel. He's not going to lose it. It's not a curse with him."
He reached to touch her face with the palm of his hand. She pressed into his touch. "Look at the way you react to me, Buff. Even knowing I don't have my soul, that I could leave here and turn Sunnydale upside down. You still seek my touch. I'm your mate, Buffy. You could try settling for Spike, but it would never work."
"What am I supposed to do?"
"You heard me."
"I do love you. I've always loved you. More than anything I love you."
"No. You love him. Soul Boy. Love me, Angelus."
"You can, you do, you let me touch and kiss you knowing or at least suspecting I didn't have my soul. You trusted me with your life."
"I've been losing control for years, Buff. Leaving Sunnydale while the smartest thing I ever did as far as we were concerned. There was no way we were going to be able to stay celibate. It just wasn't going to happen. But without you, your goodness, your light, your slaying I'm on the edge. I never know which way I'm going to fall."
"What are you saying?"
"Would the Angel you know lock a room full of lawyers in with a hungry Dru and Darla, Buffy?"
Her head jerked up, her eyes wide with surprise. "That's right. I did that with the soul. And that was just the beginning."
"What do you want from me, Angel? You're talking in riddles. Nothing you've said so far tells me what you want from me."
"You. I want you. I want you to remember that day. I want to know when I go back to LA with my soul intact that I'm not the only one living with the memories."
"And I'm supposed to want this why?"
"You already know it happened. Which is worse? Not remembering the details but knowing it happened or having a tangible memory to grasp onto when you need it."
"How do you know you're going to get your soul back?"
"It's inevitable. They'll find it, they'll call Willow, she'll fix it and you'll have your dearly beloved and departed Angel back."
"What do you want?"
"You want me to spell it out?"
She nodded but said nothing. "You, just you, alone with me until the soul is back."
"Can wait a few hours. What's another day?"
"Angel, I can't turn my back."
"When was the last time you did anything for yourself?"
"I can't think that way. There's no time for myself, Angel."
He lowered his mouth to hers. "Make time," he whispered before closing his mouth over hers. His tongue pried her lips apart; she wasn't as unwilling as she wanted him to believe. His tongue found hers and danced intimately inside her mouth. Her hands gripped the front of his coat, drawing him closer. She pressed her body against his. "Meant to be mine," he murmured.
"You really believe that?"
"You fit me, I fit you. I'd like to remind you just how well."
"And then I have to go back to my heartbreaking."
"And you're really happy with Spike?"
"I was getting there."
"Do you love him?"
"What?" he roared? He sucked in a breath, not expecting that response at all. His mate loved another, it wasn't possible.
"I do love him, not in the same way as you. Never. But he's changed, Angel. He's a good man."
He dropped his hands into hers, clutching them as if he were drowning and she was his life preserver. "We're not men, Buff, we're vampires."
"You don't need to remind me."
"Come with me," he murmured.
"Oh God, Angel, I don't think this is a good idea."
"You need to relieve some stress, I need to get the idea of Cordelia sex out of my head."
"You could pick up anybody you want to have sex with. Go to The Bronze."
He growled low, in warning. "I don't just want sex, Lover, I want it all."
"Food and fucking."
"You think I'll let you."
"I know you will. You got off on it when I fed the last time. With the soul I was too much of a gentleman to admit I noticed. Soul's gone, I can tell you that I know." He kissed her, knowing she was close to succumbing.
He kissed her again, dipping his tongue into her mouth. He knew how to play the seductive lover when he needed to. "You need this."
"You should." He slid his hands to her ass, cupping her so he could tug her to him. "You must."
She groaned softly and he knew he had her. He slid his mouth to the scar on her neck. He grazed the individual fang scars, lapping at them with his tongue. He ground against her. It would have been obscene if he had thought about it.
"And then what? I just let you go?"
"You've heard the expression third time's the charm. I don't think Soul Boy will want to let you go a third time. Use me, Buff, use me to get the love of your life back. In his bed he won't be able to turn you away again."
"You don't know that. He does it every time."
"He misses you." She whimpered as he grazed the inviting flesh of her neck with his fang. "I miss you," he whispered.
"They'll come looking for me."
She had a point there.
"I'm willing to chance it. It'd be more exciting that way." He slid one hand between her legs, rubbing his finger along the cleft between her legs through her jeans. "Just think, we could be up in a bedroom, me deep inside of you as I should be while Xander or Spike come to find you."
She let out an aroused whimper and he knew he was close to getting his way. He reached around to the waist of her pants, finding the fastenings and began to undo them. "Remember what I felt like inside of you? How perfect we were. It wasn't the fucking that made me lose my soul, Buff. I've fucked before and since. Hell, Darla was a pro, you don't think she could have made me happy? But she didn't. It was you. Just you."
"Say it!" He reached into her pants now, stroking her through her panties.
"I'll go with you to the mansion."
"And if I'm in the middle of fucking you when they come? Are you going to beg me to stop or keep going?"
"I want you to finish."
"There's my girl," he whispered. He gave her a sloppy kiss while peeling back the edge of her panties to stroke her outer lips once. He brought his finger to his mouth and licked it. "Slayer. Mate. Mine. They all taste the same. All three wrapped together in a delicious package."
Buffy couldn't believe it, couldn't believe what she was doing. Yet she kept walking step for step with Angel without his soul toward the mansion. For all she knew it was a ploy to get her to let her guard down. They had told Xander and Spike they were going to the high school. That didn't make sense, because the mansion would be one of the first places they'd look for her. Creatures of habit that they were and everything.
She had been so excited to see him sitting on the steps in front of her house. The elation had quickly become confusion the more he talked. Even the way he was acting. She and Angel hadn't had a touchy feely relationship since he left Sunnydale. At least she thought they hadn't. So, it threw her when he was all with the kissing and wanting to be alone with her. What had sealed it was his dig at Xander's expense. His loss of an eye was a sore spot with Buffy as it was.
So, what was she doing then? Hadn't she moved past this? Him? And he didn't have his soul. What was to stop him from leaving a trail of death and destruction in his wake for her to deal with once he was souled again. And she had to agree with him, sooner or later someone would get smart and do it.
"You're awful quiet, Buff."
"I'm trying to talk myself out of this."
"Now why would you want to do that?"
"Because it's wrong."
"Haven't you learned by now that being wrong can be very, very good?"
"Giles will kill me."
"Ah, yes, I imagine your watcher might have a bit of an issue with you fucking the vampire that tortured him and got him to give up the goods on how to set Acathla free."
"That would be the top reason, but there are others."
"You're entitled to a life."
"Not so much with the having a relationship with the evil undead things I kill."
"We're not talking dinner and a show here, Buff."
"What does it matter? You're asking me to stay with you, in bed with you, until you get your soul back." She lifted her hands over her head, frustrated. "And that's the dumbest part of this. I've just started moving on. I'm over and done being depressed Buffy that I was after they brought me back. I was just hitting my stride with Spike, thinking this could really go somewhere. Be it."
"But you're going to get the soul back and I don't care what you say, with the soul you're going to want to leave me again."
"There are no Powers That Be this time, Buff. There is no turn back time option. Once I've had you, been in you again, I'm not going to want to leave."
"So then we what? Go from having sex like maniacs to cuddling on the couch again?"
"Are you saying that's not enough? That if you could have me forever like we talked about you'd give it up for sex?"
She closed her eyes, shaking her head. "No, no I wouldn't."
"It hurts to say that, doesn't it?"
"Yes, because I wanted to be over it. Over you. Over the whole my boyfriend will turn into a murdering fiend if something goes too right. But I don't want to hurt Spike."
"You don't think he knows you'd rather be with me? That he's just sloppy seconds to who really has your heart?"
"I think he thought that last year, but now, no. We're friends. I can't explain it."
The mansion and the cemetery beyond it loomed large. It was do or die time for her. If she went with this, did this, she was opening herself up to a world of hurt. Willingly. But God he was right, she wanted to remember. It was so unfair he had taken away her memories of that day. She wanted to remember sex with Angel that didn't involve being crushed by him afterward. "How do I know you won't hurt me?"
"You can take whatever I dish out, Slayer."
