Buffy entered the mansion to find Angel sat in front of the blazing fire with a book in his hand, his face wearing a small frown of concentration. The sight brought warmth to her that no coat or heater ever could. She must have made a noise, because Angel was immediately looking up, his whole face lighting up when he saw her.
‘Hey.’ She had meant it to be a soft reply, but the grogginess and tiredness slipped into her voice none the less.
He picked up on it immediately. ‘Are you okay?’
‘Yea, just a rough night on the Slayage Front.’ She joked weakly. ‘You went slaying?’ Angel repeated, his eyes narrowing and sharpening.
Buffy’s eyes widened when she realized her slip up. ‘Did I say slaying? I meant… slaying those books. You know how it is, school these days…‘ She trailed off lamely, knowing that Angel wasn’t buying it for a second.
‘Right.’ Angel rolled his eyes and shot her a look. ‘Because those books are so tough. They just keep on fighting and punching, huh?’
Buffy sighed slightly at his sarcasm and shook her head. Seeing that Angel was intent on continuing this, she crossed her arms and said defensively, ‘I’m the Slayer. It’s my job to go hunting. I’m fine and I’m-‘
‘Recovering from the flu.’ Angel cut in as he stood and made his way swiftly towards her.
‘Details details.’ Buffy sighed, waving her hand in the air in a gesture of impatience.
‘A big detail.’ Angel insisted. ‘I’m worried about you.’
‘Why? I’m fine.’ She assured him, her voice softening but losing none of its firmness.
‘Look at you.’ Angel challenged, ‘You look like you could fall asleep any second.’
‘So I’m a little tired. Can we please drop this?’ Buffy pleaded.
Angel was silent for a moment, as if debating with himself, before sighing in defeat and taking her hand in his. ‘Fine.’
‘Yay, I win.’ Buffy said triumphantly.
‘Don’t think I’m not going to bring this up later.’ Angel warned.
‘Later?’ Buffy echoed warily.
‘Later,’ Angel confirmed. ‘But right now I’m going to get you to relax.’
‘Well maybe I’d relax more if you’d stopped worrying.’ Buffy teased.
Angel chose only to glare at her in response before pulling her over towards the fire and motioning for her to sit down on the spread of cushions and blankets.
‘I’m sorry.’ Buffy apologized, trying to suppress a grin. ‘It’s sweet that you worry about me, but honestly, I’m fine. I promise.’
Angel smiled gently and planted a quick kiss on her lips, silently telling her that he wasn’t annoyed.
‘Is that all I get?’ Buffy asked playfully, her bottom lip sticking out seductively in a pout.
Angel’s smile widened and he pulled her to him, his arms slipping around her waist and his hands finding purchase on the gentle curve of her hips. He brushed his lips against her in a feather light touch and used his tongue to part her lips and deepen the kiss. Her sigh of contentment quickly changed into that of protest when Angel pulled away a few minutes later.
‘I want you to relax, and somehow I don’t think that us kissing is gonna help that.’ Angel laughed.
‘Well maybe I don’t wanna relax.’ Buffy replied stubbornly. ‘Maybe… maybe I wanna do other stuff.’
‘You, Miss Summers, are the most stubborn women I’ve ever met!’
‘It comes with being the Slayer.’ Buffy shrugged as she flopped down onto the satin cushions that Angel had laid out. She grinned at the sensation of the satin rubbing against the exposed part of her leg. Why was it that Angel always managed to make everything so… romantic? Why did she always have to have such lusty thoughts around him?
Angel sank down next to her with the swiftness and grace of a hunter, but the flash of pain that crossed his features did not go unmissed by Buffy.
Before she could comment on it, Angel was quickly replying to her last reply with: ‘Beloved, I have known many Slayers, and none of them were as stubborn as you.’ He grinned at the look of surprise on her face; he liked surprising her occasionally. The way her eyes would widen with curiosity and the way she would blink slightly was adorable.
‘You’ve known other Slayers?’ She echoed, not sure why it hadn’t occurred to her before now. Did he think they had been better at their job then her? Had he liked them more?
‘Not as well as I know you.’ He added mischievously.
Buffy swatted him playfully across the arm before becoming serious. ‘Seriously? You knew them? Other Slayers?’
Angel nodded grimly. ‘Unfortunately, I happened to be soulless at the time.’
‘Good. I mean… well, I just meant…’ Buffy trailed off, not sure what to say.
‘What would have happened if I’d had a soul at the time and decided to help them?’ Angel guessed.
Once again it took her by surprise just how well he knew her. ‘I guess.’
‘Nothing would have happened.’ Angel told her firmly. ‘I would have helped them, and disappeared again.’
‘You didn’t just ‘help me’,’ Buffy challenged.
‘No, I didn’t.’ Angel chuckled. ‘I fell in love with you. And a lot of help I was after that.’ He added, a tinge of remorse in his voice.
‘Don’t say that.’ Buffy scolded gently. ‘But… you could have fallen in love with them…’
‘No I couldn’t.’ Angel assured her.
‘You don’t know that…’
‘Yes, I do. They weren’t Buffy Summers. How could I have fallen in love with someone who wasn’t you?’
Buffy sat silently for a moment, determined not to show the relief his response had given her. He always knew how to calm her. Still…
‘Buffy, I didn’t fall in love with you because you’re the Slayer.’ Angel continued. ‘Actually, maybe I did, a little, because that’s part of who you are. But… all the other girls… they became the Slayer, but you… the Slayer became ‘you’. You’re not like all the other girls Buffy. You’re not just a ‘Slayer’, you’re Buffy. You can’t really save something until you fully understand the preciousness of what it is that you’re saving. You interact with life Buffy. You’re part of it, and that’s what keeps you alive.’’
‘That and my personal body guard.’ Buffy giggled.
‘Roll over.’ Angel ordered, his tone swiftly changing from that of gentleness to one of command.
Buffy raised an eyebrow and giggled.
‘You’re incorrigible.’ Angel laughed. ‘I just want to give you a massage.’
‘Really?’ Buffy asked, unable to hide the excitement in her voice. It only took five minutes alone with Angel before she found any weariness quickly being replaced with a fresh bout energy and excitement.
‘Really.’ Angel laughed.
She rolled over onto her front obediently and reached around for a spare cushion to rest her head on. She grabbed the closest one and snuggled up to it happily, the softness of the material feeling even nicer against her cheek then it had against her leg.
‘Comfy?’ She heard Angel ask gently, the softness of his voice floating around her like a warm blanket.
Her reply as muffled by the cushion, but Angel managed to pick up on a ‘Uh huh.’
‘Glad to hear that. Now, where shall I start?’
‘Willow? I was thinking…’ Xander began, pausing for a moment.
‘What, you had a thought? What were the odds of that happening?’ Cordy muttered.
‘It’s not the odds we have to worry about, but where this idea is heading.’ Oz replied, completely deadpanned.
‘Wise words.’ Willow whispered solemnly as she continued to watch Xander pace across the floor, the idea still forming.
‘I’m bored, you’re bored, Buffy and Angel are probably bored-‘ Xander started, only to be cut off by Willow.
‘Xand? You know, maybe we should leave Buffy and Angel out of this? I mean, they probably want some time alone, and…‘
‘I’m sure *they’ll* find a way to amuse themselves all alone in that mansion.’ Cordy added in amusement.
The implications on what the happy couple might be doing seemed to fuel Xander’s determination even more. ‘Exactly! Buffy’s recovering from the flu. The last thing she needs is Angel begging her for sex!’
‘God Xander, could you give us more gross mental images?!’ Cordy snapped. ‘We are not bothering Buffy and Angel, and that is that. Ewwww.’
‘Maybe we could go see them later?’ he asked hopefully.
‘Humour him,’ Willow whispered pleadingly.
‘Later.’ Cordy replied through gritted teeth. ‘But what, exactly, are we meant to do *now*?’
Buffy was caught somewhere between sleep and wake. All she was aware of were Angel’s wonderful hands, rubbing and easing tension from her weary body. Everything else had faded away and all that remained were the two of them: no slaying, no evil teachers, no parents, just Angel. This was Heaven, or as close to it as she was ever likely to get. She was brought out of her musings by the sound of Angel’s voice and she shifted slightly so that she could turn to look at him.
‘Better?’ He asked, smiling slightly.
‘Uh huh, much. Thanks.’ She offered him a grin but made no move to get up. Instead she reached up to tug at his shirt in an attempt to coax him down to her. He complied, lying down next to her, and her head instinctively found it’s way onto his silk clad chest.
‘So, are you going to tell me what’s wrong?’
