Giles knocked on the door of the mansion, stowing the box under his arm as he waited for Angel to answer. Several minutes passed and he shifted uneasily, using the brass knocker this time. He heard the vampire moving behind the closed door and it finally swung open, but Angel stayed behind it, out of the heavy sunlight that had caused prespiration to bead on Gilesí forehead.
Giles entered, not waiting for an invitation, and welcomed the cool blast of air that greeted him in the living room. Turning, he surveyed the other man, watching as he was curiously appraised by the vampire, whose eyes darted to the box. Giles laid on on the arm of the couch and sat down, indicating that Angel should do the same.
Angel took a seat across from the Watcher and folded his hands in his lap. "Whatís going on?"
Giles decided not to beat around the bush. "Buffy told me you were leaving her. After the ascension."
His gaze moved down to the floor and Angel nodded. "Itís for the best."
"I would normally be inclined to agree with you, but I canít bear her suffering. And I would have liked to believe that you could not bear being the cause of it."
"I canít give her what she needs."
"Donít give me your excuses, your reasons. She already did."
"Then you understand." Angel swallowed hard. "I didnít want to hurt her. I didnít want it to be any harder than it had to be, but she-"
"Has she talked to you much about when you were evil?" Giles waited for the reply and when Angel simply shook his head, he continued. "I watched her dying slowly every single day that went by. You were out of her life, but the knowledge that you were so close, yet so far, destroyed her. It will be the same if you leave her. Sheíll know youíre out there and sheíll wonder and wish and never be able to go on."
"I havenít forgotten what you took from me. Iíve made peace with Jennyís death and while I miss her every single day, I can close that chapter because she is gone. The worst way to miss someone is to know that they still exist, but they no longer exist for you. Donít do that to her, Angel. She has done nothing to deserve it."
"I love her too much to let her stop living her life for me, Giles. Thatís what she would do. Itís dark in my world and sheís the only light that ever shone in it. It would be selfish of me to let her live in that world because one day that light would go out and it would be my fault."
"Youíre a bloody fool." Gilesí voice raised a couple of decibals and he leaned forward. "What if I told you that your soul is permanent? What if I told you that the demon who came here to help Faith rid you of it a few weeks ago owed me a favor and I asked him for an anchor and he gave it to me? What then?"
"Why would you do that for me?"
"Donít presume that I would ever do anything for you other than let you walk around me without a stake in your chest. I did it for *her*."
The idea of it being possible was almost too much for Angel to hope for. He sat quietly, letting the news have a chance to register before he could possibly decide what to do with it. Coming to a decision, rather hastily, he shook his head. "It doesnít chance anything except that I could make love to her. I still canít give her a future."
Giles leaned forward. "If she lives to be twenty-five it will be a miracle. Iím not asking you to give her fifty years or even twenty. Iím asking you to give her something to live for. Iím asking you to make me not regret telling you this." Picking up the box, he handed it to Angel. "Iím asking you to be a man."
"Her mother wants me to leave her."
Giles actually laughed. "Her mother knows her about as much as I like you. Who do you think you should listen to?"
Angel watched him leave, shocked, stunned, and a little unsure of what to do with himself. Several minutes passed and he lifted the lid, staring inside. A beautiful corsage was on top of tissue paper and when Angel moved it, he found a tuxedo and a ticket to the prom. He felt a lump form in his throat and stood, knowing that nothing could keep him away from her. She would live to see twenty-five, thirty, and beyond and he knew in that moment, that he had to be beside her as she greeted each new year.
He had found her instantly, a vision in pink. Her cheeks were rosy, but the sadness in her eyes was palpable from across the room and he was devastated by it. He saw Giles smile at him, slightly inclining his head as a silent thank you, and then her head was against his shoulder and he was telling her that nothing had changed. But it was only semantics. Something had changed and he didnít know what to do with it or how to let her know.
They danced together until the prom was officially over and he stood to the side of the group, watching as several people hugged her, as she gave a beautiful fake smile that never reached her eyes. When she turned back to him, his heart was in his throat and he held out his hand, saw her pull into herself and hated that she had stopped reaching for him on her own.
Giles moved forward, telling her that heíd keep her Ďtrophyí at his house and that he would see her in the morning. Left alone, Buffy felt small and vulnerable. Angel had made her no promises by coming to the prom, had even told her that nothing had changed and yet here he was, hand extended, waiting for her to follow wherever he would lead. She was terrified that he was leading her to goodbye, that he had decided to go ahead and head out. Destination unknown. She couldnít let that happen.
"Thanks for coming," she said, aware that her voice was hoarse and raspy and her eyes burned with tears. "I should go."
"Buffy, wait." Angel caught her arm and spun her back around. "Come home with me."
"You asked to spend the night with me on prom night and I want you to."
"Stop this!" Buffy cried, earning more than a few curious glances from the couples who filed past. The tears escaped, humiliating her. "I canít say goodbye to you if you wonít leave! Just leave! Donít keep making me feel like I can say the right thing or do the right thing and change your mind. I canít keep hoping -"
He pulled her into his arms, hugging her against his chest. "Come home with me, baby."
