It was the longest week of her life. She had to remind herself more than once this time was about her and Dawn, though Dawn didn't seem to mind. Tyler had left his number with Dawn. Buffy called him the next day to apologize again, and he had been very nice about it. She guessed when you loved someone like she loved Angel it sort of came through however unintentionally.
The whale watching had been spectacular. Buffy had seen a lot of things during the past three years, but nothing prepared her for the beauty of nature at work in something so huge. They had spent the day packing and cleaning the boat. Any extra food they gave to Angel. It was still so weird thinking of Angel needing food. Tonight, they were going out for the last time in LA. Their flight didn't leave until tomorrow afternoon, but they were planning on getting a late start on the day.
"It seems so small until you have to clean it," Buffy said, wiping her brow with her wrist.
"There's just less space to live-in so it seems like it."
"How do you do it? I mean, almost two years like this?"
"Well, I wasn't going to do it forever. I just needed time to myself. To think. To get used to being human again. I stayed put for a couple of weeks, but I didn't fit in anywhere. I needed to figure out where I belonged."
"In Cleveland if someone I know will have me."
She smiled at that. Like there was any question about that. Evidently he did have some doubts, though. They had spent every night together since the first night. They hadn't had sex, but what they did was more powerful than sex. They talked, cuddled, laughed, and slept together. Angel seemed to need those things as much as Buffy did. They had to get to know one another again. Not only was Angel human, but it had been a number of years since they'd actually spent more than a few minutes together.
"I've already said you could. That I do."
"For now. Angel, I can appreciate your need to speed through this whole process. You're suddenly presented with the fact that you don't have forever to accomplish things. I'm not asking for years here. It's just that a week doesn't really tell us much."
"No." She put the last of the clean dishes away. "Since I was sixteen I've dreamed of a life with you. I understand now why you left. I needed time to grow up, to get to this point. Riley, Spike, The Immortal. They were all necessary. Without them I would have probably started wondering what I was missing, what else was out there. I know now."
"Which all points to being with me."
"I will be with you. You may end up spending all of your time at my place or the other way around. But I need to know that the option is there."
Angel raked his hand through his hair. Buffy felt for him. She really did. He had no idea how much she wanted to scratch her idea. She had to know that they could do it the right way. And she wasn't going to live with him. If he was human and they finally had their chance, she wanted it all. The stuff dreams were made of. She deserved it, and she believed someone thought so, too. Same for Angel.
"I don't want to screw this up, Angel. Okay? Can you understand that?"
"Yes. I don't have to like it, though."
"I know." She gave him her best pouty look and kissed him. "Life is so unfair."
"I'm beginning to find that out."
Dawn came out into the galley with her suitcase. "My bedroom and the bathroom are done."
Buffy laid the dishtowel out to dry and wiped her hands off. "Great. I think we're done. Giles' friend can't find anything wrong with the temporary Casa de Summers."
"So, what's the plan?"
"Well, we bring our stuff to Angel's boat and then go meet Connor for the night."
"Have you talked to Peter yet?"
"Yes, he's going to pick us up at the airport tomorrow night."
"And he knows there's going to be three of us?"
"I still don't get how Angel plans on selling his boat from Ohio."
"Well, Connor's close enough he can show it and act for me. People close on houses from different continents, I think I can handle a boat. And if it doesn't sell," he shrugged. "I'll see about moving it closer. I wouldn't mind having it, but I'm done with it."
"This is still so weird. You human, moving to Cleveland to be with Buffy. It's the stuff fairy tales are made of."
"My life was no fairy tale, Dawn. Not even close."
"I know that. You don't think I know that? I've read about you. More than Buffy probably knows. I was curious. When she was keeping Riley at a distance I wanted to know why. You were one of the worst."
"I was, I won't deny that."
"I suppose that's why you got the human thing. The prophecy."
"What do you mean?"
"To have someone go from so far on the end of one spectrum to the other. Well, that takes someone special. Even if you didn't know you had it in you. Someone must have, though, right? And someone like that deserves someone special."
"I couldn't agree more."
"Yeah, me too," Dawn said, grabbing her suitcase. "Let's get this stuff to Angel's so we can get our night started."
