He'd come close to losing her - again, because he hadn't taken her seriously. Well, more to the point, he hadn't really listened. He did that sometimes, and should know better after all the time they'd spent and fought together.
His eyes widened when he saw Willow's outer bedroom door open. He'd been in once before when he'd feared that Buffy was getting duped. He hated that he'd been right. Hated knowing the betrayal she felt that a childhood friend had used her, tricked her. That seemed like a lifetime ago. He supposed in a way it was. To him anyway, after time in a hell dimension.
He'd know her anywhere, even if she and Willow looked nothing alike. She leaned against the door, hand at the knob, the other clutching her side. She looked right at him. So much for lurking in the shadows.
"You can come in if you want."
He closed the distance between them, relieved to see she was all right. He'd felt ill when he'd found out what happened to her. How many second chances would he get with her? She was shaken, unable to keep that look out of her eyes. At least from him.
"I was going to wait for you to leave."
"I figured I'd walk you home."
"Oh," she said, that look in her eyes disappearing a little.
"You're understandably shaken up, I wouldn't let you walk home alone."
"Thanks," she said, a tight smile. "Are you going to come in?"
"Is it safe?"
"Her mother's not eavesdropping at the door or anything?"
"Good, because I really don't feel like becoming a pile of dust tonight."
"No piles of dust on my watch."
"That's assuring," he said with a tight smile. He took her into his arms. His hands slid along the subtle curves of her body. "First I need to make sure you're all right."
"I need to find that out for myself."
"Oh," she said. "Well, in that case…"
He kissed her then. Close to two and a half centuries of existence and he still felt like a young lad when they did this. She kissed him with such fervor and desire. She wanted him. She loved him. Despite what had happened between them, all of the pain he'd caused her. It made him feel entirely unworthy, and want to protect her with everything he possessed. Unfortunately, he could not be with her every minute of every day.
She broke the kiss before he was ready, needing to breathe. He brushed a kiss along her forehead, holding her tight as she rested her cheek against him.
"I was so scared. I really wasn't sure how I was going to get out of this one."
"I know," he whispered, unable to say more even if he'd wanted to. Bile threatened to collect in the back of his throat when he thought too hard on it. "I'm sorry."
"Thank you. I'm just glad you made me think about who their parents were. It helped us solve this."
"Yeah," she said, nodding. "It made me realize that no one had heard from their parents, which led to us making with the research."
"I should have known. If I hadn't been living under a rock for the past century, I might have been able to help you with this one."
"It's not your fault, Angel. You can't possibly know every creepy crawly thing there is out there."
"Thank you for letting me off the hook, but had I known I'd need the information I would have paid better attention to what was going on around me."
He slid his hand to her cheek, stroking it with his thumb before kissing her again. God, he couldn't get enough of her, even tonight with her hair and clothes smelling like smoke.
"Let me say good night to Willow."
"You don't want to go back inside?"
"No, I think I have something better to do with the rest of my night."
"Don't let her hear you say that."
"If she could spend the night kissing Oz instead of hanging with me, she would. Besides, I'll come back."
"You will, huh?"
She took a deep breath, wrapping her arms around him. "Yes."
"That's assuming I'm going to let you go."
"And you'd plan on stopping me how exactly?"
He slid a fingertip to her chin, brushing her lips with his thumb. "You don't want to know."
"Oh," she said, blushing a dark shade of red that he found endearing. "Well, you could just ask me nicely."
"Is that all it would take?"
"Will you stay with me tonight?"
"So I can, you know, take as much time as I need to make sure you really are all right."
"Since you put it like that…"
"Wow, I must be hearing things. You do know some manners."
"See, I knew you weren't entirely hopeless."
"So you keep saying."
"Let me say good night to Willow. I'll be right back."
"I'll be here."
"I hope so. I know how to find you if you disappear on me. You owe me some making sure I'm all right time."
"That's a tempting thought."
"Mm, except I'd be mad if I had to do that."
He shrugged with a soft laugh. "I'd calm you down."
"I just bet you would."
"Wait," he said before she could open the door.
He kissed her again. "Just needed to do that."
"You just did!"
"Can't help myself. It happens when I think the person I care about could have died. Again."
"Yeah, I don't much like thinking on it either, so I'll take another one of those please."
"That's an order I can definitely fill." He kissed her again, cupping her face as he deepened it. Their lips parted at the same time, tongues met, and he fought the urge to vamp out as he nibbled at her lower lip.
"That's a start."
"Well, get on with telling Willow you're leaving and I can work on giving you more."
"I was, but you stopped me."
"Oh, right," he said, kissing her again before letting go of her. "Sorry about that."
She licked her lips slowly. The look in her eyes he noticed earlier practically faded to oblivion now. He loved that he could do that, kiss her happy. He looked forward to doing it much more for the rest of the night. And maybe her life if he played his cards right.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com