"That's not what I meant. The first time, you said things to me."
"Oh come on. I hated you, hated what you made me feel anyway. I said those things on purpose. I wanted to hurt you because if you hated me then I wouldn't be tempted."
"Tempted to throw my freedom to the wind and stay with you."
"You thought of doing that?"
"Thanks. Thanks a lot."
"Hello? Soulless, evil, what did you expect?"
"I don't know, but how do I know you're not going to do that again."
"This is different."
"You know who you're dealing with. You want me, soul or not. And you're my mate."
"You said that before. What is that?"
"It's not common for a vampire to have a human mate. In fact, I'd say it's never been done. Until us. It's a bonding. You're mine. I don't know how to describe it."
"Bonding? But I didn't take your blood. And you weren't willing."
"I know, but still. The mark is there. Spike shouldn't have touched you."
"Well, he knew you were going and most likely not coming back."
"Was Dru his mate?"
"If she was capable of taking one, but no she never was. It was probably my fault, I damaged her too severely before I brought her over."
He shrugged. "She was a whore before she was turned, dying of syphilis. I don't think she had it in her to be tied down to anyone."
"What does it do?"
"Nothing really. It's a symbol, like human wedding rings. Not the same but similar. Hands off. And of course, there's the sharing of blood. A connection like you and I have would be stronger."
"We don't have it anymore."
"Because I worked at severing it. I didn't want to star in your dreams anymore. I didn't want to know you'd moved on. And I certainly didn't want to see your dreams of Riley."
"Could I do that?"
"Yes, with some work, training."
They were at the mansion now. It was still empty, she walked past it often enough to know. He pushed the door open, a hand at the small of her back letting her go in first.
"I remember our last day together here."
"I came to, refreshed, stronger than ever and there you were not moving. I took too much."
"You did what I wanted you to do."
"You would have died for me."
"That floors me, really. You're so much better than me. Soul, soulless, human. No contest."
"That's what love's about, isn't it? I jumped off that tower so that Dawn could have the chance for a life. I knew if I lived on and she died my life would continue on as normal. Death, slaying, death, heartbreak, turmoil, death."
He took her hand, not doing anything to stop her from talking but as soon as he touched her she stopped. He glanced at her, tugged her to him. "The life of a slayer."
"It's not fair."
"Life's not fair. It's not meant to be."
"I know. I finally figured that out."
He backed her against the door. "Let me have you, Buffy. Until I'm gone."
"I'm here with you, aren't I?"
His hand still holding hers he slid it over her abdomen and breasts to her neck. He grazed her pulse point with the pad of his thumb. "Yes. I need to know you want this as much as I do."
"Why not just take it? I know you're capable."
"There would be no fun in that. I couldn't beat you, and that was five years ago. You're bound to have improved since then. If you can't beat them, join them, right? While I'm not ready to go that far, I want you." As if to emphasize his point he released her hand suddenly, stepped away and without further ado unbuttoned his pants.
He took hold of her hand and slid it into his pants. She groaned softly at the feel of him, hard and thick. For her. "Just shut up, Buffy."
"Hey." He cut her off with a kiss before she could say any more. She had no idea what all they'd done the day she was missing memories of. She did know that she'd never touched him like this their first night together. Angel had been gentle, considerate, but most of all once she'd crossed the line he took control and led.
He hissed against her lips as she cupped his sack, using both hands to push his pants lower along his hips so she could access him better. Now that she felt him, was touching him thoughts of this whole thing being idiotic flew out of her mind. She could have Angel, be with Angel, and come away with this remembering their last time together. That was worth something, wasn't it?
She slid her hands to his chest and laughed softly at the growl of protest he gave when she stopped stroking him. She pushed against him hard. She was not going to play the victim or the disinterested woman in this scenario. If she was doing this, it was going to be all out Slayer/Vampire sex. Give and take, violent and tender. Together they toppled to the floor. Buffy couldn't get his shirt off fast enough. He seemed to be of the same mind.
His bare chest was smooth. He was different than Spike, bulkier but muscular just the same. She kissed and bit a trail from his neck along his torso and abdomen. She paused at his pelvic bone, glancing up at him wanting to know if he was watching. He was and it thrilled her in ways she didn't understand. She worked his pants off the rest of the way.
"So this mating thing. I'm supposed to taste you, too?"
He looked startled, seemingly surprised she was making conversation at a time like this. Little did he know, she mused to herself with a chuckle.
"Hmm, yet I was never given the option. So does that mean we're not truly mated?"
"One could probably argue for that, yes."
"Hmm," she said thoughtfully as she pulled her hair away from her face and sheathed his length with her mouth. He growled and cried out, which only drove her to repeat the process. Again and again and again her head bobbed up and down the length of him. To hear that she was driving him over the edge with just her mouth. She stroked his shaft with her hand, cupped his sack, ran fingers experimentally along his inner thighs. She enjoyed his reaction to each and every new touch she gave him. Soulless my ass.
She released him. For the first time that she could remember she knew what the power of sex was. She understood it. She'd never gotten to this point with Spike and certainly not Riley. She always held back with him, afraid she'd hurt him. Spike she didn't care if she hurt him. She wasn't sure which was worse. Despite this man laying here in front of her being evil and something she should be hunting she had brought him to the point of essentially being a quivering mess of raw desire and need.
She licked his inner thigh, then the other, repeating the licks before she kissed him on the pulse point there in his thigh. She knew about it only because she'd seen vampire bites there before. She remembered feeling sorry for the victims, to be taken in such a vulnerable position. She bit down hard, causing him to roar and jerk his body up to a reclining position. His hand went to her head and Buffy knew she was closer than she'd ever come to dying at that moment.
"Down boy," she murmured drawing away from his thigh. She licked her lips, not even noticing the taste of the blood. "Just completing the process."
His eyes shot up, in disbelief or question she wasn't sure. "Then by all means," he said simply.
"Mm." She lapped at the bite a couple more times before crawling to his waist and straddling him. "It'd probably work better with the fangs."
He pushed her hair away from her face as she reached to remove her shirt. She laughed as their arms met and collided. "I'm trying to get naked, do you mind?"
"Not at all."
She tossed her top aside, wiggled out of her pants before moving to his legs to pull his pants off the rest of the way. He was quick to shed his top while she was busy with that. "Anxious, are we?"
"You have no idea."
"Been a while, huh?" She straddled him, took him into her hand and guided him into her while she slid onto him.
"Nothing compares to the best."
"You flatter me. If I didn't know better I'd say you have your soul after all."
"Shut up and fuck me, will you?"
"I thought you'd never ask," she said with a low laugh.
She rode him to the point of exhaustion. He was quick to roll them over so he was on top and renewed their frantic pace. He seemed to know just what to do. How deep to go, how hard to thrust, how much to pull out all around what her body craved him to do. He kept her riding high, higher still until she thought his taking her over the edge would make her fall from the drop. If she had any doubt before tonight that he was made for her, just for her, those were long forgotten. No one felt this way inside of her.
He seemed to sense she was close and he drew away from her slightly. She clutched his arms in protest of not being able to touch any part of him.
"Look at me, Buffy."
She opened her eyes, blinked once, twice and then focused on his face. The face of an angel. Her angel. How could she ever have forgotten this? Who would be so mean to give her the ability to feel like this, have someone complete her like this only to rip it away.
She didn't look away when he vamped out. He took hold of one of her arms, nipped at her wrist without piercing her skin. Her heartbeat kicked into a higher gear but she chalked that up more to arousal than fear. She brushed her hair away from her neck and tilted her head to the side. She knew what he wanted and however sick it might make her she wanted it too.
"Tell me you want it."
"You know I do." How could he even ask that? Wasn't it obvious? Or did he think she did this for anybody?
"Feed, Angelus, feed."
Her arms went around his neck as he lowered his upper body flush against hers once more. He nuzzled her neck, running the front of his fangs along her neck.
"Tell me when you're about to cum."
That was all it took. She had been close for what seemed like an eternity. But his words, his absolutely primal tone, and his breath hot on her neck reminding her of what he was about to do sent her over. "Now," she cried out and he sunk his fangs into her neck. She held him to her as he took out of her as his lower body made a deposit.
