Collision Course

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Rating: NC-17

This was written by Chelle and Andra!

It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that Cordelia Chase was up to something. Wesley and Gunn were both very aware of that fact as they poured over files in the main lobby of the Hyperion Hotel. Angel may have fired them, but so far, he hadn't evicted them from the building. Angel Investigations was still running at full force. The only difference seemed to be that Cordelia had taken to answering the phone with a terse, "Uhm, yeah Investigations here. We help the hopeless, but can't help ourselves. What do you need?"

That wasn't exactly the only difference.

They all knew it.

But none of them mentioned it.

Angel was simply gone. Oh, he was there in flesh, but his mind and spirit had seemed to take an extended vacation. He knew that Cordelia, Wesley and Gunn were still using his resources daily: the building, the internet access, intercepting phone calls, but he never spoke to them.

Wesley watched as Cordelia checked her watch and walked across the large room, peering through the blinds. "Expecting someone, Cordelia?"

Cordy spun on her heel and stared at him with wide eyes. "That's exactly the kind of assumption you would make! Now, if someone happens to knock or whatever, I'll be blamed for it! Damn you for putting that thought into everyone's head!"

"Wha-" Wesley looked chagrined, wounded at her outburst. "I was merely suggesting-"

Angel chose that moment to emerge from the basement, armload of laundry in tow. He noticed the way Wesley stopped talking and paused, glancing at each of the people in the room. Saying nothing, he started past them, but Gunn intercepted him.

"Angel, man. How's it going? Killed any demons lately? Any particular demons? Like two vamps?"

Pausing midstride, Angel stared down at the young man. "No."

Gunn smiled, thrilled that he had finally been acknowledged by the vampire. "So, you want some company tonight when you hunt? 'Cause I gotta tell ya-"

"No," Angel repeated, sidestepping Gunn and moving toward the stairs.

Wesley half ran across the room to lounge at the foot of the stairs against the banister. "Angel, I was hoping to bump into you. I was hoping to run some uh, texts past you."

"Texts." Angel sighed softly. "Not really interested."

"Perhaps we can discuss something else then." Wesley glanced at Gunn, pleading with his eyes for help.

Gunn threw up his hands and went back to the open file on the counter that he had been thumbing through. Wesley stammered briefly, then laid a hand on Angel's shoulder. "We're worried about you. I'm afraid that we'll have to do something very drastic to -"

"What? Contact the Powers That Be? You're gonna call in the big guns?" Angel asked in a bored tone. "They don't make them that big."

"They do now," came a very familiar voice from across the room.

Angel turned slowly, his eyes locking on hers. "Buffy."

"Angel," she replied. "I got a phone call from-"

"Not me!" Cordy yelled.

"Cordelia," Buffy finished. "She told me I needed to come."

"Oh god," Cordelia grabbed her coat off a hook behind the door and shoved her arms into it. "I also told you that it was a anonymous tip!"

"I know your voice," Buffy told her.

"Well, when he kills me -" Cordelia looked at Angel and grabbed her purse. "Make sure you don't give him any happiness, Buffy, because when he kills me, I want him to be sad and not . Angelus!"

Buffy watched as Cordelia left in a hurry, stepping out into the sunlight. Wesley cleared his throat and walked toward her. "It's nice to see you, Buffy, but I promised Gunn I'd buy him a drink."

"You did?" Gunn asked, eyeing Buffy up and down and putting his best seductive smile in place. "But I was just going to introduce myself to this incredibly fine young-"

Wesley threw Gunn's jacket over his head, effectively muffling his next words, and quickly led him out the door. Buffy raised her eyebrow and glanced up at Angel, who stood on the third stair. "The polite thing to do would be to offer me a seat."

"But the smart thing to do would be to make you leave." Angel made his way up the stairs silently, walking slowly down the hallway to his room, where he dumped the armload of clothing on his bed. Running a hand through his hair, he turned to slam the door, but she stood in the way, leaning against the doorframe. "I mean it, Buffy. Go home."

"Oh, we just had this conversation. Didn't we?" Buffy stepped into the room, pulling off her coat and draping over the bed as well. "Let's try something completely different. What's wrong with you?"

Angel yanked her coat off the bed and held it out to her. "Nothing you can fix."

Buffy stared at his hand and crossed her arms, not taking the jacket. He held it out for a full minute before he let it drop to the floor and yanked the door open, stepping into the hallway. ****

She frowned as she watched Angel leave the room. She had never seen him this way before, this.....hollow? Hollow seemed to be the only word she could come up to describe him, he was physically here but something was missing inside. Anger rose up inside of her as she bent to pick up her jacket. Why the hell didn't Cordelia call her sooner? She stomped out the door after him, Angel didn't want her here, well - tough.

Angel stood in the lobby silently cursing Cordelia. At the moment he could strangle her and he was sure he would suffer no remorse for his actions. What had possessed her to call Buffy of all people? He let out a small grim chuckle. Possessed was an appropriate word for the situation. He was possessed by vengeance. He had to bring down Darla and no one else could.

*Me and me alone!* he thought.

He heard her small footsteps behind him, but did not turn around. He did not need one Buffy Summers here now. She would only serve to distract him. And he couldn't afford distraction. Every ounce of his concentration needed to be on the task at hand.

Buffy stopped a few feet from Angel. She stared at his broad back for a moment before she spoke. "Angel," she spoke his name softly.

Angel tried to ignore her sweet voice. Maybe she would just go away if he paid no attention to her. Maybe she would take that blond hair, and those slim hips, and that damned inviting voice, and run back to Sunnydale.

"Angel," she repeated his name a bit louder now.

He refused to acknowledge her prescence and it infuriated her. She took a few steps closer to him and placed her small hand on his shoulder. He flinched slightly at the touch. She frowned again. "Angel, I'm not leaving."

He turned around then, shaking her hand from his shoulder. "Yes. You. Are." He emphasized each word harshly.

Buffy stepped back from him, "No. I'm not," she replied calmly, "Not until I know what is going on here."

"There is nothing for you to know. And besides won't Riley be missing you by now? Nice, normal guy like that . He can't be happy about his girlfriend being here with the big bad ex vampire boyfriend." Angel smirked at her as he walked towards the door to the basement. He hated the fact that verbally attacking her at least got his mind off of Darla for a few seconds.

Buffy grimaced at his words and tried to ignore the smirk. *He's trying to get to me, well that works two ways.* He didnt' need to know that Riley was out of the picture. "Riley is very understanding guy. So don't worry yourself about him. Now what the hell is going on here?" she asked as she followed him down the basement stairs.

The basement was dark and cold. Buffy shivered slightly as she watched Angel proceed to beat up the punching bag. His punches were delievered with a deliberate fierceness as if he wanted to rip his opponent to shreds. The look in his eyes scared Buffy. She took a deep breath and walked to the bag bracing herself as it flew back against her using her slayer strength she held the bag still.

Angel growled at the interruption he looked up at her, "Are you still here?" he asked harshly.

"I told you I wasn't leaving," she replied just as harshly.

"Then I am," he told her as he walked to the sewer entrance and lifted the cover. He slipped down into the darkness and closed the cover behind him.

Buffy stood silently shaking her head as she watched him dissappear underneath the cover. Whatever was going on inside his head, he wasn't going to share it. She had foolishly believed that she could walk into his life again and he'd just break down and talk to her. Just like he'd always done. Instead, he looked through her, past her, like they had never shared words or tears or been in love at all.

Cordelia should have told her the whole story. There was something that she didn't know!

She lifted the lid to the sewer entrance thinking she would follow Angel. But as she lowered herself into the sewer, and got a good whiff of 'death', she changed her plan.

Climbing back up into the basement she decided to pay Cordelia a visit. Obviously she had left out a few important details in her anonymous tip. And she couldn't begin to fix it unless she knew the entire story.

She climbed the stairs back into the lobby and began searching through the desk for an address book. She found what she was looking for and left out the big doors of the lobby. The sun had set now and she wondered where Angel was, how he was? What could have led him to this state of mind?

Cordelia better have some answers.


Darla watched the blonde walking down the street with a gleeful look on her face. This was just getting better and better. The little Slayer had been called in to help, this was going to be fun.

Buffy had a strange feeling as she walked down the quiet street. She glanced over her shoulder several times but saw nothing. Finally she ducked into an alley and waited a moment. A woman turned into the alley after her wearing a hooded jacket. "What do you want?" Buffy called out to her.

"What do I want? Thats a good question, Buffy." A slightly familiar voice from her past came from under the hood.

"Who are you?" Buffy asked preparing herself for a fight.

The woman removed her hood and laughed out loud. Buffy stood in shock as she stared at the woman. It couldn't be! Darla was dead. She had seen Angel stake her right in front of her. But there she was, Darla in the flesh. Buffy swallowed hard and fought to get out a single word, "How?"

"There is this wonderful law firm her in LA. It's called Wolfram and Hart they brought me back. The hows aren't important. But the why is?" She taunted Buffy in a singsong voice. "Ask me why, honey. Go on."

"Okay, why?" Buffy asked regaining some of her composure. So this was Angel's problem?

"Can't you guess? You've seen my darling boy, he's just not himself is he?" Darla grinned at her.

"Angel? This is about Angel? What the hell-"

"Patience, sweety, I'll tell you." Darla took a step closer, giving her another toothy grin. "Well, at first they wanted to let Angelus loose, they thought I could help with that pesky soul, moment of happiness thing. But it didn't work." Darla watched as her words sunk in, her glee evident on her face.

Buffy looked at her eyes wide at the implication , " and Angel?"

"Well, yes many times over a hundred years," Darla purred enjoying Buffy's discomfort, "But sadly not recently. Seems he's decided that some little blond cheerleader is the only one that can offer him true happiness. ."

"I want you to tell me whats wrong with Angel. Now, Darla." Buffy walked towards her determinedly. A stake ready in her coat.

"Well, dear we've played a little game with his mind. And now Dru and I are going to have a bit of fun with baby before we put him out of his misery." Darla laughed as Buffy lunged at her. She pulled out a small gun and pulled the trigger the shot rang out -- Buffy heard it whiz dangerously close to her ear. Spinning, Buffy faked to her right, only to find Darla waiting right in front of her, the gun aimed at her heart.

"Listen to me Buffy. You had your fun with Angel, you ruined him for anyone else. Dru and I are going through with our plan," she said with a malicious smile.

