***Part Twelve***

"Wow, what's with breakfast?" Dawn asked Angel when she entered the kitchen.

"Don't you normally eat breakfast?" he asked his attention still on the pancakes he was trying to cook for her.

"Well, yeah, but it's normally cereal, Pop Tarts, Eggo's or something."

"Buffy doesn't make you breakfast?"

"Mom used to, but a lot has happened since Mom died. She's been learning to cook since she's been back, though."

"Oh, right, cooking was not something she would have needed to do until a few months ago. I forget sometimes."

"And then she died and that sort of put a halt to any learning."

"Right," Angel said, snapping the spatula in half at the thought of Buffy dead. The thought of Buffy having to dig herself out of her grave was even more appalling to him. He started at a touch to his shoulder, automatically blocking the blow he expected that never came.

"Hey, it's all right, Angel," Dawn said from behind him, jerking her hand away. "She's not there anymore and while she was pretty scary for a while, she's better now that you're together again. You are together again, right?"

"Yes, Dawn, we are," he said unable to hide his smile at that. The four days without her had been torture. He slept horribly and was even broodier than normal. Gunn, Fred and Cordelia had avoided him altogether by the time Thursday had rolled around. Wesley was the only one who had approached him, and Angel had welcomed his company. Wesley knew better than to initiate conversation, the two had sat in broody but companionable silence together.

"Good, I'm glad. I never liked Riley. Well, okay, I liked him until he started to go all paranoid."

"He seemed like a nice enough guy," Angel admitted begrudgingly. "He just was not right for Buffy." He managed to remove the pancakes from the pan with the broken spatula and put them on a plate for Dawn.

"Is that right?" Dawn asked with a giggle. "And I suppose you know who is?"

"Just eat your breakfast, kiddo," he said curtly. He hated thinking of Buffy with that Finn character. He had no face to go with the name of the guy Spike mentioned, but Angel hated thinking about that, too. He had not really thought out the details of what Buffy's life would be like after he left Sunnydale. He had claimed he wanted her to have a normal life, but when he had actually seen her pursuing that normal life it had torn him up something fierce.

"Fine," she said, tossing her hair behind her with a flip of her hand. She sat as Angel set the plate in front of her. "Where's the syrup?"

"Good question," he said, searching through the cupboards. "It's hard to know where things are in a kitchen when you don't use the stuff. Ah, here it is," he said, setting the syrup on the table in front of her. "Anything else before I go find your sister?"

"Milk and orange juice."

"You're enjoying this, aren't you?" he asked as he poured her a glass of both beverages.

"Well, yeah, it's kind of nice. You're doing this because Mrs. Kroeger is coming today, right? In case she comes to school I can tell her that I had a good, nutritious breakfast?"

"No, Dawnie, I'm doing it because I want to. Is that a problem?"

"No, it's cool. Spike cooks for me sometimes, but he usually eats with me. You don't eat, though, do you?"

"No, I've been known to drink coffee now and then, but I don't have Spike's lust for solid food." He finished rinsing off the pans and set them in the sink to wash later. Dawn was partly right; he did make breakfast so that Mrs. Kroeger would see that she was properly taken care of. The humans had lived on takeout and delivery over the weekend, so he wanted to be sure the kitchen looked used. He did not need his enhanced sense of smell to know that the smell of freshly made breakfast was in the air.

"Janice wants to come over after school is that all right?"

"Who's Janice?"

"She's a friend of mine."

"I suppose it would be all right. I'll be leaving sometime tonight, but I'll make sure Buffy knows."

"Thanks," she said, eating the last of her pancakes. She stood from the table, handed Angel her plate and kissed him on the cheek. "You're the best. Have a good day. Say hi to Mrs. Kroeger for me. Maybe if we're lucky her son will eat her."


"It's a nineteen eighties horror film reference. A Nightmare on Elm Street. Freddie Krueger. The guy with razors as fingernails," she said and Angel just stared at her. "Never mind, the names are spelled different anyway, I was trying to make a joke."

"Oh sorry."

"Don't worry about it, sometimes it's sort of funny that you're real old but don't know things."

"Very funny. Your ride must be here," he said as the doorbell rang.

"Either that or Mrs. Kroeger is way early."

