***Part Sixteen***

Buffy walked home from work accompanied by Willow and Xander. Her two best friends had visited her at work, and had spent the evening talking to one another about Anya and whether she would ever forgive Xander for standing her up at the altar last Saturday. Buffy had participated as best as she could, but work was busy due to the fact it was the Thursday before St. Patrick's Day. The seventeenth of March fell on a Sunday this year, so Buffy's boss had told her to prepare for a busy weekend. Luckily for Buffy, she worked the afternoon shift at Michael's so she believed she would escape the mayhem that was St. Patrick's Day fairly unscathed.

She had taken to the job surprisingly easily and despite working eleven o'clock in the morning until half past seven in the evening at a bar that only served potato chips and microwave popcorn for food she made fairly decent money. Her evenings were free to spend time with Angel and Dawn and for patrolling, and her boss had told Buffy they could work something out if she decided to go back to school. So after ten weeks on the job Buffy was happy where she was.

Angel said she did not have to work, but she wanted to make sure Dawn's case got closed. The case worker did not seem to believe her marriage to Angel was out of convenience, but Buffy still felt she needed to prove that she was not going to lean on Angel and count on her new husband to bear all of the responsibility of raising Dawn.

Another plus to the bartending gig was that Buffy got to wear pretty much whatever she wanted, so long as she was able to move freely. Since she was behind the bar there was no risk of groping, she had dealt with that one too many times working at the diner in LA a few years back, and she was okay with being ogled. Angel had put his foot down and told her that she could not wear one or two outfits and while a part of her seethed at the idea of him thinking he could tell her what to wear she loved knowing that he was so possessive of her.

Her mother's house had sold surprisingly quickly, especially for Sunnydale. Buffy was set to close on the house on the eighteenth of March. Angel was joining her on one final walk through of the house at 1630 Revello Drive tonight to say her good byes to the house and her mother for the last time. Dawn had not wanted to come with. Maybe she would come by herself over the weekend, Buffy did not know and did not push. She was entitled to mourn and grieve and say good bye in her own way.

Angel had been right, there would be enough after the mortgage and other closing expenses to put Buffy through college. She still did not know what exactly she was going to major in, but having spent extensive time with Angel over the past few weeks perusing the volumes Giles had brought with him over Christmas she was leaning toward something in the preternatural field. Angel had suggested perhaps she could be a teacher. She had talked to Giles while he was in town over the weekend for Xander and Anya's wedding about that. He seemed to think it was a wonderful idea and had made mention of keeping the Watcher's Council in mind, they like Giles and other watchers had plenty of reading material but there was nothing like hearing first hand accounts from someone who had personal experience with apocalypse attempt after apocalypse attempt.

Buffy did not think she could ever teach or advise the Watcher's Council, but she was going to take as many of the odd literature and history courses she could in order to obtain degrees in English or History and from there she would decide. Giles had suggested anthropology and archeology as options as well, anything that studied ancient civilizations. At least she would have a degree, her mother would be proud of her for accomplishing that much.

"Good night, Xander," Buffy bid her friend when they reached the point where Xander went one way toward his apartment and she and Willow went the other way to Crawford Street.

"Night, Buff, sorry I wasn't in a real good mood tonight."

"No problem, Xander, I understand. If there's anything I can do, if you want to crash at the house even just let me know."

"Thanks, but I think I just need to be alone for a while."

"No problem, be strong. You did the right thing, Xander. The timing might have been wrong, but it's better to put a stop to the marriage before it took place if you were having doubts."

"I know," he said, his head hanging low. Buffy decided now was perhaps not the time to talk to him about this, he had apparently talked himself out to Willow earlier. So, she offered him a hug.

"Night," Willow said, giving him a hug too.

"Night," Xander said and walked toward his apartment while she and Willow continued on home.

The sounds of pool were heard when the best friends entered the mansion and Buffy went to investigate who was playing while Willow went up to her room to call Tara. The couple was back together for the most part, but Tara was keeping her distance and forcing them to take things slow so that she knew Willow's efforts at curbing her unnecessary magic use was for Willow's benefit not Tara.

Spike and Kristen and David and Dawn were in the game room. David and Dawn had what appeared to be Cokes while Spike was drinking beer and Kristen appeared to have a glass of wine. Kristen was becoming a regular visitor to the mansion. Spike claimed they were just friends, Kristen was a nice girl for him to spend time with but that was all it was for the moment. Buffy felt a little sorry for Kristen, because it was clear that she did not have just friends in mind whenever she looked at Spike.

