***Part Nine***

Mid-June 2006

Buffy tightened the ponytail that held her hair in place away from her face. She was glad that Dawn wasn't done with school until now. It had taken her this long to get things organized. There wasn't a day that went by that she didn't wonder why she had accepted the job of guarding another hellmouth. Evidently, she was a glutton for punishment. At least she wasn't dealing with high school and the things that went with it while slaying. And it was only temporary until Giles found someone he thought could handle the pressures of a hellmouth.

"When does Dawn get here?"

"Should be any minute."

"And Peter's coming with her?"

"Yes, he'll stay a few days and then go back home. Dawn doesn't have a car and I guess I can't blame him for wanting to spend a few more days with her if he could."

"And when does Giles get here?"

"Mm, the day after tomorrow."

"How are you going to work this?"

"Well, Giles is bringing a slayer and she'll take the time that Peter's here to get used to the States, Cleveland, the house, just stuff."

"And you think that'll work?"

"It's going to have to."

"Buffy, you should know by now."

"Don't. Don't say it, Angel. I'm not going to be responsible for this guy, this nice guy who really seems to like Dawn, dumping her."

"Who says he would?"

"Wouldn't you?"


"Well, you don't count."

He helped her make up the bed that would serve as Dawn's. She suspected Peter would sleep in Dawn's room, but she was prepared for him to sleep on the fold-away couch just in case.

She was excited about Dawn coming home for the summer. Added to the mix, almost like a bonus, was a visit from Giles. Granted it was business not pleasure that brought him here. He claimed he had finally found a slayer he believed was capable of taking over as guardian of the hellmouth. Both watcher and slayer knew she couldn't do it forever. One of these days she'd have to call it quits.

"I hope she works out."

"Me, too," Buffy said simply.

"Do you think Dawn's going to be excited?"


"Are you?"

"Angel. Do you even have to ask me that?"

"I don't know sometimes."

"It's just been so crazy. I'm happy and very excited. Most wouldn't understand why I thought this day would never come. I mean, I'm only twenty-five. That's fairly young by today's standards."

"Not by Slayer standards." He sat on the edge of the bed once the comforter had been put on.

"Exactly. I feel like I've lived two lifetimes so I'm so ready to turn over the baton or whatever it's called to this girl if Giles thinks she's capable."

"I can't say that I'm upset."

"I know you're not," she said, straddling him. Her arms went around his neck as she kissed him. She didn't think she'd ever tire of kissing him. They had spent the past couple of months doing lots of it in between getting the house ready and slaying. It had been years, since high school and Angel, that she'd been with a guy for this long and hadn't made love to him. It was kind of strange, but they'd both needed the time to get to know one another again.

"Not that I'd ever tell you to quit."

She laughed lightly, kissing him again. "Of course you wouldn't."

"I like that you can defend my honor."

"And I always will."

He leaned back on the bed and she toppled, splaying over him. She imagined that was what he'd had in mind. Both laughed as he shifted them so he was on top of her. It was times like this she noticed the difference in how happy he seemed. The broodiness he was known for was gone.

"You have such a nice smile," she whispered, blushing at the realization that she'd said it out loud.

"Thank you."

"You're welcome."

"It helps that I have something to smile about."

She traced his mouth with her fingertips, eyes watching him intently. "I'm glad."

He nipped her fingers, taking one into his mouth. "Me, too."

It was strange, really, that he would seem happier now when he no longer had a purpose, a cause to work for. She wasn't sure how that worked. Maybe it was just the time he'd taken to himself. She had been hurt at first, but she understood now he really had needed that time.

Angel slid her finger deeper into his mouth, his eyes fell closed as he did. God, he wanted her. It was like torture being this close to her, knowing he could have her. He understood her hesitation, but it didn't mean he agreed with it all of the time. This was one of those times. It would be so easy to take things to the next level, but he had to respect her wishes.

