***Part Two***

Buffy parked the Jeep in front of the Hyperion, checked to make sure she was not in a No Parking zone and grabbed her bags. No matter where their relationship stood, Angel would never turn her away. If she needed a place to stay for the night, he would put her up. This place certainly is big enough, she thought as she stared at it. Angel certainly did things in style, though she had to remind herself Angelus picked out the mansion not Angel.

"Wow," she said as she walked into the hotel lobby. It was even more beautiful on the inside.

"Welcome to Angel Investigations may I help you?" asked a long-haired brunette.

"Is Angel here?"

"Sure have a seat and I'll get him. Can I get you some coffee or anything while you wait?"

"While I wait? Um, no, I'm fine," she said, setting her bags down and taking a seat on one of the couches in the lobby. If the girl thought it strange Buffy came bearing two overnight bags, she did not show it. Did Angel have women coming to visit him all of the time?

"He'll be out in a few minutes," she said, returning and going behind the reservation desk. Buffy assumed it was the office.

"Thanks," Buffy said, glad the girl was not full of questions for her. Buffy was not sure how she would answer them. Angel would understand but he was the only person who would, especially when it came to her dreams, there was no one else she shared dreams with. She stood and walked to a painting on one of the walls. She recognized it, there was a song written about it, she could hear the tune in her head but the words and title escaped her. There was no placard on the picture frame to identify it either. Angel probably did not need placards to remember names of paintings.

She felt hands on her shoulders and leaned back into him instinctively without flinching. She fit so perfectly against him, her head found the space between his collarbone and his shoulder automatically. Three years of practice, she imagined, even if she had not practiced much of late.

"That's one of my favorites," he said softly, his voice as effective on her as any physical caress.

"It's beautiful," she murmured. "So peaceful, yet so powerful. I can feel it."

"Reminds me of you," he said quietly.


"Yeah," he said and she knew he was smiling. She turned in his arms and went to kiss him, but he growled as she moved.


"You smell like Xander."

"I saw Xander for a little this afternoon, he bought me a Snapple."

"Oh," he said and Buffy smiled at the sound of relief evident in his voice.


"No," he said quickly, too quickly.

"No need to be since he's engaged," she smiled unable to forget he had been jealous of Xander a few years ago. "To someone else," she added.

"Oh, good, good for him."

"Yeah, he seems happy. He's got a good job working for a construction company, he actually made foreman. He's overseeing the new high school."

"And Willow?"

"She's not so good. She and Tara broke up because Tara thinks she's becoming too dependent on magic. I'm starting to wonder myself," Buffy admitted. "But magic isn't my forte so I don't know. Willow says she's all right, I have to trust her. I mean, she's always the rule follower."

"Those are the ones you have to be most leery of."

"Anya said the same thing," Buffy said with a frown.

"She's a smart girl then, because she's right. It's the ones who follow the rules all their life who get a taste of power and tend to go overboard."

"Well, now you've given me something to really worry about," she said with a pout.

"I didn't mean to, Buffy," he said, placing a finger under her chin to tilt her face up slightly. "Can I kiss you?"

"Do you have to ask?"

"Well, I don't know, you might have a boyfriend."

"No, no boyfriend and last I checked Angel kisses were always welcome. And always of the good," she added with a whisper, her eyes already falling closed in anticipation of a kiss.

"Good to know," he whispered before leaning down to kiss her. It was tender almost uncertain as if he was not sure he had the right. It had been over two years since they had kissed like this. Last year after her mom died had been different. This was them bearing their souls to one another and both a little afraid of doing it. As the kiss lengthened and deepened an arm encircled her waist, drawing her closer as the other skimmed her side and then palmed her hip. His fingertips caressed her upper thigh and she moaned into the kiss, opening her mouth wider. She wanted more, more of his kiss, more of his touch, just more.

The brunette came out from the desk area and cleared her throat lightly. Buffy drew away first, a soft murmur of protest at the interruption meant to only be heard by Angel with his enhanced hearing. She turned in tandem with Angel to face the girl. Buffy rested her head against his shoulder, surprised at how comfortable it felt to have his arm around her and how easy it was to go back there. "Fred."

"I, um, sorry, I didn't realize it was a personal visit."

Angel wiped his mouth with his other hand, the one that moments ago had been at her hip. "It's all right, Fred. This is Buffy."