"Hi guys," Buffy said cheerfully.

"Hey Buffy," Dawn and David said in unison. Gone were the days of David hesitating between calling her ma'am and Buffy.

"Hi," Kristen said shyly. Buffy knew she still felt a little out of place despite everyone's efforts to make her feel welcome.

"Slayer," Spike said, lifting his eyes from the cue ball he was aiming at briefly.

"Thanks, I just came to see who was doing what."

"We're just hanging out. Are you going to join us?"

"I might, let me go change and see what Angel's doing."

"He's been up in his study since about four o'clock."

"Oh, great, thanks," Buffy said. "I'll be down in a bit then." She glanced at the grandfather clock and saw that it was just before eight o'clock. Angel had been in his study for almost four hours? Hopefully, that did not mean more work for Buffy. Usually when he spent so much time up there it was because he was cross referencing volumes to ensure what he had found had been accurately interpreted. It was almost like having Giles back as her Watcher again but with lots of fringe benefits like good sex and love.

"Hey, honey," she said, opening the study door after knocking on it lightly to announce her entrance.

"Hey yourself," he said, offering her the smile she had come to learn over the past ten weeks meant he was truly happy to see her. He liked Dawn, tolerated Spike, cared for Willow, did not mind David, Kristen or Tara but when it came down to it Angel, like Buffy, was the type of people who preferred to keep to themselves for the most part. "How was work?"

"Pretty good, I made one hundred fifty dollars."


"Really. That's the most I've ever made, I look forward to St. Patrick's Day weekend if it means more tips," she said, moving to sit on his lap when he pushed his chair away from the computer desk. Her arms went around his neck and she kissed him.

"It's probably this green choker you're wearing," he said, tugging on the piece of green fabric that was for the weekend bearing her cross. He reached around and undid the clasp, removing it and setting the choker on his desk so they could cuddle and touch without having to worry about the cross.

"What are you doing up here? The gang said you've been up here since four o'clock."

"I have just been busy going through all of these closing papers for you, the house inspector dropped off his findings today. Everything looks good, but I'm trying to be thorough so there's no last minute red tape."

"So no work then? No prophecies? No apocalypses for Buffy to worry about?"

"No, but she does have a husband who could use a little loving," he said his hands sliding under her skirt.

"I told Spike and the others I'd join them for pool."

"Later," Angel murmured, kissing her as he stood from the chair and brought her to the sofa. The sofa had been placed here for just this reason, love making when Angel was busy working on something and wanted a quickie. Not that an Angel quickie was of the bad, sometimes Angel quickies were so intense Buffy hummed from aftershocks for hours afterwards.


They were done with patrolling rounds for the night, Spike said he would do a final sweep a few hours from now so that Buffy and Angel could get to the house on Revello Drive and spend some time there. Angel heard the slight sound of the dead bolt sliding away as Buffy unlocked the door and then pushed the front door open. She went to the dining room and turned on the chandelier. There were no lamps left at the house since it had been standing empty since the middle of December.

Angel released her hand, giving her whatever space she might require. He had his own memories of this house, of Buffy, of Joyce, of Dawn, but this was her time to say good bye. Angel had gotten used to things being temporary during his two hundred fifty year existence and, therefore, tried not to get attached to anything physical. He had failed drastically where Buffy was concerned, allowing himself to not just get attached to her but to need her in such a way that he no longer could imagine life without her.

She wandered from the dining room to the living room. There, she ran her hand over the fireplace mantel and walked to the picture window that had been broken more times than Angel cared to even think about. From the living room she walked to the kitchen and opened each cupboard and the appliances. Angel knew she was not looking for anything, so he bit his tongue to stop himself from asking her if she thought she had left something behind.

Next came the upstairs and a walk through of her mom's room, Dawn's room, the bathroom and lastly her room. Angel saw the tears in her eyes clearly even without the overhead light illuminating the room. He stepped up behind her, wrapped his arms around her, hoping he was offering her the comfort she sought and not crowding her.

"You probably think I'm acting like a baby," she said, turning in his arms as she wiped the tears away with her hand.

"Not at all, Buffy, I would wonder what was wrong if you did not react to this. You're an emotional person, you have almost six years of your life invested in this house, you have good and bad memories here."

"Thank you."