"Angel," she openly sobbed against his chest. "Please just go. Donít stay for the ascension. I canít take another second of-"
Not caring that her classmates would talk, he picked her up and carried her toward the front door. His purposeful stride sent people scurrying out of the way and he mumbled a terse Ďthank youí when Willow held the door open, smiling. Buffy began protesting, quietly at first, when he reached the end of the street and turned toward the mansion. He tighted his grip on her in response and stalked up the hill as she demanded that he put her down, quite loudly.
"No," he replied, swearing a little when she tried to squirm out of his grip. He adjusted her a little, tightening her skirt around her legs to prevent anymore antics. "It would be a shame to ruin such a pretty dress. Now stop."
"Why are you doing this?" Buffy crossed her arms, refusing to hold him around the neck. She knew it made it harder for him to carry her, but she didnít care.
"We need to talk."
"I canít take another talk, Angel. I canít. The last one gutted me."
"Then you can listen." He climbed the steep driveway and unlocked the door, kicking it shut behind him, then he sat, with her in his lap. She tried to spring away from him, but he tossed his leg over her, pinning her, and trapped her hands in his big one. He heard a seam rip in her dress and shook her. "Buffy, stop! I mean it."
Something in his tone made her stop struggling and she sat still, but she refused to look at him. After a few seconds ticked past, Angel said, "Can I let your arms go?"
She nodded and he released her, but kept his leg over hers. He watched her massage her wrists, then cross her arms over her chest. He smiled. "This is a side of you Iíve never seen before. Sullen, pouty. I think itís cute," he told her. "I think-"
"I donít really care what you think," she interrupted.
"Then maybe I shouldnít tell you that I think Iíve changed my mind about leaving."
She looked at him then, really looked, and her eyes blazed with tears. "Donít do this to me."
"What do you think Iím doing?"
"I donít know, Angel! What *are* you doing? Less than forty-eight hours ago you told me that you were leaving me, leaving town. And now youíre telling me that you *think* youíve changed your mind. This is a side of you *I* have never seen before! Indecisive, stupid. And I *donít* like it."
Angel stared at her until she looked away. Angry now, he grabbed her chin and forced her to turn back toward him. "I can make love to you."
He saw the effects the words had on her, the way her eyes widened and a frown line appeared on her forehead as she tried to process it all. He brushed a stray piece of hair behind her ear and said, "Remember the demon that Faith summoned to take my soul? Giles got him to make it permanent. He told me today."
"Let me go," Buffy said quietly and her calm demeanor had him helping her to her feet. She paced the length of the living room, her back to him. When she turned, her face was not full of the happiness he expected. Her green eyes had gotten cold. "So you want me to spend the night with you, let you *fuck* me, after you told me that you didnít want to be a part of this ... freakshow. Isnít that what you called it?"
Her vulgar choice of wording shocked him and belittled what they shared. He rushed forward, reaching for her. "No! Thatís not what this is about. I donít expect anything from you."
Buffy shoved him, hard. "Donít touch me."
Angel held his hands up in surrender. "Okay, but listen to me. Please? Just hear me out for a second," he paused, waiting for her to protest. When she didnít, he continued. "The things I said to you in the sewer were intentionally hurtful. I wanted you to want me gone to make it easier for you. I didnít mean any of it. I want *my* life to be with *you*. And Iím not staying because I can *make love* to you ... Iím staying because love *makes* me stay. You can have all of me that you want and if you just want my heart and not my body then I can deal with that."
She turned away, crying harder now. "You hurt me. You hurt me so bad."
"I know," he replied, easing up behind her and wrapping his arms around her. "Iíll make it up to you. If it takes me forever, Iíll make you forget it happened."
She let him hold her, let him whisper how much he loved her in her ear and knew that she would stay with him. She also knew that she would go to his bed for more than rest and it scared her and thrilled her in equal parts. Shaking, she took a step away from him and reached to one side, unzipping her dress. She heard his gasp as it pooled around her feet, leaving her wearing only a pink, lacy thong and her strappy heels. Before she could lose her courage, she faced him, hoping that he wouldnít see the fear she felt.
// You got a lot to learn about men, kiddo. But I guess you proved that last night. //
// Was it me? Was I not good? //
Angel stared, mesmerized as her small breasts heaved and their peaks pebbled before his starving eyes. He let his gaze travel down to the curve of her tiny waist, to the frilly slip of nothing that covered her most intimate spot, and finally down over her tight thighs. When he finally stared into her face, he was shocked to see her biting her bottom lip and her chin trembling as she stared at the floor. He had never seen her lack confidence, ever. But she looked beaten.
He crossed the few feet between them in a couple of quick strides and lifted her face, kissing her softly. "You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. Donít ever doubt the power you have, Buffy. You make me crazy with need."
She shivered a little as he leaned down, kissing her bare shoulder. "Angel-"
"Nothing has to happen." He bent down, pulling her dress back over her hips even though it pained him to do so.