She glanced up at him warily. ‘Is this the part where you bring up the slaying thing again?’
‘No,’ he chuckled, ‘I just want to know what’s troubling you.’
‘Oh. Well, like I said, rough night on the slaying frontage. I managed to send five of our friends to the dust buster but…. They just seem to be on the major increase lately.’
‘Tell me about it.’ Angel sighed, a small frown on him face. ‘It was over ridden last night. They ended up stealing my jacket, which is more then a little strange to say the least. I happened to be very fond of that jacket.’
Buffy’s head shot up and her eyes narrowed in much the same way Angel’s had done earlier that evening. ‘You went patrolling?’
Angel blinked in surprise and nodded.
‘Let me get this straight, you don’t like it when *I* go patrolling, but it’s okay for you to go?’ She challenged angrily, the slayer within rebelling.
‘Buffy, I have nothing against you patrolling, but you’ve had the flu, and I worry that you’re not in top condition. If anything happened to you…’ He trailed off and shrugged. That road was one that neither was prepared to go down. That way led only to insanity.
‘Angel… I’m fine, I’m just a little tired.’ She assured him, her tone softening and relenting. She reached up to cup his chin. ‘I worry about you too, you know.’
Angel offered her his lop-sided smile and nodded. ‘I know. Now, are you going to tell me what else is wrong? Because I know slaying can make you tense, but not *this* tense. Any tighter and you could beat an elastic band.’
‘Did I just hear you joke?’ Buffy teased.
‘Hmmm, I do believe that you did.’ Angel replied in a false, rather posh accent. ‘But I may have to silence you now. Should that get out… think what it would do to my brooding image.’
‘And how, exactly, do you plan on silencing me?’ Buffy asked innocently.
‘I have my ways, lover. But right now you’re going to tell me what’s wrong. I have ways of making you talk as well.’ He added slyly.
Buffy giggled slightly before settling back down on Angel’s chest and sighing heavily. ‘It’s nothing awful like the world ending or anything… it’s just… everything. I mean, Giles is on my case constantly about Slaying, and I know I have a duty, but he’s really pushing me, and… I dunno, it’s like he thinks I’m Super Slayer or something, but I’m just me, Angel.’
‘Let me talk to him,’ Angel offered. ‘Maybe I can make him understand that-‘
‘No!’ Buffy said firmly. ‘No. I don’t want to disappoint him.’
‘And I don’t want you dead.’ Angel shot back, his voice just as firm as hers. ‘Buffy, admitting that you’re tired and that’s he’s asking too much of you does not make you a failure. Far from it, in fact. It just means you’re human. You may be the slayer, but no one, least of all Giles, should expect you to be-‘
‘Like Kendra.’ Buffy cut of quietly. ‘That’s what he wants me to be.’
‘No, he wants you to be *you*.’ Angel told her gently. ‘He loves you Buffy, he really does. I can see it every time he looks at you; he thinks of you as a daughter to him. All this extra training… it’s just his way of trying to make sure you’ll be okay. No one has complete control of what’s to come, and that’s hard for anyone to accept, especially Giles. It’s his job to watch out for you, to prepare you, and in some ways that’s the hardest job there is. He has very little control of what’s to come. But you need to realize that Giles is not the one who has to fight. He doesn’t have to play the game.’
‘You do.’ Buffy replied quietly.
He shrugged slightly. ‘Maybe.’
‘Sometimes I think that that’s why you understand me so much. But then… you understand other stuff about me as well, not just slaying.’ Buffy commented, almost to herself.
‘Is slaying the only thing troubling you?’
‘No,’ she sighed. ‘Guess what? Daddy called last night. He wants to come down to see me.’
‘Okay…’ Angel replied slowly, not quite sure what was so bad about seeing her father. She’d spoken more then once about how she wished she could have a chance to see him more often. Hank coming down to see her seemed like the perfect opportunity.
‘No, it’s not okay.’ Buffy said in frustration. ‘He wants to see you.’
Angel blinked and stared at her, a feeling a dread building. ‘He wants to see *me*?’
‘Uh huh. Somehow he found out about *us*, although mom swears she never told him, and, well, I guess he’s decided to step in and do the whole father thing.’
‘Father thing?’ Angel echoed, still not sure if everything had quite sunk in yet.
‘Yeah, you know, the whole ‘you’re dating an older guy who’s bound to get you pregnant, so I’m forbidding you to see him’ deal.’ Buffy stopped, seeing the look of pure terror on her lover’s face, and laughed slightly. ‘Angel, don’t worry about it. There is no way he’s going to stop me seeing you. I mean, come on! He lives in LA. Mum’s cool about us- well, I still think she’s living in denial about the whole ‘sex thing’- but apart from that, she’s cool about it, so there’s no reason dad shouldn’t be.’
‘Buffy, fathers tend to be rather protective over their daughters, and… and if he kills me I will be most upset.’
‘He’s not going to kill you.’ she laughed. ‘Anyway, I hardly think you need to feel threatened by him when you face vamps as part of your daily schedule.’
‘It still matters to me what he thinks of me. I mean, he’s your *father*.’
‘Just give him a little while to get used to you, and he’ll love you, I promise. I know I do. And anyway, you’ve survived Hell once already.’ She added sweetly, her eyes teasing him.
‘Somehow that is not comforting.’ Angel muttered.
‘I’m sorry baby, I was just teasing you.’ Buffy purred as she moved to wrap her arms around him and kiss him sweetly. ‘You know what I wish?’ She commented after the kiss ended.
‘Okay, I’ll bite. What do you wish?’ Angel asked curiously.
‘I wish I could stay here’
‘Stay here?’ Angel echoed, surprised to say the least.
‘Just for tonight. Just to get away from everything.’ She glanced at him uncertainly, almost nervously. ‘Do you think I could? Would you mind?’
‘Mind?’ Angel repeated incredulously. ‘Buffy, I would love you for you stay. You’re always welcome, you know that.’
‘Really?’ She grinned happily and flung her arms around him once again. ‘Thank you.’
‘You should call your mother, let her know where you’ll be.’
Buffy shot him an odd look before standing and making her way towards the phone. ‘You are being way to sensible tonight Mister.’ She scolded as she disappeared into the kitchen.
‘I’m being practical.’ Angel replied defensively, but his comment fell on deaf ears.
‘Okay, we’ve been stood here for over an hour now, and we really need to think of something to do.’ Willow spoke up tiredly, breaking the silence.
‘I still say we go see Buffy and-‘
‘No!’ Cordy, Oz and Willow all cut him off.
‘Jeez, it was only a suggestion.’ Xander grumbled.
‘We’re pathetic.’ Cordy groaned. ‘No, wait, what am I saying? *You* guys are pathetic. I’m just being held here against my own will.’
‘Okay, and just how did you work that one out?’ Xander asked in disbelief.
‘You lot must have put a spell on me or something.’ Cordy sighed impatiently.
The three Scoobies regarded the May Queen with disbelief. ‘You know what? Flipper is meant to be on TV soon, I’m gonna go watch it.’ Xander spoke up.
‘Oh my gosh, did something sensible just come out of your mouth?’ Cordy said sweetly. ‘Not that I think the idea of watching Flipper is good or anything,’ she added quickly, ‘I just wanted to insult you.’
‘I’m with Xander on this one. Flipper sounds fun.’ Willow grinned.
‘Oz, you game?’
He shrugged and nodded. With that the three Slayerettes headed off towards Xander’s house.
‘Guys? Hello? Where are you going?’ Cordy demanded. ‘Fine, I *suppose* I could try to be generous and come with you.’
‘Don’t strain yourself.’ Xander muttered.
‘Don’t worry, I’m not, I was just thinking that your house has closets.’
‘Oh yeah.’ Xander brightened considerably.
‘Hey, isn’t that guy across the road Buffy’s father?!’
Angel waited patiently for a few minutes as Buffy called her mother, only to have curiosity get the better of him when he heard her exclaim in a rather panicked sounding voice, ‘My room?! How can he stay there? The couch?! You’ve got to be kidding me! Mom, come on, I mean, look what’s in my room! Stakes, crosses, Holy water! What if he found them? Clear it? Tidy it?!’
Angel couldn’t help but chuckle at his girlfriend’s reaction to what he presumed was her mother suggesting she tidied her room. He moved up behind her and wrapped his arms around her small waist, earning himself a playful slap from his distracted lover. He waited for her to place the phone back down before looking at her questioningly, an eyebrow raised in slight amusement. ‘Care to share, lover?’