He drank and drank, his lower body still driving into her. She began to feel weak, she remembered the feeling well from the last time. The world around her started to blur and then to fade. She was distantly aware of the fact he stopped feeding. His lower body continued pounding into her, though and she cried out. She wanted more and more and more. Her mind was foggy, he had taken too much but she was still conscious enough to feel his fingers ministrations to her nub taking her over the edge again. Her world faded to black after that.
It went like that for Buffy didn't know how long. It seemed like forever and she wondered if this was what forever with him would be like. Pleasure at every turn. And he'd yet to do anything but give her pleasure time and time again.
She noticed when she'd gotten up to go the bathroom at some point that he hadn't matched this bite up with the last one. Another set of scars. She couldn't find it in herself to care or be bothered by it. Not even when she thought of Spike seeing the fresh marks.
"What time is it? Better yet, what day is it?"
He chuckled as he ran his fingers through her hair. She was intrigued by the fact he liked to do that. Once they'd gotten to the bed, and it had taken them a few hours to make it that far, he hadn't let her out of reaching distance. Aside from the obvious human needs anyway.
"Not sure. Haven't been paying much attention."
"Me neither." She sighed, content. She'd never known what it meant to feel completely satisfied. She did now and it was a feeling she'd carry with her for the rest of her life. To think he'd deprived her of knowing such a thing existed.
"They're going to come looking for you."
"It's been at least a day."
"They'll know where to look. No big mystery where we'd go."
"Was it worth it?"
"Umm, in one word or less. Yes."
He chuckled. Buffy thought on how much happier Angel seemed without his soul. "Why is that?"
"What? You've lost me, Buff."
"Why are you happier this way? You like making with the helping people."
"I liked helping you. The Powers That Be thought my helping the helpless gig in LA would keep me in touch with the human world. I really didn't want to stay in touch with it. The only time in one hundred years of having the soul was when I was with you."
"Before you, all I had was the guilt of everyone I'd hurt. Then you came along and I thought maybe, you know, maybe there'd be a chance at redemption. And then you made me really happy and we saw how that turned out. I ran, I couldn't do it. Your mother, the Mayor, they made me see that it'd never work. I'd lose you eventually anyway."
"And so you decided to lose me right away?"
"I couldn't stand the pain of watching you die, Buffy."
He placed a finger over her lips. "I told you, you and I are going to convince him it's not in his best interest to stay away."
"So you weren't happy helping me?"
"Guilt is a terrible thing, Buffy. Have you ever done something that you truly, truly feel guilty for?"
"I'm not talking cheating on a test or stealing twenty dollars from your mom's wallet."
"Well, yes, I treated Spike pretty shitty last year. I took out my being miserable on him."
"Okay. That's one thing. Compound that by a few hundred. Images of all of those people in your head, screaming for mercy, begging you to spare their child, their mother, their husband, or whoever they wanted you to spare. It was terribly overwhelming and I didn't believe I deserved a chance. You."
"Oh. Why couldn't you tell me that before?"
"I didn't want you to know how bad it really was. How bad I really was."
"But I knew."
"No, you have entries in your watcher journals. You have stories passed on, rumors. You don't know what I am really like."
"I've seen you in action without the soul, Angel."
"Not really. I mean, you have, but not like I was."
"If you could do it. Have your soul and me. Would you?"
"You mean, like this?"
He shrugged. "It's tempting because I know without the soul I'd never have you. Not really. You still think of me as two different people, deep down anyway."
"Spike did it."
"Spike wasn't always the brightest boy."
"So why was I worth it to him but not to you?"
"Because Spike's always been a sucker for love, it's always driven him. I wasn't, I'm not. If I was, I don't think I would have been able to give you up."
This was too much, too close to home. He wanted her but he didn't. Buffy couldn't take it. So she did the only thing she could do. She rolled onto her back, tugging him with her. He didn't need much coaching in that regard. And they took up where they'd left off. They didn't need pretty words or claims of devotion for this part. Their bodies did it for both of them.
Angelus knew when they were no longer alone. It was inevitable. He had lied when he claimed to not know how much time had passed. She had been with him for two days now. Two days when there was an apocalypse brewing, a big bad picking off young girls entrusted to her charge. Angelus reveled in the idea that he had gotten this much time out of her.
She was sound asleep, tuckered out from expending far too much energy. He hadn't realized she was so imaginative. So willing a participant. His thigh was still a little irritated where she'd bit him. It'd heal in no time once she stopped reopening it.
He remained laying there, still, listening to her breathe. He let her hair run through his fingertips. They'd find them eventually. The mansion was large, the room they'd ended up for good in was on the third floor. It'd take a while. He smiled at her willingness to christen every room in the house. New room, new position. He was growing hard again thinking about it.
He gave a brief thought to her reaction were they to be caught. She'd said she'd want him to finish. His dick apparently wanted to test that theory. He rolled her over, slid her agile body just so enabling him to slide in behind her. It amazed him that as often as they'd fucked she was still as tight as she was. It was like entering her for the first time every time. It was better than any drug conceivable. This would be his addiction were he to allow himself to have one.
His eyes fell closed, getting lost in the feel of her. Even in slumber her body reacted to him, accepted him, grew wet for him. Whoever was in the mansion was getting closer, as was he. He moved the makeshift sheet away from their bodies and then grabbed her wrist and brought it to his mouth.
"Buff," he said hoarsely.
"We've got company," he said gruffly. He bit into her wrist, timing it with a deep thrust inside of her. She always reacted positively when he did that. She cried out in response, just as he expected she would. She stretched out like a cat, pushing her cute ass into him which served to draw him in deeper.
"Angel," she called out just as Angelus heard the sound of approaching footsteps. He doubted Buffy recalled he'd told her, but they were here. He emptied his seed into her as she climaxed, not at all surprised to see Giles and Spike armed with crossbows in the doorway. There was a third man he did not know with them.
"We have company, Lover."
"What?" She sounded groggy, sated, thoroughly so at that. She sat up with a start, reaching for the curtain they'd taken out of one of the windows to use as a sheet. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"I, uh, did." He noticed a streak of blood on the curtain and growled low, realizing he had not closed her wrist properly. He took it and swiped it with his tongue, staving off the light flow of blood.
"Giles, how very nice to see you again."
"I wish I could say the same."
"Buffy, how could you do this."
"You know what having sex with him will do."
Buffy rubbed her eyes, clearly not altogether here yet. "Um, he's here in bed with me not making with the killing people."
He ran a fingertip along her bare shoulder, moving closer behind her wanting her to feel his body against hers. Supporting her.
"Get your hands off her. You don't think I know what you're up to."
"What's that? Fucking your slayer? So what. She's a big girl and obviously she wants a vampire. I just thought it was time she experienced a real vampire."
"Just stop it. There's no need to be crude."
"Oh I haven't even started being crude yet."
"Buffy, that is not Angel. He likely wasn't Angel when he got here."
Angelus leaned in closer, his mouth against her ear.
"Get your hands off her."
He held his hands up. "Not even touching her, Rupert. I can demonstrate how that's entirely possible if you'd like. But I'm sure in your day you've experimented a time or two."
"Someone tell me why we're not just killing him?" It was the black guy.
"I don't want to hit Buffy."
"The answer to your question, Buff."
She turned her head toward him, pressing her ear closer to his mouth. "What?" she mouthed. With her head like that, the fresh marks would be visible to the three men in the doorway.
"Would I do it? For you?"
"In a heartbeat. Soul or not, we deserve forever."
Tears formed in her eyes and he leaned toward her, kissing them away.
"Leave her be."
"Well, Rupert, she doesn't seem too willing to leave my side. She apparently took a walk on the dark and wild side and liked it."
"Buffy, how could you do this? It's not bad enough we have the First after us."
"Oh my God."
"Buffy, he'd likely kill you."
"How long have I been here?"
"How long have I been gone?"
"Two days now."
"If he wanted me dead, don't you think he would have done it already?"
"Spike. Don't, please."
"No, don't please me. How many times did you tell me it was the soul that made the man?"
"Oh God, don't do this. Stop it. It was just sex."