"Oh, Buffy, hi," she said, looking embarrassed. "I should have known."

"Buffy, this is Winifred Burkle, Fred."

"Hey," Buffy said.

"Did you need something, Fred?"

"Well, I was going to ask if you needed anything."

Buffy regarded Angel curiously, surprised at the feeling of worry that was weighing heavy on her just then. "Not right now, Fred, but I appreciate it."

"Sure, no problem. I'm going up to my room now, but I'll turn on the heat and put out fresh towels. It was nice meeting you, Buffy. Finally."

"Thanks, you too." She turned to face Angel then not overly discreet about the fact she wanted to get back to kissing.

He placed a fingertip gently against her lips, his eyes focusing on his fingertip and her mouth. "First, Buffy, why did you come here? Is something wrong?"

"No, I just needed to talk about some things I've been seeing, they're not dreams, but can't be real either. Memories of dreams, perhaps? So I decided to come see and talk to you. I hope I'm not in the way."

"You're never in the way, Buffy. No matter what you might think or whether we quarrel." He slid his hand so he was touching her cheek with the back of his hand, his eyes watching his hand almost as if he did not quite believe she was there. "I don't deserve you."

She laughed lightly, that sounded so ridiculous. "Ironically, you're the one reasonable thing in my life; you're the one thing that I have no regrets about. No matter what."

"Would you like the tour? Then you can tell me about your dreams."

"Sure," she said softly. He opened his arms, inviting her into them, and she took the invitation. She was always safe in Angel's arms, when she was sixteen she thought he could make everything better just by holding her, protecting her. So much had happened since then. She had died and been pulled out of heaven. She started to cry, not entirely sure why. The welcome he had given her was not exactly what she had expected, but it was good. Maybe that was why she felt like crying, some unexpected goodness after weeks of blandness and nothing.

He let her cry, let the tears fall, and merely stood there, stroking her hair, touching her, kissing the top of her head in an attempt to comfort her. Finally, the tears stopped and she had regained her composure. She stayed as she was with her head against his chest. "We had been together."

"We'll always be together, Buffy. I'm sorry it's just dreams where we get that. I dream about you all of the time."

"No," she said, shaking her head which was really her rubbing her head against his chest. "That we had sex together. That we were happy. We were together. But it was nowhere I recognized. It wasn't my bedroom, wasn't your room at the mansion or at the warehouse, and I've never been here to see your room here. The weird thing is I was awake when I saw the images at the mansion. I mean I had just woken up from a nap, but it wasn't a dream."

"You went to the mansion?"

"Yeah," she said with a shrug. "I was feeling a little lonesome and sorry for myself and went for a walk. It was too early to patrol, so my feet led me to the one place I used to go automatically when I felt lost and needed to be found."

"To me."

"Yeah," she said softly. "But I was awake. They were vivid, Angel, real. We were so happy. If nothing else, that was clear as day to me."

She felt Angel take a deep breath and it was strange hearing it since he did not need to breathe. "Anything else?"

"There was ice cream involved, which makes no sense. But nothing else that I can really remember, no. It just felt so real, so right, and I'd give anything to have it be anything but a dream, Angel. I don't mind sharing my dreams with you once in a while, or even having you make appearances in mine, but that's just cruel to give me a picture like that."

He breathed heavily again and stepped away from Buffy. "Let's go for a walk."

"Okay," she said confused, but having no problem spending more time alone with him. She wished he was not dismissing her so quickly, but she had said what was on her mind and was just happy to have some time with him. "Are we going somewhere?"

"Yeah, a walk, to talk in private."

"You have an entire hotel at your disposal and we need to go for a walk for privacy?"

"I didn't say we were going outside, Buffy," he said with a light laugh.

"Oh right. Okay."

"I figured I could give you a tour, show you some of the restoring I'm having done, I can't take credit for it."

"Like I know anything about that, but sure I'll look." She took his offered hand and let him lead her up the stairs. He was putting off saying something, Buffy knew that much.

They had been walking for what seemed like hours. He had shown Buffy Fred and Gunn's room, Wesley's room, Cordelia's room and the few uninhabited rooms he had started working on. It was nice walking with him. They did not say much, Buffy listened as Angel explained what he had done to each room. They held hands throughout the entire tour, kissing periodically almost as if they had to sneak them in. It was strange, this forbidden thing, knowing they could not act on anything but that the feelings were still there. "It's nice, Angel. And you're able to pay for all of this?"