"Yes. Our last night in LA, spring break is over. I've had a blast. I got tons of sun I'm ready to get back, though."
"You miss Peter?"
"And my friends, and school."
"I've never understood that mentality. I just don't get it, but Willow felt that way so I know you're not too strange."
"Here, let me get those," Angel said, grabbing one of Buffy's suitcases.
"They look so happy."
"They are." Dawn regarded Connor as they watched Buffy and Angel on the dance floor. The live band wasn't playing very many slow songs, but the couple didn't seem to notice. Dawn thought that was very cool. And very sweet. She liked seeing Buffy happy with someone who was obviously happy to be with her. And they made one another happy. That was the best part of all.
"I don't always know which memories are real, but I don't think I remember ever seeing him like this."
"Me neither. I think towards the end Buffy was happy with Spike, but it was different. It wasn't love with the big L."
"You and I are kind of freaks of nature. I'm surprised we haven't met before now."
"Not much of a reason to, I guess."
"No, I guess not. What he did for me, though. It was good. I remember enough, know that they're real memories I mean, to know he saved my life."
"One thing I know about Angel, he's real good at giving up something he wants or needs to help those he loves. I don't think he'll love anyone more than you and Buffy."
"I wonder if they'll have kids."
"I don't know. Do you think he can?"
"He had me."
"Well, true, but I mean. I don't know what the whole changing to human part does to him."
"Good point. I guess we'll have to wait and find out."
"I think we'll be waiting a while."
"She's going to make him sweat for a while, isn't she?"
"You know, I think she is. For the right reasons, though. Riley couldn't handle her being the slayer when all was said and done. That and Angel, vampire and all. I hope Angel doesn't think Buffy needs that. A vampire."
Both of them grew quiet at that. Dawn took a sip of her drink while Connor grabbed a fistful of popcorn from a bowl.
"You excited for classes?"
"Yes. I mean, breaks are great, but I miss it. You know?"
"Yeah, me too. Angel timed his trip here perfectly. I was just finishing finals when he got here. So, it was great. I needed it."
"Don't your parents care?"
"I just told them I was hanging out with some buddies. They know Angel, I don't think they'd care but they might wonder why I want to hang with him. They don't have the memories I do. So to them I'm their son."
"Do you want to dance?"
Buffy glanced over Angel's shoulder as Dawn and Connor joined them on the dance floor. "My sister and your son are finally joining us."
"I don't think Connor's much of a dancer."
"He obviously takes after you."
"Are you complaining?"
"No, I'll stand here in your arms for as long as you'll have me."
"Mm, I'll let you know when I'm done then."
"Okay." She tilted her head back, reaching up to kiss him. "So, you're going to be good meeting Peter, right?"
"Well, you act kind of paternal with Dawn, which I understand. I do it, too. But it might be a little intimidating since you're my boyfriend."
"By your choice."
"Hmm. Are you suggesting I make bad choices?"
"You know what I want, Buffy."
"Can we not argue about this tonight? When we get to Cleveland you can argue with me all you want."
"Well, arguing with the girl isn't exactly how I want to go about getting her to marry me."
"Well, you know what I mean." She stopped dancing and stared at him. "Did you just say what I think you said?"
"I didn't think it was a secret I want to marry you. I realize there've been times I've held back on the obvious."
"No, it's just that you've never said it."
"Well, I guess this isn't exactly how I envisioned doing it, but what's ever gone the way we planned?"
"Hmm, well, I suppose we can make like this conversation didn't happen and you could mention it later."
"And if I didn't want to wait until later?"
"Are you asking?"
"Let's finish this conversation at the boat."
"You just said you didn't want to wait until later. Which is it?"
He smirked at that. She'd seen him do it a hundred times before, but everything about him seemed so different now. She didn't think it was necessarily because he was human now. He seemed happier, more at ease, and like he had less stuff weighing on his mind. She imagined one hundred fifty years of bad stuff got pretty heavy.
"I just don't want to do it here. In front of a crowd of people. In a place I can barely hear myself think."