"Oh, come on, Lover, it was far more than just sex. You could get that from Spike, couldn't you?"
"Stop it. All of you."
She stood from the bed, draping the curtain around her protectively. It left him very much exposed, not that he cared. He wasn't shy or embarrassed. He ran his fingers along the still healing bite mark on his thigh. "Did she ever bite you, Spike? I never knew she had it in her. She's a wildcat though."
She turned on him, her face a deep crimson and glared. "Oh my God, stop it Angel."
He shrugged and laid down on the bed.
"The three of you need to go. Now. I'll be back at the house later."
"Buffy. If you think we're going to leave you alone with him."
"You want to try and stop me? Spike might be able to, but I'm guessing Angel would probably join in."
"You threatening us, Slayer?"
"I am. Now get out. Or you know what, I won't come back. I'll leave you to handle the First by yourself."
"No, Giles. I know what it looks like, and I know it doesn't look good. And I know when I'm out of this bed, out of this room, this house I'll probably do with the major second guessing myself. But, oh my God, I needed this. I needed Angel. I needed him to need me."
"I don't understand, Buffy."
Tears started rolling down her cheeks now. "I know you don't. You wouldn't. He left me. He loved me, promised me forever, but he left me. And then we argued, only we didn't argue."
"You're talking in riddles."
"I'm not. Damn it, Giles. He took back a day of my life. We were together. He was human. And he gave it up to protect me."
"Buffy, don't you realize he'd tell you anything to get you in this position."
"I believe him. It makes sense. He hated Riley."
"He'd hate you with anybody, Buffy. There's no doubt he loves you. If Angelus is trying to claim differently, he's a liar. And anyone who ever saw you together can attest to that."
"No, he's not. He wanted us to be able to have time together. Is that so far fetched? He knew he'd get his soul back eventually and he actually wanted to spend his time with me. Alone. In bed."
"Here I thought you'd changed, Slayer."
She rubbed her temples, struggling to keep the curtain from falling. "Get out! All of you! I'm not saying it again."
"Buffy," Angelus called out as pained tore through him. He remembered this. Twice before he'd experienced it. The first two times he fought the intrusion, fought the return of his soul.
"Angel." Distantly he was aware of her returning to the bed, the curtain and her modesty forgotten in her concern for him. "Giles, what's happening to him?"
"I, Buffy, I'm not going to help him."
He couldn't speak, he could only feel. He wished he could describe it to her, wondered if Spike felt the same thing when his was returned. It wasn't agonizing this time. He clutched her forearms, refusing to let her go.
"His soul. I remember this now. I was there when Willow did the spell last time. Is she doing it again?"
"No, she's on her way to LA now. There's no way she's gotten there yet."
"Is that why you came here?"
Angelus was powerless to do anything but lay there and listen, helpless as the soul retook possession of his body. The demon fought it, did not want to give up control again. But Angelus didn't mind so much this time. If it brought him back to Buffy, got him back where he should be it was okay.
"Yes. We found out last night about Angelus. We assumed until then that you two were."
"They assumed you were working on logistics or something."
"You mentioned taking him to the high school, Slayer."
"Oh right, he wanted to see the seal." She looked into his eyes, he saw the concern there. It was etched on her face. He wondered how many premature worry lines he'd caused for her over the years. Too many if it was only one.
"Are you sure that is what's happening?"
"Yes, Giles. His eyes. Look into his eyes."
"No, thank you, Buffy, I'll take your word for it." He heard Giles talking to someone on the phone, Willow presumably.
"No, she's still on the road."
"How? I don't get it? If Willow's not doing the spell, what's happening?"
"I wish I could tell you." Rupert actually sounded concerned.
"Buffy," he whispered. She hugged him. He was starting to get his feeling back. Felt her body, warm and lush against him. What a way to come to. His arms went around her and he held her to her.
"Yes," the Englishman said not sounding at all pleased.
"Call LA, tell them we need them here now."
"Wesley, Faith, Gunn, Fred. My son. They can all help. We're going to need all the muscle we can get to defeat this thing."
"Faith you say?"
"Yeah, they broke her out to recapture me."
"Did it work?"
Angel cocked his head and shot Giles a knowing glare.
"Yes, of course, dumb question." He dialed the number Angel recited to him and stepped out of the room.
"I don't know. I don't get it. I'll look into it, but we have more important things to worry about right now."
He drew her away from him, looked into her eyes. "We."
"At least I didn't have to stab you through the heart this time." Yeah, he was very appreciative that was the case.
"Bloody hell. I just can't win, can I?"
"We still need you, Spike. Don't go disappearing on us."
"I'm not planning on disappearing. But it's not because you asked me to, Angel. It's because I've been here with Buffy since this thing reared its head. It messed with my mind. I want to see it ended."
"Excuse me, what just happened here?"
"Listen, can we um maybe meet up back at the house? I'd like to get dressed and, well, just be back at my house."
"Why are we no longer out to kill the vampire?"
"Because he has his soul back."
"Who is that guy?"
"Robin Wood. Principal Sunnydale High."
"Want to explain how the principal knows I'm a vampire?"
"He's just a knowledgeable guy."
His eyes traveled the length of her body. He pictured easily each and every kiss and caress he'd given her through the course of the last couple of days. He wished he could claim that he was two different people, but he wasn't. Everything was there, inside of him. Maybe there was a part of him that wanted Angelus free again. Maybe he wanted Angelus to come back here. He needed her, she served as his anchor whether she knew it or not.
"They'll leave as soon as Willow gets there."
"You're sure Willow didn't do the spell?"
"Positive. And Wesley didn't know anything about it either."
"Huh," he said, more confused by the minute.
"All right, Buffy, we'll meet you back at the house. Come along, Robin, Spike."
"I don't know why you dragged me along to begin with."
"In the event we needed to stop Angelus."
"Right, right, the muscle. I get it."
Buffy slid off Angel, but made no effort to cover herself once they'd left the room. He waited a few minutes, heard the house was quiet again.
"You did that on purpose, didn't you?"
"Had them find us like that?"
He shrugged. "What can I say?"
"Buffy, without the soul."
"No, I get it. I just want you to be honest with me. Last time, we didn't talk about it, any of it. We just played with the pretending it didn't happen."
"Yes, I did it on purpose. I also knew if they were here, our time together like that was coming to an end .They wouldn't have come in here unless they knew I was Angelus."
"You think so?"
"I heard them talking. They were trying to be stealthy, quiet, covert. If they thought you and me were sitting here they wouldn't have acted like that."
"Oh, I guess you're right. How do I know the soul's really back?"
He shrugged. "I don't know what to tell you. You've seen it happen before. This time is different, though, I can feel it."
"We need to get dressed."
"If we can find our clothes."
"Oh, and one last thing, Angel."
"Yes?" He wasn't sure he liked her tone at all.
"If you do that again. Screw with my head, my memories, and I find out about it. Love you or not, I'll stake you."
"No, I don't want to hear you were doing it for my own good or anything else. You cannot go making decisions for the both of us without consulting me first. I could maybe excuse your leaving Sunnydale. I get it now, I needed to grow up, experience something that wasn't you. But, I'm an adult now, even if it doesn't come close to matching your years."
"I mean, it's crazy, but I knew something was wrong, different. What did you say?"
"I said you're right. And you are. It was callous and uncaring of me to think I had the right to make a decision like that for you."
"Wow, okay, is this a pod Angel or something?"
"What? You're right. Okay? I didn't think I'd be any good to you human."
"Oh God, Angel, I'll take you however I can get you."
"Would you have stayed with me without the soul?"
"I don't know. Which Angelus would I end up with? The one the legends are made of? Or the one that I spent the last few days with?"
"A little of both."
"Then I probably would have."
"I think you would have kept in check some."
"There are vampires that while they feed on humans they only feed on lesser humans."
"Huh. I didn't know that."
He ran a hand through her hair, leaning up to smell it. "You smell like sex."
"I wonder why."
"I like it."
"Men," she said with a roll of her eyes.
"I want to kiss you, but we should probably wait until we have clothes on again."
"Are you sure you can do this, Buffy?"
"Give up what we just had?"
"I'm not sure if I should be insulted."