"Well, since I'm restoring I'm entitled to some government funds, historical landmark type thing. I'll have to actually open it up for business once it's done."

"So you're going to run a hotel?"

"Well, I'll hire people to run it, wouldn't want to ruin my isolated, broody image, but yeah I'll be running a hotel. If I take my time, though, it could be years," he said with a wink. "And maybe the people who gave me the funds to restore it will be dead by then and I can wiggle my way out of it."

Buffy laughed lightly, knowing he was teasing but at the same time it was not that out of the question. They were back downstairs and in her room now, a suite adjoining Angel's. It was simply furnished, but elegant and obviously feminine. "You had a woman in mind when you did this one," she said. It was a statement, not a question and she was jealous at the thought.

"The one standing in it now, yes."

"You did this with me in mind?"

"Every square inch, Buffy. The wallpaper, the curtains, the carpet, the linens." She ran her hand along the ivory duvet and realized it was down. "I did ask Cordelia for some advice, but I only took the ideas I thought you'd actually like."

"It's beautiful."

"Wait until you see the tub," he said.

"I can't wait," she replied as he went to the fireplace and worked at starting a fire.

"We share it, but I did not think you'd mind sharing a bathroom with me."

"Not at all, I'm used to sharing a bathroom."

"It gets cold in here some nights; at least that's what the others tell me. It's an old building and the heat doesn't work real great. And being that you were unexpected, the heat wasn't on in this room until Fred turned it on. So, you might want to keep the fire going."


"No problem."

She kicked off her boots and sat on the bed, watching him as he tended the fire. His back muscles would flex and relax. He looked perfectly natural using the fireplace tools that Buffy honestly had no clue what they were for.

"I'm trying to get you all set so that if you hate me you don't need me for anything else. The doors between our rooms do lock."

"I could never hate you, Angel."

"You say that now," he said softly, his hand gripping the poker.

"What is it, Angel?"

"I think those images you saw were memories not dreams."

"But that's impossible, Angel. I'd remember."

"No, you wouldn't," he said softly and turned to face her. "Do you remember when you came here after Thanksgiving?"

"After you snuck into Sunnydale and left without even a hello you mean?"

"Yeah, that one. And the demon that we killed in my office?"

"Yeah," she said cautiously. "Okay, you're starting to freak me out. Just spill and quit with the cryptic talk."

"The version you remember was the second run-through of that day, Buffy."

"Come again?"

"I don't even know where to begin. I'm glad you're remembering because I hate having the memories by myself."

"Did you do some sort of magic to make me forget?" she asked, shuddering at the thought. She was not sure what she was most upset with Willow for, bringing her back or taking away her memories and then giving them back to her. It only made it worse because they had all come back at once, which is what led to kissing Spike. Kissing Spike was of the bad.

"No," he demanded, falling into game face briefly. "I would never do that, Buffy. I had no choice. Well, I did, but there was no other choice for me. You weren't supposed to remember, but then perhaps the Oracles didn't count on you dying."

"Or having a powerful witch friend toy with my memories," she said bitingly.


"Willow did this spell, she was trying to be helpful I guess, didn't like the mopey Buffy that had come back from the grave and wanted me to be happy, so she cast a spell to make me forget the badness. It sort of backfired, though," she said with a shrug. "We all lost our memories and then got them back in a big whoosh. I could have done without the picture show of the last six years coming back all at once. Who are the Oracles?"

Angel walked to the window, pulled back the floor length curtain that made Buffy feel sort of like a princess knowing he had her in mind when he had decorated the room. His voice started out soft, Buffy had to strain to hear him until she reminded him enhanced hearing was not a Slayer attribute. He kept his back to her the entire time he spoke, but it was easy to read his conflict and pain as his posture changed.

Buffy sat on the bed in stunned silence not sure what to say. He had played with her memories, but not in the same way Willow had. He had sacrificed being human, being with her to continue to be a warrior for the cause. As he said, the Oracles were not counting on Buffy dying and coming back from the grave. Had it not been for Willow's spell, though, she wondered if the memories would have come back. Willow's spell seemed to have sparked them, not being resurrected. Perhaps a combination of the two. Tears once again fell from her eyes, judging by the shaking of his body he was crying too. She wished she could be glad he was suffering, but she hated seeing him like this. To think he had lived with those memories for close to two years. He had returned to Sunnydale and seen her with Riley, knowing she had recently been with him.