She snuggled up against him, resting her chin against his chest and looked up into his face. "Oh. Well, in that case. I'm all for later at your boat." She was giddy. It was stupid really. How pathetic was she that she got all weepy at the idea that she was on the verge of getting proposed to? Okay, maybe it didn't make her pathetic, particularly when she didn't think it was ever going to happen to her. A girl was allowed to get giddy about such a thing.
"Well, let's go get Dawn and Connor some late night junk food. Kids their age, they like that sort of thing. Right?"
"Yes, junk food after a night out is always a bonus. My friends and I used to go out all the time."
"They seem to get along all right, don't they?"
"Yes, they do, but then Dawn's easy to get along with. I'm not sure there's anyone Dawn doesn't like."
"That's not boosting my confidence."
"Connor's fine, Angel. He's a good kid. He told me he made the Dean's List last term. So, he's obviously smart. Whatever decision you made, whatever the reason, it was the right one."
"You don't think it was?"
"It's just nice to have my opinion reaffirmed. The only other person who knew is dead."
"I," Buffy felt tears form in her eyes. She lifted her head from his chest and looked at him. She couldn't apologize enough. She wasn't sure there was ever a way to make up for letting him down the one, the only, time he'd ever counted on her. "It makes me so angry that Giles would do that."
He ran the back of his hand along her cheek and smiled. "He knew what he was getting himself into, Buffy. It's not your fault. It's not Giles' fault. If I'd been able to tell him my plan, get word to him somehow, but I couldn't. It was too risky."
"He went out fighting. That's what we do. Well, not so much me anymore."
"You're still a fighter, Angel."
"Yeah, I know. I could never just let you go slaying and not help. Even if it's just keeping you company."
"Angel company. The best kind."
"I'm glad you think so."
"You know I do."
"You know, I lied to you."
He didn't answer her. Well, not with words anyway. Instead, he kissed her. Angel kisses were always welcome and this one was no different. Actually, she thought, as she parted her lips, welcoming him, this one was different. They'd all been different the past week. There was no holding back, she felt for the first time that he was giving her everything. She whimpered when he broke the kiss.
"I told you when I kissed you, you wouldn't wake up from a deep sleep and get a happily ever after."
"That was a lie?"
"Partially. I never dreamed."
"I did. I always did. Somewhere deep in my heart I knew. There was a reason I held back with Riley. A reason that once I got done being the self-destructive, depression-filled Buffy that I was more comfortable with Spike as a friend. A good friend, but once I felt like me I didn't want him anymore."
"Depression can lead us to do lots of things we wouldn't ordinarily do."
"I'd like to think that sex with Spike is one of those things, but it wasn't that bad. And, I honestly don't know where I'd be, what would have happened to me if I hadn't had him."
"I think that's more than I need to know."
"I know, I'm sorry to bring it up, but you need to know. I mean, next to you he's the guy I've spent the most time with."
"You spent quite a bit of time with Riley."
"A year, so not as much."
"Does that bother you?"
"I won't lie and tell you that I love the idea or I went to bed with pleasant dreams when I found out. Nightmares are more like it. I understand, though, and as much as I hate to say it I'm glad he was there for you. I wasn't in a real good place, so I couldn't have been."
"I know. And I think in some ways that's good."
"I'm not sure how good it is, but I think I understand."
"You could kiss me again."
"Yeah, to make sure you understand."
"Oh, well, since you mentioned it."
Even anticipating his kiss couldn't prepare her for it. They'd kissed before, hundreds of times. So intensely at times that she though she might float away and never have her feet planted firmly on the ground again. He knew she was going to say yes. They both knew it. Just a formality really. The idea that she accepted him, though, that she would say yes, put her life into his very human hands to care for. It seemed to overwhelm him and she fed off that emotion from him. God, she loved him and it was overwhelming to know that of all the women he'd known over the years he'd loved only her.
"I love you," he whispered.
"I think it would be prudent to continue this later."
"Yes, like in my bed."
"I don't know."
"We can leave the window open, we'll hear the water lapping against the side of the boat."
"Well, you know that has a calming effect on me."
"Just think how much fun it could be for me to see how uncalm I can make you."
"Oh," she said simply. What else was there to say?
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com