‘No.’ She grumbled, crossing her arms across her chest stubbornly. ‘It’s just mom being totally and completely unreasonable.’
Angel managed to conceal a smile as he led her back towards the couch, where he promptly pulled her down onto his lap and began to rub her back gently. ‘Talk to me.’
‘Well, mom just informed me that Daddy’s gonna be sleeping in my room during his stay, and I’m gonna have to use the couch. I mean, what if he finds my stakes? And then mom had the nerve to suggest I tidy my room!’ Buffy exclaimed angrily, as if this suggestion was a torture worse then Hell it’s self.
‘Buffy, sweetheart, I’m sure tidying your room wouldn’t be *that* awful.’
Buffy shot him a look of disbelief. ‘Angel, have you *seen* the state of my room?’ Upon seeing the look of amusement that crossed his features, she waved a hand and added quickly, ‘On second thoughts, don’t bother answering that one. And the *couch*. Do you know how uncomfortable that is?’ ‘You’re welcome to stay here.’ Angel offered, smiling slightly.
Buffy blinked in surprise before breaking into a grin. ‘Seriously? For a whole week? I get to spend a whole week with you?’
‘That would be the idea.’ Angel chuckled. ‘Providing one thing. You check it with your mother. The last thing I need is for both your father *and* your mother wanting to kill me. One angry parent is enough.’
‘Angel, Daddy won’t want to kill you. I told you, he’ll love you, just give it time. And I still can’t believe I get to spend a whole week with you!’ She repeated excitedly.
‘I know the feeling.’ Angel murmured as his lips found their way to the exposed part of her neck, earning a shudder from Buffy.
‘Angel, honey? Asking mom can wait until tomorrow, right?’
‘I think it’s going to have to.’ He answered slyly before scooping her up carrying her towards the bedroom.
Buffy was in high spirits the next day and even managed to sit through double history without finding herself feeling those homicidal tendencies towards her evil teacher. Not evil in terms of demons, but very, very evil in terms of tests and homework. But when the bell rang signaling her release any thoughts of history were quickly replaced with those of Angel. Not only had she gotten to spend the entire night with him yesterday, she also had the whole of next week to look forward to spending with him. Nothing, not even Snyder, could have ruined this mood.
She slowed her pace as the library doors came into view and glanced around; making sure Snyder wasn’t lurking around looking to catch her out. Deciding that the coast was clear she increased her pace and reached the doors in record time. The sound of Angel’s soft voice floated out and she froze, completely shocked that he should be stood in the library in the middle of the day, even though she figured the curtains were shut.
‘Giles, please, she’s recovering from the flu, she’s stressed with school work, her father’s coming down to see her-‘
‘She’s also the Slayer. I understand what you’re saying Angel, I really do. I don’t like the idea of her being out there any more then you do, but the vampires are on the increase, it’s swimming with them out there. I… Sunnydale can’t afford to have Buffy take the night off.’
Buffy watched and listened with growing interest as Giles sighed slightly and turned towards the stacks.
‘I’ve been researching for some time now, but I simply can’t find a reason for the increase, and until I do then I’m afraid patrol is all we can do.’
She watched as Angel followed her watcher up into the stacks, effectively blocking her view of them.
‘Then let me.’
‘Excuse me?’ Giles blinked slightly.
‘I’ll patrol.’ He shrugged slightly.
‘I think we both know Buffy well enough to know she’s not going to like that idea one bit, and she’s certainly not going to agree to it.’
‘She doesn’t have to know. Tell her she needs a break. Tell her things are manageable for now. She doesn’t need to know about me patrolling.’ Angel shot Giles a pleading look.
‘You want me to lie to her?’
‘What else can we do?’ Angel demanded impatiently. ‘She’s still weak, and she needs a break. It isn’t safe for her to be out there in anything less then top condition. You said it yourself, it’s getting unmanageable out there.’
Buffy felt her heart clench upon hearing Angel plead with Giles to let him patrol for her. This was sacrifice on a whole new level, and she was stunned. Part of her screamed out in protest: the idea of Angel out there, fighting without her, if anything happened to him… But the knowledge that he loved her so deeply- that he was offering to do this for her- it sent a warm shiver down her spine and for the first time in so long she actually felt some of the weight lift from her shoulders. He was watching out for her.
‘I should be going…’ Angel commented.
Panic set it and Buffy looked around desperately for anywhere to hide. It was only after she’d crouched down behind a row of lockers that reasoning finally hit her. //Duh, he can’t just walk out into the sunlight, he’s gotta use the sewers. Great, one more thing to add to my ‘to do list’: find my sanity.//
3:30 finally crawled round and Buffy was freed from the prison known as school. That freedom found her stood outside Angel’s mansion door, hand poised to knock.
She was startled when she heard him call out ‘Come on in, it’s open.’
He was sat on the couch, just out of reach from the sunlight that sneaked through as she entered. Upon seeing her questioning glance he simply grinned and patted the space next to him.
‘How did you know I was stood outside?’ She asked curiously as she flopped down next to her vampire lover. She took a moment to study his attire; sweat pants. And nothing else.
Upon seeing her hungry gaze he offered her a sheepish smile and shrugged. ‘Sorry, I just got up. This is still pretty early for me.’
‘It’s not even sun down. What are you doing up? Not that I’m not glad you are,’ she added hurriedly.
His answer was simple. ‘I wanted to be awake if you called around.’
‘That’s really sweet.’ She leant over and rewarded him with a soft kiss.
‘I should get up early more often, if that’s the response I get.’ He chuckled.
She tried to sound indignant, but the laughter in her eyes betrayed her. ‘Are you laughing at me, Mister?’
‘Moi? Would I do that to you?’ He gave her his most innocent expression, and Buffy suddenly realized to what extent Angel really could look angelic.
‘You’re evil, you know that?’ She gave him her sternest look and wagged her finger.
He raised an eyebrow before catching her hand in his and lifting to his mouth, his lips brushing against her knuckle’s gently. She scooted closer to him as he kept up his administrations and ended up perched somewhat precariously on his lap. He slipped his arm around her and pulled her down to him more securely, his spare hand rubbing soothing circles over her back.
‘How was school?’
Buffy let out an exaggerated sigh and cuddled up closer to him, her head finding the familiar crevices of his chest. ‘It was so so.’
‘So so?’ Angel echoed in confusing.
‘Opps,’ Buffy smiled slightly at her boyfriend’s lack of pop culture. ‘Sorry, I just meant… you know, not too bad, but not really great either.’
‘Oh. I’m sorry to hear that.’
‘Don’t worry about it. Trust me, a day of school could never be good.’ She informed him. *Unless you were in my classes… or unless we skipped classes and did something else…* Her smile grew wider at the thought and for a flashing moment she wondered whether she could talk Angel into helping her create a few happy memories one day…
‘So, what did you do today?’ She asked casually, curious as to what he would tell her.
He shrugged slightly and replied vaguely that he’d slept mostly. Buffy decided not to tell him she’d over heard his conversation with Giles just yet. That could be fun later.
‘I should be going soon.’ She informed him reluctantly, and his face fell slightly.
‘Right, you’re busy. You have homework, and friends, and your mom, and-‘
Buffy let him babble for a moment before putting him out of his misery with a gentle finger to his lips.
‘Right, like I’d rather do homework when I could be spending time with you.’ She rolled her eyes slightly. ‘I just meant that if I’m staying here I’m gonna need to go get some stuff. I need to pack.’
‘Pack?’ Angel echoed incredulously.
‘Yes, pack. Guys really do know nothing about necessities, huh? I mean, how am I meant to brush my teeth without my toothbrush? And do you really expect me to wear this outfit all week?’
‘Point taken,’ He conceded sheepishly.
‘Don’t worry about it,’ Buffy laughed. ‘You’re a guy. A two hundred year old, extremely cute and cryptic guy, but you’re still a guy, so you have an excuse.’
‘Thank you. I think.’ He frowned slightly, unsure whether being classed as a ‘guy’ was a good thing or not. If Xander was any indication to the typical male, then it definitely wasn’t a good thing. He gave up trying to work out Buffy’s logic and simply offered her an uncertain smile.
‘Need any help?’
‘Trust me, you don’t want to help me pack,’ Buffy replied quickly, images of her room coming to mind. It wasn’t exactly tidy, not that it really ever was, but she couldn’t be sure if it was really decent either, and the last thing she wanted was for Angel to see her underwear littering the floor. Although they were about to spend the week together…
‘Right.’ He smirked a little, as if reading her thoughts. ‘I’m not even going to ask.’