"Have a good day," Angel said, biting back the suggestion for her to behave herself. If Buffy did not object to David giving Dawn rides to school, Angel was not in a position to contradict her. And as much as he hated to admit it, he trusted that if Spike said the caller was on the up and up he was. Angel had seen enough to know that Spike truly cared for Dawn.

Buffy had spoken once about Riley thinking she would transfer her feelings for Angel to Dracula, from one vampire to another. Angel wondered if Spike was doing a bit of that with Dawn. Not that Spike had any romantic feelings toward Dawn, but Spike had spent one hundred twenty years looking after Drusilla. And now that he and Buffy were together, Spike would have to focus his attentions on something. A fifteen year old girl was right up Spike's alley as much as it pained Angel to think so. He had observed the two in LA and here and they seemed to have a comfortable rapport, a connection that perhaps had been strengthened by the events of the past year. Spike certainly had taken his promise to Buffy to heart.

He raked a hand through his hair and took the lone packet of blood from the refrigerator, wanting to drink his sustenance before the case worker came. He had moved all of the remaining blood packets to a refrigerator in the basement so that the case worker would not get an eyeful and ask questions. The mansion was as ready as it was going to be for the woman's inspection. He had paid a cleaning crew an outrageous amount of money to ensure everything was spotless by today. Every room had been dusted, every window washed, every bare floor scrubbed or polished, and every carpet cleaned and vacuumed. As Angel and Buffy made the rounds last night to ensure nothing was amiss Angel felt a bit of pride that this was his and his mate was sharing it with him.

The exterior left a little to be desired, but late November was not the time for gardening anyway. The landscaping crew had at least made the grounds look kempt, which after years of neglect must have been a formidable task. Drusilla had looked after the small garden to some extent, but the rest of the grounds had not been touched since before he had moved in. Everything that would not grow back had been pulled up and removed. Unfortunately, he would never get to enjoy the grounds even after they were tended to but Buffy would.

"There you are all game face and everything," Buffy said as he drained the packet of blood. "Tell me Dawnie get off to school and you didn't just eat her."

"I didn't and she did. I didn't need to walk to the door with her and make sure it was David picking her up, did I?"

"No," Buffy said with a laugh. "Thanks for making her breakfast, I got sidetracked and didn't realize what time it was."

"It's no problem, Buffy," he said, taking a step back when she walked to him and shook off his game face.

"What?" she asked looking perplexed.

He glanced at the now empty plastic pouch on the counter. "Let me drink some water or something."

"Angel," she said admonishingly.

"Buffy, you shouldn't have to kiss me after I've just drank."

"I don't care," Buffy said, reaching up on her tiptoes to kiss him. "I don't even notice," she said. His arms went around her waist, preventing her from drawing away.


"No," she said simply. "You kiss me after I eat."

"That's different," he said, releasing her and stepping away from the counter. He took the pouch and threw it in the garbage, making sure it was toward the bottom. "What were you doing anyway?"

"I was just walking around, honestly. I've never really walked around in here before last night, when you were living here we sort of stayed downstairs for the most part."

"Sure, because it was safest," he said in a low voice.

"But now we don't need to be safe, so I can walk around to my heart's content. It's neat. It's incredible. Not all of this stuff is yours, is it?"

"No, most of it came with the place. You saw in my old apartment what I owned here in Sunnydale."

"Yeah, I remember," she said.

"So, if there's anything in particular you dislike and want to replace I have no problem with that. Is that what you were asking me?"

"Yeah, sort of. It's going to be hard for me to get used to living like this. We did okay in LA, but not like this."

He laughed low and shook his head, imagining people crawling out of the woodwork feigning friendship once they found out she was living here. People were predictable when it came to wealth, he had it happen to him with a few acquaintances he had made in LA when they found out he was living at the Hyperion. "Just do me a favor and let me know what you want to replace and with what. There are a few things that I'm sort of fond of."


"Thanks. So what do we do until Mrs. Kroeger gets here?"

"Oh, I don't know. Want to go lie in bed with me and watch daytime television?"

"I like the lying in bed part, not the daytime television part."

"I didn't think you would be particularly fond of that part actually. I have an idea," she said, tracing her index finger under his chin. He recognized the look in her eyes as one that had nothing to do with watching television.

