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Because of some flames I've received over this fic, I felt the need to address a few things here. I do not hate the character of Riley Finn. Quite the contrary, I *like* him. Just because I write a fic that makes him seem like a bad guy doesn't mean I think he is. I wrote this for a friend of mine who was specific about what she wanted. So, please don't flame me. It was all in fun and I've written B/R fics too.
"… and Riley says that it's better to drive past the vineyards in January so after the New Year I'm going to go with him. He promised me I could drive some since he taught me and I got my license. So, Giles, don't ask me to do anything then either." Buffy took a deep breath, ignoring the resigned faces on her two male listeners. "And Riley says that it's a good idea to …"
by Chelle Storey
"Bloody Hell!" Spike shouted. "Riley says. Riley says. Spike says ‘die' but you don't listen to that!"
"That's because you're an asshole." Buffy didn't bother looking at Spike as she said it and instead turned her full attention toward Giles. "Riley asked me to a movie tonight and then we're going horseback riding in Tate's woods."
"Buffy, you know that tonight we had planned to research the commandos." Giles glanced past her and narrowed his eyes at Spike, who was trying to scoot close enough to kick the Slayer. Spike caught the look and smiled innocently before he brought his glass of blood to his mouth.
"I'm going, Giles." She crossed her arms and slouched a little, trying to look pitiful. "I never get to do anything. And Riley Finn is really a nice guy who seems to like me."
"He's not right in the head then." Spike stated, matter-of-factly. "If he likes you he is either desperate or daft. And what kind of name is Riley Finn?"
Taking a deep breath, Buffy turned and leaned down so that she was eye level to the vampire. He was tied in his usual chair and stuck his chin out defiantly when she glared at him. "What are you looking at, Slayer?"
"Riley could be desperate or daft but at least he's not tied in a chair, sucking vermin blood up through a straw that I happen to have dropped in the floor and stepped on." She patted him on the head, then shoved him backwards. The glass of blood poured all over his chest and neck and he howled in anger as he thumped to the floor. "Careful, Spike. Blood is really hard to clean out of clothes and I know how fond you are of the one set you have."
"Yeah, well pretty soon I'll be bathing in your damn blood, won't I?"
Buffy threw her head back and laughed loudly. "You don't bathe as it is, Stinky."
Spike watched her say good-bye to the Watcher and priss out the front door before he whimpered. "Giles, help me?"
"What did she say this boy's name was?" Giles ignored him and paced back and forth.
"Riley Finn." Spike growled, rocking back and forth. "Help!"
"No, it can't be." Giles ran for the door, intent on stopping Buffy, but yanked it open in time to see her drive away. "And it happens tonight."
__ Cordelia twined her fingers through Doyle's as they walked out of the theater. Ever since they had miraculously stopped the Scourge and gone to dinner for the first time, they had been inseparable and that suited her just fine. "Wasn't that the best movie you've ever seen, Doyle?"
Doyle smiled at her and dropped his trash into the wastebasket, before pulling her closer and nuzzling her neck. "It was. I've always been very fond of the Headless Horseman fable."
Angel dug though his pockets for his keys and stared at Cordelia. "I can't believe I let you talk me into this. It's insulting how many mistakes in accuracy they had in that film. The clothing, the carriages and the hair … the hair was horrible."
"Not everyone is follically blessed, man." Doyle shrugged, bringing Cordelia 's hand to his lips and kissing it softly. "I liked it."
"You would." Angel glanced from Doyle to Cordelia as if to imply that he liked anything.
"I saw that look, Angel." Cordy punched him on the arm. "You know what your problem is? You have lived so damn long that you're too stodgy to enjoy anything."
Angel stopped walking and watched his partners chase each other playfully through the parking lot. "I'm not stodgy." He mumbled.