"Dru? As if Dru can follow a plan?" Buffy smiled sweetly back at Darla.

"True, she can be a little off, but she can be very lucid when she has her mind set on something."

"I think you need a new plan Darla, because you obviously didn't figure me in the original one," Buffy spit out defiantly.

"Oh no, little girl. Your being here doesn't change my plan at all, in fact it just gives me one more decision to make." Darla paused as she watched Buffy roll her eyes. "You're only alive right now because I like a challenge. Now I have to make a decision."

"And what would that be?" Buffy's eyes fell down on the gun and she swallowed hard.

"Whether I kill you in front of Angel - the look on his face as he watched your life blood flow from you would be priceless. And the guilt he would have over it would be just yummy, of course it wouldn't last long because he would be next." Darla sighed and continued, "Or to kill him in front of you. I can just see those tears running down your face now, I can hear you calling out his name as he turned to dust in front of your eyes. Decisions, decisions."

Buffy reached discreetly for the stake again. Darla noticed the slight movement and pushed her violently back against the wall. "Tsk, tsk, Buffy. Don't be in such a hurry. We'll meet again." And as Buffy stood up she disappeared into the darkness.

Buffy collected her thoughts and ran back towards the hotel. There was no way she was leaving Angel now. Darla and Dru were too dangerous for him when he was at his best, but now, now there was no way he could handle them both.

She opened the doors to the hotel and walked into the empty lobby. Her legs were still shaking, more from the shock of seeing Darla again than fear, though the gun had definitely been a new and frightening twist. Darla had tried to kill her with a gun the last time, and she'd barely escaped. Taking a deep breath, she made her way back to the doorway of the basement, only to have it open right when she reached for the knob.

Angel stepped into the lobby and glanced around, not really looking at her. "I heard gunfire." He glanced at Buffy and his eyes widened. Blood was trickling down her cheek. "Oh god! You're hurt."

Buffy looked up at him in confusion. She wasn't hurt! Angel grabbed her arm and led her into the bathroom, where he wet a cloth and pressed it to her temple. Only then did she hiss in pain. Pushing him away, she rose and examined herself in the mirror. Apparently the bullet had grazed her head. Blood was flowing across her temple, further back into her hairline. The room felt as if it were tilting and she sat down again.

"Buffy, what happened?"

Looking up at him, she studied his face. "I think you already know."

"Wh-" Angel trailed off. Darla! Spinning, he buried his fist in the wall and yanked it back out. With his back to her, he said, "How bad are you?"

"I'm fine," Buffy replied quietly, then laid her hand on his shoulder. "Angel, what-"

Turning quickly, he gripped her shoulders. "I'm getting you out of here, Buffy. Right now! I'm going to take you to the bus station, put you on the next one to Sunnydale, and you're going to stay away. Do you understand me?"

"No. The blow to my head is apparently worse that it looks," she snapped. "Because your mouth, the same one that usually makes sense, just stopped! I'm *not* leaving you here alone to fight this!"

"You don't have a choice!" Angel yelled.

"Want to make a bet?" Buffy shook her head angrily. "You're a madman! Angel, you've isolated yourself, pushed everyone away, stopped caring at all - and I'm not going to let you do this!"

"She's my fight!" he growled. His entire body was shaking with anger. "You can't handle her."

"I can handle you and someone needs to. You're slipping, Angel. I saw that the minute that I came in and someone's got to keep you on this side of the fight."

"You don't know what's happening here," he said.

"Then tell me!" Buffy cried. "Tell me what's happening! Tell me why you're pushing me away! I'm the Slayer and she's a vampire! It seems pretty cut and dried to me!"

Angel gripped her upper arms and yanked her toward him. "She was human when they brought her back! Living, breathing, just like you! And she was dying. Every day she was just a little weaker, a little sicker, a little further gone and *I* tried to be the one to keep her on this side! I tried to help her and the Powers That Be turned their back on me! God turned his back on me and let Dru make her a monster again! Right in front of me! I saw it happen, Buffy, and no matter how hard I try to look at her and see the monster- all I see is the sick, hurting woman I tried to help!"

Buffy wrenched herself free and glared up at him. "You want her alive?"

"I don't know what I want!" Angel leaned his forehead against the wall and closed his eyes. "I want her the way she was. In the sunlight, having another chance. Having it all. I want this finished! I can't take it. She's so close and still so far..."

Watching him, Buffy bit her bottom lip, feeling her eyes well with tears. "You're in love with her," she muttered, stating it whether than questioning it.

Angel stood up straight, reaching for her again. "No, Buffy-"

Buffy backed away and held up her hand. "Don't-"

"Just go, Buffy." Angel's shoulders slumped. "You don't know trouble. You're not prepared for this."

"Screw you!" Buffy shouted suddenly. "You think you're the only person who has trouble? My mom had a brain tumor that they had to operate on and remove a few days ago. We thought she was going to die. There's a new big evil in town who is looking for something called the "key", which I happen to have, which happens to be Dawn, and big surprise, she's not really my sister after all, and Riley couldn't hack it. He left me two days ago and I haven't heard from him since, and just to add insult to injury, his favorite new hobby before he left was making time with vampire whores, who he paid to suck his blood. So don't tell me that I don't know trouble. And don't just assume that things are only rough here in the City of Angels. I came here, even though I have a shitload of things to deal with there, and I'll be damned if you're going to just dismiss me. I'm here! You can either work with me or against me, but I'm not leaving until this is done!"

Angel watched as Buffy wiped at the trickle of blood at her temple, smearing it all over her lovely face. The blood mixed with the tears on her cheeks, making her look even younger and more vulnerable than he'd ever seen her. He took a moment to process everything she had told him. Her anger and more importantly her pain hung thick in the air between them.

*Joyce is sick, Dawn isn't her sister, Riley left her. Riley let vamps suck on him and then left her? She's been through the ringer already and now she wants to take on Darla and Dru for me?*

His first instinct was to gather her shaking body close to his and hold her there until she felt loved and protected again. He hesitated a moment and almost gave in to that feeling, but he couldn't risk her being here. No matter how much he really did need her, her safety came first. Clearly she wasn't in a position to help him--- not the way her life currently was. He hated to add to her evident pain, but he wasn't going to risk her life, he couldn't look after her and fight this battle too.

Buffy stared at him through tear filled eyes, and for a moment, she thought she saw something in his expression. Something familiar. Maybe he was coming around. That notion was banished as soon as he realized how intently she was watching him. He immediately postured himself as Angelus would and wore a snide look that marred his usually handsome face.

Angel had decided to borrow from his alter ego's book and play the asshole. It was a part Angelus knew well. "Buffy, I'm so sorry that all is not well in your perfect little world. But I have bigger things to deal with and just don't have the time or inclination to add your life problems to mine. Now if you will just be on your way, I can go about my business." He turned from her and inwardly berated himself for his harsh words. *But maybe that's what it's going to take to get her out of here and safe.*

Buffy kept her face emotionless. *I don't care if he loves Darla, I don't care that he doesn't care about me. I'm going to damn well help him anyway.* She stared coldly at his back, the familiar lines of his broad shoulders awakening the ache in the pit of her stomach that she usually held off until she was alone at night. "I told you I'm staying whether you like it or not. And a word of warning, I won't have to think twice about staking Darla."

She turned and stomped out of the hotel lobby.

Angel followed her insistently and gripped her arm as she made a move to sit down on the steps. "What are you doing?"

"Waiting for you to leave so I can follow you. Or come to your senses, and to be perfectly honest, I don't see that happening in my lifetime." She yanked her arm loose and sat down.

Angel scanned the parking lot and then squatted next to her. "Don't you think, considering the fact that you know Darla is armed, that sitting here in the open is a bad idea?"

Buffy glanced over at him, biting her bottom lip thoughtfully. "Given my choices, I'd rather be out here, thank you very much."

Standing angrily, he gripped her under the arms and lifted her effortlessly, walking back into the Hyperion. He deposited her on her feet just inside the door and said, "Three things are going to happen tonight. I'm calling a cab. You're getting into it. And you're going back to Sunnydale."

"Wrong. Those are the three things you'd like to happen tonight. In reality, which is the place I like to frequent, I'm staying, I'm helping you, and I'm going to kill Darla." She gave him a small smirk, then frowned when the room tilted and her head began to swim. She put her palm against the wall and steadied herself. "But first, I need to lie down."

"And you think you're going to help me!?" Angel led her to the sofa and watched as she laid back and closed her eyes. "Are you sick?"

"Bleeding headwound," Buffy replied sarcastically. "And I think I could help you even if I was on my deathbed, which I'm not, so don't think you're going to get rid of me that easily. And don't think you're going to be an ass to me and make me leave either."

Wordlessly, Angel got to his feet and stalked across the room. Retrieving a first aid kit from under the counter, he made his way back toward her and knelt beside her, rummaging through the various bandages and antiseptics. Within minutes, he had cleaned the blood off her face and securely dressed the wound. Sitting back on the coffee table, he watched her gingerly finger the bandages, feeling his handiwork. "Does it meet your approval?"

"I guess it'll have to," she told him, sitting up and facing him. "Do you have a plan?"

"Dru's still in town. She never left after she turned Darla. I'm going to try to find out where they're holed up. " Angel closed the first aid kit and sat it beside him, resolved to pacifying her until he could devise a plan to get her away from him. "Then I can burn the building or-"

"No." Buffy shook her head. "Burning's out of the question because you can't be sure they're in there."

"Or," Angel continued. "I'll confront them head on."

"Two vampires. Two of us. Can I call dibs?" She met his eyes, watching for any trace of emotion.

He said nothing for several minutes, just stared at her. Finally, he shook his head. "This is about revenge for you, isn't it? You don't care that she was human. You don't care that she was dying. You don't have one ounce of mercy where-"

"Mercy!?" Buffy shouted, leaping to her feet. "She's a vampire. And no matter what kind of gross emotional attachment you have to her, she's a monster. She doesn't have a soul, she doesn't have a conscience, and she doesn't have any intention of leaving you alone." Buffy's eyes clouded as she watched him staring down at the floor. "Or maybe that's just your fallback excuse, right? Maybe you like that she's back and she's consuming you because it gives you an excuse not to do the right thing anymore.You don't have to toe the line between good an evil when she's around, do you? You can just give in."