He had been shocked she had accepted his proposal when he had presented her with a ring last week. He wasn't sure how long she had planned on waiting, but he wasn't in the mood to put it off any longer. Once Giles had called indicating he had a replacement for Buffy he acted.

In Angel's eyes there would never be a replacement for Buffy, but he knew even without him she was ready to only oversee life around the hellmouth. He wanted to help her do that. With Giles finding someone he deemed qualified to take Buffy's place, that meant Buffy and Angel could concentrate on their life. Angel was all for that. To him she would always be the slayer, it didn't matter how many others there were.

Giles' research indicated that the spell only activated those slayers already alive. So, one day years from now things would go back to normal. One slayer in all of the world. A dozen or so years from now that one slayer would have an army of slayers activated by Willow's spell to help train her and hopefully prolong her life. Once these slayers died off, though, the new slayers would be all alone again. He hoped it would be a long time before that happened.

He drew her hand away, placing it over her head on the bed. God, she was beautiful. He'd recognized it the first time he saw her, but to know that she was actually his brought the point home in full force. He didn't know what he'd done to deserve her, a chance like this with her, but he was glad someone deemed him worthy.

She claimed he seemed happier. She had no idea. A weight had been lifted off his shoulders when he had fulfilled the prophecy. He hadn't done it to become human. He'd done it because it was in his blood to fight. It still was. He helped Buffy on patrols. He no longer had his vamp strength or invulnerability, but he was still fast and could drive a stake through a vamp's unbeating heart.

How could he not be happy? Connor was alive and well. Buffy was, too, and living her life out with him. It was the stuff dreams were made of, something he'd never believed would come true for them. He imagined one of these days Spike would venture this way. Whether Illyria would be with him Angel did not know. Spike was unable to stay out of the fray of things for very long. And if the souled vampire knew there were slayers in need of assistance, he'd come.

The guilt of his actions for over a century and a half as a soulless vampire were still there in his mind, but he had to believe someone thought he had repaid his debt. Who was he to doubt them? And so, he had spent the two years on his boat at sea laying ghosts to rest. He wouldn't have been any good to Buffy without that time. She seemed to understand and he liked to believe it made him a better man. A more acceptable man for her.

Just as she was becoming pliant beneath him the doorbell rang. He groaned softly. He should have known. It was like that more often than not. It was as if fate was keeping them from getting any closer physically than they were. "What timing."

She laughed, draping her arms around his neck. She drew him to her for a kiss. The doorbell rang again and she groaned softly.

"I don't think she's going to go away."

"I know. I just love it when you're like this."

"Like what?"

She shrugged as he stood from the bed, offering her a hand to get up. "Fun. Playful."

"Breaking in your sister's bed."

"That, too." She strode past him, brushing against him as she did. "We'll have plenty of time to break in whatever you want when she goes back to school in the fall."

"Yeah, yeah," he said. That was months from now. He got the impression she was waiting until they were married. He could live with that, he just wondered if it was a conscious decision on her part.

"Buffy, it's beautiful."

"It is, isn't it?" Angel knew that Buffy was proud of the house. Giles had done well. Angel had not been sure what to expect anymore than Buffy had. It wasn't as spacious as the Hyperion or anything, but it was bigger than her house in Sunnydale. It was out of town a bit so they had land. He had researched and discovered Giles had been able to get the property for a fraction of the asking price. He wasn't sure why, but it was Buffy's and that was all that mattered to him.

He hated finding out how she had lived after her mother died. It had been foolish of him not to ask or find out, but he had just assumed that Joyce had been prepared. Life insurance, pension plans, or something. And their father hadn't helped either. Angel hadn't known until it was too late. He was glad to see that Giles was doing something for her.

The council had no business not helping these girls financially. They should earn incomes, have homes and access to things without having to worry about where the money was coming from. The council had the power to do that, and he hoped with Giles now in charge things like that would be looked into.

"So, how did finals go?"

"Fine. I should be able to get my grades in a few days. I think I got a B, though."

"Just one?"


"Oh, Dawn, that's great."