"What's that?"

She kissed him, nibbling on his lower lip, which he wished she would never stop doing. He loved when she bit him, even if it was playful like this. "Let's go up and see about making that big bed of yours look like it was really slept in."

"You mean the one I haven't even turned the bedding down on?" he asked in a whisper against her ear before tracing her earlobe with his tongue, followed by a kiss to the side of her neck. He definitely liked her second suggestion better than the first.

"Yeah, that one." He could tell she was smiling despite not being able to see her mouth since she was busy kissing his neck.

"You don't think she'll be coming any time soon?" He hoped not, because if she said no they could work on seeing to it that the two of them did lots of coming. They left the kitchen and walked to the stairs intent on at least making it to what was as far as the case worker was concerned his room, even if they did not make it to the bed. A bed had not been a requirement for their lovemaking this weekend.

"We'll leave the door open, Dawn's at school. We'll hear the doorbell," she said, wrapping her arms around his neck. Her back was flush against the wall as she arched into him, pressing her breasts against his chest. She kissed his collarbone while her fingers worked at unbuttoning his shirt. "Sex in an empty house. No worries about anyone walking in on us."

"I know what a concept, privacy," Angel whispered before unbuttoning her top so he could kiss the top of each breast. She moaned and arched into his mouth, so he kissed lower teasing her peak through her bra. She was wearing a skirt not the short leather mini number he was so fond of. He vaguely recalled that she was wearing a conservative white cotton blouse with a gray skirt that fell almost to her ankles. He was probably wrinkling the blouse horribly, but hearing her gasp and whimper was worth any wrinkles he might be causing.

"Angel," she gasped when he managed to get her peak exposed entirely and latched onto it. He quickly worked the rest of the blouse's buttons and slid it off of her. "Where are you going," she asked when he pulled away.

"Just putting it over the banister," he said and did just that.

"Oh," she said softly, offering him a shy smile. It still amazed him to no end that she could appear so innocent at times like this. She reached behind her and he was about to ask what she was doing when the skirt fell to her feet. "Does that help?" she asked.

He took a deep breath as his eyes raked over the length of her body. She stood before him in a black lace bra and matching panties, even the heels she wore were black. And she wanted to know if it helped? She unfastened his jeans and reached inside and certainly she had her answer. He groaned loudly as her mouth sought one of his male nipples, bringing it to attention.

She stopped and traced light kisses from his chest to his mouth, kissing him. Her lips parted and their tongues met as her legs wrapped around his waist. Somehow, Angel was not sure how, she utilized her calves to push his jeans down enough so she could sink onto his length. Both groaned, his hands reaching to cup her bottom as she rode him. So much for making it to his room let alone his bed. Her head fell back against the wall so hard it might have rendered a normal human dizzy but it did not stop his slayer or even slow her down. Her hands reached under his shirt and ran along his back, chest and abdomen.

Her climax was powerful and sudden, but long lasting and she rode it out in waves alternating between deep thrusts and slow, teasing thrusts clenching around him as she went. Her eyes opened and she smiled lazily, almost sleepily. "Your turn," she whispered and he was more than happy to oblige her request.

"So much for the lived in look for that bed idea," Buffy said as she put her blouse back on. He watched as she buttoned it almost as raptly as he watched her unbutton her tops.

"She'll just think I'm neat, if she even looks that far."

"She'll look," Buffy said. "She'll want to see your room and where it is in relation to mine and Dawn's."

"Did she tell you that?"

"No, it's just a guess. She's going to want to make sure that I'm not your mistress or something," she said, tucking her blouse into her skirt.

"Well, you are," he said with a growl.

"Excuse me?"

"You're all of my needs rolled into one: friend, lover, confidante, coworker, mate, other half to my soul, my light, my hope, wife."


"Wife," he said gruffly, kissing her. "Forever, right? Isn't that the type of bond a husband and wife have?"

"I've always thought so," she whispered.

Angel could tell he had thrown her with the wife bit. He had not meant to say that one, but he was caught up in explaining to her all that she represented to him. "Me, too. We'll make sure there's no misunderstanding on her part, I'm not going to lose you and Dawn over something like that."

"Thanks," she murmured. "For including Dawn."