Angel didn't meet her gaze again. Instead, he stood up and glanced at the clock on the wall. "I'll be ready to leave in ten minutes. If you plan on tagging along, I suggest you change clothes and bring a weapon." With that, he walked toward the stairs.

"Fine,' Buffy snapped. "You run along and get ready. Make sure you use extra hairspray though. God knows if we run into your little girlfriend, you'll want to look your GQ best."

Angel kept walking, never turning to face her.

And she never saw the smile on his face.


Fifteen minutes later, Buffy was sitting in the passenger seat of his car, shivering against the cool wind that blew in from the ocean. Heeding his advice, she had changed into jeans and a sweater, but with the top down on his convertible, she could have worn an Eskimo suit and still frozen to death. She was resolved not to complain though. He probably figured he'd make it hard enough on her that she would give up and go home. He could think again.

Wrapping her arms around herself, she glanced at the buildings as they flew past. They were heading into a seedy area of Los Angeles. When she'd lived here, her father had been very adamant about her staying out of what was commonly known as the G zone. It was known for its gang violence and roughness, but Buffy knew this was exactly the kind of atmosphere that demons fed on. Nothing like a good dinner on someone full of hate and vengeance.

The car slowed to a stop in front of a dilapidated warehouse. The front door was missing, and there were a few boards tacked across it, but that wasn't enough to stop anyone from entering. Angel killed the engine and stepped out of the car, quickly ducking under the boards and disappearing into the warehouse. Buffy grabbed the stake from her bag and followed him. The building was pitch black and she stopped a few feet inside the doorway, cocking her head to one side. She heard nothing. "Angel?" she whispered.

"And if we had needed to make a silent entrance, you just blew it," Angel said, stepping behind her. When she spun to face him, he flipped on a flashlight and scanned the warehouse. "Luckily, he knows we're coming."

Buffy frowned as he sidestepped her and made his way further into the building. Throwing her arms in the air, she followed him up a set of rickety stairs and into a small office. There appeared to be a shedding demon sitting behind a desk counting money. Its skin, what little it had, was peeled back in several places. It glanced up at them when Angel stepped into the room. Buffy's Slayer senses went haywire and she tightened her grip on the stake when the demon stood and reached toward Angel. She stepped forward, stake drawn back, but Angel only shook the demons hand and sat down. He gave her a weary glance and motioned at the chair next to him. "In polite circles, you don't kill your informant, Buffy."

She sat down and crossed her arms, trying to quell the urge to kick him in the shin. "Maybe if you had introduced me to your informant, like they do in polite circles, I would have known."

"Buffy, meet Mandegan, Mandegan meet Buffy." Angel leaned forward in his seat and stared at the demon. "Got any new leads for me?"

"No. The Alegran demon that I sent to spy on the vampires never returned. I went to look for him myself and they had cleared out of the building. Not a sign of them. All I've heard around town is that they're still making their rounds." the demon said. His voice was thick, gravely and deep. As he spoke, a flap of skin on his neck vibrated and allowed smoke to emit from it. The scent was almost unbearable. Buffy coughed and covered her mouth. The demon glanced at her. "Many apologies, missy. I'm living in borrowed skin and it seems to be rotting right out from under me. Luckily, I have the money for a new one." He patted the stack of money with pride. "I just have to decide what I want to be now."

Angel glanced over at Buffy, who had wrinkled her nose in disgust, then back at Mandegan. "Where were they last spotted?"

"Near Sunset," the demon began packing the stacks of money into a bag. "Last night they looted a boutique and took some clothing. Fancy things like they had big plans or something. Who knows? It was almost dawn when they were spotted, so I'd assume that they're nesting nearby."

Angel nodded and stood. "I'd appreciate a phone call if you hear anything."

"Assuming my tongue don't rot out before I find Franz to get a new body, you got it." Mandegan stood as well and glanced at Buffy. "Nice meetin' ya."

"Likewise," Buffy practically raced out the door, where she began to gulp in lungs full of fresh air.

Angel made his way around her and turned the light on again. "If you're too weak to hack it, you just let me know."

Seething, she fell into step beside him. "Seems to me that your weakness is far greater than mine. If you had taken care of this a long time ago--"

Angel stopped and looked down at her. "You think you know everything, don't you?"

"I know enough," Buffy said. "So stop trying to pick a fight and let's get it done."

"Fine!" Angel growled. "Let's go."

"Where are we going now?" Buffy asked as they got into the car.

"We're going to see the Host," Angel shot her a grin that was anything but friendly. "He's already picked my brain apart. Let's see what he can find in yours."

Twenty minutes later, Angel led the way into a crowded Kareoke bar. Buffy could barely believe her eyes. There were demons mingling with humans all over the place. In Sunnydale, Willy's Alibi Room was frequented by both, but it was nothing like this. This establishment seemed to have it all, even a stage with a microphone that was currently being used by a furry Kleiser demon who was singing Michael Jackson. Horribly. Off. Key. With wide eyes, Buffy watched the demon do a spin and grab a spot between one of its many legs as it hit a high note. She would have burst out laughing if it wasn't so shocking.

"Buffy?" Angel called from across the room. She was standing near the bar, mouth agape, her large eyes taking in everything at once. He glanced at the Host, who was watching her closely, and excused himself. Making his way across the room, he tapped her shoulder. "The Host doesn't have all night. Come on."

Buffy followed him to where a green faced demon with small horns was sitting. When she was a few feet away, the demon stood up and bowed. "Slayer, it is a pleasure to meet you."

"You told him I'm the Slayer?" Buffy accused Angel, her eyes blazing.

"No, dear," the Host replied. "It's my job to know exactly who -- or what as the case may be, comes into this establishment. I felt you the second you walked in. And the stories I've heard about you are definitely true, my dear. You're exquisite. The loveliest thing to darken this doorway in years."

"We need answers," Angel told him.

The Host looked at him, then back at Buffy. "This big lug is always in such a rush rush rush. Never really one for small talk. He just comes in, sings his song, hears me out and he's gone. He's a heartbreaker, I'll tell you that much."

"He sings?" Buffy glanced back at the stage and chuckled a little. "This I gotta see."

"Some other time," the Host told her, stepping a little closer to her. "Fate has written her course on you tonight." He ran a hand over the bandage on her forehead. "You can take that off now."

"What?" Buffy touched the bandages. "No, I got-"

"It's fine." Picking up his glass, he toasted in her direction. "To healing wounds on the Slayer."

Peeling the tape away, she ran her hand over her temple and sure enough, the skin was smooth and unblemished. "I don't know how to thank you-"

"Favor us with a song," the host said matter-of-factly.

Buffy glanced at the stage and shook her head. "Oh, no. I - I couldn't possibly."

"It's the way I work, precious." Setting his glass down, he straightened his shoulders. "I was gifted with the ability to read people's minds, read their future if you will, but only when they sing. It makes them vulnerable and I can get inside their heads then."

"You don't understand," Buffy said frantically. "I don't sing. I don't even like the radio. I hate all music. I hate it! And I don't know the lyrics to any song."

"That's a lie," Angel spoke up. "You used to sing in your bedroom all the time."

"Stalker!" Buffy snapped.

The Host was watching them with interest, his eyebrows raised to high they were almost touching his horns. Angel leaned closer to Buffy. "Look, it's the only way. He can tell us where they are, how to find them, if it's meant to happen."

"And if it's not?" Buffy cried. "What? I just humiliated myself for nothing?"

The Host shook his head and laid a hand on Buffy's shoulder. "Come, let's pick a song."

"Oh god!" Buffy glanced at Angel frantically, but he only shrugged and sat down. She allowed the host to lead her toward the front of the room where he handed her a few sheets of paper.

"This is what's programmed into the machine for today. I'm sure that the perfect song is on there. It'll find you."

"What do you mean?"

"Close your eyes," the demon said. When she complied, he said, "What's the first number in your head, and don't lie because I'll know."

"Seventeen," Buffy told him. Ever since Angel had made love to her on her seventeenth birthday, it had become her favorite number.

The Host scanned the playlist and smiled at her. "A love song. Tragic and sad and sure to tug the heart strings of the most vile demons in the audience. A wise choice, my dear."

"What did I choose?" Buffy asked, peering at the paper.

He handed it to her and stepped onstage. Buffy looked down at the paper and said, "Thank God for Dawn!"

Her annoying kid sister had become obsessed with the Coyote Ugly soundtrack and played it incessantly. The track was 'Please Remember' by LeAnn Rimes.

The Host lifted the microphone and began talking. "We have a very special treat for you all tonight, ladies and gentlemen. All the way from Sunnydale, California. Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

Several demons booed and the Host clucked his tongue at them. "Now now! Despite the fact that she'll probably kill you later on, she has a right to share her song with us. Her tune is a sad one. Give it up for Buffy Summers!"

Buffy took the stage on shaking legs as the music began to play. She lifted the microphone to her lips and sang, surprised at how pretty her voice sounded booming out of the loud speakers.

"Time. Sometimes the time just slips away. And you're left with just a day. Left with the memory. I'll, I'll always think of you and smile. And be happy for the time I had you with me. Though we've gone our separate ways. I won't forget so don't forget the memories we made..." Buffy sang.

The Host sat beside Angel and watched her. "Lovely voice."

Angel could only nod, dumbfounded as Buffy continued. "Please remember. Please remember. I was there for you and you were there for me. Please remember our time together. When time was yours and mine and we were wild and free. Please remember me."

The Host sniffled and blew his nose on his hanky. "Tragic girl. Why didn't you tell me about your history with her? I wasn't prepared for this at all. You know, I don't even think you're attractive anymore. How could you?"

Angel stared around the room, shocked at the dead silence that had fallen. Buffy's song could have been about the day that time erased and as she opened her eyes and met his own, he thought for sure she would see right into his soul.

"Goodbye," Buffy continued. "There's just no sadder word to say. And it's sad to walk away with just a memory. Whose to know what might have been? We leave behind a life and time we'll never know again. Please remember, please remember......"

Angel felt his own throat constrict and took a sip of the Bloody Mary he had ordered. He couldn't stand it. She wasn't just singing to the Host, she was singing to *him* and her words were re-awakening a part of him that he had put to sleep a long time ago.