She blushed slightly and looked towards the door. ‘Okay, I’m gonna go… pack… I’ll be back as soon as I’ve finished and Mum’s gone through her whole lecture about me behaving and studying etc.’
‘Which of course you’re going to do.’ He said sternly.
‘What?’ Her eyebrows creased in confusion.
Buffy stared at Angel in disbelief, not sure whether he was being serious or not.
‘You’ve got to be kidding me!’ She exclaimed. ‘We get to spend a whole week together and you’re telling me to study?’ Her aggravation grew when she realized that he was trying not to laugh at her outburst.
She moved to get up, shooting him a glare in the process. He reached out and wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her back down onto the sofa. She landed in a sprawled heap above him and she couldn’t help but grin slightly at their new position.
‘Are you going to be mad at me?’ He asked gently, his lips finding hers for a tender kiss. She opened her mouth to allow his tongue to come and play with hers, a silent communication that she wasn’t really angry. When Angel finally pulled away, conscious of her need to breathe, any traces of their dispute were completely forgotten.
‘Right, I’ve gotta go. I’m going. I really am. In a minute.’ She made no move to get up, and once again she found Angel’s lips covering her own.
‘You’ve got to go get packed.’ He murmured between kisses. ‘It’s almost sundown, and your mum’s going to be wondering where you’ve got to.’
‘She knows where I am,’ Buffy countered before kissing him again, silencing his protests and ridding any thoughts from his mind other then her. ‘But you’re right, I need to go-‘
‘Don’t go. Stay.’ It was Angel’s turn to protest.
She grinned slightly before swiftly ducking out from his encircling arms and standing out of reach. ‘I’ll be back soon, I promise.’
And with that the Slayer left to pack, leaving Angel staring at her retreating behind with growing lust. ‘And she called *me* evil?’ he muttered to himself before stretching and chuckling.
When Buffy finally made it back to the mansion she was disappointed to find that Angel had slipped on a shirt and changed into some black trousers. *Hunting gear…*
‘Going somewhere?’ She asked innocently.
Angel spun around in surprise, jumping slightly.
She raised an eyebrow slightly and laughed. ‘You’re not the only one who gets to sneak up on people.’
‘I don’t sneak up,’ Angel protested in vain, ‘I just… move quietly.’
‘Silently would be more accurate.’ Buffy corrected him before returning to her original question. ‘So, going somewhere?’
‘I thought maybe I’d go hunting.’ He shifted uncomfortably.
‘Great, I’ll go get my coat.’ She grinned, enjoying watching him squirm slightly.
‘Maybe…’ He trailed off, unsure how to suggest going alone without Buffy taking it the wrong way.
‘By the way, I overheard your little meeting with Giles today,’ she informed him in an almost off-handed manner as she bent down to reach her coat, grabbing Angel’s at the same time.
‘You did?’ He blinked and took an unnecessary breath, as if bracing himself.
‘And it means a lot that you’d offer to patrol for me.’
‘I’m sensing a but…’
‘You know me too well,’ she teased, before growing serious. ‘It means a lot to me- more then perhaps you’ll know- but I’m the Slayer, and I’m not about to let you go out there and fight without me.’
He offered her a crooked smile and his eyes lit up in amusement, as if he’d expected her protest. ‘Buffy, I’ve been out on patrol without you before now, and I’m hardly incapable. Vampire, remember?’
She didn’t miss the tinge of self-mockery in his tone.
‘And I’m glad you are.’ She countered softly. ‘I know you can handle yourself, maybe better then I can sometimes, and if you couldn’t I’d be worried sick. Constantly,’ She added as an after thought. ‘But I’m the Slayer, and it’s my duty, and I can’t just sit here whilst you go off patrolling.’
‘Just tonight. You said so yourself that everything’s getting on top of you lately. Let me help.’
‘Using my own complaints against me isn’t fair.’ Buffy grumbled, folding her arms across her chest stubbornly.
‘Tough.’ He grinned at her pout and took his jacket from her. ‘Relax. Have a bath. Unpack. Sleep. This is your night off.’
She sighed. ‘It’d be much more fun if you were actually here as well.’
‘I’ll be back soon.’ He shot her a playful grin over his retreating shoulder before disappearing through the doorway.
The Slayer narrowed her eyes, her hazel pupils sparkling with the beginnings of an idea. ‘Uh huh. It’s official. He’s evil. This calls for revenge.’
Buffy awoke the next morning to the comforting sensation of strong arms wrapped around her waist and a solid body blanketing her’s. Angel. She smiled softly to herself and just allowed herself to be content. No matter how many times she awoke next to him, she was sure she’d never get used to it, and she was positive the novelty would never wear off.
Her grin widened into a full smile when she heard a soft rumbling followed by a more coherent groan from her lover.
‘Look what you’ve done to my sleeping habits.’ It was a feeble complaint; muffled by the pillow his head was currently burrowed into.
‘I’m sorry.’ She cooed, trying not to laugh. She’d learnt early on in their relationship that Angel was definitely not a morning person, although she couldn’t really blame him considering his body told him that morning wasn’t until sunset. ‘You’re right, disrupting your sleeping habits is a very, very bad thing. I’ll just go right back to sleep and-‘ ‘Oh no you don’t,’ he admonished sternly. ‘School.’
‘Angel.’ It was her turn to whine. ‘You don’t *really* want me to get up do you? You don’t *really* want me to disrupt you and make you get out of the nice warm bed into the cold.’
‘Your getting up has nothing to do with me.’ He smirked at his girlfriend’s protests. ‘I have no intention of getting up. I don’t have a lesson to get to.’
‘Let me get this straight, you’ll patrol with me, but you won’t get up with me? Well tough, if I have to suffer then so do you.’
‘If I recall correctly, it’s your fault we’re tired. I’m not the one who kept us up half the night.’
‘You weren’t complaining then,’ she grumbled.
‘You’re right my love, I wasn’t.’ He shifted and tilted his head to place a gentle kiss on her forehead. ‘Now quit stalling and get up. I do not want to face your mother’s wrath, or I shall have to plead the 5th. And something tells me I shall be found guilty.’
She rolled her eyes at his humour. ‘Funny, but you gotta stop thinking mum’s some kind of homicidal maniac!’
‘It’s not actually you’re mother I’m worried about it,’ Angel retorted. ‘She only has a moderate hatred towards me. It’s your father.’
She laughed softly and hit him playfully with the best ammunition available- a pillow. ‘Fine, you succeeded in cheering me up. A little.’
‘Good, I’ll see if I can make a better job of it tonight,’ he promised coyly before turning back onto his stomach and taking refuge under the covers from the bright light he suspected Buffy had switched on as punishment. He refused to glance at her, knowing all-to-well from experience that the sight of her getting dressed would be enough to snap any resolution he had of her going to school.
She shot one last glance at Angel, not quite sure if he was asleep or awake, before leaving.
Her musing was answered when she heard a soft, ‘Bye,’ just before she shut the door.
It was then that Angel remembered he had wanted to talk to her about his patrol last night. *Later,* was his last thought before sleep claimed him.
He glanced down warily at the blonde Slayer, who was currently occupying herself with entwining her hands in his. She only called him honey in that tone when she wanted to tell him something she knew he wouldn’t agree with, and he sensed that this was one of those occasions.
She didn’t wait for a reply before continuing. ‘Angel, remember that we’re meeting Daddy for a meal tonight.’
‘Remember?’ He repeated slowly, a sudden feeling of dread hitting him. ‘Buffy, sweetheart, in order to remember, one has to be told in the first place.’ An edge of panic laced his normally calm and soothing voice.
‘Didn’t I tell you?’ She looked up at him with wide, innocent eyes. ‘I thought I had.’
‘No, I think I would have remember, or at least had nightmares about it.’
She maneuvered until she drew level with his face and placed a gentle kiss on his lips. ‘Angel, Daddy’s not that bad, and even if things don’t go well… then so what? I love you, and he can’t do anything to change that.’
Angel sighed in defeat. ‘What time are we meeting him?’
‘Thank you!’ She squealed before hugging him tightly to her.
He laughed and returned the gesture. ‘Hey, what’s the worst that could happen?’
Seeing that she was about to reply, he added quickly, ‘Don’t answer that.’
‘We’re meeting him at eight.’ She informed in, in answer to his earlier question.
A thought suddenly occurred to Angel. ‘Speaking of your father… it just reminded me of something that happened last night, during patrol.’
She looked up at him curiously. ‘What?’
‘My jacket got stolen again, and-‘
‘Again? This is getting past weird, this is getting into freaky.’
‘There’s a difference?’ Angel laughed.