Thirty minutes later, he had dropped Cordelia and Doyle off at her place, and walked slowly into his lonely apartment. Sighing, he glanced at the kitchen table, a place he had purposely avoided since he had feasted on Buffy there. A small shiver ran through him as he recalled the way she had parted her legs for him, allowing him to sate his appetite and love her the way he had longed to do. Slowly, he walked toward the table and laid a hand on the smooth, cold wood and allowed himself to relive the moment.
Buffy had hissed as he had slid her pants down over her hips and kissed her lower abdomen. Her tiny fingers raked through his hair, urging him to follow the path of her pants lower and lower, and he had taken his sweet time complying. When he finally did rest his head between her thighs, she was already on the verge of coming and just a few flicks of his tongue had pushed her over the edge. He had taken her there, with her legs running up the front of his body and her hands clasping his. He had entered her with…
The telephone rang and Angel jumped. Turning quickly, he made his way back to the living room. On the third ring, he grabbed it. "Hello?"
"Oh, Angel, thank Heavens you're there." Giles said, relief present in his tone. "I've called you for over an hour."
"What's wrong? Is Buffy-?" Angel trailed off, knowing that Giles would instinctively know what the question was.
"Not yet, but I'm afraid I need you to come post haste. She's in immediate danger and it would appear that you're the only one who can do anything."
Angel closed his eyes as he listened to Giles. "I can't. I can't just drop everything and come back when she gets into trouble. Didn't Thanksgiving teach you people anything? She doesn't want me there."
"Angel, I hardly think that Buffy's wants should take priority over her needs. She needs you tonight. In four hours to be exact because a Railfinn demon is here and …"
Spike rolled his eyes as he listened to Giles trying to convince Angel to come. Finally, he hopped over to where Giles stood and said, "Give me the phone."
Giles arched and eyebrow but complied. Spike put the receiver to his ear and said, "Angelus? This is Spike. No. No. Shut your gob and listen to me. That freakin' slayer is up to her narrow little ass in trouble and only a demon can help her. What? I know I'm a demon, you jelly-wad! But the past few weeks have seen a decline in my … stamina … and I can't help her! I don't want to help her."
"What are you doing in Giles's house?" Angel demanded, rubbing the headache that always came when he spoke with Spike.
"I'm tied to a freaking chair about to heave because of the smell of pig's blood all over me." Spike shouted, angry at the world. "Now, get your big haired ass out to your car and get here as soon as you can because only a demon can kill a Railfinn. You're the only demon who would willingly save that little bitch!"
"Watch your mouth." Angel growled.
"Oh, piss off." Spike sneered into the receiver. "If you don't hurry up and get here, the whore of your life is going to die, and there will be no one else left in this world who gives a good flying fuck if you have hair gel and a good blow dryer. Pussy.."
"You're a dead man." Angel grabbed an airhorn from his desk and blew it into the phone. He heard Spike scream, something thud and then Giles was back on the phone.
"How bad is it, really?" He asked, putting the airhorn down and trying not to laugh at Spike's screams that he was deaf.
"Buffy's new boyfriend is named Riley Finn. I did some research on him and traced his ancestry and sure enough, Railfinn demon. I should have known by his square jaw and beady little eyes but I was distracted. And you know that only a Railfinn is vain enough to not vary far from it's true name when naming itself. Riley Finn! Absurd! I knew the prophecy was coming to pass tonight but I just assumed it would battle another demon. Not to mention-"
"I'm on my way." Angel interrupted, glancing at the clock. "Where are they?"
"They were going to a movie and then horseback riding in Tate's Woods. Angel, if the Railfinn gets sexually aroused then-"
"I know." Angel closed his eyes and added, "I'm leaving right now."
Buffy smiled and nestled into the crook of Riley's arm as the movie started. She had always had a crush on Johnny Depp and seeing him in Sleepy Hollow, her favorite legend, was something she had looked forward to for weeks. With a contented sigh, she took the popcorn that Riley offered and put a few pieces in her mouth.