Buffy stopped him, pushing it back down. "We both know that it does have to happen. Now. Just - show me what to do. I mean, last time I wasnít good and -"
"What!? Is that what you think?"
"Thatís what you said." She covered her breasts, suddenly feeling too exposed.
"*I* didnít say that. Buffy, you know the reason I lost my soul is because I had true happiness with you. What we shared that night was beyond anything Iíve ever experienced. Our souls touched. It was incredible. *You* were incredible. You were perfect."
She started to reply, but he swung her into his arms and carried her to the bedroom, easing her back onto the bed. Laying a finger against her lips, he whispered, "Shhh, just kiss me."
Buffy kissed him. She poured everything she had into it and it left her breathless, panting with need. He eased back and lifted her leg and she watched as he unbuckled her shoe and let it drop to the floor, then he removed the other and kissed her ankle. Squirming, she kept her eyes on him as he kissed her knee, her thigh, her pelvic bone and slipped his fingertips into her waist of he panties, slipping them over her hips, which she eagerly lifted for him.
Smiling at her, Angel laved her belly button with his tongue, then moved between her legs, slowly, gently pushing them apart. He could hear the rapid firing of her heart and watched as a beautiful blush spread over her breasts and into her cheeks and his finger slipped along her cleft and into her tight, wet, heat.
Buffy moaned a little and her hips undulated upward, dangerously close to his face. He followed her back down, tasting her and she gasped, gripping the sheets. "Thatís it, baby," he told her, then set about making her scream in ecstasy.
As her orgasm raced through her, leaving her lifeless and unable to move, he seized the opportunity to yank his tux off. He enjoyed the view for a full minute, watching as she trembled, as her nipples puckered and stood at attention, then he slid his cool hand over her thighs and parted them, settling between her legs. Everything in him willed him to plunge into her, but he took his time, building her desire again.
He kissed her face, her neck, suckled her earlobe, then her nipples and when she finally pleaded with him, begged him to take her, he did. He eased into her, his eyes crossing at the tightness, the heat. He was powerless, barely halfway in and he gripped her hips and slammed against her, burying himself. She cried out and he kissed her, harder now, and pounded into her again.
It hurt, but it wasnít unbearable. He was so big and she could feel herself giving, trying to accomodate him, and held her breath, digging her fingernails into his back and the heels of her feet against the mattress. He reached down, urging her legs around him and she called his name as he shifted his hips a little, not believing that he could go deeper still.
"Oh god," she cried as any pain was eclipsed by an overwhelming sense of completion and fullness. Her hips moved against his, her body instinctively rose and fell in a rythm that left her breathless, grunting for release.
Angel eased back a little and found her slippery nubbin swelling angrily in her mound of curls. He rubbed over it, then rolled it roughly between his thumb and forefinger. He was rewarded with his name ripping from her throat and a surge of male pride raced through him. Both hands went under her ass and he lifted her against him, pounding so hard that the headboard slapped against the wall again and again and again.
Finally, growling her name, he let go, spilling himself inside her. He continued to pump his hips until he was sated, until he had been milked dry. He leaned his cheek against hers and felt moisture there. Easing onto his elbows, he pushed her sweaty hair off her face and said, "Donít cry."
"This doesnít change the fact that you were leaving me. Really, truly leaving me," she sniffled.
"Oh, baby." He kissed her, tasting her salty tears and it cut him to the core. "I doubt I would have gone two miles before I turned around and came back. I donít know what I was thinking."
"You scared me."
"Iíll never do it again. I know itís a lot to ask, but Iím begging you to trust me once more. I wonít hurt you and I wonít leave you. I swear that, Buffy. Please give me another chance. Let me love you the way you deserve."
"Okay," she whispered, smiling a little through the tears as a great weight was lifted from her soul. "But only if you promise to make me feel the way I feel right now every chance you get."
He returned the smile and moved his hips a little. "How about if I start now?"
They made love again and again, until morning sunlight peeked through the dark curtains and Buffy finally rolled onto her back, spent. "I canít move."
Angel had just enjoyed teaching her the finer points of being on top and he, too, was exhausted. He had never known anyone so flexible, so insatiable. He enjoyed every last second of it. "Me, either."
"Maybe we should sleep for a while."
"Your mom is probably worried."
Buffy fought to get her breathing under control. "I was supposed to be spending the night with Willow. Iím sure sheís not expecting me yet."
Angel turned on his side, gazing down at her. "What are you doing tonight?"
He laughed. "Before that."
"I thought youíd like to go to the mall with me. If memory serves you asked for mirrors. I thought Iíd get you a couple. And I guess Iíll need some pretty new towels and an extra toothbrush and whatever else you want to make it, what was it, girl friendly?"
"Aww." She grinned up at him. "You really donít have to go overboard."
He ignored her. "And bring some clothes when you come back. I got an empty drawer."
Sleep was forgotten.
And the world, the ascension, the hurts of the past melted away until there was only the two of them. Nothing could stop them now.