"If you hate me, I understand."

"I could never hate you, Angel. Even when you were Angelus I couldn't hate you."

"Now you know why I wanted to cut out my unbeating heart when I found out about Finn."

"Yeah, your reaction to that makes a little bit more sense now," she said, toying with the edge of one of the pillow shams. It was still hard to believe he had done all of this with her in mind. "Do you regret it?"

"My decision?" he shrugged. "Every day, but I know it was for the greater good, I know I wasn't there to help you with Glory but I would have if I had been here. But had I stayed human, Buffy, that chance would never have been there."

"I know," she said somberly. She took a tissue from the box next to the bed and laughed lightly. "You even have tissues in here?"

"I always knew one day you'd just show up, had to be ready."

"How did you know?"

"I don't know. How do we know anything about one another?"

"Yeah," she said softly. "Can't you talk to them?" she asked.

"To who?"

"These Oracle people. Can't you talk to them and maybe," she said and then stopped.

"Maybe what, Buffy?"

"Maybe they can make your soul permanent. I mean, we were happy that day, weren't we? I'm not mistaken in remembering that, am I?"

"It's the happiest day of my entire existence, Buffy. I'd say Cordy telling me that Willow called with news that you were alive rates a close second. But making my soul permanent wouldn't change that I can't go out with you during the day, I can't give you children, and that you deserve those things."

"I don't care about children and I don't care about the daylight thing, Angel. I had a boyfriend who could take me out during the day and it was really not of the big. Don't you want me?"

"You know I do, Buffy."

"No," she said softly. "No, I don't."

"Buffy, in two hundred forty-six years, I've loved only you. But I made my decision based on the fact that I have to be here for some greater purpose. You told me that, remember, Christmas three years ago? As much as I believe loving you is noble, I can't help but feel that it's not my greater purpose."

"Can't you at least ask them?"

"And then what, Buffy? We have separate lives now, you're in Sunnydale where you're needed and I'm here where I'm needed."

"So we see one another when we can. There's nothing saying that I can't patrol in LA or that you can't help people in Sunnydale. I mean, I took the chance you gave me for a normal life and it didn't work. I don't think it's going to work either. If it didn't with Riley, who is it going to work with?"

"Do you really want me to answer that?"

"Yes, please, who would be better suited for me than a guy who knows about vampires and demons and the hellmouth, even if they had some scientific, government term for all of it? Other than a Watcher, which Giles is like a father and Wesley is, well, Wesley."

"You deserve so much better than me, Buffy. I hurt you, I've said things to you that I can't take back, and I've hurt people close to you."

"You don't think I've said things to people I can't take back? You don't think I've hurt my friends? Angel, soul or no soul, that's part of life. You don't think having a void in my life and in my heart where you should fill it hurts?"

"Buffy," he said raking a hand through his hair.

"Fine, whatever, I won't beg. You don't want it, I get it."

"No, Buffy, that's not it, I just don't think there's anyway to do it. I would think someone would have told me by now if there was."

"Have you asked? Maybe no one has really thought too hard on it. I mean, who here knows me besides Cordelia? And Wesley. So it's not like anyone has ever seen us together to know what the curse is keeping apart."

"I don't know, Buffy, it seems risky. What happens if we're told it's permanent and it's not?"

"So, we'll chain you up and have Willow on standby with the restoration spell." His eyes met hers briefly, a smirk on his lips, and her breath caught. For a moment, she was looking at Angelus not Angel. It was more eerie than frightening, which in itself was frightening. "What?" she asked.

"You're going to chain me up and have sex with me?"

"I, well, Spike has these chains that I think would keep you should Angelus break free. They held me."

That was apparently the wrong comment to make just then, because his game face fell into place accompanied by a full blown growl. Angel was across the room and on top of her in a matter of seconds, his body crushing her to the bed, his hands like vices gripping her upper arms. If she had blinked she would have missed it he was that fast. "What did Spike do to you?"

"Nothing, he didn't do a thing to me, I swear."

"Then how do you know about his chains?"