Riley turned abruptly and pressed his mouth to hers. She gasped and sucked a piece of the popcorn down her throat. Her date didn't seem to notice that she was choking and continued to try to force his tongue into her mouth. She shoved him back and hacked several times, earning glares from the people closest to them. Riley pounded her back and chuckled, mumbling that he had that effect on most women.
She reached for her soda, but he grabbed it first and took several swallows. Wheezing, she snatched it from him and sipped the rest, washing down the kernal that was imbedded in her right tonsil. Clearing her throat, she glared at him for several seconds, before she sat back in her seat and concentrated on the movie screen.
His hand came out of nowhere behind her, and she yelped when he snaked over her shoulder and cupped her breast. The movie had not even gotten past the credits and she elbowed him in the ribs, trying to sound playful when she said, "Will you stop that? I want to see the movie."
"We can rent it." He leaned close to her and shoved his tongue in her ear.
Buffy rolled her eyes and pulled away. "Riley, we're in public and besides that, I had to pay to get us in here so I really want to watch."
"Okay, okay. We'll save something for the horseback ride." Tweaking her nose, Riley took the popcorn back and plopped his feet on the chair in front of him, hitting an elderly woman in the back of the head. She slumped forward and Buffy gasped, but Riley was too busy shoving handfuls of food in his mouth to notice.
Buffy leaned forward and saw that the woman was massaging her head and then sat back in her seat, thoroughly embarrassed. < Maybe he's on drugs. I don' t care. Really. I don't care at all that the only normal men I attract are weird. What am I saying? >
Spike glanced at the clock on the wall and cleared his throat. "The girly man should be here in about an hour."
Giles lifted the sword he had been chanting over and laid it on the coffee table. "If he makes it in time then this should be enough to stop the Railfinn and send it straight back into Hell."
"And if he doesn't, then the Slayer dies. But she would have wanted you all to keep me alive, you know?" Spike shook his head slowly. "I'm sure of it."
Giles leaned against the arm of the couch and crossed his arm. "It's because of me that you're alive at all. She's wanted you dead a million times. If she dies, you die. Just because I think it might console me."
"I get no bloody respect in this town." Spike stared at the clock again and then jumped when someone knocked against the door several times.
Giles crossed the small apartment and snatched the door open. "Angel! We weren't expecting you for another hour."
"I borrowed Doyle's motorcycle. It lets me pass things easier. Where is she?" He stepped past Giles and stared at Spike, not bothering to hide his laughter. "Look at you. All tied up and covered in blood."
"Just the way you used to like me." Spike smiled innocently. "Want to show Giles what kind of special privileges a sire gets?"
Angel made a move toward him but Giles intercepted and said, "Buffy-"
With a nod, Angel ignored Spike and pointed toward the sword. "Is that for me?"
Giles handed it to him and watched as he slipped it and the sheath around his waist. "You have to sever his head, Angel. You get one chance. If it knows that you're a demon and out to kill it then it will disappear."
"Or possibly ask for grooming tips." Spike blurted out. "Nice helmet hair, poof."
"Tate's Woods?" Angel repeated what Giles had told him and put his hand on Giles's shoulder. "I will bring her back safe."
"You're not obligated to." Spike called after him as he headed for the door. "As a matter of fact, you could make a romantic gesture and die alongside her. We don't mind."
Angel slammed the door and Giles turned to glare at the blond vampire. "Do you ever wonder what it would be like to be remotely likable?"
"I like myself. I don't care what a bunch of mortals think of me." Spike shouted. For several minutes, he didn't speak and then he cleared his throat. "Giles?"
"I thought you liked me."
Angel parked the motor cycle near the horse stables. There was a red sports car sitting near the barn and when he hopped off the bike, he felt the hood of the car and noted that it was still warm. Moving quickly, he saddled a solid black horse and mounted, pointing it toward the path.