"No, flattered that I love you that much. Always have, always will."
"I have to go back to LA."
"Connor, he's still there. He's not very stable."
"What was the point in coming here then?"
"It wasn't me."
"You're right, that's a bad excuse. I don't know what I was thinking. I do, not with my brain obviously."
"Don't you want to stay?"
"You know I do."
"No, see, that's the thing. I don't know. I don't know anything when it comes to you other than you confuse me. You come here, make me feel something for you even without the soul. I let you make love to me. Feed from me. God, Angel, I let you do things to me I didn't even know were possible. And now you're talking about leaving again." And that was saying a lot considering some of the things she and Spike had done.
He walked up behind her, wrapping his arms around her. She rested her head against his chest. God it hurt. She thought the last time had hurt, but it was nothing compared to this.
"What does that make me that I'm wishing for you to not have your soul again?"
"Nothing, Buffy, it means you're human and want to be with the man you love. Your mate."
"What kind of perverse trick is it that we are that? Mated? And can't be together?"
"I don't know. I'm having Wesley look into it."
"In his spare time researching The First with Giles, you mean?"
"Yes," he said. She didn't need to look at him to know he was grimacing. He nuzzled her neck and she tilted her head, granting him access. She was powerless to fight him. Talk about curses. It was worse than a curse. "I'll be back."
"You didn't tell me that part."
"You didn't give me the chance. I'm not sure how long it will take. This thing with Connor. It's a mess. I can't just leave him to roam the streets of LA. He's dangerous. To himself, to others. I'm not sure who I'm worried about most."
She turned in his arms, resting her hand against his cheek. "Don't ever be ashamed of feeling that way, Angel. He's your son. I'd be mad if you thought differently."
"I really want to stay here, though."
She took a deep breath, glad to hear him say it even if she knew he couldn't do it. "Thank you."
"You're welcome. I just wish I knew what we were going to do."
"What can we do?"
"I don't know, Buffy. I left because being with you isn't safe. But being away from you hasn't proven to be any safer. It's been a gradual decline, but I find myself tempted to forget about the soul."
"Would you do that?"
"I don't know. Sometimes it's so tempting, because everything in LA has turned to shit. Connor, Cordelia. The only good thing I've done there is Faith. And the jury's still out on that one. We'll see what she does now that she's out of prison."
"I think being here, helping me will help. She fought the Beast and won. We're a team, we'll work as a team. I think we'll be better this time."
"You think so?"
"I hope you're right. I don't know what it says about me that the best thing I've done with my existence is love you."
"Well, love is pretty powerful stuff."
"I know, and we can't give into it."
"If I knew why it happened."
"My soul returning. I don't get it. If Willow didn't do it. Those magics they're long gone. Willow's the only one as far as I know that knows the spell."
"Well, someone did us a favor."
"You think so?"
"Well, okay, I'll admit there's a part of me that isn't so sure."
"You'd stay with me?"
"If there was some way I could have the kinder, gentler, non-killing machine, yes."
"I don't think that's possible. Not for the long term."
"Spike was with Drusilla."
"Why does it bother you so much that I love you? I mean without the soul?"
He cupped her face and kissed her, a light taste, a sampling that nowhere near satisfied. He'd woken up a monster in her at the mansion. She wasn't quite sure how to put it away. "It didn't bother me so much this time. Last time, you made me feel too human. You made me forget what I was. My time with you, I was able to think that I had a chance."
"Not really. One day you'll die, Buffy, and then I'll be alone. Do you have any idea how much that scares me? Two hundred plus years of no love, no entanglements. I finally find it and it's not the eternal, immortal thing. It comes with an expiration date. Maybe it'll be eighty years from now. I don't know."
"So, rather than watch me die you left me altogether so we had no time together?"
"I guess I thought it was better just ripping the band aid off rather than pick at the scab."
"Yeah, doesn't really fit. But it does in a way."
"Our relationship is a sore?"
"Sometimes it feels that way."
"Way to sweet talk her, Angel."
"Spike, do you mind? This is a private conversation."
"You've got a phone call."
"I do? Everyone I know is here."
"Evidently not everyone. Some bint. She's talking to Mini Me Watcher, but he told me to come get you."
"Maybe, not sure why she'd be calling here. We're not exactly on speaking terms."
"Well, you best go find out."
He kissed her, she suspected in part just to get to Spike. Those two were like kids sometimes with their competitiveness. Both of them here like this was a disaster waiting to happen, particularly with Spike's trigger not disarmed.
"You okay, Buffy?"
"Yeah," she said taking a seat on a step. "Since when has anything with Angel been easy or not full of heartbreaking potential."
"Maybe that's a hint that he's not the guy for you."
"I'd like to think that way, I really would. But I believe that is the way it's supposed to be. I could do without so much angst piled on all the time, but love's not supposed to be easy."
"What was I? A diversion?"
"You know where I was last year, Spike. I like to think we've gotten past that. That we're friends. There's no one I'd rather have at my back."
"You mean that?"
"I do. I'm going to send him back to LA."
"Until this is done. He needs to deal with his son. And Cordelia if he can. Running away doesn't solve problems and from what he says his son is close to going postal. And most of all, I want to know that if we fail, can't defeat this thing that he'll be there. A second wave."
"So that means I want you here with me. I want you training the girls. You're important to me, Spike, I'm not denying that. And I have no idea what will happen between now and when this is over." She shrugged casually. "I may not even be here to worry about it."
"Don't even go there, Slayer. You're not dying again on my watch."
She smiled at that. "As if you have anything to say about it, Spike. You have no more control over this thing than you did against Glory. But thank you."
"So you think he's going to go along with it? Him in LA while I'm here?"
"He doesn't have much choice. He's needed there, I'm needed here. Hellmouth and Buffy go hand in hand."
"Yeah, I know the rules."
"Any ideas on the soul?"
"What do you mean?"
"Why it was returned to him without Willow making with the magic?"
"No. I wish I did, love. I suppose it could be some cosmic laugh. Angelus got you to accept him so he had a chance of roaming free. No one wants that. One day he'd be as mean and nasty as he was, maybe not until you're gone."
"He was never like you, was he?"
"What do you mean?"
"Without the soul, he really wasn't capable of doing anything good."
"Capable? No, we're all capable. He just didn't want to. Until this time. So, I don't know."
"He knew I was in trouble. He was upset at being cut off from me."
"Understandable. And it's in our nature to protect what's ours."
"Why not before then?"
He placed a hand against her neck, brushing the scars there with the back of his hand. "Right there. That wasn't there before. He hadn't taken your blood, hadn't connected you to him in that way."
"So, I caused it?"
He shrugged. "I guess, I don't know. I've never loved anyone I fed from before. Not a human anyway. You have no idea how tempting it was, Buffy. I saw those scars, knew you'd taste so sweet. I wasn't sure if the chip would fire or not. And now, here we are. I do have a question for you."
"Would you do it for me?"
She smiled thinly, her lips pursed. Would she? "Yes. Yes, Spike, I would do the same for you."
"You had to think about it though."
"Not really. I mean, two years ago, no I wouldn't have. Now, yes. I couldn't let either of you die if I had the ability to save you. The world needs you, needs you both."
"That's what Cordelia says."
"What?" They both turned to regard Angel. Spike hadn't heard him come outside either evidently.
"Wesley relayed Cordelia's message."
"And what was it?"
"Evidently, all I ever needed to do is admit I'd give it up."
He sat on the other side of Buffy. It was a little overwhelming sitting between them. They both exuded power, confidence, strength, and even nobility in some ways. To think that she'd wormed a place into both their hearts.
"Without the soul I'd never shown the ability or desire to sacrifice. I never thought of anybody but myself, not even Darla really. But she was of the same cloth so it didn't really matter."
"So, what are you saying?"
"The Powers That Be were evidently not happy we pulled this stint. I didn't have to come running to Sunnydale. I could have gone anywhere. I don't know if Willow could do the spell from Sunnydale and have it work wherever I am or not. They need their champions to stay champions."
"Wesley has the impression that my soul is mine. For keeps. The Powers That Be don't want anyone extracting it again. The next time it might turn out differently. And something's coming in the pipeline they don't want to take that chance."