"Well, she's my sister, too. Families blend, Buffy, not that I have a family for you to blend with."

"You have us, you're all we've got."

"That's not true, Buffy. You've got Willow, Xander, Anya, and Giles. And even Spike it would seem, he's more loyal to you than he ever was to me."

"And you have Gunn, Fred, Wesley and Cordelia. So neither of us is completely alone in our separate life."

"Hey," he said, placing a finger under her chin. He did not like to hear her talk like that, about their lives being separate. "None of that, Buffy, even when we're apart we at least know we'll be together again. It was hard last week after you left, but it was no where near the torture I went through forcing myself to be away from you."

"I know," she said, resting her cheek against his chest. "I just hate that you leave tonight and won't be back until who knows when."

"I know, I'm working on it," he whispered. And he was. Wesley had mentioned Angel returning to Sunnydale, because it was clear after Buffy left that his mind was here even though his physical body could not be. Angel was thinking about it, he just had to figure out what to do about the business. Sunnydale was not short of helpless people, but offered nowhere near the numbers LA offered. Wesley would be fine, so would Gunn, but he was not sure about Fred or Cordelia. Cordelia certainly would have no desire to return to Sunnydale, not that Angel could blame her.

Wesley had reminded Angel that Cordelia and Winifred were not his concern; Buffy was if they were truly going to pursue their relationship. Fred was smart and capable enough to find a job, a better and more lucrative one. Cordelia on the other hand, while her skills had improved since she had first forced her presence into his business in LA, was still very helpless. Her visions aside, Angel did not see what kind of job she was going to get.

"I promise, Buffy, I'm working on it."

"I believe you," she said with a heavy sigh as the doorbell rang. "Oh god, do I look like I just had sex?"

He ran his fingers through her hair with a low chuckle. "You look beautiful. I'll get the door if you want to run a brush through your hair or something, but you look fine, really."

"I'd like to do that I think," she said, stepping away from him. She looked at him, apparently looking him over. He must have passed inspection other than his collar which she straightened out. "Tell her I'll be right out," she said as the doorbell rang a second time.

"Okay," he said, kissing her lightly. "I love you."

She blushed, "I love you too. Get the door before she leaves."

Angel ran a hand down his shirtfront and raked his fingers through his hair as he approached the front door. Thankfully, there was an overhang at the front door so Angel did not have to worry about being hit by direct sunlight. He opened the door and offered the slightly plump, middle aged woman his most charming smile. "You must be Mrs. Kroeger, I'm sorry to make you wait. Come in," he said, stepping aside to letting her in. "Can I get you something to drink?"

"No, thank you. You're Mr. O'Bryne," she asked as she looked at her notes, mispronouncing his last name. It sounded foreign to his ears because it was rare he heard his surname spoken aloud.

"It's pronounced like O'Brian, just spelled differently," he corrected. "Buffy should be out in just a minute."

"I have some questions for you anyway."

"Sure, I imagined you would," he said, gesturing to the reception room. "Please have a seat," he said and waited for her to sit before sitting down.

"You live in Los Angeles, is that right?"

"Yes, I run a private investigations firm there."

"Is it dangerous?"

"Typically, no, though it can be at times. I deal with parents looking for lost children and those types of cases. Sometimes the children have run away and chosen a life that is a little more colorful than they anticipated when they left the comfort of their homes."

"And you own a substantial piece of property there, is that right?"

"I rent actually. The Hyperion, it was a hotel and hopefully will be again once I've finished restoring it."

"So you're a bit of an entrepreneur then?"

"Not really, I just like living in large spaces and I saw the hotel was available for a song, so I took it. Much the same with this place, actually."

"It is rather large for one person."

"What can I say?" he asked and stood when Buffy came into the room. "Buffy," he said, offering her a smile.

"Hi," she said almost shyly and then offered her hand to the case worker. "I'm sorry I took so long, I was in the bathroom."

"It's all right, Miss Summers. Mr. O'Bryne and I were talking."

Buffy glanced at him, startled apparently at the use of his name and he realized he had forgotten to tell her what his name was. The doctor at the hospital had addressed her by the same name, but she apparently never noticed because she never asked him about why she had been called Mrs. O'Bryne. "Should I leave you two to talk then? I can come back in a few minutes."