The Host sobbed again and dabbed at his face. "Remarkable. She just keeps going, no matter what obstacles are in the way. Oh, she's a wonder indeed."

Angel tuned him out as the song began to wind down. Buffy took a deep breath and belted out, "And how we laughed and how we smiled. And how this world was yours and mine. And how no dream was out of reach, I stood by you - you stood by me. We took each day and made it shine. We wrote our names across the sky. We ran so fast, we ran so free. And I had you and you me." Her voice broke on the last word, and her eyes filled with tears. Sucking it up, she finished. "Please remember. Please remember."

The music ended and there was dead silence. Buffy glanced nervously at the crowd and said, "Uhm, thank you."

The applause started at once. Demons stood to clap her on the back as she made her way off the stage and toward Angel and the Host, who were also on their feet. The Host gave her a brief hug and led her into a corner. Angel followed them, still reeling from Buffy's beautiful voice and the way the song seemed to have been written for them.

"Do you mind if he hears this?" the Host asked her, when they crowd had quieted and another demon took the stage to sing Patti LaBelle.

Buffy didn't glance at Angel. Instead, she shook her head. "I don't care."

"I just have to know," the Host leaned toward her. "How do you walk around functioning on a daily basis with that kind of emotion and hurt inside of you? I only felt it for three and a half minutes and I honestly feel like my heart has been ripped to shreds."

"I'm pretty numb to it," Buffy said with a shrug.

"But you still cry yourself to sleep most nights. And one of us, not you or me, but one of us--" He gave Angel a hard look. "Should be tarred and feathered."

"Do you know what we're supposed to do about Darla and Dru or not?" Buffy asked. As much as she was enjoying the Angel bashing, she didn't really want him to know the extent of her agony.

"In another time, you faced her and were almost defeated. The masochist here-" He nodded at Angel. "came through for you then, but you don't exactly trust him now. Not that I blame you. However, trust is what will get your through this and when it comes down to it, history must repeat itself."

"What do you mean?" Angel asked.

"You know exactly what I mean." The Host glanced up and Angel and nodded, as if assuring himself that Angel did indeed know what he had to do. "You'll find Darla at the old toy factory in the industrial park off of Sunset. You'll find only Darla. The other one will be occupied across town. Your window of opportunity is small. I suggest you hurry."

He turned his attention back towards Buffy and said, "For as long as I've been in this business, never have I have admired anyone and their plight as much as I do you and yours. Miss Summers, it has been an honor. I'd ask you to come back and sing for us again, but I'm already feeling quite suicidal from stepping into your world and I'd rather not go back. I will never forget you, my dear."

Buffy swallowed hard. "You say that like you'll never see me again."

"Remember what I said. Trust." The Host stood up and looked down at her. "Or I might not see you again." He directed the last statement at Angel and then walked away.

Buffy watched him walk away, her heart slamming against her chest, then stood up. "We should go."

Angel nodded and let her lead the way across the room. Several demons clapped their hands and spoke to her as they exited, and Angel couldn't help but feel pride at leaving with her. When they reached his car, he opened her door and ushered her in, then he began putting the top back on the convertible. Once it was secured, he slipped into the driver's seat and glanced at her. "I- uhm- wanted to say thank you."

Buffy nodded her head, giving him a bittersweet smile. "Thank me afterwards, okay. If there is an afterwards."

Angel's gut twisted as he thought about the prospect of facing Darla with Buffy in tow. He still didn't want Buffy involved, but he knew there was no other choice. "You can trust me, Buffy. I know I haven't been the easiest person to get along with today, but you have to know that I'd die before I'd let anyone, and I do mean *anyone*, hurt you."

"Dont'." She held up a hand and shook her head. "Let's just get it done."

Angel wanted to say more. He wanted to do more, but instead he nodded and started the car.

Sunset Boulevard was only a few miles away.

And the hell that was waiting there for them held both of their thoughts hostage as they traveled in silence.

Every few moments Angel would take a look at Buffy. She cooly avoided his gaze staring intently at the road in front of her. He allowed himself one moment to contemplate how things had gotten this bad between them. He wanted to blame it on Riley Finn. As much as he wanted Buffy to have normal , he hadn't thought about how normal boyfriend would accept ex vampire boyfriend. And anyone involved in her life would have to be involved and accept everything about her, slayer and all.

*Hell, I know who is to blame and it's not Riley Finn. First I help Faith who has hurt Buffy more than once, and then I want to help Darla who almost killed her. I wouldn't trust me either.*

He let out a sigh, garnering an inquisitive look from Buffy. "What's wrong?" she asked careful to keep her tone calm and emotionless.

"Nothing. Everything. You name it," he mumbled as he pulled the car to the curb. "It's about a block from here, I think we should walk."

He watched as she climbed out of the car hauling her weapons bag with her. She walked beside him quietly as if she was deep in thought. "Buffy," Angel finally spoke breaking the silence.


"If you insist on going in there with me, I need your word on something." He stopped walking and turned to her placing his hand on her shoulder he spoke. "Promise me that you will let me deal with Darla."

She glanced at the hand on her shoulder before meeting Angel's eyes. Her stomach betrayed her and fluttered softly at his touch. "No. I can't promise that." she replied. "See I try not to make promises that I don't intend to keep. If I have the opportunity to kill Darla, I will." She moved his hand from her shoulder and continued, "Now I have a question for you? Will you kill her? Can you?"

He grimaced at her the implication of her words. This trust thing was going to be tough. Fresh worry for her surged in his chest and he chose his words carefully, not wanting to push her further away from him. "I have before," he told her. "For you." The last words were almost a whisper.

"Well that was then and this is now," she said harshly as she resumed walking towards the factory. "Time's change."

"There's no difference, Buffy," he tried to explain as she kept walking.

"There is a hell of a difference, Angel. These feelings you have for Darla now? I have to say it makes me wonder if you regret your decision. Maybe you've decided that you let the wrong person die in the Bronze that night," she spit the words out at him. Turning on her heel, she picked up the pace, wanting to put enough distance between them so he wouldn't see the tears that were once again threatening to fall. She wasn't jealous! She wasn't! For a brief time, she had moved on with her life and she had been a fool to think he wouldn't do that same. It served her right, didn't it? For throwing her relationship with Riley in his face all those months ago.

Angel had stopped walking at her words and stood watching her, mouth agape. Now she was aiming below the belt. There was no way she actually entertained the idea that he regretted her life. He would have died for her, and still would, if need be. Shaking his head, he followed her to the door.

The long deserted toy factory was eerily bathed in the moonlight. The outside walls were painted with what should have been cheerful depictions of jack in the boxes and pretty dolls, but now faded they looked as if they were smirking at Buffy and Angel. Buffy shivered slightly as she looked at the paintings. From a dim childhood memory, she could remember driving past the factory when it had been thriving. She'd always asked to come here, seeing as how it looked like a wonderland. But now it reeked of death, quite possibly hers, and her childhood glee had been replaced with trepidation.

She knew she could take Darla. It wasn't even a question of whether or not she could win - it was a question of whether of not Angel would *let* her win. He hadn't seen her in action lately. He didn't know that she was stronger than she'd ever been or that her entire body vibrated with anticipation of the kill nowadays. Frowning, she gingerly touched the healed wound on her head. Even as strong as she was, Darla had taken her by surprise and gotten the upper hand. It wouldn't happen again. Never again.

Buffy tried the doorknob, and smiled. It was unlocked. Her hand still on the knob she looked at Angel and mouthed the words "Now what?"

"Let me lead. I can see better in the dark," Angel whispered. He stepped through the doorway and cocked his head to one side, listening intently for any sounds.

The smell of blood, human blood, was overwhelming and Angel felt his demon itching below the surface, straining for dominance. But he also heard Buffy's heartbeat behind him, and that was enough to steady him, just as it always had. Saying nothing, he slipped his hand back and took hers, squeezing it gently. "Stay right with me."

"I don't need a protector," Buffy snapped, yanking her hand away.

"Yes," a voice suddenly replied. "You do."

Two large male vampires dropped from a stack of pallets, landing directly on top of Angel and Buffy. Buffy landed hard on her knees, and judging from the growl of pain she heard from Angel, she assumed he had suffered the same fate. Rolling herself quickly, she blocked a precisely aimed kick at her head and yanked the vampire's boot hard. He stumbled forward, directly onto the stake that she flipped upward, and dusted, sending blood scented ashes showering on top of her. No matter how often that happened, she never got used to the smell.

Angel was still fighting the vampire, his own stake clattering to the floor when he was punched hard in the stomach. Buffy seized it, waited for the right moment, and dusted the greasy attacker through the back. Pouting prettily, she said, "It's never fun when they don't watch it coming. Through the back ... seems like such a waste."

Watching her intently, Angel said, "Nice moves."

"I've been practicing a lot more. Giles pretty much consumes every second of my spare time." She shrugged. Suddenly several lights came on, crudely hung lights that were powered by a generator in the corner. "Hmmm, I think they know we're here. Should we split up?"

He looked at her as if she had sprouted two heads. "Absolutely not!"

"I'm just saying--"

"No!" Shaking his head, Angel motioned her to follow him. "This is my town, we do it my way."

"Yeah, but seeing as how I'm the vampire Slayer and this is a common little vampire problem, I pull rank on this mission." Buffy narrowed her eyes and crossed her arms, waiting for him to rise to her challenge.

"Pull rank? Did Riley teach you that? At least he left you with the proper lingo for the *mission* when he walked away. You must be so proud to have shared that with him. Too bad he couldn't hack it. And too bad I'm not impressed." The minute he said the words he regretted it, because her face fell and she looked at the ground. He hated what she had the ability to reduce him to. Baiting her, taunting her like a schoolyard bully. "I'm sorry."

"No, you're not. But because your head is up *her* ass I'm going to let that one slide. Say something like that again and I'll sever that head and it can stay with her permanently." Shoving past him, she walked further into the warehouse. "Fuck it. They know we're here and I've never been fond of playing 'sitting duck'." Cupping her hands over her mouth, she shouted, "Hey Darla! We brought the fight to you! The least you can do is be a nice hostess."

Angel rolled his eyes. "So much for the element of surprise."

"You want to surprise her?" Buffy tossed him the stake that he had dropped. "Do the right thing. This whole obsession thing that you have working for you is probably quite endearing if you're demented ... too bad I'm not impressed." She watched him grip the stake tightly, wanting nothing more than to see him slam it into Darla's chest. "I'll give you first crack at her. If you don't do it, I will."