He could smell Buffy's perfume in the air and growled low in his throat when he thought of her out here with another man. It had been less than three weeks since she had come to Los Angeles and been in his arms. Granted, she didn't remember, but that didn't excuse the fact that she wasn't wasting any time in replacing him. He paused when he lost her scent and tilted his head to one side. They had gone off the trail.
Pulling the reigns to the left, he led his horse up a small incline and paused again. About fifty yards in front of him, in a clearing, Buffy was climbing off of her horse and into a boy's arms. Gritting his teeth, Angel watched as the man held her off the ground and against his body, groping her ass to do so. He loved and hated the fact that being a vampire let him see so well in the dark. The only comfort he had was the fact that he could see the boy well enough not to miss when the time came.
Angel realized that he would have to get Buffy away from the demon in order to slay it and from the looks of it, she was content where she was. The sound of her soft laughter carried across the field and assaulted his senses. It wasn't long ago that he had been the cause of that sweet sound. As he watched, the man set Buffy on her feet and kissed her. With a satisfied smile, he unsheathed the sword and drew it into his lap, anxious for the right moment.
Buffy reached for the blanket that had been tied to her saddle but Riley caught her before she could grab it and pinned her against a tree truck. She squirmed as the bark bit into her back and tried to protest but he was covering her mouth with his. Deciding to make a game of it, and hopefully get him out of his lecherous mood, she shoved him back and jogged further into the field, still giggling.
Riley watched her for several seconds before he glanced at his Indiglo watch and noted the time. Just thirty more minutes and he would make her his meal as she writhed beneath him. "Come here, Buff."
"Come and get me." Buffy called, walking slowly around a large pile of rocks that had been stacked in the middle of the clearing.
"What do I get if I catch you?" Riley asked, pausing on the other side of the rocks.
Before Buffy could answer, she heard the heavy hoof beats of a horse. Squinting her eyes, she stared into the darkness, trying not to notice the way the hairs on the back of her neck were dancing upward. "Were you expecting company, Riley?"
"No." He shook his head and watched the woods closely, waiting for whoever it was to get close enough to see.
It was at that precise moment that the moon broke free from the clouds and gleamed heavily on the sword that was slicing through the air. Buffy screamed in shock as the horseman ran straight past Riley, taking the boy's head off as he went. She watched in abject horror as the horse turned and the man set his sights on her, pausing a few feet away.
Riley's body twitched for several seconds, the blood glistening on the ground as it poured from his neck. Bile rose in her throat when the horseman speared the head and tossed it into the woods, where it landed with a sickening thump. Sobbing and realizing that she was unarmed, she turned and fled the way the horseman had come.
For what felt like an eternity, she ran, choking so loud that all she could hear was her own hitched breathing. She stumbled when she felt the horse blow hot air down the back of her shirt and screamed loudly, not realizing how close the horseman was until that second. A large hand gripped her arm and she was lifted off the ground and gripped tightly against a firm body.
"Please? Please, don't." Buffy sobbed, trying to yank herself free. She still couldn't believe that she had just witnessed her boyfriend die a gruesome death and had been unable to help him.
Angel stopped the horse and slid the sword back into the sheath before he pulled her completely onto the horse. He nestled her sideways in front of him and cradled her in his arm. "Buffy, stop."
Realization hit her like a ton of bricks as she looked into the man's face. Angel? Angel had killed Riley. Angel would never kill anyone. "Oh God. You' re Angelus! You changed!"
Her tiny fists began to pound against his chest and he shook her. "No, I'm not."
"You-you killed Riley." Guilt washed over her and she tried to leap off the horse, but he held her tightly. "Angel, why did you do that?"
"Giles called me. He said that your latest Don Juan was a Railfinn demon." His grip tightened and Buffy cried out under the pressure. Immediately, he loosened his grip. "I'm sorry. It's just … seeing you with another man-"
"You left me! You told me to move on." She shouted, her eyes widening with unshed tears. "And Riley wasn't a demon."