"Something bigger than the First?"
"Evidently. I'm needed in LA."
"I don't want to go, but Connor and whatever. Wait. Did you say you know?"
"I did. I understand. Hopefully when this is all over, for both of us."
"We can be together. But it's different now. I'll come here, you can come there."
"Buffy." Dawn called from inside the house.
Buffy felt elated by Angel's words. The distance would be tough, but she was under heavy fire here by the First. She could handle the separation by keeping busy.
"Phone's for you."
"Okay. I'll be right back." She stopped at the door and looked back at them. "No fighting."
"Oh come on, Buffy," Spike said.
"I can't help it he's an easy target," Angel said.
She glared at them.
"Fine," they both said.
It took her a minute to process the voice. She recognized it without question, but the fact he was calling her. "Riley? Is it really you?"
"Uh, yeah, sorry it's been a while. If I interrupted anything."
"No, nothing special."
"Good. Listen, we've received some reports that things are picking up your way."
"You could say that."
"We're willing to send in a team to help you out."
"Okay." She glanced through the kitchen, out the door to where Angel and Spike sat. They were talking, seemed to be anyway, but she couldn't hear what they were saying. "Actually, I think we're going to be okay. I don't think guns are going to win this one for us. But you could meet Angel in LA."
"Why would I want to do that?"
"Because if I fail, all hell's going to break loose. And those things guns can fight."
"Well, why don't we do this?"
"Let me give you a couple of phone numbers. You give a copy of them to Angel. If you or he need us, call and we'll be there within a few hours."
"How many of you?"
"As many as you think you need."
"Why are you doing this?"
"Because you're not going to die again. Not if I can help it."
"I don't know what to say. Does Sam know you're doing this?"
"Not that she'd stop me from doing it anyway, but yes, yes she does. And ‘thank you' would suffice."
"You're welcome. And I hope neither of you have to call, but if one of you do I'd rather it be you."
"Me, too." She meant it, because if Angel was the one to call him it would mean she failed. It was on the tip of her tongue to mention about Angel and her. Then she didn't know what to tell him exactly. What were they doing? She cradled her head in the palm of her hand, feeling a headache coming on. Her mind was on overload. Riley calling didn't help.
"We'll be on standby. One of the two numbers are manned at all times, so you'll get someone."
"Thanks, Riley. I really appreciate it."
"Hey, the US Government isn't going to turn its back on a civilian in need."
"Right," she said with a roll of her eyes.
"Okay, that was a little thick. Take care, Buffy, and be careful."
"Thanks for your help with Spike."
"You don't have to thank me. It goes against my better judgment, but I know you weren't making the request blind."
"No, no I wasn't."
"Fair enough, then we're square."
"Night, Riley." She hung up the phone, wondering where he was in the world. Was it night or day for him? There were times she missed him. But, hey, if they were still on speaking terms enough for him to offer help she wasn't going to complain.
"What's with the face, Buffy?"
"You look like someone punched you in the gut."
"Oh well, that was Riley."
"What did Soldier Boy want?"
"Not much to help with at the moment."
"That's what I told him, but he gave me numbers to call in case I change my mind." She handed the slip of paper to Angel. She didn't bother copying it onto another sheet. If she needed to call Riley it would be over before he got there anyway.
"Why do I want his numbers? I'm not going to call him."
"Because if I fail, you'll need him. An army of government soldiers isn't going to stop the First, but they might be able to stop the after effect if the First gets free."
"You'll do it, Buffy."
"I haven't failed yet, but there's always a first time. He'll help, Angel, he said he would, and he knows if you call it's because my plan didn't work."
"Do you have a plan?"
"I'm working on it," she said.
"She's working on it," Angel said. Buffy felt her temper rising when she noticed he was looking at Spike when he spoke. What were they best friends now?
"I've never failed to now, I don't think it's going to happen this time. But since you need to be in LA anyway." She shrugged casually, as if they were not talking about life and death situations.
"Buffy, you've beaten the odds a couple times along the way."
"Yeah, I have, because I've had help. You, Xander, Spike, Willow, Giles, Dawn, Anya. Need I go on? And I have help now, too. But what good are you and your team going to do here? If I fail, we all die, and then no one can get a hold of Riley to tell him."
"You're putting a lot of stock into getting help from your ex."
"Like you weren't my ex when we defeated Mayor Wilkins? Like you weren't my ex when my mom died?"
"That was different."
"You weren't dating anyone else."
"First of all, I don't even know what we're doing. Second, if I don't know, Riley doesn't know. And, can you get over being jealous? This isn't about Riley being my ex. This is about possibly needing world-saving help. He's offering an army unit. But it has to start with you, not here."
"And you think he'll come?"
"He said he would. You're telling me if he called you and asked for help you'd say no?"
"Well, I don't think that's likely to happen."
"If he did?"
"Of course I'd help him. It's what I do."
"Okay then. See? This isn't about Buffy's social life. It's about saving the world. I'm not going to turn my back on someone's offer of help."
"But you did."
She growled, throwing her hands up over her head. Could she not get through to him? "I'll say it again. There is nothing here anyone can fight. Not yet. But if the First gets free, there will be plenty of things to kill. I'm trying to prevent it going beyond Southern California, Angel. I'm trying to make sure there's more than just one wave of defense. Since you're going back anyway."
He walked up the steps, taking her into his arms. "I'm not questioning you, Buffy. I just want you to be sure you want to do it this way. It's not my place to argue with you, because you're right you haven't lost yet." He kissed the top of her head. "When this is done, you're coming to LA, right?"
"I hope so."
"You hope so?"
"Well, I don't know what's going to happen. I'll make a promise, that as soon as I can I'll be in LA."
"I guess that's all I can ask."
"That's all I can give right now."
He brushed her hair back at the side of her face. She relished the contact, but drew away aware that Spike was still there. "I know," he whispered and drew away.
"When are you leaving?"
"As soon as we can. Cordy needs us I think, and if her visions are saying I need to be there then I guess I do."
"Can you trust her? Didn't you say it was her who let you out?"
"I don't know, Buffy, but all the more reason for me to go and find out. If she's switched sides, we're in trouble. Those visions, they don't have to be put to use to help people."
"Right, I see your point. I still have a problem with Cordelia being all connected like that."
"She's still Cordelia."
"Well, yeah, she is, but there are more layers to her now. She'll still knock you down to get to the pair of shoes she wants, but if you're really in trouble she's one of the ones you want in your corner."
"It'll be fine."
"You'll let me know if you need help?"
"Like you don't have your hands full here?"
"Well, all right, I do."
"When you're done and you have a few days, come visit. We'll work it out then."
"Are you staying tonight?"
"Yeah, I'll go tomorrow."
"Good," she said, dropping her hand into his. She led him in the house and up to her room.
"Am I putting someone out of a bed?"
"Just Dawn and Faith, but I just want to sleep anyway."
"What if I don't?"
"You have to wait."
"I've waited. Do I have to remind you how long I've waited?"
"House full of people."
"Oh all right."
"Yeah, I know. We were good, weren't we?"
"If that was just good, Buffy."
She smirked at that. "I was trying to avoid giving you a big head."
"Oh well, okay then."
"Besides, if you think there is room to improve you won't get too content."
"Like content is a word that exists in our vocabulary. I'd love to have one thing in my life that I can be content with."
"It looks like you might be getting your wish. I am going to have Giles or Wesley look into this soul thing, though. Do you mind?"
"No, it makes sense."
"Especially since we don't know what exactly Cordelia's up to."
"Right, I wasn't even thinking."
"No worries. I suppose you don't have jammies?"
"No. I've slept in my clothes before."
"Okay. I'm going to let Dawn and Faith know they can come up. Why don't you lie down and wait for me? Keep the bed warm? I'll see you in a bit." She bent over to kiss him, lingering just a moment. "I love you."
"I love you, too."