"I know, but I was so close to an A."

"Hi, Peter, sorry didn't mean to ignore you. How did your finals go?"

"Good. Glad the year is done though. I'm looking forward to summer. Well, except for Dawn being here."

"It's not like it's that far, though. I mean, you could visit if you want. And it's only a couple of months."


"Okay, okay, I'm sounding too much like a mom. Let me show you to your room, then you can unwind or whatever you need to do."

"Do you need to go out tonight, Buffy?"

"Nope. Angel and I have no plans but to spend time with you. Giles is coming the day after tomorrow."

"Great. It'll be fun to see him."

"He was glad you'd be here, he was afraid you'd stay in Chicago for the summer."

"It was tempting, but the rent was just too high for the type of job I could get."

"I asked my parents about letting Dawn stay at our house, but they weren't too hot on the idea."

"Mm, parents tend to frown on cohabitation."

"It's not like they wouldn't be home."

"Yes, but you know, they're bound to go out at some point and the temptation would be just too great if you were under one roof."


"I didn't say I was defending them. I just see where they're coming from. Mom wouldn't have agreed either. Angel is going to start on dinner. Take your time. You have your own bathroom. I just put the sheets on the bed. I hope your parents won't hate me because I'm letting you share a room."

"I don't think they're going to know unless you planned to tell them."

"That would be a no, so we're good." She led them upstairs and then up to the attic from the second floor. Whoever had lived here before had converted the attic to a third, fully functional floor. It was great, Buffy wished they had lived here when she was putting all of the potentials up. It would have been a lot easier.

"Giles will be downstairs, so you'll have the entire floor to yourself, Dawn."

"That's great. Thanks."

"I figured you'd like your privacy."

"And you and Angel do, too."

"That has nothing to do with it. Anyway, come down whenever you want." Buffy gave Dawn a quick hug. "I'm glad you came here for the summer."

"Me, too. We'll be down in a bit."


"Umm, Buffy?"

"Yes," Buffy said from the doorway.

"Is there a reason that the bed looks like it's been slept in?"

Buffy smiled with a light laugh. "No. I just didn't straighten it out all the way I guess after I made it."

"Buffy must do pretty well if she can afford this place." Buffy heard Peter say as she walked to the stairs. She was glad he liked her house. She wasn't sure why exactly it mattered, but it did. She guessed it was because she was a reflection on Dawn.

"Hi," she said cheerily as she entered the kitchen where Angel was turning chicken in the marinade he had made.

"Hi. They settling in?"

"Yeah." She placed her hands on his back at his shoulders and stood on her tiptoes to kiss his cheek. "So what else are we having besides chicken?"

"Rice and some broccoli."

"Yum. I'm glad you know how to cook, because we'd starve or eat a lot of macaroni and cheese if it were up to me." She grabbed a bottle of water from the refrigerator and leaned back against the counter. "What can I do to help?"

"Just keep me company. Did you tell her?"

"No, not yet. I will when they come down for dinner."


"What? It's not like the world's going to end if I don't tell her immediately."

"If I didn't know better."

"Don't start with that again. She just got here, I haven't seen her in a couple of months. I'll tell her."

"Tell me what?"

Buffy rolled her eyes and glanced from Angel to Dawn in the doorway. She hadn't heard Dawn come down the stairs. And Angel no longer had the benefit of enhanced hearing.

"Is there something wrong?"

"No, Dawn, nothing's wrong. Angel's just being pushy."

"Oh well, what else is new?"

"Thanks, a lot, Dawn. Don't be surprised if your chicken piece has some extra special flavoring in it."

"Eww. So, what's going on," Dawn said, making herself at home at the table.

"Where's Peter?"

"He's calling his parents to let them know we got here safely."

"That's nice."

"So, what's going on?"

"Well," Buffy said walking to the table. She sat to Dawn's right, resting her left hand on Dawn's arm. "You're going to be a bridesmaid while you're home this summer."