Angel twisted her, putting her back to his chest, before he turned the horse around and headed toward the dead body. When Buffy saw what he was doing, she immediately began to fidget and try to leap off but Angel wasn't letting her move an inch. "Angel, please," she begged. "I can't see him. I can't."
"I have to prove it." He said angrily. "I'm going to show you that he's a demon. He was planning on killing you tonight."
As they came upon the body, Buffy covered her eyes. Angel slipped off behind her and lifted the back of the thing's shirt. Sure enough, there was a large fin, almost like a shark fin, tearing through his skin. Angel glanced up, saw that she was covering her eyes and yanked her hand off of her face. "Look at him, Buffy."
She complied and gasped, "He's a great white shark?"
"Railfinn." Angel let the shirt drop and stood back up. "I'm sorry that it happened this way. He can't know that he's about to be killed or he'll vanish. And only a demon can kill this specific breed."
Stunned, Buffy nodded in silence and wrapped her arms around herself. Angel removed his duster and put it around her slim shoulders before he pulled her down into his arms. She sniffled and leaned against his chest. "Angel, why do I always fall for the bad guy? Tom Warner, Riley Finn, Parker Abrams, Spike- "
"SPIKE!?" Angel shoved her back so he could glare at her. "You were with Spike?"
"I was under a spell." She said quickly. "We thought we were in love and would get married."
"Did you sleep with him?"
"Did you sleep with all the others?"
"No!" Buffy put her hand on Angel's arm, trying to show that he was all she wanted but it suddenly struck her that he had no right to care. "What's it to you anyway, Mr. I-Run-When-Things-Get-Rough!"
"I didn't run!" He shouted, taking several steps away.
"Look, you're running again!"
Angel stalked back toward her and grabbed her upper arms. "I'm not going anywhere. Do you understand me? I leave you for six months and you almost marry Spike, almost get killed by a demon here and then come to Los Angeles and let me make love to you and then I give it up because-" His eyes widened and he ran his hand through his hair. "Forget I said that."
"What?" She studied him closely. "We didn't make love in Los Angeles. Angel, what are you hiding from me?"
He stared down at her, recalling the way her lips had trembled when he had told her that he had given up his humanity and she wouldn't remember. Part of him wanted to spare her that knowledge again, but another part wanted to tell her what he had gained by being so selfless. The Oracles had given him a gift, just like he had given them and he had struggled with it since he had let her go. "Buffy, I-I don't know how -or even if- I should tell you the truth."
"I strongly suggest you do." She planted her hands on her hips, no longer caring that there was a corpse at their feet.
"You remember that demon I fought in Los Angeles?"
"Sure. You killed it before I even had a chance to react." She shrugged and snuggled further into his coat. "What does this have to do with anything?"
"I didn't kill it the first time." Angel said. He watched her face change from disinterest to confusion. "Do you trust me? Do you trust that I would never lie to you?"
"Why the hell not?" Angel stared at her in disbelief. "I have never given you a reason not to trust me."
"You told me that you would be with me forever. You promised me that you would never leave me and you did."
"Buffy-" He stared at her for a few minutes, searching for the right words. "Can we go someplace else and talk?"
"If you have something to say then just say it here." Buffy knew that she was being unreasonably mean to him but she had learned the hard way what it meant when Angel had something on his mind. The last time she had asked him to share his feelings, he had informed her that he didn't want to be a part of ‘this freak show' that was their love.
"Fine." He snapped, leading her and the horse toward a fallen tree. He tied the reigns around one of the branches and pushed her back so she could sit on the trunk. "Do you know what an Oracle is?"
"The Baltimore Orioles? Yeah, it's a baseball team."
"Not Orioles. Oracle. Oracle was the name used to denote the place where answers were supposed to be given by any of the divinities to those who consulted them respecting the future." Angel paused, watching her closely to see if she was following him. When she stared at him blankly, he sighed, and tried to think of another example. "Did you see the Never Ending Story?"