May 2004 – Los Angeles
Buffy caught her breath. Her body was numb, long past the point of aching. How she'd kept swinging the sword she had no idea. She still couldn't believe they'd gotten away with it. Their plan had worked and with Riley's help they had taken on the Senior Partners of Wolfram and Hart. And survived. Granted, there were a good number of losses but there were for the other side, too. The street before them and the alleyway they were standing in was covered in blood, guts, and bodies. Riley's team would ensure that there were no remains or signs of anything happening here.
Buffy had spent the last year collecting and training as many newly activated slayers as she could. She wasn't sure it was enough, as it was so many had died. None of them knew why either. It had to be that way. She, Giles, and Angel were the only ones who knew the plan. Riley was apprised at the last minute.
She spotted Faith in the distance, alive and still standing. She felt a wave of relief wash through her at the sight of her counterpart. She wouldn't have been able to sleep at night if Faith had come along and gotten killed in the process. Not with her whole life ahead of her and her being on the right track for a change.
She spotted Spike, Angel, Connor, and a woman she didn't know in the alley, too. She breathed a sigh of relief. Both her vampires were alive.
"I always knew I could count on you for a good time."
"You liked that, huh?"
"You bet. It's the most fun I've had in quite some time."
"Demon hunting for the Army isn't all it's cracked up to be?"
"Oh most of the time it satisfies. We don't get to blow stuff up on such a grand scale though."
"Well, glad I could help."
"I'm glad you called."
"Me, too, we couldn't have done it without you and your firepower."
"So now what?"
Buffy shrugged. "I ride off into the sunrise with my man."
"I wish I could say I understand or approve."
"Good thing you're not my mom or dad."
"I'm not sure you'd listen to them either."
"It's my heart. My life. I have to do what I think is right."
"Yeah, I know. I have to admit, I'm glad it's not Spike."
Buffy couldn't help but laugh. "Yeah, I can see how you'd feel that way." She reached out and hugged him. "Thanks, Riley. There's no way we can repay you for this."
"Oh, I haven't even gotten to the good part."
"Definitely." He pulled an envelope out of his pocket and had a smug smile on her face. How it had remained intact during the battle she didn't know. "Before I collapse on you. You have a week to get to D.C. and make this scheduled appointment. That should give you and Angel plenty of time to drive there around the sunlight."
"Why am I going to D.C.?"
"Trust me on this one, Buffy. And read the letter."
"Okay." She took the envelope, glancing at it. It was plain white, nothing was written or printed on it.
"You guys go. The sun's going to be up soon. We'll have this alley cleaned up in no time."
"I think I'll be smelling fried dragon guts for days."
"Yeah, that one exploded pretty good, didn't he?"
"Sure did." Angel finally made it to her side, draping an arm around her shoulders. "Hi."
"Hi, she says. The woman who helped carry my plan off without a hitch."
"All in a day's work."
He extended his free hand to Riley. "Thanks, man. I'm glad you took Buffy for her word."
"When it comes to apocalypse stuff I've learned not to doubt Buffy."
"Yeah, me too. We're out of here. Faith, Spike and Illyria will meet up with us tomorrow night."
"I wanted you to myself tonight."
"On that note, I'm out of here. Good work."
"You, too, Riley."
"Were you trying to get rid of him?"
He shrugged. "A little. What's that?" he asked, tapping the envelope.
"I don't know. Riley gave it to me, told me to be in D.C. in a week."
"I don't know. He told me to read it, trust him and show up. You get to come along it."
"Well," he said as he guided them out of the alley into the street. She wasn't sure where he was leading them. She was too tired to care at this point. "What does it say?"
"It's a meeting with the Department of Defense."
"You heard me."
"I wonder what that's about."
"I'm not sure. I'm curious enough to go."
"Me, too. I forgot something."
"What's that?" He stopped on the sidewalk and kissed her. It wasn't the best kiss they'd shared, but it conveyed well enough the message he was trying to send.
"Was I thanking you?" He grazed her chin with his thumb.
"The sun's almost up. We've got to find shelter fast."
"Did you have some place in mind?"
"Not really." He glanced down the street. "Most of these buildings are abandoned or dilapidated. If you want to go somewhere else."
"No way. I'm with you, baby."
"Good. The offer wasn't a sincere one. I promise you, though, this is the last night you'll ever have to sleep on a floor."
"I still can't believe we pulled it off."
"Me either to be honest. I thought for sure they'd catch us when we met. I think it was early enough into it they didn't suspect. And Giles' adamant denials of assistance were helpful, too, I'm sure. I'd tell you to thank him for me, but I'm sure he enjoyed it a little too much."
"I never doubted you, Angel."
"Well, maybe I have more faith in you than you do."
He led her into one of the buildings through a backdoor. "This should do. I'll check and see if there's anything we can use as a blanket or something."
"Angel. I've spent the last few hours fighting, sure I was going to die. I don't care. I'll sleep."
They did manage to find an old coach in what was probably once upon a time a break room. It had seen better days and was probably infested with things she didn't want to know about but she had to admit it was better than a cement floor. And for the first time in close to two years she had a dreamless sleep.
Washington , D.C.
"Have you ever been here?"
"During the McCarthy era."
"So, a while ago?"
He chuckled and she smiled. "Yes, a while ago."
"You're laughing at me."
"I am not. You're just so cute sometimes. I wonder how you passed school, but you're still cute."
"Thanks a lot."
"So, what do you think this is about?"
"You're asking me? I don't know."
"Well, I guess it's do or die time. Shall we go find out what this Mister Coleman wants with you?"
Whoever had set the meeting place must have known Angel was a vampire, because they'd set it for thirty minutes after sunset. As it turned out, it was just enough time for them to get from the hotel they were being put up in to the restaurant. Buffy was even more confused at this. What type of business meeting took place in a restaurant? She found out soon enough when they went in and were led to a private back room.
She paused in the doorway. She wasn't sure what she was expecting but ten men was not it. They were rather intimidating looking, too, in an official I can fuck with your life way.
"Miss Summers. And you must be Angel."
"Here," Buffy said eyeing the room. Angel didn't respond she noticed.
"Have a seat, please. Can we get you anything? Once we close the doors no one will come in."
"Um," she said taking the seat she was offered. There was a glass of water at her spot and the table had food on it. "No, I'm fine." She noticed there was nothing for Angel and wondered about that. They were done experimenting on vampires? Riley wouldn't do that. At least she didn't think so.
"You're probably wondering why you're here."
"Yeah, you could say that. Can I ask who you are?"
"I'm Jack Coleman."
"Okay," she said when no one else offered up their names.
"It's been brought to our attention what you do. Who you are. It's also been brought to our attention that we could probably use you."
"Our information is to put it mildly incomplete. Our training is not to the standards it could be. We know who and what you've defeated and how. You're resourceful. You don't stop. We've heard even death hasn't stopped you. You know about the Initiative project and what a failure it was. And while we have no desire to pursue a project of that scope or type again we do need units designed and trained to combat these things."
Buffy glanced at Angel. Was she hearing this right? He seemed to be as shocked as she was.
"So you want me to what? Help you?"
"Help? No. We want to hire you, Miss Summers. It would be full-time until we get the units ready that we want to mobilize. And then it would be on a case by case, as we need you, basis. We'd expect this to be your first priority, barring events the scope and magnitude of what you both just faced."
"Umm, not that I'm trying to be greedy, but are you offering to pay me for this?"
"Yes." He slid a large manila envelope toward her. "You'll find the terms of your contract with us in there, including monetary compensation. Travel expenses would of course be included later on. For now, you'd be here. Actually, Baltimore. You do, however, have to make a decision today."
"I don't have to make a decision. I'll do it."
The man smiled as if he already knew that was going to be her answer. Damn, she hated that people knew she was prone to doing the right thing. It didn't matter what they paid her. "You haven't even looked at the contract or the compensation."
"I don't need to. You're after the same goal I am, and if you are aware of what went on in LA you're aware that sometimes I'm not enough."
"Yes, we are aware. Staff Sergeant Finn apprised us of the details he felt he could divulge."
He had a rank now, Buffy noticed. Maybe he had before, but she hadn't really paid attention. Sadly, she realized now there was a lot of lack of attention on her part where Riley was concerned.
"All right. I just want to make sure I'm not going to be contributing to another project like Maggie Walsh's."