"I may have something to say about that," Darla said with a small laugh. She swept into the dimly lit room with a small army of minions surrounding her, each one more brawny and solid than the next. Wearing a long green evening gown, she patted her elbow length gloves and beamed at them. "If I had known that you were bringing this little party here, I wouldn't have made plans. But as you can see, I have a formal to attend."

"Give us the address. We'll drop you by in a dustpan," Buffy smiled sweetly. "And just for future reference, and I know you can't see in a mirror so it's almost forgivable, but people with your lack of color shouldn't really wear lime green. Moldy bread has never really been appealing."

Darla studied her for several seconds and the silence in the room was palpable. Finally, she spoke, her voice deeper than usual as anger coursed through her dead body. "My lack of color aside, my beauty is timeless, ageless. You, on the other hand, are starting to show a little wear and tear. I know it's only been a few years, but time hasn't been kind to you. Must be the lifestyle you lead. The night wasn't intended for little playthings like you."

"Nice try," Buffy said with a grin. "Timeless beauty only counts when you have a lot of time, which you don't."

Darla chuckled and glanced at one of her minions. "Isn't she just the most adorable thing you've ever seen? You can have her."

The minion lunged, but Buffy's experience left him dusted before he had even realized what had happened. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw three vampires jump on Angel at once, driving him back into a corner. A demon, thin and gnome-like raced from the corner carrying a crucifix, which it held up toward Angel, keeping him at bay in the corner. Buffy fought off another attacker and then yelped in pain when a heavy net was dropped over her head and she crashed to the ground under the weight of it.

She could hear Darla applauding and to see her bouncing on the balls of her feet. "That's team spirit at it's finest. Don't you want to do a cheer, Buffy?" Kneeling next to the net and the writhing Slayer, she stuck out her bottom lip. "Funny how all that catty banter you like to engage in just stops when the tables turn."

"Let her go, Darla. This is between you and me!" Angel growled, trying not to pay attention to the cross or the minions who were blocking him. "She hasn't done anything."

"Oh, don't cheapen my fun," Darla sighed dramatically. "She doesn't *have* to do anything. And we both know it's better when they're innocent." She looked back down at Buffy and leaned closer. "You haven't been innocent for a while though, is what I hear. I'll have to make it hurt a lot."

Angel lunged forward, but the gnome creature shoved the cross into his chest, causing him to howl in pain and retreat. He lashed out with his foot, trying to knock the beast off its feet, but it raked long talons over him, ripping his jeans and opening the flesh on his thigh. Frantic, he watched Darla, trying to decide what to do. "Darla!" he growled. "If you're scared to face me, just say so. We both know that you used to never back away from a challenge. Fact is, you used to thrive on it, but I think maybe your stint in the sunlight may have weakened you in more ways than one."

Darla leapt to her feet. "I'm not weak! I'm stronger than I've ever been!"

"Only if stench counts," Buffy offered, trying to tug the net over her head. "The whole 'French Whore' thing only works in France."

"Shut up!" Darla shouted, barely paying her any attention at all. Instead she concentrated on Angel. "Don't make the mistake of underestimating me."

She turned to the demons standing beside Buffy. "Get her out of that net and into the restraints - the enhanced ones."

The demons roughly grabbed at Buffy, pulling her to her feet, still tangled in netting she lashed out again with her foot but was brutally backhanded for her effort. Angel inwardly cringed as he heard her head thump hard against the wall behind her.

He silently wished that Buffy would keep her mouth shut for once, if she would just stop inciting Darla maybe he had a chance of getting her out of here alive. Angel decided to appeal to Darla's vanity. "I would never underestimate you, Darla. Afterall I know you better then anyone. All those years together." He gave her an Angelus smile.

Darla stepped toward to him, a half smile tugging at the corners of her lips. She motioned to the demons on either side of him they restrained each arm while the gnome like demon stepped back to allow Darla closer access to Angel. She took a single blood red fingertip and raked it down his cheek leaving a trail of blood. She giggled softly as she caught the drop of blood running down his cheek she licked it off with glee. "Still yummy. You forget , Angel, that I also know you." She stepped back from him again. "Restrain him next to her."

Soon the minions had moved both Buffy and Angel to a back room in the factory. Both had been chained to fastners in the wall. Buffy was slightly groggy from the bump on her head. Angel was asking her questions to try to find out the extent of the injury.

"Can you see straight? Do you feel blood on your head? Whats your name?" he asked the questions in rapid fire sequence.

"Yes, I can see. No, I don't think there is blood. My name is Buffy, damnit. Would you just leave me alone? One of has to figure out how to kill your little friend," she snapped at him trying to clear her head. *Think, Buffy, think.*

"I was just worried about you and I'm sorry........" Angel started but was cut off when Darla entered the room.

"Well you two have ruined my plans, so I guess I'll have to find my entertainment at home tonight." She smiled at Buffy as she ran a hand down Angel's cheek.

Angel flinched slightly at her touch. "Angel its time to confess to little Buffy."

Angel looked confused. "Confess what, Darla?"

"Well earlier today I met Buffy in an alley. And I'm afraid I lied to her about you and me."

Buffy turned to look at Darla her curiosity piqued. "Lied to me?" she asked not looking at Angel.

"You asked if Angel and I had, umm, *done the deed* and I said no. I lied we have several times. I lied because it still grates on my nerves that he didn't lose his soul. I didn't want you to know that I didn't give him the happiness that you did." She leaned in closer to Buffy and in a mock whisper, "It was kind of embarrasssing."

Angel stared dumbfounded at Darla then looked directly into Buffy's eyes. "She's lying, Buffy. We haven't been intimate since she came back."

"Am I? You could see how obsessed he is with me, Buffy?"

Buffy looked from Angel to Darla and said, "So, why tell me now?"

"Because sweetie, you're going to die soon. A moment of embarrassment for me is nothing compared to how wonderful it is to see that look on your face." Darla cooed.

"Buffy, don't believe anything she says," Angel said calmly.

"That's the look." Darla almost squealed with joy.

Buffy's hurt and uncertainty showed on her face. She remained silent and bit her tongue, anything to keep from crying. Angel and -- this thing? No, she was lying. She had to be lying. But what if .... She glanced at Angel again, but he looked away. *Oh God, no!*

Darla began to play with a lock of Buffy's hair, "The look on your face says you want to believe Angel, but part of you knows that it's very possible that I'm telling the truth."

"Buffy, you have to believe me," Angel said soflty.

Darla walked to a crate and lifted up a nasty looking dagger She walked back to Buffy and she ran the dagger lightly up the front of her shirt and stopped at her chin. "Angel, speak again and I cut *her* tongue out." She stepped back from Buffy and turned to him, "Understood?"

He shook his head in agreement. He watched as Darla contnued to tease Buffy with the knife lightly scratching both arms enough to draw blood. This could go on for hours, Darla was like a big cat who liked to play with her food. She wanted Buffy to suffer emotionally and physically and she wanted Angel to watch.

"You know he felt so guilty when we made love after I came back. I could see it in his eyes. Stupid curse.You know he doesn't really love you, he never did." Darla jeered at her.

"He did, once." Buffy said in a voice barely above a whisper then she became bolder, "I'm the one who gave him the happiness that you couldn't." She smirked at Darla.

Angel remained quiet but gave Buffy an encouraging smile over Darla's shoulder. He quietly worked the chains on his hands one seemed to be loosening. He hated watching Buffy at Darla's mercy but if she was busy with Buffy possibly he would have time to get free.

Darla laughed out loud. "You know Buffy that did bother me at first. But I've been thinking, poor Angel had been alone for all those years, burdened with all of that guilt and along comes a pretty - well an okay looking - young thing who's willing to lay him. Of course you made him happy! Any woman at that point could have done the same thing. So you just happened to be in the right place at the right time."

"I was wrong. Green is the color for you. What's wrong, Darla? Let me guess, it bothers you that you never made him happy in all the time you were together before, and if you're telling the truth you still can't make him as happy as I did in one single night. This little 17 year old girl did something you could never and will never be able to do." Buffy finished with a smile on her face.

Darla glared at Buffy, "Big words from someone who is going to die shortly. If he had really loved you why did he leave? Oh, I know all about the flowery speech about how he left you for your own good. So you could have a normal life." Darla laughed again, "He's a man, honey. Men get scared of commitment, he found a way out and he took it. That's why he left. All men lie and they all leave, don't they? Angel left and I hear that your new man left too." Darla watched Buffy's expression turn from strong to unsure all over again as her words struck home.

"How did you hear that?" Buffy asked her.

"I have ears all over the place, sweetheart. And they can't wait to hear you scream."

Angel worked the chains some more, almost his right hand could almost slide free. Darla smirked at Buffy as she turned attention to Angel, who quickly stopped tugging at the chains. "And you? How long did it take for little Buffykins to find someone else? How many have there been since you?" She cupped his chin in her hand, "Have you thought about that Angel? You didn't want her but you really don't want anyone else to have her either. Did it hurt to think about her lithe body loving someone else? Her legs around someone's waist. Her nails on someone's back. Crying out someone else's name. Did that bother you? Or maybe it didn't maybe, she really wasn't that good."

Angel glared at her and opened his mouth to speak. Darla pointed the knife towards Buffy again. "Ah..ah...ah....Butty's tongue is still in danger here." She giggled at his worried frown as he closed his mouth. "Now where was I? Oh, I was saying that Buffy wasn't really that good, that would prove my theory - you were just happy because you found someone who pitied you enough to sleep with you - experience really wasn't necesary was it, darling boy?"

Darla reached for Angels shirt suddenly violently, the sound of the buttons hitting the hard floor made Buffy jump with fear for him. Darla gave her a sweet smile. "Experience, sweetie. Now I know something about that. See Angelus and I shared quite a bit of that." She ran her hand up and down Angels now bare chest and placed a small kiss over his heart.

"Was he sweet and gentle with you that night? He was, wasn't he?" Darla laughed loudly again. "That might be dear, soul having Angel. But it wasn't Angelus. Angelus liked it rough. Didn't you, sweetheart?" She licked her lips and sighed. "I'm going to miss him," she told Buffy as the knife slashed across his chest. Angel groaned in pain as the blood from his chest rolled down his torso to mix with the blood from the thigh wound.