"Of course I did. What are you doing watching that?"
"That's not important. Do you remember when the warrior boy-"
"Atreyu." Buffy said.
"That's right. Atreyu had to go seek knowledge from the tall stone statues. Those were oracles."
"Oh, right. They know everything!"
Buffy arched one of her eyebrows and sighed again. "Angel, couldn't you have just said that to begin with instead of quoting the definition of one? I mean, I did just witness my ex kill my current and that's-"
"Do you want to hear this or not?"
She waved her hand at him and said, "Go on."
"When you came to the office and I fought the demon for the first time, it got away and we went looking for it in the sewers." Angel clamped his hand over her mouth when she started to disagree. "You don't remember it, Buffy, but we did. We had this long talk and then you went above ground and I kept searching the tunnels. I ran into it again and we fought and I stabbed it. When I did that, it's blood mixed with mine and … I became a human being. I was alive."
Buffy's eyes widened and she pushed his hand away. "You were alive?"
"Yeah. You were out searching for the demon and I went back to the agency and Doyle took me to see the Oracles. I asked them what had happened and they told me this demon, a morah demon, made me mortal. Forever."
"Are you-" She gasped and reached to feel his chest but he stopped her.
"Don't." He clutched her hand in his and kissed it softly. "When they told me that it was real, I went to you, out in the sun and you-oh Buffy- you were so beautiful in the sun that I just grabbed you and kissed you. I didn' t explain right then, we just walked out on the pier and I guess you thought I had the gem of amarrah because you didn't ask. We watched the sunset and then went back to my place and I explained what I just told you."
Buffy's eyes had filled with tears as she listened to him speak. This was a dream he was explaining to her. She had dreamed this every night since she had returned from Los Angeles. "We talked about it and decided to just stay in touch, Angel." She whispered. "But as I started to leave, you grabbed me and kissed me again. We were in your kitchen and you-"
"You remember?" Relief washed over him and he pulled her into his arms.
"No. It was a dream, Angel. We had the same dream." She pulled away and shook her head. "Just like we did last Christmas and we both remembered."
"No, Buffy. It happened. I made love to you over and over again. I was so happy, baby. You were happy." His voice broke and he pulled her in his arms again. "I fought the demon again and almost died but you came and risked your life to save me. I realized that I was nothing if I couldn't help you and I went back to the oracles."
"No. The dream ended there, Angel. It ended with me falling asleep happy."
"It's not a dream. When the oracles told me that you would die in battle and I wouldn't be able to help you, I asked them to make me a vampire again and they erased your memory of the day."
"You decided for me?" Buffy shouted, rising to her feet. "You went without me and decided OUR future yourself? You took away my option?"
"I had to. I knew that you would decide to keep me human, even if it meant sacrificing lives."
"What's so wrong with that?" Her sobs broke forth and she yanked away when he tried to comfort her. "Don't Angel! I have spent the last five years saving people. I can't save everyone and the only person who means the world to me is one of those. Why should I sacrifice you and my happiness all the time? When do I get to decide?"
Angel stared at the ground, unable to answer. Finally, he said, "The oracles were impressed with my selflessness and they gave me a gift in return."
"I'm so happy for you." Buffy laughed cruelly and wiped the tears off her face, resolved not to let him see her upset. "Don't spend it all in one place."
"When they turned me back into a vampire, they gave me my soul but didn't curse me. I wasn't cursed to suffer anymore, Buffy. I was cursed to be a warrior and not out of spite." Angel took a step forward and reached for her.
Buffy stepped away and shook her head. "You don't have the happiness thing to restrain you anymore?"
She started to cry again, quietly this time. "And you didn't come for me?"
"I thought-" Angel knew he had to choose his words carefully and closed his eyes, trying to decide how to explain. When he opened them again, she wasn't in front of him and he spun quickly, just in time to see rush past him and mount her horse. "Buffy! Wait!"