"No, Miss Summers. These are military operations, not government. Our orders are to seek and destroy."
"Not all need to be destroyed."
"That's where you come in. We understand there's a bit of a gray area. We want to know that."
"Okay. Can we have a minute to talk?" She wondered why it took so many of them if only one was doing all the talking. The government at work. They got up and left the table, going to the other end of the room.
She opened the envelope then and glanced through the papers, handing each one to Angel when she finished reading it. She dropped the page that came to the money they were offering. She had no idea what to expect, but this was more than she would have guessed.
"They want to pay me an annual salary even if I don't work all year long."
"That seems fair considering if they do need you you'd have to drop everything and come here."
"Why did they want you here, too?"
He snorted. "I don't know. I did work for them once."
"It was a long time ago. Like maybe even before your mom was born long ago."
"Oh." There was so much about him she didn't know.
"But if you agree to it, I will help you. Maybe this is part of what I'm supposed to do. And, hey, with your income and what I have stashed away we can spend the time not here helping people."
"I like the sound of that."
"I do, too. I got away from it for a while there. Things were such a mess I forgot what I'd come to LA to do in the first place. But, Buffy, this is a commitment. I mean, there's no deciding in a year you don't want to do this."
"I know, Angel, I do. It'd be nice to help without the person in charge trying to kill me."
"So, you want to do this?"
"Angel, the money. Where am I going to find something earning this much?"
"I have money. I can take care of you."
"I know, and I appreciate that, but there are some things I have to do on my own. One of them is know I can survive. I don't want you taking care of me. I'm twenty-four years old, Angel. I want us to be on equal footing."
He leaned in and kissed her, tucking some hair behind her ear as he drew away. "Listen to you."
"Well, it's true."
"I know. I'm glad to hear you say it. Where do you sign?"
It didn't take long for them to gather around the table again.
"Nice to have you with us, Miss Summers."
Once the paperwork was signed all but Jack Coleman left the room. "You come highly recommended. We cleared this with the President, just so you know how far up the chain of command knowledge runs. When he found out that last year you were working at a fast food restaurant. Well, let's just say he wanted to be sure that changed. We understand there are more of you, slayers, out there now, but we want the one with experience."
"You know, one day I will give it up."
"Yes, and hopefully you can pick your predecessor. We want this to be the beginning of a long standing partnership." His gaze flickered to Angel briefly and he gave him a tight smile. "Enjoy the accommodations. We'll be in contact with you for your first assignment."
"We're not going to stay at the hotel, are we?"
"No, Miss Summers. A car will pick you up from here in a short while, you can pick your things up from the hotel and the driver will take you to your temporary housing. You will report the day after tomorrow. Instructions will be in your home."
"It will be someplace Angel can sleep?"
"Yes, it's not the most extravagant of places but we've outfitted it with everything we thought you'd need, including the specialized ones required."
"Thank you, Miss Summers. I'm glad Staff Sergeant Finn was right about you. It's a tricky call, exposing such a division of the military to civilians. There were many against the idea. If you find anyone gives you any problems, give me a call."
"Thanks." She was saying that entirely too much, but didn't know what else to say.
"Good bye, Miss Summers. Angel. Oh, feel free to eat. We paid for it, someone might as well enjoy it. I'm sure you two want to talk privately for a while anyway. The car will be out front shortly, but take your time."
"Right," Buffy said with a smile. She kind of liked him, though she wasn't sure why. He was pretty non-descript. If she hadn't met him tonight she really wouldn't have paid him much attention passing him on the street. Not tall, not short, not fat, not skinny, not attractive, not unattractive. He blended, which she imagined was probably part of his job.
She grabbed a biscuit and broke it open. "So, did I make the right decision?"
"I don't think there's any other decision you could have made. I'm not sure they would have let us freely leave here after what they offered you. The information you have."
She hadn't thought of that. "Then why meet somewhere so public?"
"Probably to seem less intimidating. If they'd brought us to some government building it would have been a little much. That's not your style. They know that, or they do if they did any research on you. I mean, it's what I would do if I wanted someone to do what I was asking them to do."
"Hmm. But now I'm working for them. The military. The people who chipped Spike and created Adam."
"That was Riley's professor, Buffy, not all of them."
"Are you doubting your decision?"
"No, I mean, a little, wouldn't you?"
"I guess so, yeah. You never know who's being honest."
"That's it I guess." She finished the biscuit and drank her water. "I guess I'm ready. Baltimore. What's in Baltimore anyway?"
"Not much of anything."
"They must have been pretty confident I'd accept to set up a house and everything for us."
"I imagine Riley thought you'd do it. He hasn't been around for a while, but he still knows you pretty well."
"Not that much, Buffy. Parts of you have changed, sure, but the basic things that make you Buffy haven't."
"You don't think so?"
"I know so."
"You think the Buffy you knew before would have been with you without the soul?"
"I know she would have. Had I been willing to accept the fact I loved you, soul or not," he shrugged. "But we don't have to worry about that anymore."
"No, I know. I can't say I'm not glad, but you know I'll never forget those two days I had with you."
"Are you saying you prefer me that way?"
"No, you just have no idea how much faith I had to put in the fact you wouldn't kill me." She snorted, realizing that sounded pathetic. "I guess knowing that without the soul that you loved me, wanted me, could admit what you couldn't with the soul. That meant a lot to me. You have no idea how much it hurt when you left."
"It hurt me, too."
"I know that now. I really believed you thought we were a freak show. I guess I needed to know that you didn't really think that. Even if we hadn't ended up together like this, had I just had those couple of days with you at least I'd know you still love me."
"Good, because I really hated that you could just turn it off like that. Boom, you were in LA and I was just your ex."
He laughed with a sigh. "You were never just my ex. Anyone who tries to tell you differently is lying. I tried to move on, I wanted to move on, thought it was the best thing to do. Who knew it would take losing my soul again to make me realize that the best thing to do is take advantage of what time I have with you."
"And here I am dragging you into military stuff."
"It doesn't matter."
"Positive. You're sure we're okay?"
"Yes, Angel, we're fine. More than fine, I'd say we're pretty damn good. I wonder what there is to do for fun in Baltimore."
"What did you have in mind?"
"Oh, I don't know. Some dancing, dinner maybe, a movie. It's been a while since we've seen a movie together."
"Yeah, I remember the movie we saw together."
"Me, too." That had been the longest two hours of her life. Well, she had thought so at the time, but facing a dying Angel soon after had pushed the movie back to the recesses of her mind pretty quickly. She grabbed another biscuit from the basket on the table and took a bite. "I'm ready."
"Buffy, if you're hungry, eat."
"No, just nerves I guess, or coming down from the nerves. Something like that. I wonder if we need to grocery shop?"
"I'm not really up on grocery shopping."
"No, I suppose you wouldn't be. We'll make do." She slid her hand in his. "Okay then, let's go see what this house looks like."
"If it's the same car that brought us here, tell the driver to put the guard up on the way there."
"What? I thought you were up for a little adventure. When are we going to ride in a limo again?"
"Oh come on."
"He's going to know."
"And we're ever going to see him again? Or, for that matter, why should I care? You're an attractive woman, I've been told I'm an attractive man. We want to pass our time the best way possible."
"Best way possible?"
"Are you going to deny that would be the best way possible?"
"Okay, okay, it could potentially be the best way possible."
"You're toying with me again, aren't you?"
"Just a little."
"A little my ass. If you go along with it, I'll make it worth your while."
As if he didn't always, but she was intrigued. "Fine."
"Ha! I knew I could get you to do it."
She rolled her eyes doing her best to look insulted, though she wasn't in the least. She wagered he was well aware of how insulted she wasn't. "Come on, adventure man, let's get out of here."
She still had things to think about, worry about. She'd never thought of having a life after Sunnydale, because she thought she'd be stuck there until she died. There was no Sunnydale now, which meant she had to find somewhere else to call home. Giles had suggested Cleveland. She'd probably end up there. A year away from a hellmouth and she kind of missed the action. She had no idea what Cleveland's hellmouth would throw her way, but she had no doubt that with Angel by her side and the support of the others that had survived she'd come through it all right. She was, after all, getting her shot at forever.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com