"I don't think so, no. Why don't you show me around?"

"I'm not sure what all you want to see, there's a ton of rooms. Okay, well, not a ton."

"Well, lead on and if I feel we can skip things I'll let you know."

"Okay," Buffy said, glancing at Angel. He heard her sigh, barely. He also heard her heartbeat pickup. He hated that she was so nervous, that this woman could make her feel like this. "Well, through here is the library," she said, starting them on their tour. Angel accompanied them, in case the case worker had any questions, but otherwise let Buffy guide her through the house.

"And what will you be doing for a job, Miss Summers," she asked once the tour was done and they were seated around the kitchen table with cups of coffee.

"I'm still trying to find a job that will let me be home nights. There's not much, honestly, but that's where Angel's offer came in handy. At least I don't have to worry about the household bills for a while. Angel and my friend Willow have been teaching me some about computers and I've been working on my typing and stuff, so I hope I can get a job in an office somewhere. And our dad helps," she added.

"Yes, I see that he still pays support. And how long have you two known one another?"

"Six years," Buffy and Angel said simultaneously to which she smiled slightly.

"So your mother knew Mr. O'Bryne?"

"Yes, not well, but yes, she did."

"But your father does not," she prompted.

"No," Buffy said with a shake of her head. "At least not that I know of." She glanced at Angel.

"Are you married, Mr. O'Bryne?"

"No," Angel said flatly. "No children either," he added, expecting her next question.

"Okay," she said simply, Angel hoped his answers had been satisfactory. If something he said or did was responsible for Buffy losing Dawn he would never forgive himself. "And how will Dawn be getting to school every day?"

"I will drive her or her friend will pick her up."

"Her friend?"

"Yes, David," Buffy said. "I can't think of his last name right now, but he drives her some mornings. He's in the grade above her, seems like a nice boy, though. He came over for a little while on Thanksgiving."

"Does Dawn have other friends?"

"Oh sure. David and Janice are the only two that I can think of off the top of my head, but she talks on the phone a lot and emails friends a lot."

"Well, I think I've seen everything I need to see. Thank you for your time and we'll be in touch, Miss Summers."

"Do you think the case will get closed, Mrs. Kroeger?" Buffy asked and Angel hated hearing how uncertain she was.

"Once you're employed, Miss Summers, I see no reason why it cannot be, but the job is important. It's nice of your friend to do this, but it's in Dawn's best interest for you to be able to support yourself. As well as your own best interest."

"Right, I realize that," Buffy said. "I'm trying, it's only been a few months since our mom died and it's not easy," she added. "But I am trying."

"I can see that, Miss Summers, which truthfully is the reason I have not recommended Dawn be placed with your father or in foster care. I can see that you two love one another and need one another. I hope you find a job soon," she said and Angel felt Buffy tense at that statement.

"Thank you, Mrs. Kroeger," Buffy said then and stood from the table. "I'll show you out."

Angel stood and carried the coffee cups to the sink and waited for Buffy to come back into the kitchen. The interview had gone well; at least he thought it had. The way Buffy had described the case worker he was expecting a demon of some sort or the Gestapo. The woman had asked questions, but none that Angel found out of line. Then again, he had not been subjected to over nine months of this process either.

"I knew she was going to get stuck on the lack of job," Buffy said from the entryway. "There's always a hoop they want you to jump through."

"You'll find something, Buffy."

"Yeah, doing what? I'm not qualified for anything, unless it involves beating the crap out of someone."

"Get a job as a bouncer," he said.

"Right, and who would hire me?"

"Willy might," Angel replied evenly.

"And Willy would hire the Slayer because it would be real good for business."

"You'd certainly keep the fights to a minimum and I think for a price he would tell the case worker you were doing something respectable."

"Like being a cocktail waitress for demons? There's a respectable, toe the line job."

"Well, Buffy, no offense but as you say you're not qualified to do much else. You're strong; you should use that to your advantage."

"I tried," she protested. "Xander hired me, but that didn't work very well. He fired me after less than a day."

"But you said there was a reason for that, someone was toying with you or something, maybe Xander can give you another chance."