Buffy gasped. "Don't!"

Darla turned to her. "I can do whatever I like." She turned to Angel again and squeezed his crotch. "I'm going to miss some parts of him more then others." She shook her head and sighed again, walking towards the door. She glanced at her prisoners over her shoulder, "I'll be back to play some more,

Buffy watched as she closed the door behind her. "Angel, are you okay?" she asked the words softly trying to not let her fear show in her voice.

Angel kept his gaze on the floor and shook his head. "I'm so sorry that I got you into this."

"Don't be," Buffy told him. "If memory serves, and despite the headache I have, it does. I insisted on helping you. Besides, I'm almost loose."

Angel yanked his head upward to look at her hands and sure enough, one was slipping free. "Don't! Buffy those are enhanced. They're designed to let you think you're about to break free, then they tighten."

She stopped what she was doing and glanced at Angel's wrists, which were bloody from his own attempts at yanking free. "What about yours?"

"I don't think mine are enhanced." He pulled hard and growled out from the pain, but his efforts were rewarded by one hand slipping free. Surveying the damage, he shook his head. "I'd swear if I thought it'd help. Oww!"

"Can you get the other one loose?" Buffy asked anxiously.

"As soon as I'm convinced that this one isn't going to fall off, I'll try." He shook his hand out, trying to chase away the pain. Then he turned around, braced his foot against the wall, and began to tug the chain, causing the bolt in the wall to loosen. With every tug, he was a step closer to saving Buffy and that thought gave him a final burst of energy. Yanking with everything he had, he pulled the chains down, leaving him with one long chain attached to his arm that he could lash out at the demons with. And Darla.

Angel turned to look at Buffy, who had her eyes closed in relief. Letting the chain drag behind him, he went to her and cupped her face. "Look at me."

Buffy complied, meeting his gaze. His thumb trailed down her cheek and over her lips, wiping away a small trickle of blood from being backhanded. He noted blood matting her hair on the side of her head and gently lifted it, scanning the area. "God, Buffy, you're bleeding pretty badly."

"Just get us out of this and maybe we can pay another visit to your host friend. Or the hospital. Whichever comes first." She swayed dizzily on her feet and leaned her head back against the wall. "What are you gonna do?"

"I'm gonna pretend to be chained and when she gets close enough, I'll attack her."

Buffy tried to give him an encouraging smile, but she faltered, then promptly burst into tears. "You can't."

Angel stepped closer, so close that his body ran the length of hers. "I can and I will." He tilted her head back and wiped away some of the tears. "You can trust me. I swear that to you, Buffy. You. Can. Trust. Me."

"I trust you," she whispered. "Angel, I- I lo-"

"Shhhh," he shook his head. "Listen."

He heard Darla's voice in the hallway and pressed a kiss to Buffy's forehead before he yanked a stake off the ground and pocketed it. He tossed the chain around a low pole and lifted his arms, praying silently that she wouldn't notice that his chains were no longer bolted into the wall. He only needed a few seconds. Buffy sniffled beside him and he closed his eyes, wishing he was deaf to the sound of her pain.

Then he realized that it was the sound of her, the sight of her, the smell of her and his love for *her* that was giving him the strength to do what he should have done weeks ago. "It's okay, Buffy."

Darla entered the room again. She had changed out of her evening gown into a satin teddy that connected to leggings with a garter belt. It was blood red; it matched her lips and her intentions. In one hand she weilded a riding crop and in the other a long knife. Pausing, she waited until she had both Buffy and Angel's attention, then she threw the knife, flipping it end over end and embedding it into Buffy's shoulder. The Slayer threw her head back and screamed in pain, her feet slipping out from under her so that she dangled with just her arms.

Angel stared wide eyed at Buffy, then slowly, as if in a trance, he let his arms drops. The sound of his chains hitting the ground beside him was distant, never registering on his senses. The look on Darla's face as she realized that he was free and charging her never crossed his mind. The only thing he was aware of was Buffy's low moans of pain and the feel of the stake as his hand closed around it in his pocket. He stalked her, wrenching the wood free and raising it over his head.

Darla backed away, the riding crop sliding from her fingers and clattering to the groud next to her. She turned on her heel, ready to rush for the door, but Angel caught her and spun her to face him. "Oh, no you don't," Angel growled, low and menacing. Gripping her hair, he tilted her head back and bared her throat, but he didn't bite. Instead, he leaned close to her ear and whispered, "How does it feel to die for her twice? You think about t hat where you're going."

"You can't kill me," Darla said, but her voice betrayed her fear. "I was human and you knew my pain, Angel. You were willing to give up your life for mine in the trials, just so I would have a second chance. Y-you can't do this. Your soul makes you weak. It makes you remember what we had."

For a brief moment, he let his eyes wash over her face, drinking in her features. "You're not human now."

With that, he plunged the stake into Darla's heart and stepped back. The vampire reached for the stake, her eyes never leaving his, then she was gone. In a plume of dust, she exploded, a high pitched wail echoing through the toy factory. He closed his eyes and dropped to his knees, burying his face in his hands as emotion overcame him.

Buffy watched in silence as Angel cried. The clamps around her wrists had come undone the second that Darla dusted. In the back of her mind, she remembered Giles telling her that enhanced belongings lost their power when the owner died, but she didn't care. With a small grunt, she yanked the knife out of her shoulder and laid it down. Fresh blood pooled down her side and she could feel it seeping under the waistband of her jeans and running down her leg.

She debated on whether or not to just leave quietly. Angel was clearly mourning the loss of the woman he loved, and she didn't want to aggravate that with her presence. Part of her wondered if he would have reacted the same way to her death, but she figured he wouldn't. He had moved on. His new life had involved Darla and the tears that he was shedding were for her. He would probably hold it against Buffy for the rest of her natural life. She debated her options, and decided to tell him that she was leaving.

Taking an unsteady step forward, she laid her hand on Angel's shoulder. "Angel-"

He turned and grabbed her, wrapping his arms around her hips and burying his face against her stomach. "Oh god, Buffy! She came so close to killing you and I - how did you get loose?" He looked up at her, matching streaks of dirty tears wetting his cheeks, but didn't give her a chance to reply "How bad are you hurt? Are you okay? I - I need to get you to the hospital. I - I need you." Laying his head back against her, he listened to the sound of her heartbeat. "I couldn't live if something happened to you. I love you, Buffy. God help me, I love you so much."

He wasn't crying over Darla? Buffy hugged him against her, kissing the top of his head. "I love you, too."

Angel kissed her stomach, then stood slowly, lifting her into his arms. Saying nothing, Buffy leaned her head against his shoulder as carried her out of the factory and deposited her in his car. The last conscious thought she had was that they were going to be okay.

Then her world faded to black.


Angel paced anxiously in the Host's living room. The walls of the house were plastered with images of James Dean, Frank Sinatra, and Marilyn Monroe. And one entire wall had been devoted to Madonna in various stages of undress and hair color. Glancing at the clock, which was actually the face of Elvis with guitars that pointed out the time, he shook his head. It was taking too long. When he had brought Buffy in, she hadn't even been conscious and the Host had ushered them into the bedroom, then ushered him out again.

He sat down on a chaise lounge and closed his eyes. If anything happened to Buffy - if she didn't make it- it would be his fault. He should have jumped Darla before she had a chance to throw the knife. Part of him kept replaying the scene in his head, looking for ways that he could have acted faster. And another part of him kept chanting that Buffy would be okay. She had lost a lot of blood before and survived. Hell, he had drained her almost to the point of dying, hadn't he? And she was fine. She survived. And if anyone could save her - the Host could.

"I'm glad you have that kind of faith in me," the Host said suddenly.

Angel looked up to see the demon standing in the doorway of the living room and shot to his feet. "How is she?"

"Banged up. Bruised. Gashed a couple of times. But she's okay. Awake, alert, and ready to leave, but-"

Angel creased his brow. "But-?"

"But I can't let her leave empty handed. When she sang to me at the club, I felt like my heart had been ripped out. I felt like I did when Patsy Cline died or Barbra sang 'The Way We Were' to a packed house and I was in the back row and couldn't see her. I felt lost and alone and most of all, restless. She's hurting." The Host motioned Angel back onto the lounge and took a seat opposite him. "When you two left the club tonight, I contacted the Powers That Be and asked them for a favor. They kind of owed me one, but we won't get into that. I suggested that if you were able to take out this Darla chick and come through for Buffy, that you should be allowed to be happy *with* her - if you get my drift?" The Host gave him a pointed looked and continued. "They agreed. You prevailed. And there's a sore little Slayer who is cleaning up in my bathroom who probably needs a good cry and a few explanations and a couple of declarations of love. Then I expect you to bring her back to the club and let her sing for me, and if she's not happy, I'm gonna be very upset."

Angel was staring at the Host with wide eyes. "I can make love to Buffy? We can be together?"

"You can, young stallion," the Host said with a smile. "I suggest you do. I'm not saying that it's going to be easy. You both have baggage that you haven't checked at claims and you both suffered more heartache than two people should, but *if* you love her, and I know you do, the struggles ahead will be worth it. She doesn't know, by the way. This is your news to give."

"What news?" Buffy entered the room and self consciously patted down her hair. The wounds had all cleared, thanks to the Host's special talents, but she was still grimy and dirty. He had offered her the shower, but she politely declined, reminding him that the sun would rise soon and Angel needed to go. Plus she didn't have any clean clothes to change into. "Is it about Drusilla?"

"No." Angel stood up at looked at her, and it felt like he was seeing her for the first time. If it was possible, he fell in love all over again. Saying nothing, he walked toward her and pulled her into his arms. "Are you okay?"

"I'm just tired." Buffy closed her eyes, relishing the feel of his arms around her again. It was just like old times. Magickal and wonderful and a million other words that could apply if she hadn't been too tired to think of more. The Host cleared his throat behind them and Buffy pulled away and stepped toward him. "Thank you for everything. It was really nice to meet you."

"Likewise." The Host gave her a hug, shooting Angel a thumb's up over her shoulder, then ushered them toward the door. "You two run along now. Back to the *hotel* where there are lots of *beds* and get some *rest* or *whatever*." He grinned at Buffy's bewildered look. "Trust me, honey, you'll need it."