‘Uh huh. We should probably tell Giles tomorrow. Who’d a thought, vamps with Klepto issues. They really should get counseling.’
‘One problem sweetheart: they’d probably eat the counselor.’ Angel pointed out.
‘I’d be more then happy to fill the job description. Nothing better then a good kick and stake in the heart to solve all their problems. And mine.’
‘I love your way of thinking,’ he grinned.
She returned the grin. ‘I try.’
‘There’s more…’ He paused, uncertainly.
‘What is it?’ She peered up at him in concern. ‘Angel?’
‘It’s probably nothing,’ he said quickly, ‘it’s just… I thought I heard a couple of vampires discussing…’
‘You’re father. They mentioned his name, obviously they didn’t realize I was there, but…’
‘Well, there are plenty of people with the name Hank.’ Buffy replied unconvincingly.
Seeing how much it had unnerved her, Angel decided it would probably be best not to mention that they’d actually used his full name. Not yet anyway. ‘You’re probably right,’ he said gently.
‘I mean, it’s not like they would want him for anything. They don’t know he’s my father or anything.’ She looked up at him and neither was sure whether she’d just stated a fact or asked a question.
‘Your probably right, my love,’ he assured her before placing a comforting kiss on her forehead and lips. ‘Let’s just be careful, okay?’
A soft voice floated in from the doorway to the bathroom. ‘How do I look?’
Angel turned, and the sight that greeted him would have taken his breath away, had he had any. She was dressed in a simple low cut, blood red dress; the material he judged to be silk or possibly satin. Her hair was piled up in ringlets, with a few curls hanging down to frame her face. And beautiful did not do justice to describe her.
‘Well?’ She tried not to show her delight at his reaction.
‘You look… you look amazing.’
‘So do you.’ *really, really amazing,* she added silently. ‘It’s a good job you can’t see in the mirror,’ she teased, deciding to voice her thoughts, ‘or else I don’t think you’d ever want to stop looking at yourself. I know I never want to stop staring at you. You shouldn’t be allowed to look like that!’
Angel laughed softly, a deep sound, before closing the distance between them and placing a gentle kiss on her waiting lips. ‘I know what you mean. I’d just sit and watch you forever if I could.’
‘I don’t have a problem with that, as long as you return the favour.’ She replied, the light teasing still present in both their voices.
‘Stare all you want.’ He chuckled. ‘Although I doubt your father would really approve.’
‘You have a point.’ She sighed softly and pulled away, taking his large hand in her tiny one and pulling his towards the door. ‘Forward march.’
‘I suddenly feel that the funeral march might just be appropriate.’ Angel muttered quietly.
‘Stop that!’ She ordered, wagging a finger at him. ‘Be good, and I promise to make it worth your while when we get back.’
‘Now how can I resist a offer like that?’
Angel couldn’t remember ever feeling so nervous in his entire life, and that was saying something. The reassuring smiles Buffy gave him were not really helping either; Vampires and demons he could deal with, but the thought of his love’s father positively terrified him.
And then Buffy spoke the words he’d been dreading all night, or at least ever since he’d been informed of their dinner plans. ‘Daddy’s here.’
Angel craned his head slightly and immediately spotted a broad shouldered, brown haired man in perhaps his late forties approaching them. His distinctive features had little resemblance to Buffy’s, but Angel noticed the likeness he had to her in his air, and the solid assurance of himself his eyes portrayed. Yes, Angel was now very aware that although his love had inherited her looks from her mother, her personality was, he guessed, strikingly similar to her fathers. And if Buffy’s determination and stubbornness was anything to go by, he was not in for an easy trip.
Angel watched from the sidelines, feeling like a spectator who wasn’t supposed to be there as father and daughter embraced.
‘Daddy, this is Angel.’ Buffy shot Angel an encouraging look and moved back to his side, giving his hand a comforting squeeze.
‘Pleased to met you, Mr. Summers,’ Angel held out his spare hand and Hank shook it, not without reluctance, Angel noted.
‘Well, shall we sit and order princess?’
The following hour consisted of far less interrogation then Angel had expected, but he suspected that this was simply because Hank had decided beforehand that he didn’t approve of Angel instead of the possibility that Hank was a very relaxed father. Angel got the impression that Hank didn’t have to ability to be relaxed about *anything*, except perhaps spoiling his daughter.
‘How about a nice walk through the park to help our dinner go down?’
Both Buffy and Angel coughed slightly and looked at each other anxiously.
‘I don’t think that’s such a good idea,’ Buffy replied quickly. ‘I mean, Sunnydale really doesn’t have such a great park, you know, litter, gangs…’ *vampires…*
‘Oh, I wouldn’t worry about any ‘gangs’,’ Hank laughed, ‘they’re all talk, these youths. And I’m sure things will be fine if Angel gives orders for his group to leave us in peace.’
Buffy’s eyes hardened in cold warning. ‘Dad!’
She glanced at Angel, worried that her father’s insinuation that Angel belonged to a ‘gang’ had hurt or angered him, but his face was blank, expressionless mask. Only his eyes betrayed him, showing her an insight to his emotion. And to Buffy’s surprise it was neither hurt nor anger, but a troubled confusion.
‘So, what do you say to this walk?’ Hank prompted.
‘Sure,’ Buffy smiled weakly, silently praying that their blood-sucking enemies would be so kind as to take the night off.
Angel followed Buffy and her father out of the restaurant deep in thought, unable to shake off Hank’s earlier comment. There was something just not *right* about it, and Angel had learnt long ago to listen to his instincts. If only he could place his finger on what was so wrong...
He was brought out of his troubled thoughts to the sensation of Buffy nudging him discreetly. One look at her face, and his own senses kicking into action told him what was wrong. Vampires. He stilled beside her and cocked his head, trying to locate them. Two to the right, one to the left...
‘Dad, there’s this really great store I want you to see,’ Buffy said quickly, her mind working rapidly. *oh god, oh god, oh god*
‘You go ahead,’ Angel added without missing a beat, ‘I’ll catch up with you.’
Buffy gave him a grateful look before ushering her father away towards the ‘store’. When Angel finally caught up with them ten minutes later Buffy allowed herself to relax slightly and planted a quick kiss on her boyfriend’s lips. It was only after she’d pulled away that she realized Hank was staring at Angel in confusion.
Hank continued to stare for a moment. ‘What happened to your jacket?’
Angel glanced at Buffy, only to find his own troubled expression reflected by her’s.
‘I don’t know,’ he answered softly, ‘but I’m going to find out.’
‘Your jacket?’ Giles looked over his glasses at Angel with growing interest. ‘Really? How curious…’ He paused for a moment and Buffy could swear she could see the wheels turning in his head.
‘That’s not the word I would have used,’ Buffy muttered. ‘My *father* almost discovered that vampires really exist!’
‘Your father?’ Giles blinked and looked at her in concern. ‘Am I right to assume that he’s still unaware of Sunnydale’s darker side?’
‘If you wanna go for the understatement, then yea. ‘Darker side’? Don’t you mean ‘demonic, evil, annoying-‘
She trailed off when she felt Angel’s hand pressing gently on her shoulder.
‘I’m sorry,’ she sighed and shot Giles an apologetic look. ‘It just bugs me sometimes.’
Giles turned his attention back to Angel. ‘Have they stolen anything else of yours?’
‘About three other jackets. Nothing else.’
‘I shall have to refer to my books, but it seems to point to the possibility that the vampires- assuming that that is what we’re dealing with-‘
‘It was vampires who stole it,’ Angel confirmed, ‘although whether they were working for other vampires or a different creature altogether I don’t know.’
‘Well, lets put that angle aside for the moment, it would seem that someone, or something, is planning to perform a spell which either involves you, or affects you.’
Angel sighed softly but didn’t look surprised. ‘The thought had crossed my mind,’ he admitted.
‘Wow, hold up just one second,’ Buffy cut in, alarmed. ‘A spell? What kind of spell?’
Giles looked up thoughtfully, as if considering Buffy’s question. He pulled his glasses off and began to rub them absentmindedly- a sign that told Buffy he was going into full watcher mode.
‘There are several possibilities, but luckily we can narrow them down. Vampires are much more immune to a large proportion of spells then most creatures, which means we can rule out a large number. And I think it would be fairly reasonable to assume that Angel, you yourself are not needed to be present for this spell, just a possession of yours. The fact that more then one item has been stolen- all items identical- is very intriguing-‘
‘Giles, just spill! What spell do you think they’re trying to perform?’