"Sure and his boss will forget about the damage I caused just like that," she said with a snap of her fingers for emphasis.

He finished washing the dishes from Dawn's breakfast and the case worker's visit and dried off his hands. "Buffy," he said, draping an arm over her shoulders. "We'll figure out something."

"I can't rely on you to solve all of my problems, Angel."

"I know, but I can give some input." He led her to the living room, started a fire and sat beside her on the couch. She promptly curled up against him, resting her head against his chest. "You're not a lost cause, Buffy."

"I know it just feels that way. No other Slayer had to work or take care of her Key sister. It's too bad I can't tell the case worker that Dawn is really older than time despite the appearance of being a teenaged girl."

"No other Slayer had friends or anywhere near as normal a life as you have, Buffy. Dawn being The Key withstanding."

"I know," she said, sighing heavily. "At least I'm not in jail."

"Don't you two ever do anything but sit around and cuddle all day? Oh right, you snog and shag, too." Spike said from the doorway, his arms crossed over his chest as he leaned against the doorjamb. "It makes me sick the way you two fawn over each other all of the time."

"Spike," Buffy said, apparently startled at the younger vampire's appearance and Angel chuckled. Had she forgotten that he was on the other side of the house?

"Actually, Spike, you could help us."

Spike scoffed and got a look in his blue eyes that Angel recognized well. "She too much for you to handle all by yourself, Peaches?"

Angel rolled his eyes and let Spike's dig roll off of him, which he was getting better at doing these days. He knew Spike was just trying to get a rise out of him, and if he rose to the bait he would only keep going. "Buffy needs a job to appease the state."

"You mean you moved her in here and she still needs to get a bloody job? I thought that was the point."

"Well, the point was to get her out from under the bills. Once the house sells all of the debt will be paid off, and judging by Anya's figures, Buffy will actually have a little left. Not a lot, but enough she could put herself through college if she wanted to."

"Hello? She's right here. And maybe I'd put Dawnie through college," Buffy interjected.

"No, you take the money and put yourself through college. You get a job working at Willy's or waiting tables somewhere so the state sees you're working. The state would have to see you're going to school to ensure that you can get a better job. That certainly can't hurt Dawn, you're doing it for Dawn."

"He has a point, Slayer," Spike agreed.

"Yeah, but she's fifteen guys and in the tenth grade. I still have three years of college left, which puts her at eighteen and in college before I've finished. What good is my college education going to do her then?"

"She'll still be living at home, even if it's just to come home for holidays and summer vacation, pet," Spike said and Angel growled at the pet name. "Down boy," Spike admonished, glaring at Angel. "I'm agreeing with you. Just because Dawn's done with high school doesn't mean your responsibility will end, Slayer. She'll still live with you until she goes off on her own. Though I'm guessing once she's a legal adult they won't be able to stick their nose in your business anymore."

"I don't know how that works. Legally, she's our father's dependent until she finishes college, I'm not sure if the state sees it the same way or not." Angel ran his fingers through her hair, feeling the tension that had been rising in her during this conversation dwindle a bit at his touch.

"I don't know what to tell you there, Slayer, but really I came in here to talk to your worse half for a minute. If you two can separate long enough for me to do that."

"I think we can manage, I should probably see to some unpacking anyway," Buffy said, standing from the couch. Angel missed the warmth she offered him immediately and a look of recognition and understanding was exchanged between the two vampires. "I'll be up in my room when you guys are done talking. Try not to get lost looking for me," she said before brushing past Spike and out the door.

Spike watched her leave with rapt attention just as Angel did. Angel would love to get pissed off but he trusted Buffy. If she wanted Spike she would not have come to LA to talk to him, or would not have gone through with the anchoring his soul ordeal. Spike was in love with her, as much as it pained Angel to think it, but believed Buffy had no interest in Spike beyond friendship. Once upon a time in a different life Angel would have offered to share, but not with Buffy. He had never committed himself to a woman as he had to Buffy. Buffy was his, Riley was a slight detour nothing more and Buffy had never belonged to Finn.

"What is it you wanted to talk about, Spike?"

"I'm just curious about something."

"What's that?"

"Why don't you just bloody marry her and get it over with?"