The door shut and Buffy glanced up at Angel. "He's very strange."

"He's amazing," Angel said. He took her hand and led her toward his car. "We'll go back to my place. I- need to talk to you about something."

Buffy's feet suddenly felt like lead as she followed him. This was probably it. He would tell her goodbye once and for all and send her back to Sunnydale.

She had never dreaded a talk more than this one in her entire life.

Angel put a protective arm around Buffy as he led her to the car. She smiled up at him and sighed. "Angel, I really am okay now."

"I know." He returned the smile as he opened her door for her. As he walked around to his side, he replayed the conversation with the Host in his head. He knew he could trust the singing demon, he just didn't know if he would ever be what Buffy needed. But God, how he wanted to be. Sitting next to Buffy, he started the engine and glanced at her. Her head was leaned back and she had her eyes closed. He patted her hand and whispered, "You need to rest."

She decided to do just that, she wouldn't think about whatever bad news he was sure to tell her when they got back to the hotel. She would pretend for the next few minutes that Angel had never left, that Darla had never returned. She would let herself feel safe and secure with the man she loved sitting in the seat beside her. She was good at pretending, witness the whole Riley episode.

She must have dozed, because the next thing she knew, the car stopped and Angel was opening the door for her to get out. She followed him into the Hyperion, where he led her to the kitchen. He motioned for to sit at the table. As she sat there yawning, his mind was flooded with memories of a different kitchen, a different table. He smiled to himself as he began to pull eggs and milk and cheese from the refrigerator and pull out the toaster. Maybe, just maybe... "Are you hungry?" he asked.

She nodded. "And dirty and tired."

"I'm going to cook us some breakfast. It's what I do when we pull an all nighter and we have certainly pulled an all nighter." He sighed wearily as he cracked the eggs into a bowl. "Why don't you go take a shower, use the one in my room. There are plenty of towels in there and you can get one of my shirts from either the closet or top left hand drawer. I'll come get you when breakfast is done."

"Okay," she told him with a tired smile as she stood and walked towards the lobby. Her footsteps were heavy as she climbed the stairs.

And she wondered if she would make it through breakfast without having her heart broken again.


Angel hummed happily as he beat the eggs with a whisk and heated the butter in the skillet. He added a little bit of milk to the egg mixture and a hand full of grated cheese. . He grinned at the thought of Buffy upstairs in his shower, a nude Buffy in his shower. *She's probably soaping herself down right now, her little hands running all over her body. Whoa, boy. Probably shouldn't have those thoughts, she's tired and I don't even know how she'll feel when I tell her the news.*


Buffy stood under the stream of hot water and closed her eyes. When she had come to town, she thought she would be strong enough to keep her emotions at bay. She had fooled herself into thinking that she was over Angel, but now, in his shower, in his home, she knew better. She had known better the second her eyes met his again across the lobby of the Hyperion.

She reached for the soap and took a minute to smell it, it smelled like Angel, clean and fresh and - wonderful. She sighed as she lathered up the washcloth and began to wash the grime off from the nights events. She reached for the shampoo and washed her hair, watching as the blood that had dried in it washed down the drain. She turned off the water and reached for the towels she'd laid out. She dried herself off and towel dried her hair the best she could running fingers through until she could find a comb.

Moving back into his bedroom, she opened the dresser and rifled through the T-shirts that were neatly folded inside. At once, she was slammed back to another time, another place.

//You're shaking like a leaf.//

//I'm cold.//

//Put this on and get under the covers. Just to warm up.//

Lifting out one of the shirts, she buried her face in it and inhaled. "Angel," she whimpered. Turning, she sat down on his bed, still clutching the shirt to her chest. She shivered slightly in the chill of the room and laid back, softly stroking the silk that covered his pillow. She felt the first tear fall, quickly joined by a second and a third until she was sobbing softly into the cool material. Crying for what she once had and for what she had lost. And for what fate wouldn't let her have again. Damn the curse. Damn the rules. Damn everything and everyone that had stood in their way.

She kept seeing Angel break down after he had staked Darla. It all seemed like a blur and she couldn't even remember all of what he had said afterwards. He had staked Darla to save her again, right? She should have felt happy about that, but instead she felt that he had done it because he had to, given a choice he would have tried to save Darla. He would have given her another chance. But she had taken that option away from him. That's why he didn't want her along. With her in tow, he didn't have a chance to talk to Darla. All he could do was kill her.

She would choke down the food he cooked and she would leave without argument, it was the least she could do. She curled herself tightly into a ball of misery as she continued to sob into the pillow.


Angel carried a tray of food down the hallway toward his room. He hoped that Buffy was taking an extra long shower, so he could put the food on the bed, turn down the cover, and then tell her that their dreams could come true. He heard her soft sobs before he ever entered the room. He put the tray down just outside the door and let himself in. She was curled on his bed, draped only in a towel, with water beads glistening on her shoulders and legs. His mouth went dry immediately, but he made his way across the room and knelt beside her, putting a comforting hand on her arm. "Buffy, what's wrong?"

She lifted tear-filled eyes to him and shook her head. "I'm sorry."

"Sorry? Why?"

"Because of Darla. You loved her and you had to stake her again because of me." She sobbed the words out, choking over Darla's name and over what she had caused.

"Buffy, weren't you listening after I staked Darla? I staked her because she almost killed you."

"That's why you didn't want me to go. I ruined it. You could have saved her, Angel. Maybe had her cursed or something so you wouldn't be alone."

"I would rather be alone if I can't have you." He paused and pushed her tousled ,still damp hair from her face. "I don't want to live in a world without you in it. I couldn't bear it. And to be honest, Darla would have been a poor substitute. It wasn't love that made me so crazy, Buffy. It was vengeance."

Buffy sat up and looked in his eyes, holding the towel in place with a shaking hand. "You didn't love her? You weren't upset that you had to stake her?"

"No, I was upset that I hadn't staked her sooner. That I let it get to the point that you almost died." He moved his hand to her cheek and brushed the tears away. "You are the only woman I have ever loved, Buffy. Just you."

"But.. but you cried, Angel. I've never seen you just break down like that."

"You should've seen me the night I left Sunnydale. The night you graduated. Or the night that you were here and the Faith thing happened. Buffy, you didn't see me break down tonight by a long shot. I was just sorry you were hurt. And glad it was finally over."

She bit her bottom lip and stared into his eyes. All this time, she had let herself believe that she had been the only devastated on in their relationship, but that wasn't true at all. "I love you, Angel. And I'm so sorry that we can't- that I can't -"

"Shhh." Angel laid his finger over her lips. "Don't talk. Just kiss me."

Buffy smiled as he repeated the words she had said to him the one and only night they'd made love. Leaning toward him, she pressed her lips to his. At first, it was soft, gentle, and his hand trailed slowly over her wet cheeks. Then he moved a hand behind her head, tangling his fingers through her damp hair and it intensified. It became intense, hungry, and full of the pent up desire they both had. His hands were all over her at once, cupping her backside, smoothing over her hip and down her thigh, then edging under the towel she had secured around her.

The touch of his hand on her bare skin sent tiny shivers through her she wanted pulled him even closer to her. She gasped as she felt him skim the soft skin of her stomach and rolled to her back, pulling him with her. Angel sat up and pulled the sides of the towel away, exposing her fully. His gaze trailed lazily from the column of her throat, over the peaks of her breasts, down the valley of her stomach, and stopped at the apex of her thighs. "You are still so beautiful."

His voice pulled her out of her reverie. As if she had been scalded by his stare, she sat up swiftly and tried to pull the towel around her. "No. Angel, stop! We- what are we doing? We know we can't."

He caught her hands in his and kissed them. "Do you trust me?"

Buffy nodded, gazing up at him. "You know that I do."

"Then don't ask me any questions. Don't second guess. Just let me."

"L- let you what?" Buffy already knew the answer. She could see the passion burning in his face, in his eyes.

"Let me make love to you, Buffy. Let me show you that it's always been you."

"Your soul. Your soul will-"

"Will be fine. Just trust me." He kissed her hands again, then nuzzled her neck, softly pressing her back against the bed. He could feel her heart slamming against his own chest, feel the tension in her body as he kissed her ear, and propped himself up, watching her. "Do you want me to stop?"

Buffy reached up and touched his face. "No. I- I think I'd die if you stopped."

Angel captured her lips with his, once again leaving her breathless before he broke free and moved to her breasts. She arched against him, gasping in pleasure as he suckled her flesh until it puckered and strained in need. Her hands were in his hair, on his neck, and his name was on her lips as he moved even lower, licking her belly button, then her thigh.

When he moved between her legs, she almost came just from the knowledge that it was *Angel* doing this to her and her eyes filled with tears when she glanced down at him and saw that his eyes were closed. The feel of his tongue, his fingers, the coolness of him against her own heat - it was better than she had remembered. She felt herself go limp under his ministrations, felt her tension flee, and she relaxed, giving him the power to manipulate her body in ways that only he could. Within minutes, she was breathing hard, head thrown back, as the most powerful orgasm she had ever had rocked through her. She cried out in relief, in love, and in need - and then he was there, kissing her again.

She wasn't sure when he had removed his clothing, but she felt the length of him, hard and bare from head to toe, against her. Lazily, she trailed her fingers over his back, over the area where she knew his familiar tattoo would be, and over his neck, gently cupping his face. The taste of her on his lips made her quake with more need, more hunger, and she lifted her hips beneath him, seeking his. Teasingly, he pulled away and grinned down at her. She smiled sweetly and flipped them, landing astride him as he fell back against the pillows. With one deft move of her hips, she was sliding down onto him, inch by glorious inch filling her completely.

Angel's eyes rolled back in his head as her heat overwhelmed his senses. The rest of the world had fallen away, as far as he was concerned, and there was nothing left to do but feel. And he felt her all over. His heart, his blood, his body, and his soul were hers. He sat up and kissed her neck, slowly urging her legs to wrap around him. When she was off her knees, he moved into her even deeper and they both moaned out.

Chest to chest, eye to eye, he moved his hands down to her hips and gripped her lightly, lifting her and urging her back down onto him. They moved slowly, softly gliding against one another, her nipples rubbing against his own chest, and her arms locked securely around his neck. It was better than a dream, better than the fantasies, better than anything either had ever felt.

But they soon needed more, they needed it stronger.