"He, well," she struggled to get out from under him. "Angel, you're scaring me. Stop it."

"How do you know about his chains, Buffy?" There was no sign of Angel currently; the demon was in control.

"It's nothing, Angel, really. He has this idea in his head that he loves me. He kidnapped me last year, chained me up in his crypt and offered to kill Drusilla as proof of his devotion to me."

"Did you sleep with him?"

"No! Angel, get off of me," she said, trying not to be scared.

His hand went to her throat and he tilted her head from side to side. The growl had subsided somewhat, but it grew louder once more. "You've been marked."

"Not by Spike," she said resolutely. "It was Dracula."

The growl grew louder again. "You let him claim you?"

"I didn't let him, Angel. God, do you honestly think I'd let anyone do that?" That seemed to settle him, placate the demon because the growl subsided, his grip at her throat loosened. "Will you at least ease up a little?" she asked. She had made no effort to fight him off of her, but if he did not move now or at least allow her room to move she would. Even with the eyes of the demon in place she could tell when Angel took control once again. It had been three years since she had seen Angelus, but she still recognized the difference between the two.

"I'm sorry."

"There's no reason to be sorry, Angel, but tell me again why it would be a bad thing to at least inquire about this soul thing? I mean, you flip out because I mention Spike has chains we can use and because Dracula marked me, but you don't want to spend what time we have left together? I'm living on borrowed time, Angel, don't think I don't know that. I'd like to live it out happily. If that means we can only see one another on weekends, even if it means all we can do is kiss like there's no tomorrow, I'll live with that. I refuse to try and settle again for someone who isn't you and I refuse to be alone because you're trying to protect me. I died, Angel, I don't know what there is left for you to protect me from."

"I know," he said softly. With his hand still at her throat, he lowered his mouth to hers slowly, so slowly she wondered if he was trying to decide whether or not to kiss her. And then he kissed her, game face still in place. Her breath caught and she whimpered as his hand loosened its hold on her throat even more and his thumb began to rub against her collarbone. She had forgotten what it was like to be kissed like this, to be left breathless and wanting just from a kiss. Angel somehow managed to make her think he was the reason she was able to breathe when they kissed. It was funny, considering he himself did not breathe and could not give her breath.

She slid an arm around his neck and one around his lower back, drawing him closer to her, into her. If she could arrange it so their bodies melded together and became one so she would never have to be separated from him again she would. She broke the kiss, out of breath and panting, placing her forehead against his cheek. He nuzzled against her neck, the tip of one of his fangs grazing the skin there. "Why are you still in game face?"

"I went from being in an insane jealous rage to being insanely aroused, the demon wants release."

"How can we give him release without losing your soul," she asked softly. "I'm sorry, really."

"Don't be sorry, Buffy, don't ever be sorry for making me want you. It hurts and it's difficult, but don't ever be sorry." He nuzzled against her neck, nipping lightly but not breaking the skin. "The day I stop wanting you is the day I cease to exist. It's almost a curse on top of the curse," he said with a sardonic laugh.

"Laying in here is probably not of the good."

"I beg to differ with you, Buffy, I can't think of anything more of the good right now then to be here with you." She kissed the tip of his nose and snuggled against him. His weight on top of her did not bother her, in fact she liked it. "Stop squirming, Buffy," he hissed.

"What," she asked not even realizing what she was doing. And then it dawned on her. "Oh, sorry," she said, lowering her head. "I don't suppose we could test the theory that the demon isn't you and therefore if it's the demon with me and not you no soul losing will come to pass."

"I don't know," he said after a moment's pause as if he were giving it some thought. "You'd do that? Let the demon have control?"

"With the soul, Angel, I trust you not to hurt me. You could have just a moment ago, I don't know what the claiming thing is you were talking about, but it obviously pissed you off more than the idea of Spike chaining me up did."

"It's exactly what it sounds like, Buffy. Claiming a mate could be considered the parallel to the human institution of marriage. Dracula had no right marking you after he saw you had already been, and he had to have seen."

"He did," she said, listening to him intently, her response was more automatic than anything.

"Without the soul I'd hunt him down for daring to go near you once he knew."

"So with the soul you're less possessive of me?" she asked. "You were still possessive of me without the soul?" she asked as an afterthought.