Buffy heard him, but kicked her horse in the side and headed back toward town. She didn't know where she would go, all she knew was that he was no longer cursed and didn't want her. The fact that the things that she had been dreaming about had actually happened was secondary. What hurt her so much that she wanted to die was knowing that he could have come to her and didn't.
Choking on the tears, she turned to see if he was following her and didn't see the low tree branch the jutted out in her path. It caught her in the chest and threw her off the back of her horse. The wind was knocked out of her and she rolled to her side, trying to catch her breath. She heard Angel jump off his horse behind her and tried to get to her feet to walk away, but he grabbed her. "No," she wheezed.
"Are you trying to get yourself killed?" Angel gripped her and forced her to lean forward, remembering his own encounters with tree limbs when he was a mortal on a horse. "Breathe through your mouth and not your nose."
Buffy wanted to tell him that he wasn't an expert on breathing but complied instead. When she was able to fill her lungs enough to keep her alive, she shook his hands off. "I'm going home."
"Are you okay?"
"I'm fine!" Getting to her feet, she grabbed her horse's reigns and mounted again. "Stay away from me, Angel. If you don't chase me, I won't have to run."
He watched her leave, slowly this time, and then led his horse back to the field to retrieve Riley's stallion. The body simply looked like one of the rocks that had been piled up and no longer resembled a human being. He tethered the horse to his saddle and began the ride back to the barn, hoping that Buffy would still be there so that he could give her a ride home.
When he arrived, he saw that Riley's car was still parked in the same spot and led his horses into the corral. Buffy was standing inside one of the stalls, brushing her horse with a wooden brush. Dismounting his own, he led it to an empty stall and pulled it's saddle off, getting it ready for sleep. He struggled to find something to say to her, but decided against it when she broke a wooden handled rake over her knee and put the sharp pointy end in her waistband.
Silently, they put the horses safely back into their respective quarters and shut off the lights. Buffy paused as Angel slid the main doors closed and said, "You killed my date so I have no way home."
"I'll take you." Angel said instantly.
"Don't talk to me and don't expect me to talk to you." She glared at him. "It's a simple ride home and I don't want you thinking that I am even grateful. It's your fault that I need a ride at all and-"
"We should probably do something with his car."
"Do what with it? You want to steal his car now? Killing him wasn't enough for you?"
"He's going to be a missing person and there is a ravine right there that would kill anyone who drove down into it." Angel walked around the car and shifted it out of gear before he pushed it slowly toward the edge of the embankment. Luckily, it was on a downhill slope, which made his work simple.
Buffy watched as the tiny red convertible went over the edge and then snatched one of the helmets off the motorcycle. "Let's go."
Angel walked quickly back to the bike and put his own helmet on. "Are we going to Giles's house?"
"No. I'm going to my mother's house."
With a nod, Angel threw his leg over the seat and turned to help her on. She straddled the bike and tried not to notice the way he felt between her legs. Gripping his waist, she held on tightly as he started the bike and pulled into the road.
The dream that she had been having was real. It dawned on her that she had made love to the man she wanted more than anything and it was incredible.
It also didn't escape her mind that she could do it again.
By the time they arrived on Revello Drive, Angel was convinced that she was would just hop off and stomp inside. It was a surprise when she reached around him and turned the ignition off. He didn't move and neither did she. He finally turned his head a little and glanced back at her. "Buffy, I should probably get going because the sun will be up soon."
"You can't possibly make it back to L.A. before it rises." She wanted to go ahead and invite him in and beg him to talk to her, but her pride was wounded.
"I'll drive halfway and get a room or something." Angel set the kick stand and held out his hand to help her off the bike.
Buffy pulled her helmet off and took his hand, but she didn't step off the cycle. "I'm sorry for what I said to you back there."