Giles didn’t answer immediately; instead he turned to study the Slayer and her vampire gravely, debating with himself about how much to say. ‘Of course this is only one possibility, and I might be wrong-‘
He coughed nervously. ‘It is my belief that our enemy intends to take Angel’s soul away from him.’
A stunned silence followed and Buffy was the first one to react; squeezing Angel’s hand tightly as if to reassure herself he was still there and turning to Giles in disbelief.
‘They can’t do that! They can’t! Right?’
‘I’m afraid they can, but I don’t believe there is cause to panic just yet,’ Giles replied calmly.
‘Can’t we do anything? Stop them, perform another spell?’ Buffy glanced around desperately. ‘Willow! We can ask Willow-‘
‘Buffy, there is no counter-curse to stop their spell from being effective,’ Giles said gently. ‘I think the best course of action would be to find out who- or as Angel pointed out- what is behind all of this. If we can get to them before they can get to us-‘
‘How are we meant to do that?!’ Buffy demanded wildly. ‘We’ve got to stop-‘
‘Buffy.’ Angel placed a calming hand on both her shoulders. ‘Calm down, it’ll be alright. We’ll find whose behind this-‘
‘How can you say that?’ Buffy replied in disbelief, her eyes wide with panic. ‘I don’t want them to take you away. I don’t want to lose you. I can’t.’ She willed away the tears of fear and love that threaten to overpower her, but one look into her eyes told Angel just how much she was hurting.
‘Ssssh, you’re not going to lose me, I promise.’
‘I can’t face *him* Angel.’
‘You won’t have to.’ He told her firmly.
She looked up at him sharply. ‘You’re being way too calm here. What do you mean ‘you won’t have to’? Angel, don’t you dare go getting any stupid ideas.’
‘Buffy, maybe it’s best if I use Oz’s cage until this demon is found. What if I suddenly turn and you don’t know about it? Buffy,’ he continued urgently, his eyes pleading with hers in desperation, ‘we don’t know when this spell is going to be performed, and I can’t afford to be in any position that will allow Angelus to run free.’
‘You want us to lock you up in a cage?’ she looked at him in disbelief. ‘Like an animal? No, Angel, that-‘
‘I think Angel’s suggestion is probably for the best,’ Giles spoke up gently. ‘It’s nothing permanent Buffy, just for a little while.’
‘But I need you,’ she all but whispered. ‘How can I deal with this… what if I don’t find him? Angel, what if I fail?’
Angel felt his heart breaking at the turmoil his love was being forced to endure. This wasn’t fair on her. Angel understood fully that he deserved much more punishment for his past, but endangering others? Hurting others? That wasn’t right.
‘Fail? You, Miss Summers, could never fail,’ Angel said firmly, smiling slightly in an attempt to keep things as light as possible. ‘It’ll only be for a while.’ He added before bending down to gently kiss her.
They kept it light, aware that Giles was still in the room with them, although he had conveniently realized he needed to go and search for a book in the stacks. When they pulled away Buffy looked up at him with hardened eyes, and Angel recognized immediately her resolution to stay strong. He had expected nothing less, and he felt more pride and admiration for her then he could express. ‘That’s my slayer,’ he said softly. ‘I love you.’
‘You know I do too,’ she replied firmly, refusing to say the actual words as if that would somehow symbolize a goodbye. And Buffy had never liked goodbyes.
Angel nodded his head in understanding and started moved away.
‘Angel and I will keep searching for any information,’ Giles spoke up as he approached them once again. ‘I think the best course of action for you would be to go home and try to rest. We can decide on a plan of action in the morn-‘
‘Wait! Angel can’t stay here. The sunlight, and people walking into the lib-‘
‘Buffy, we’ll shut the curtains, and Giles can put a sign telling people the Library is closed due to…’
‘Refurbishing.’ Giles supplied.
‘I’ll be back first thing in the morning,’ Buffy conceded reluctantly, taking one last look at Angel before turning and leaving, refusing to say any goodbyes.
Buffy Summers slumbered peacefully in the abyss of unconsciousness, a small frown the only tell-tale sign of her troubles. Five minutes later she found herself awakening suddenly, for the fifth time that night.
She groaned in frustration and automatically rubbed her eyes, although she was wide-awake.
‘Why can’t I ever get a good nights sleep?’ she grumbled. ‘Oh goody, I’m talking to myself.’
Her thoughts turned to Angel and that jumpy feeling in the pit of her stomach returned, just as it always did when she was worried about him, or knew he was in trouble. Soon her whole body was on edge, the slayer within desperate to get up and just *do* something. Forcing herself to stop thinking about him, she instead found her thoughts drifting to her father; unbidden images returning to her from the past week;
~~~ And if he kills me I shall be most upset ~~~~~~ I just thought that I heard them mention your father ~~~~~~ Daddy found out about us, although mum *swears* she never told him ~~~~~ I’m sure things will be fine if Angel gives orders for his group to leave us in peace ~~~
Buffy froze when she suddenly realized what was wrong with that sentence. Surely her father couldn’t have known Angel was a vampire? Surely he wasn’t referring to vampires when he’d spoken of Angel’s ‘group’?
*Stop it! I’m just being paranoid. This is my own father I’m talking about!*
Buffy forced any thoughts to the back of her mind, determined to get at least one hour of solid sleep. With one final yawn she buried her head deep into Angel’s pillow, finding comfort in his scent, and allowed sleep to claim her once again.
When Buffy entered the library the following morning the first thing she noted was that the entire gang were present, and everyone, even Cordy, had a book in hand and appeared to be flipping through it rapidly.
‘Hey, what’s going on?’ Buffy asked nervously, not sure if she really wanted the answer.
She didn’t wait for a reply before turning her attention to Angel, who looked, she noted immediately, worse then she felt. She hurried over to him and placed a hand up against the cage, smiling softly when Angel did the same, allowing them a small amount of contact.
‘Hey,’ she spoke softly, not wanting the others to hear their conversation. ‘How are you?’
‘I’m fine,’ he assured her, but Buffy suspected that he would probably claim that he was fine even if he were about to fall a thousand feet head first.
‘I got you some fresh clothes,’ she offered, suddenly shy.
Angel simply grinned and thanked her. ‘Did you sleep well?’
‘I slept. Buffy answered, knowing that lying would be pointless with Angel. ‘You?’ She asked quickly before he could scold her.
She turned back around to survey the group and caught sight of Giles hurrying down from the stacks. ‘Ah, Buffy, I’m glad you’re here.’
‘What’s wrong? What’s happened?’ Buffy asked slowly. She knew that expression on her Watcher’s face. It generally meant an apocalypse or something to that equivalent was heading their way.
‘Things might not be as straight forward as we first believed.’ He coughed slightly. ‘After extensive research I discovered that the spell does not actually become immediately effective. The effect is very gradual-‘
‘How gradual?’ Buffy interrupted.
‘The entire process could take up to an entire week. It is my belief that the spell may have been cast last night, although the symptoms won’t become apparent for a few more hours.’
‘Symptoms?’ Buffy echoed sharply.
‘Yes, Angel should be able to tell us when it begins because he should be able to… to feel it pulling on his soul.’ Buffy looked at him in horror. She was perfectly capable of reading between the lines.
‘So Angel’s gonna be in pain?’
‘It won’t be too bad Buffy, I’ve survived worse,’ Angel assured her, but she saw past his external front, and his eyes looked anything but convinced.
She didn’t trust herself to reply to that with out revealing just how worried she was about him. Instead she allowed- almost welcomed- her slayer instincts to take over and guide her. ‘Okay, Giles what I need is tips on how to find this guy.’
‘I’m afraid I can’t help you there, but you should know that once the spell has been cast, the only way to stop it will be to kill the creature that cast it.’
‘And then he’ll be okay?’
There was no doubt in Giles’ mind that she was referring to Angel. ‘Well, that is part of the reason why it is now so vital to find this creature- and kill him. The effects of the spell can not be reversed. Killing him will stop it progressing, but it won’t reverse it.’
Buffy stared at him and it took a moment for the full impact of those words to hit her. And then she felt sick. Physically sick. ‘Oh god.’
One hour later Buffy found herself outside of her own house and feeling very much like an intruder. She had almost fled from the confinement of the library, desperate to find this demon before it was too late, but the great expanse of out-doors had only served to increase the feelings of desperation and defeat building within her. Finally she had just started walking, pleading with fate that perhaps she might be lead to the right place. So far the only place she’d been lead to was her own house, she noted with a tinge of bitterness.
Not knowing what else to do, she turned the knob and entered. An instinct she couldn’t identify stopped her from calling out to announce her presence, and instead she made her way through the hallway and towards the kitchen.