"Yes," he said evenly. "I'm the same man, Buffy, just with a conscious more or less that enables me to control the demon. So my feelings for you were still there, I hated them, hated you for making me feel them, but they were there. I had not done this yet," he said skimming her neck with his thumb. "So the instinct would be stronger now to defend what is mine."

She placed her hands at either side of his head and pulled him away from her neck, glad to see he was back in his human disguise. She ran the pad of her thumb over his mouth. "How have you lived with it? I don't even have all of the memories and it's almost too much to bear, knowing that I'm going to leave here and go back to being your ex."

"I've had to live with it, Buffy, there's nothing more I can do. I couldn't very well charge into Sunnydale and tell you what happened, as much as I wanted to when I found out about Riley. And I'll never look at ice cream again without thinking of you, but that's not so bad. I like having some pleasant memories of you, Buffy, there are so many bad ones in my head. And perhaps the Powers thought it was my just reward for what I put you through to have to live with that day."

She smiled wryly. "Maybe," she said, shifting underneath him again, trying to get comfortable.

"Are you tired?"

"A little, I've been exhausted in general since I've been back. Restless. Going to the mansion didn't help I suppose."

"How are things for you financially?"

"They suck," she admitted. "I don't know what I'm going to do to make ends meet. I'm going to have to get a job, but I can't find one. Xander tried to get me on as a crewmember, but I screwed that up."

"Would you let me help you?"


"Stay at the mansion. You and Dawn, Willow and her girlfriend if they want to. I'm paying for the utilities and everything anyway."

"You're kidding, right?"

"No, I'm not. What attachment do you have to your house anyway? I mean, it's not the house you grew up in and you'd have no bills to worry about other than food. I'll even foot the bill for the phone and cable."

"But Angel, it's yours, I mean, I'd feel weird."

"Buffy, I gave you that ring three years ago and I claimed you two years ago, even if you made me to save my life. In both human and vampire terms you belong to me, let me help you. Let me do something right, something I'm supposed to do, let me take care of you like I should have been doing all along. You can't tell me Dawn wouldn't love living there."

"Well, sure she would, she always begs me to take her to see it."

"Well then, what's stopping you?"

"I can't live there without you, Angel. I can't. It would be too painful, and I'd be afraid you'd get mad at me or something and tell me to leave."

"That would never happen. If I ever do come back to Sunnydale I'd want to stay there, but I assume you'll keep my bed warm for me."

"That's assuming a lot, Angel," she said with a light laugh. "Coming from someone who won't even look into the spell."

"Is that what's holding you back? You could be a kept woman without having to give anything back."

"No, thanks," she said softly. "Only if I can claim you as mine, then maybe I'd agree to it." She grew quiet and snuggled against him, her mouth as if it had a mind of its own placed light kisses against his neck. "I miss this, being with you."

"I miss it, too, Buffy. Every day I wake up and have to remind myself why I chose this."

"Then why are we doing this? Why are we forcing ourselves to live apart?"

"I don't know that I know anymore," he said, his tone indicating he was admitting that begrudgingly. She nipped at his throat with her blunt teeth, in part out of play and in part out of frustration that he was making them stay apart. She tugged on the skin between her teeth and then released it. "Buffy," he said in a low growl.

"I'm hoping I'll do something to tempt you to check into that soul issue."

"You really want me to try?"

"Yes," she said softly. "Unless you can look me in the eye right now and tell me that you don't want me, that you want to live out the rest of my life with me."

"I could do it, but it would be a lie," he said softly, finding her ear and kissing it. She groaned softly, tilted her head so he could kiss more if he wanted. "But the Oracles are dead, Buffy. Cordelia is my contact to the Powers That Be now, I have no direct link."

"Well, then get Wesley or I can ask Willow to research it, she might like to have a project to distract her from Tara."

He moved beside her on the bed. "You'd really chain me up?"

"If it would make you feel better about it, yeah. Does that bother you?"

"No," he growled. "I can almost guarantee it will be the demon not me in control."

"I told you already, Angel, I know he wouldn't hurt me."

"I'm glad you're so confident, Buffy. I've been losing control of it since coming here."

"Well, see, that has to tell you that your decision is not of the good, Angel."