"But you do realize that the memories do not live here, Buffy? The memories are here," he said, placing his index finger over her heart. "And here," he said, moving his hand to touch her temple with the same fingertip. "The memories are in you, Buffy. It's up to you, and to Dawn, to let them live on. The house is but a structure, one day it will be gone, but still you will have handed your memories down to Dawn's children and her children to their children and the cycle goes on."

"I know," she said, embracing him. "I love you."

"I love you, too," he whispered and stepped away from her walking to the window where he had made many late night calls on her. Sometimes he had watched her sleep without disturbing her, even Angelus had done that, not that he would ever admit that to her. He unlocked the window and raised it, stepping through the window and offered her a hand.

"What are you doing?" she asked. Angel noticed the tears had stopped, which had sort of been his intention.

"Come on," he said and she took his hand, following him out onto the roof. He sat and she did, too, and simultaneously without exchanging words they both looked up to the sky. The sky was bright tonight, the stars were plentiful and clearly visible. There was a slight breeze, but it was a comfortable night. He placed an arm around her and she rested her head against his shoulder. He placed a brief kiss to the top of her head and sighed, releasing an unnecessary breath.

Angel did not bother to worry about how much time had passed, he just let Buffy sit quietly against him. He loved having her close to him like this, loved that they could sit together and neither felt they had to fill their silences with mindless utterances. Moments like this were pure perfection as far as Angel was concerned.

"I'm ready to go now," she finally said and stood carefully, returning indoors through the open window.

"You sure?" Angel asked as he followed her back into the room.

"Yeah, but can you do me one last favor tonight?"

"Anything, Buffy," he said as he closed and locked the window they had just come through. She crooked her finger and signaled for him to come to her, which he did without question.

"I want one last memory here, that's just you and me, care to indulge me?" she asked. Apparently she did not imagine he would actually protest because she had already begun unzipping his jeans before he had a chance to respond.

"No bed," he managed to utter right before her lips claimed his heatedly, almost desperately and Angel was gone. He did not care about the lack of bed or anything else but pleasing this woman, his wife, and giving her the stars and the moon in the sky if he could. He thought he knew how George Bailey had felt about Mary in It's A Wonderful Life long ago, Angel himself felt like he could conquer the world if Buffy wished for him to do it.

There was little foreplay and as there was no bed, Angel took her against the wall in what was at one time her bedroom. He was not exactly sure just what she needed but he did his best to provide it to her. She was ruthless and needy, pushing him so his back was against the wall briefly and she rode him like that for a while, her legs gripping his hips with all of her Slayer strength to keep her in place.

Since the night months ago he had fed off of her coming to after ingesting the poison Angel had refrained from biting her. They had never talked about it, he never asked if she would let him which was heavy on his mind at this precise moment. He was overcome with the desire, the need, to formally and completely claim her as his mate. Sure he had fed off of her twice, but both times he had been unaware of what exactly he was doing and had not been of the mind to say the words that would bind them together and make the claiming complete.

His game face fell into place as he felt her muscles contract around him, squeezing him as if trying to force his climax out of him. And it was working. He let the demon loose and roared as he spilled himself inside of her and bit down on her neck at the same time. She screamed, sought purchase with her hands at his shoulders and came violently as she bared her neck even further to him.

"You are mine, Buffy Summers, my one and only mate," he said as he licked the wound at her neck. To himself, he vowed that when she was taken from him, Shanshu prophecy be damned, he would take to the sun. There was no way he could go on existing for years and years without her, his mate, his sunlight, his goodness, his woman.

"Mmm," she murmured. "I like the sound of that."

"Good," he said drawing back to look at her, ensuring there was no look of recrimination or repulsion in her eyes. There was nothing but love and devotion there. Instead, she smiled wickedly as she placed a hand at his neck, forcing him to bare his neck to her just as she had done for him moments ago.

She bit down in the same spot on his neck as he had bit down on hers and licked the wound briefly before drawing away. "And you are mine, Liam Angel O'Bryne, my one and only mate, physically, mentally and by our souls, in this world and in the next."

They stood quietly for a long while after that, neither saying anything. Angel had no idea what Buffy was thinking but he had never until tonight made a conscious decision about what he would do in the event of Buffy's death. Now he knew what he not just would do but what he had to do.

"I'm ready to go home," she whispered. "You're right, the saying is right, home is where the heart is and my heart is with you at our home."

"Good," he said, lowering his head to kiss her before they departed the Revello Drive house for the last time.

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