‘Yes, it all went very smoothly. Not a hitch, and soon our little friend should be making an appearance.’
Buffy halted at the sound of her father’s voice and frowned in confusion. Who was he talking to on the phone? And what about?
‘Yes, the jackets have been disposed of. We wouldn’t want any reverse spells occurring now, would we? You can never be too careful, whether such a spell exists or not.’
Buffy’s confusion grew at the sound of her father discussing spells. This wasn’t right. Her father didn’t know anything about spells and-
‘Ah, I believe they have him contained within the Library at Buffy’s school. Shouldn’t be a problem to collect him from there.’
And suddenly she understood. Everything. How had she not seen it? But her father? Her own *father*? No, it couldn’t be. He couldn’t have cast the spell.
She moved towards him blindly, to overcome with so many emotions to think practically.
Hank spun around, surprise evident on his face. ‘Buffy!’ He blinked slightly before collecting himself. ‘Mike, I’m going to have to call you back, something’s come up.’
Buffy stared at him in disbelief as she watched him place the phone back in its holder. Who was this man stood in front of her? Her father? No, he had never been her father. Not really. Biologically, yes, but not in terms of anything that mattered to her in a father.
‘What’s going on?’ She was surprised at just how cold and controlled she sounded, and apparently so was her father.
‘Buffy, don’t use that tone of voice.’
‘What. Is. Going. On?’ She demanded, taking a slow step towards him.
He paused and ran a hand through his hair. ‘It’s for the best, Buffy. It’s for you.’
‘I know who you are.’ He admitted quietly. ‘I knew you were the Slayer right from the beginning. But it’s become harder and harder for me to deal with it. I want you to have a normal life Buffy. I want you to be normal.’
Buffy felt as if he’d just slapped her, and the only emotion powerful enough to prevent her from breaking down right there and then was her love for Angel, and her determination to save him. ‘What have you done?’
‘I have informative here in Sunnydale and-‘
*Oh god, my own father’s been spying on me* ‘And when I heard that you’d been dating that *thing*-‘
‘Thing?! Don’t you *ever* talk about Angel in that way. You hear me? I *love* him.’
Hank ignored her and continued, as if speaking to a child prone to outbursts. ‘I didn’t think it would be too sensible to just kill him- you’d waste all your time mourning over him- so what better then to turn him into the monster he really is and make you see the light?’
‘You’re sick.’ Buffy whispered, leaning on the counter for support. *Just a dream, just a dream. No way is this real. Deep breath and you’ll wake up back in bed next to Angel. Oh god, please* ‘Who cast the spell?’ she asked suddenly. ‘I did.’ Hank said simply.
Buffy froze. *Oh god, no. I can’t. I can’t kill him. My own father. Oh god.*
Somewhere in her mind she was aware of the tears spilling down her checks, and the sobs that were escaping her, but all she could concentrate on was the pain rippling through her entire being, and suddenly she understood what it felt like to have a broken heart. ~~It’s not what happens, but how you deal with it that makes you who you are~~ Angel had told her that once. Angel. Oh god. She had no doubt about what she had to do, and she had no doubt that she would do it.
‘Buffy, you’ll get over it. Don’t worry.’
‘Don’t worry? Don’t you understand? I *love* him! I need him! I can’t let him die. I’m sorry, I can’t.’
An odd smile formed on Hank’s face. ‘Well, I’m afraid there is very little you can do about it. The only option is for you to kill me. And let’s be realistic here. I’m your father.’
Angel winced as a new wave of pain coursed through him, sending his body into a helpless spasm as the tremors died down.
‘It’s getting worse, isn’t it?’ Giles asked softly, both aware that he wasn’t really expecting a reply.
Angel nodded and leaned his head back against the wall of his cage, trying to collect himself.
‘I’ve found something!’
Angel turned slightly to be greeted with the sight of a very blurred Willow. ‘I’ve found something,’ she repeated excitedly. ‘Look at this.’
Angel watched with curiosity as Giles took the book Willow offered him and scanned it, his eyes widening and sparkling with hope in the same way her’s had.
‘It appears we might have found that silver lining.’ Giles spoke finally.
‘What,’ Angel paused, trying to bring the swimming room into focus, ‘what have you found?’
‘The spell has, for all intent and purpose began the procedure of separating your soul from the demon. This should, in theory, make it possible to continue the process, only switch it, so that the soul stays within you, and the demon leaves.’
Angel shot Giles a piercing look, managing to briefly bring everything back into focus. ‘Human?’
Angel was silent for a moment before an idea suddenly hit him, and a small amount of his strength returned to him. ‘This means that this spell will become ineffective, right?’
‘I need… that means the person responsible does not have to be killed…’ he trailed off for a moment, drifting into unconsciousness for a brief moment before recovering. ‘You must get this news to Buffy. I do not want her to have to kill him…’
‘Do you know who he is?’ Giles asked in surprise.
‘It’s her father.’
The entire gang froze.
‘Did you just say her father?’
‘Her father,’ Angel repeated.
‘Just a small point,’ Xander spoke up, ‘if she does kill him, doesn’t that mean that the spell you’re planning to do won’t work?’
‘That… would be a good point,’ Willow said feebly. ‘There is one thing that might work…’
Buffy took a deep breath as she watched her entire world turn up side down. Her father. She was going to have to sacrifice her own father to save her love.
‘But you’re not my father,’ she said quietly, more to herself then him. ‘You’ve never been my father.’
‘Just calm down, Buffy.’ Hank sighed and shook his head, as if speaking to a child.
‘Don’t you *dare* tell me to calm down. And don’t you *dare* talk to me as if I’m a child. Do you know how many nights I used to waste, just hoping that you’d manage to come down and see me? My birthdays… Christmas… Easter… Never! You never had the time! And now you think you can just step in and ruin my entire life with a snap of your fingers? I’ve learnt my lesson, *father*.’
Hank didn’t have a quick-fired response to that, and Buffy looked away, feeling more confused and lost then she could ever remember feeling.
She decided she was finally hallucinating- or at least hearing things- when she heard Willow’s voice coming from the living room. She spun around to find Willow hurrying towards them, a look a relief on her face upon finding them both.
‘I thought I wouldn’t get here in time,’ she confessed breathlessly, seemingly unaware of the astonishment and confusion written across her friend’s face.
‘Willow- what are you doing here?’
*Don’t make this any harder. I can’t stand for you to watch me do this- I can’t stand for you to see me as a murderer*
‘Giving you some good news,’ Willow said softly, fully aware of the delicateness of the situation, and the pain and turmoil she recognized Buffy must be going through.
Willow glanced uncertainly at Buffy’s father, who, she noticed, was slowly backing further and further up. Buffy followed her friend’s glance and her eyes hardened immediately.
‘If I didn’t know any better I’d say you’re getting closer to that back door intentionally,’ Buffy commented casually, but the cold warning in her voice was unmissable.
Hank chose not to comment, perhaps having nothing to say, or perhaps due to a sudden realization that maybe his daughter had more emotional strength then he had given her credit for. Instead he chose to smile weakly.
The Slayer turned her attention back to her friend, a cautious eye still watching her father. ‘Willow.’
That was all she needed to say, and Willow understood immediately what she was asking.
‘I think you’ll be glad to know that there’s a loop hole in stopping the spell.’
Buffy’s breath caught but she refused to allow herself to hope- yet. ‘What do you mean?’ Her voice wavered slightly in an excitement and desperation that couldn’t be concealed from her friend.
‘We found a spell,’ Willow paused, ‘a spell that can… stop the effects and-‘
‘Reverse them?’ Buffy cut in, unable to stop herself.
‘Yes, and it also means… you don’t have to… you know… hurt him...’
Buffy blinked, not sure if her words had really sunk in. ‘Wh- Oh.’
*Oh? Oh? All this hurt, and all I can say is ‘oh’?!*
She stood silently for a moment, her head lowered, before speaking slowly but firmly. ‘Get out. Go, and don’t you ever, *ever* think of coming back. You try to hurt him again, and I *promise* you you’ll regret it.’
Willow watched as Buffy’s father’s shoulder’s slumped and a flicker of relief filled his expression before it was quickly replaced with what Willow suspected to be a very false sadness. ‘I’m sorry you feel this way, Buffy.’
It was only after she’d heard the sound of a door clicking- signaling his exiting from her life forever without so much as a goodbye- that she raised her head and allowed Willow to see the tears that trickled down her checks. Silently Willow guided her friend back into the sitting room and urged her to sit, an endless depth of sympathy apparent in her every gesture. *Sympathy, but not understanding,* Buffy noted silently.