"I kept hoping that time would fix it. I was trying to lose my soul when I sought solace with Darla, it didn't work and I think it hurt her more than it did anything to or for me. Other than I felt I betrayed you in the worst way possible, but I just didn't care anymore. And then you were gone."

"I know the feeling," she whispered. "It was one of the reasons things with Riley never worked, always in the back of my mind was the thought that I was betraying you."

"I'm glad, I might have told you I wanted you to have that life in the light, but I really don't. It tore me up inside that you made love to someone else. But I knew he could never claim you, never make you his in the same way I have."

"No one ever can, Angel." She felt his mouth grazing her neck; the marks on her neck were his focal point. "Does Dracula's bite override yours?"

"No, I was first, so no, but I did not do it to claim you and did not bind us together. I should have given you some of my blood to solidify the deal."

"I tasted some of his blood," she said and felt him stiffen.


"He was trying to convert me, wanted me to let him turn me, tried to tell me that I would have unbelievable power as a vamped Slayer, that I had not even begun to realize the power I have. He had me drink from him, wanting me to see. I think he was counting on my seeing the darkness in me, the darkness in my being the Slayer. I did, but I only saw the goodness in my calling, that it might be rooted in darkness but it was for the good. I probably come from the same tree as you, but I'm not from the same vine. It didn't work, and I was able to get out from under the thrall then."

"I wish I had been there."

"No, you don't," Buffy said with a slight giggle.

"Why do you say that? And why are you laughing? I get the feeling I'm not going to like this."

"Well, he's not stupid, I'm sure you know that. He met up with my mom earlier in the day and charmed her into inviting him into the house for a cup of coffee." She felt his arm around her stiffen again, felt him draw her closer, and heard a soft rumbling in his chest that was the beginnings of a growl. "He didn't hurt her, but he was obviously able to come into the house then and came into my room while I was sleeping. I woke up the next morning and it took me a minute to remember, it was like I was in a fog. I guess the thrall thing he can do. Riley went ballistic when he saw the bite marks."

"You didn't cover them?"

"Well, sure, but he got suspicious for one reason or another, paranoid I guess, knowing you're a vampire and my ex and afraid I was going to transfer my affection for you to Dracula. Dracula wouldn't want a human lover I don't think," she said more as an aside than anything.

"I'd have to agree with you there. So Riley flipped out, good," he said and Buffy laughed. "What? I told you I didn't like him."

"Yeah, I remember. So if I'm your ex," she said, shifting so she fit against him. "What were you doing preparing a room for me?"

"It gave me something to do, something to dream about, and something here that was yours. Cordelia thought I was nuts, but I think she just expects that from me when it comes to you."

"Are you going to stay with me? Or are you going to your room?"

"I can stay if you want."

"I want."

"Then I'll stay, Buffy."

"Do you want me to call Willow?" He grew quiet and Buffy looked over her shoulder at him. "Either you do or you don't, Angel. I told you I'll be with you regardless, but it would seem to me we'd be a lot better off if that portion of the spell was removed."

"Yeah, call her, have her research it. Make sure she knows that I was with Darla and didn't go Angelus on the world."

"There's something I'd rather not have to share with my best friend, but I suppose she'll need to know that."

"Are you jealous?"

"Yes," she said simply. "A little bummed that I caused it."

"Don't be, Buffy. Do you realize that means that I've only been truly happy in over one hundred years with you?"

"I guess I hadn't really thought about it like that, that is kind of cool I suppose," she said softly. He kissed her temple, his fingertips grazing the side of her neck, caressing the scars there which aroused something in her. It was not a sensual thing, but it definitely brought out a response in her. "What are you doing?" she whispered.

"Nothing, just touching you. Why?"

"It feels weird, different. I mean, I shouldn't feel anything, right? It's scar tissue."

"It's the bond, that's all, your body recognizes me. I'm your mate," he whispered against her ear, his right hand seeking hers and closing over it.

"You still wear the ring," she said, running a fingertip over it. The heart was pointed towards him.

"My heart will always belong to you, Buffy, I had no need to take it off."

"I'll bet the girls love me."

"What," he said with a light laugh.

"Oh come on, you can't tell me these LA girls haven't looked at you."

"I wouldn't know, Buffy."

"You wouldn't know," she said with a scoff.

"They're not you, so I don't want to know. I didn't leave you to try and move onto someone else, Buffy."

"I know that."

"I hope so."

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