"Has it not entered your mind that if you were Buffy's husband these problems would be solved? What's yours is hers and what's hers is yours, Buffy would not have to worry about getting some job ringing up groceries or waiting tables or bouncing at Willy's. The last one I know would sit real well with you."

"No, it wouldn't."

"I know it wouldn't, which is why I don't understand why you don't just do it. Dawn is the closest thing Buffy's ever going to get to a child, Angelus. You know it and I know it, and you have the ability to see to it her sister is not taken from her. So I don't understand why you don't join the family unit legally and make her problems disappear."

"I never thought of it."

"You never thought of marrying her? Then you're a bigger pansy than I thought. You think she understands what being your mate means? You know she doesn't, because she's not a vampire and doesn't understand what it means. She might be able to a little, but one day after Anya and Xander are married and Dawn is going steady with someone or grown up and married Buffy's going to start to wonder where her happily ever after, till death do us part is."

"She never said anything."

"Do you think she's going to, you wanker? Just what every woman wants, the love of her life proposing because she wants him to. You've moved her in here and you anchored your soul for her, and it's all well and good right now. But one day she's going to get tired of shagging you without the pretty little wrapping around it. One day someone's going to say something to her or to Dawn that's going to get under her skin, some demon she's fighting is going to make a dig about her being your whore and you know they'll do it when word starts to get out."

"I'll kill them if they say it."

"Sure you will and avenge her death in the process because she'll be dead. The words will hit close enough to home; distract her enough for the nasty to have their good day. She's not Darla, Angelus, she's not vampire, she's human and all the tradition and childhood fantasies that go with it. She won't get the outdoor wedding she seemed to have a hankering for, unless it's at night, but she bloody deserves all the pomp and circumstance that goes with it."

"How do you know what type of wedding she wants?"

"Red did a spell once, Buffy and I were engaged for an evening."

"You were what?"

"It was a bloody spell, ask Buffy or Red, before she and Finn were hot and heavy even. Anyway, she was very excited about the whole process, and I don't think that was spell induced. You should have heard her prattling on about a cake and invitations and everything else. Even asked Rupert to give her away. You have the bloody identity to do your helping the helpless gig legally, why not use the identity and bind her to you legally."

"You make it sound so romantic, Spike."

"Well, I certainly don't want you to marry her, I hope she tells you to go to hell, but I can't bear the thought of her losing Dawn. It would break both of them and I've grown rather attached to them over the years, liked their mom too. They're good people and their mom would want them together. You've already tied her to you in our world, why not extend yourself and tie yourself to her in her world."

"You're right," Angel said softly. "But don't you think the case worker would think it's just a convenience thing?"

"Who cares what she thinks? You get married, what can the woman say? Prove to me that you love one another, which obviously you can do. I don't know how you two managed to pull off being around her this morning without setting off alarm bells in her head that you were more than merely friends." He smirked then. "Of course, shagging on the stairs probably went a long way toward curbing your desires a bit."

"You saw us?"

"Didn't see you, heard you though. I was in the kitchen looking for some blood before I remembered you were going to bring them to the basement."

"You have your own blood supply, Spike."

"I ran out and knew if I swiped a couple you wouldn't miss them with you leaving tonight and all."

"You've given me something to think about."

"Good, then my job here is done. I'm going to go on back to my end of the mansion, all holed away in my servants' quarters. You still leaving tonight?"

"Yeah, I have to get back."

"You're crazy, Peaches, if I were you I'd stay right here and never leave until she's gone. Spending time in LA is just wasting time you'll get with her."

"I can't just not go back, Spike."

"But you've thought about coming back here permanently?"

"Yeah, I have. Wesley and I talked about it before I left there Thursday."

"Well, all I ask is that if you come back and want me to leave you give me some notice."

"As long as you've been acting the way you have been the past couple of weeks, Spike, I have no problem with your staying. Buffy considers you part of her family, and two vampires and the Slayer can certainly do more good in this town than just her or just me and her."

"I saw a few years ago your idea of patrolling together, it didn't involve much slaying."

"We're beyond that."

"Right, you've aged from two hundred forty one to two hundred forty five, so you're no longer a hormonal boy unable to keep his lips to himself?"

"No, she's no longer a sixteen year old who has to sneak out of her house and combine seeing me with patrolling."

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