‘Buffy, I’m sorry.’
‘I would have done it,’ Buffy said suddenly, desperate to confess her dark secret. ‘I would have killed him. I would have done anything for Angel.’
Buffy rose her eyes to meet Willow’s, waiting- bracing herself- for the condemnation she was fully prepared to find in her friend’s eyes.
‘I love him,’ She offered in a whisper, clutching to the fading words as if they were a lifeline- her only line of defense.
‘I know,’ Willow replied gently, ‘You would have done what needed to be done- and we wouldn’t have judged you for that, Buffy.’
*Loyal Willow, always knowing what to say*
‘Yes, you would,’ Buffy said quietly. ‘Maybe not much, but you’d always have had it in the back of your mind. You know what I felt when you told me I wouldn’t have to kill him?’
She ignored the shudder Willow gave at the mention of the word ‘kill’ and continued. ‘Nothing. I felt nothing. I mean, I felt relief, but not for my father.’ She laughed bitterly. ‘I felt relieved that I wouldn’t have to deal with the consequences, that I wouldn’t’ be a *murderer*.’
Willow shifted, wanting desperately to soothe her friend’s pain, but not sure what to say that wouldn’t sound stupid. ‘That’s only natural Buffy.’
‘Is it?’ Buffy challenged softly, ‘I don’t even know my own *father*, Will. He was just a stranger- a bad guy who I had to stop. That’s my job, right? To kill the bad guys? Since when did things get so complicated?’ She sighed and glanced around the room in frustration, her questions as empty as the air around them. ‘Why can’t things be simple, just for once?’
Willow looked down at her hands, understanding her friend’s struggle, but having no answers to give her. ‘He was human, Buffy. And I guess… there’s always a part of every human that contains good… I guess no-one can be completely evil… That’s why it’s so hard…’
‘Does that mean that killing Vamp’s is wrong?’ Buffy demanded, and Willow’s eyes widened in surprise. ‘Coz sometimes I think we- human’s- can be the cruelest creature around.’
‘I don’t know, Buffy.’ Willow pulled her friend into a tight embrace, stroking her hair comfortingly and rocking her slowly.
Buffy sat silently for a while, allowing Willow to comfort her, occupying herself with the jumbled thoughts that hounded her. Finally she couldn’t take it any longer and couldn’t help asking; ‘Will, Angel’s okay, right?’
Willow smiled slightly and nodded. ‘He’s probably recovering even as we speak.’
Buffy’s eyes darkened and she straightened up, guarding herself against the impact of a sudden realization. ‘But what’s to stop this happening again?’
‘Well, you might want to ask Angel…’
Buffy glanced at her friend sharply, very familiar with that tone. ‘Will, what are you hiding?’
‘I promised I wouldn’t say,’ Willow replied. ‘See, resolved face?’
Buffy laughed softly before opening her mouth to speak again.
‘No- don’t you dare ask another question. I promised Angel I’d let him give you the news himself.’
‘Wi-ll,’ Buffy whined
‘Nope, absolutely not. No.’
Buffy pouted and shot her her best attempt at puppy dog eyes.
Willow grinned coyly. ‘Sorry, that’s only gonna work on Angel.’
Buffy looked at her friend with false, wide-eyed innocence. ‘Willow!’
They lapsed into peaceful silence for a few minutes before something suddenly occurred to Buffy. ‘Will?’
‘How did you get here so quick?’
Willow blushed slightly. ‘Well, see, I’ve been practicing a few more spells lately, and-’
‘This is gonna be a complicated story, huh?’
‘Tell me on the way, I suddenly have this urge to see Angel.’
‘Hey! Don’t you dare think of getting up!’
Angel smiled softly at the stern order Buffy had just given him and relaxed back against the pillows obediently. ‘Buffy, I’m not completely and utterly helple-‘
‘I don’t care. Just admit defeat lover and let me take care of you.’
Angel let the smile slip from his face and suddenly regarded her seriously as he watched her move around his room; staking out a mystery object- probably an assignment hidden under the litter of clothing which just so happened to have every item belonging to her.
They had spoken very little about the events of the previous week, although Angel knew the full story of events. Every attempt he’d made of trying to talk to her about it had been fruitless; the only reactions he’d received were her claming up, or suddenly remembering that she had to go do something. He hadn’t managed to find the right time to tell her about the ‘change’ that he would soon be experiencing either, and the more time passed, the more desperate he grew to tell her.
‘Buffy,’ he called out softly, and she spun around, a small frown creasing her forehead at the intense and very serious expression he bore.
She sighed, knowing exactly what he wanted to talk to her about, and turned back around, not wanting to meet his eyes. ‘Angel, I’m really busy, can’t we talk later?’ He frowned slightly. ‘No you’re not. We need to talk.’
‘Angel, I know what you’re going to say, so-’
‘Do you?’ Angel interrupted her, and she could hear the challenge in his voice.
‘I think so,’ she replied, but Angel picked up on her uncertainty immediately.
‘Please. Let’s just talk, okay?’
She sighed again, this time in defeat, and move gingerly towards the bed. Once she’d moved within reaching distance Angel reached out and used what little strength he had to pull her down onto the bed, immediately slipping his arms around her waist to stop her from getting up.
‘Angel…’ she looked down, her hair tumbling down with her, blocking his view of her face.
‘Hey,’ he scolded gently, reaching a hand to draw her hair back. He was startled to find tears welling in her hazel eyes. ‘What’s wrong?’ He asked, trying desperately to keep the alarm out of his voice.
‘Just say it Angel. Say it and get it over with.’
Angel blinked in confusion. ‘Say what?’
‘I’m sorry, okay? I’m sorry.’ A few stray tears fell but she rubbed them away quickly.
‘Sorry? Whatever for?’ His eyes searched hers wildly; desperate to understand what was wrong. Desperate to put it right.
‘I’m sorry,’ she repeated, her voice barely loud enough to be classed as a whisper. ‘I know you think… I know you think I wouldn’t have done it.’ She sniffed and rubbed her eyes again. ‘You have to know that I would have. I’d do anything for you; you have to know that. You almost lost your soul. I’m sorry that I never-’
‘What?’ Angel echoed incredulously. ‘You think- you think I’m angry at you for not killing your father?’
‘You mustn’t think that I wouldn’t have-‘
‘Buffy, sweetheart, is *that* why you didn’t want to discuss this?’ Angel felt relief flood through him, but one look at the distress apparent in her eyes served only to fuel his determination to sort this all out. ‘Buffy, I could *never* be mad at you for that! To even *consider* sacrificing your father for me- that’s more then I could ever ask of you. And to actually *do* it?! I would never wish that upon you- you know that- and I was so relieved that you had an alternative.’
Buffy studied him closely. ‘You’re not just saying that?’ she asked finally, her eyes narrowing suspiciously.
‘Would I have said it otherwise?’
Angel could almost see the tension leave her body, and she immediately slumped against him, hugging him closer.
‘Angel?’ She peered up at him, those adorable eyes of hers now shining with curiosity. ‘Willow said I might want to ask you about something… to do with the spell, but I didn’t want to bring it up before… coz of… you know.’ She continued to watch him as he broke into a grin and laughed softly.
‘It won’t take effect for a few more days,’ Angel warned her, ‘but it appears that there might just be a few side effects to the spell they performed.’
‘Side effects?’ Buffy echoed warily. ‘Like what?’
‘Just some small things… such as becoming human.’
Buffy stared at him in disbelief. ‘Oh my god! Please tell me you’re not joking.’
‘About this? Never,’ he assured her.
‘Human. You’re going to be human…’
Angel allowed her to babble a little more before pulling her to him and planting a gentle kiss on her lips.
‘You’ve got no idea how long I’ve wished you’d do that,’ Buffy grinned before quickly adding, ‘do it again.’
Angel returned her grin before obediently blanketing her lips with his own in a tender kiss.
‘Damn!’ Buffy exclaimed after he’d pulled away.
Angel raised an eyebrow in a gesture of amusement. ‘Damn?’
‘Just our luck! The one chance I get to spend an entire week with you I end up battling my own *father*, only to discover that you’re going to become the week *after*? You’re timing sucks, Angel.’ She grumbled playfully.
‘Maybe you can convince your mum to let you spend another week,’ Angel laughed.
‘Hmmm, I think telling her that you’re gonna need to me play nurse should be a good enough reason.’ Buffy agreed happily.
‘You might not want to tell her *exactly* what our version of ‘playing nurse’ entails.’
‘I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ Buffy teased.
‘Then maybe I should enlighten you.’