Dawn glanced from Buffy's hand, to Buffy's face, then to Angel, and back to Buffy's hand. "No way. You're serious? You actually smartened up and said yes?"


"What? I kept waiting for you to screw it up."

"Well, I didn't and the end of August we're getting married."

"Why wait?"

"Because I actually want to have a wedding. With Willow and Giles and Xander and the others there. I want to actually have a dress that fits me, not one I picked off a rack. I want a real wedding."

"Oh for sure, you deserve it. I didn't mean it like that."

"It's okay." Buffy hugged Dawn to her, smoothing down her hair as Dawn hugged her back. She felt tears in her eyes and could tell by Dawn's breathing she was about to cry, too.

"I'm so happy for you, Buffy. I mean, I liked Riley and Spike and all, but it was so obvious even when you were with them you still loved Angel. And I mean, who would have thought you'd have a chance to have a real life with him."

"I never would have believed it."

"So, do I still get a piece of road kill surprise chicken?"

"No, I think, you've redeemed yourself."

"Good," she said and seemed to brighten. "So we get to go shopping for dresses and flowers and places to have it and music. Oh my God, Buffy, this is so exciting. A wedding. Is Willow going to help?"

"I hope so. I haven't told her yet. We wanted to tell you first."

"Why'd you wait?"

"I wanted to tell you in person."

"Oh, okay, I get that I guess."

"Am I interrupting?"

"No, Peter, come in. They're just doing girl things. Buffy just told Dawn we're getting married in August. You know how girls get."

"Oh, yeah," Peter said, suddenly looking uncomfortable as he shoved his hands in the front pockets of his jeans. "Congratulations.

Dawn stood from the table and went to him, throwing her arms around him. "Are you going to come?"

"Uh, sure. If it's all right."

"Well, I'm allowed to bring a guest. Right, Buffy?"


"Then I guess I'll be here."

"Good," Dawn said and kissed him. Buffy and Angel looked at one another. She could tell he was wondering the same thing she was. It wasn't really any of Buffy's business, but she didn't want to see Dawn hurt or pregnant. She wasn't sure Dawn could get pregnant. Could someone who wasn't human to start off with have babies? Then again, Angel had Connor and that defied logic. The fact was she was entrusted to caring for Dawn, she didn't take that lightly even if the danger was gone.

"Oh hey, Angel, are you going to invite Connor?" Dawn asked once she'd stopped kissing Peter.

"I was waiting to tell him until Buffy told you. I'll call him later tonight."


"I can't wait to see him again," Dawn said.

"Who's Connor?"

All three were silent for a moment. "He's the closest thing I have to family."

"Oh, cool." It was clear Peter didn't understand, he couldn't be expected to. Maybe he'd think Angel was an orphan or something. Buffy had to struggle not to laugh at that thought.

"Peter, do you know anything about starting grills?"

"Uh, some."

"Want to help me?"


"Do you have a dress picked out?" Dawn asked as soon as Angel and Peter were outside.

"No. I felt stupid shopping by myself."

"We'll go tomorrow."

"Okay. Peter might be bored."

"He can sit on the computer and play video games. He'll be fine with that."


"What? He will. Seriously."

"Okay. If you're sure."

"I am. Totally. This is so exciting, Buffy. You're marrying Angel and you get to do it during the day like normal people."

"I know, who would have thought, right?"

"You have to call Willow."

"It's late where she is."

"And you think she'd mind? You're going to ask her to be your maid of honor, aren't you?"


"I don't think she'll be upset, Buffy. Do it, call her. Maybe she can come with Giles."

"I hadn't thought of that."

"Oh hey, does Giles coming mean he's found someone?"


"Good, I'm glad. I hate worrying about you when I can't see you every morning to make sure you're okay."

"That's sweet, Dawn. I never knew you worried like that."

"Every night. I guess it didn't help knowing Spike and what he'd done to two of them before you."

"I'm sorry I worried you."

"You can't help it. It's who you are. Now, go call her."

"All right."

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