Angel felt her legs tighten as she lifted herself higher, then slammed against him roughly. He looked into her eyes and saw the need, primal and hungry, and nodded, letting her fall back against the bed. Never breaking their contact, he moved between her legs fully and pumped into her. One hand moved between them, stroking insistently on her clit while the other tangled in the bedsheets. He watched her face, waiting for her to go over the edge before he dared let himself. Her lips parted and she cried out his name again, eyes closed tightly and brow furrowed. He felt her inner muscles clamp down on him and let himself go, burying his face in her neck as he exploded within her.

Buffy felt his cold seed shoot into her and pushed against him, sending him as far into her as she could. Never before had she ever felt so complete. So thoroughly loved and sated. Wrapping her arms around him, she whispered, "I love you."

"I love you, baby," he replied as he pulled himself from her and kissed her softly on the mouth. Laying next to her, he pillowed her head on his arm and wrapped a protective arm around her. "Thank you."

"For what?"

"For trusting me," he said softly. "For loving me. For coming here when I needed you. For finding me again."

"You were never lost," she whispered softly. "You were in my heart all this time."

"Buffy, I don't know what's going to happen next--"

"Next we heal. And we start over." She looked up at him. "And we have breakfast."

His eyes widened. "Oh no! I left it in the hallway."

Angel started to get up, but Buffy stopped him, giving him a coy smile. "I wasn't talking about food."


When Buffy awoke some time later, and felt around in the dark for Angel, she encountered an empty bed. She was on the verge of panicking, of letting every single fear she had boil to the surface, when he stepped into the room carrying a bag and smiled at her. "Well it's about time," he said with a wink. "I was beginning to think nothing could wake you up."

She swallowed hard and studied him closely. He raised an eyebrow. "It's still me, Buffy." Sitting next to her, he held out the bag. "I asked Cordelia to go and buy you some clothing. I made her promise to get something pretty. I hope you like it."

"Thank you." Buffy nodded, but didn't open the bag. "So, you and Cordelia made nice?"

"Yeah. I apologized and hired them again."

"Oh," she mumbled and looked away.

He put a hand under her chin and turned her to face him. "Considering the fact that I plan on spending a lot of time in Sunnydale, I figured I'd need them full time again."

"Oh," Buffy repeated, but this time she said it with a sigh of relief. "So, what's next?"

Angel leaned closer and kissed her on the mouth. "I was thinking, since we're both awake now, we could maybe grab a shower and go get some dinner, and then pay a visit to the Host."

"Mmmm. I need to thank him," Buffy mumbled against his lips. Angel had told her all about what the Host had done for them before they'd finally drifted off the sleep. "I call dibs on the shower first."

Angel caught her as she started to get out of bed. "No, uh uh." He shook his head. "If you're going to the shower, I'm going too."

"Oooh," Buffy said with a playful grin. "Will you wash my back?"

"I don't know how much washing we'll get done, but I might get around to it."

"You're insatiable."

"You're one to talk." With that, he leaned down and threw her over his shoulder, carrying her into the bathroom.

Buffy wrapped herself in a big fluffy towel and smiled at Angel as he secured another around his waist. She giggled soflty. "What's so funny?" Angel asked, pulling her against him.

She looked up at him, her eyes glowing with a happiness she had not known in ages. "That had to be the longest shower I've ever taken."

He laughed along with her, smoothing her wet hair off her forehead. "Well if someone could have kept her hands to herself we would have been out sooner."

Buffy raised her eyebrows at him and smiled slyly. "Making up for lost time."

"We're not even halfway there," he said, then kissed the top of her head. "But, that'll have to wait. We better get dressed or we'll never make it to the club."

She reluctantly pulled away from him and picked up the bag of clothing that Cordelia had picked out for her. She was surprised to find a lovely eyelet lace sundress in the palest of yellows with white strappy sandals to match. Cordelia had chosen well.

Angel pulled on bluejeans and a white button up shirt. He suddenly felt like casual light colors tonight. He watched as Buffy dressed and did her hair, his eyes following her every move. She was graceful, perfect. His. "You look beautiful! Remind me to thank Cordy."

Buffy turned to face him, "You don't look bad yourself! I like the white shirt. I didn't know you owned any light colors or bluejeans." She took a step closer. "Ohhh.. button fly." She giggled as she brushed her hand over the brass buttons.

"We have to go see the host, Buffy." Angel gently caught her hand, bringing it to his mouth where he lightly kissed her knuckles. "You can play with the buttons when we get home, I promise."

She winked at him, then followed him downstairs to the car. Angel smiled at her as he opened the car door and she settled herself in. He joined her and said, "He's going to want someone to sing - maybe both of us." Angel turned to face her in the seat. "Are you up to it?"

"Will you be there with me?"

"Of course, you couldn't get rid of me if you tried." He caught a ringlet of her hair in his fingertips, then leaned forward to kiss her.

"As long as you're with me I can do anything.." She said simply, then slid next to him for the drive to Caritas. On the way, he pointed out buildings and alleys, sharing stories with her of demons he had fought during his time in Los Angeles. Buffy listened raptly, intently, not bothering to mention that she had never heard him talk more in her entire life. Instead, she hung on his every word, watching him.

And she had never been more content.


Angel and Buffy walked hand in hand into the crowded club. The Host met them as they cornered the bar. He smiled and led them to a table, where he pulled out the chair for Buffy, batting Angel's hand away when he tried to do it himself. He signaled the waiter, then sat across from them, grinning from ear to ear. "So you both seem to be in one piece, smiles on the faces, holding hands. I take it you found a use for the beds in that hotel." He smirked at Buffy and Angel.

Angel cleared his throat, shooting Buffy a little smirk. "Let's just say we worked out our differences."

"Very good, but I would like some proof. I want a you two to sing a duet and I want to only read happy thoughts from both of you." He smiled at the couple as if daring them to argue. When they didn't, he made his way to the stage and addressed the crowd, "The last time we heard from this little sweetheart her heart was in pieces tonight she isn't singing alone. Let's hear for Buffy and Angel."

Angel stood and took Buffy by the hand leading her to the stage. She laughed softly as they began to choose a song. Angel pointed at one and whispered 'just take my lead and we won't be on stage long'. She nodded as the music began to play.

The first strains of Rod Stewart's "Tonight's the Night" began to play and Angel and Buffy began to stare into each others eyes as if they were undressing each other in thier minds.

"Stay away from the window, stay away from the backdoor too disconnect the telephone line Relax baby and draw that blind"

Buffy sang the words to Angel sashaying across the stage and running her hand up his chest suggestively.

He gave her a look that could melt all the ice in Alaska as he sang the next verse

"Kick off your shoes and sit right down Loosen up that pretty French gown Let me pour you a good long drink Ooh, baby, don't you hesitate"

She smiled back at him as she raised her hand to stroke his cheek. He put one arm around her and pulled her close to his side.

They sang the chorus together.

('cause) Tonight's the night Gonna be alright cause I love you girl Ain't nobody gonna stop us now

Angel kissed the top of Buffy's head as he sang the next verse

"Come on angel, my heart's on fire Don't deny your man's desire

Buffy gave him a brilliant smile and turning to him ran one leg up and down his inner leg.

"You'd be a fool to stop this tide Spread your wings and let me come inside"

She grinned at him and began the next verse.

"Don't say a word, my virgin child"

Angel rolled his eyes at the "virgin child" line but pulled her even closer to him. His hands roaming up and down her arms.

"Just let your inhibitions run wild The secret is about to unfold Upstairs before the night's too old"

Buffy winked at Angel as she sang the words. Before they could start the chorus again the Host joined them onstage. He motioned for the music to stop. "Okay, let's get these two off the stage before we all get an eyeful." He smiled at Buffy and Angel as they stepped down from the stage hand in hand.

The Host led them back to the table and served them drinks. "After that display you two need to cool off. My, my, I'd say you are both very happy. I'm happy for both of you." He turned to Angel, "I don't ever want to see her in the state she was in before." Then turning back to Buffy. " And make sure he doesn't forget that he isn't responsible for every bad thing that happens." His face grew somber as he studied their faces. "It won't be easy. You both need to know that right now. There will be trials, fights, tears, but destiny has won the war. The battles are just there to keep you entertained."

They smiled at him and then at each other. The Host stood and finished off his drink. "Now you two get on back to the Hyperion. Because as Rod said -- you want to get 'upstairs before the night's too old.'"

Buffy stood and gave the Host a quick hug. She saw a tear twinkling in his eye and stepped back. "Thank you."

Angel had stood as well, and had extended a hand. When the Host took it, Angel tugged him forward, embracing him. In a low voice, Angel said, "You gave me back my life."

The Host patted him on the back and stepped away, sniffling. "Yeah, well, if it means that you won't be singing 'Mandy' again, it was worth it."

"Mandy?" Buffy asked, eyebrows raised.

"Trust me, honey, you don't want to know," The Host replied, laying his hand on her cheek. "Now scat, before I make you sing something wholesome. The thoughts that you two are *still* having are making me blush!"

With that, he disappeared into the crowd, leaving Buffy and Angel standing side by side. She took his hand and looked up at him. "Want to dance?"

"No, not so much." He grabbed his jacket off the back of the chair and led her toward the door. "Button fly pants, remember?"

"One track mind, much?" Buffy said in a mock stern voice.

Angel paused near the exit and looked down at her. "Okay, we can stay."

Buffy's eyes widened. "What? No. We should really, really go."

He grinned and led her into the parking lot, where he opened the door for her. She started to slip into the passenger seat, but he caught her arm and pushed the seat forward, pointing at the backseat. She took the hint and crawled in the back and he followed. "We're not going to make it back to the hotel anytime soon are we?" she drawled, as he began to kiss her neck.

"No. Absolutely not." He slowly lowered the straps of her dress, exposing her chest.

From their position in the parking lot, they heard the Host begin to sing.

I was a fool to ever leave your side Me minus you is such a lonely ride The breakup we had has made me lonesome and sad I realize I love you 'cause I want you bad, hey, hey I spent the evening with the radio Regret the moment that I let you go Our quarrel was such a way of learning so much I know now that I love you 'cause I need your touch, hey, hey Reunited and it feels so good Reunited 'cause we understood There's one perfect fit And, sugar, this one is it We both are so excited 'cause we're reunited, hey, hey ....