"Which part?" Angel rubbed his thumb over the back of her hand, marveling at the fact that she could be so soft outside and still be a Slayer.
"All of it." Leaning her head against his back, she softly said, "My mom's not here and we need to talk."
"I don't think that's a good idea." Angel tugged her a little, trying to get her to step off but she shook her head.
"Angel, I don't want to be alone. I mean, some pretty powerful stuff has happened to me today. Riley's dead, you were human, we made love, I dreamed about it but it was real and now you don't want to be with me even though you can." She knew that the words were running together far too fast, but she felt like time was something they didn't have unless she forced it.
"You know that's not true." Angel stepped off the bike and steadied it before he pulled her off.
"Don't leave me again. Please come inside?"
"No, Buffy. I need to take this sword back to Giles and-"
"I can do it later. Angel, don't you want to fix this and make it right?"
"The right thing to do is for me to leave. Just because they lifted the loophole doesn't mean I can give you anything. You're young, but you won't always be young." Angel couldn't look at her. "You will want a family."
"I don't think a baby will ever be on my horizon but there's always adoption. And as for me aging, that probably won't happen either. I don't see retirement as an option for Slayers." Buffy positioned herself between him and the bike, hoping he wouldn't try to leave.
"You're not like other Slayers, Buffy. You break all the rules. You –will- live because I have to know that you did or I can't. Don't you see that I'm giving you up so that you can have a chance at normalcy?"
"You just said that I'm not like other Slayers. I'm not like Slayers but I'm not like normal people either. I just have to be me and I am not me without you." She grabbed his shoulders and forced him to look down at her. "I can't be normal and it's wrong for you to tell me that I should try to be. If I were normal I would be dead."
Angel fought the urge to pull her against him and hold her there forever. Instead, he kissed her forehead and moved her away from the motorcycle. "I have to go."
"You don't have to do anything. You just want to." Shaking her head, she handed him her helmet and watched as he straddled the seat and shoved it behind him. "I love you, Angel. In ten years, I'll still be saying it. In a hundred years, you'll still be living with the fact that you could have had that."
He watched her turn and rush into her house before he started the engine and pulled into the road. The pavement that used to lead him toward her, led him away and he headed toward Giles's house. Even though every single fiber of his being wanted to turn around and love her, he kept his eyes straight ahead and ignored the wetness on his cheeks.
When he arrived at the Watcher's house, he took several minutes to compose himself before he knocked on the door. Giles answered immediately and ushered him inside. "Is she okay?"
Angel nodded, although he doubted that she would be okay for a long time. "I took her to her house. She wanted to go there instead of the campus."
"Yes, the school's closed for the holidays. I'm afraid I must confess that I 'm angry with Joyce. She spent Thanksgiving away from Buffy and has decided to go to a health spa in Canada with her cousins for the Christmas break. Buffy's alone for the first time in her life. And now with Riley dead, I'm afraid-" Giles shook his head, deep in thought. "I'm sorry, Angel. It's not your concern."
"It is my concern." Angel slumped onto the sofa and put his head in his hands. "I love her, Giles. God, I love her so much it aches all the time."
Giles sat across from him and leaned forward. "I know that it's terribly hard for you, Angel. It's the same for her. However, the risk of you resorting to form upon achieving happiness is-"
"Not there anymore." Angel looked up at the man and quickly told him the story of the Oracles and the gift he had received. By the time he had finished, tears were streaming down his face and he hung his head again. "I' m sorry."
Giles had listened with wide-eyed wonder to what Angel had to say and sat back in his chair to mull it over. While he was thinking about it, Spike half hopped into the room wearing manacles. The blond stared from one man to the other and then flopped down on the end of the couch beside Angel. "Bloody hell, man. You're fixed! What's stopping you from you shagging her senseless?"
"Oh for heaven's sake, Spike. You're talking about Buffy here!" Giles shouted, tossing a pillow at the offensive vampire. "You're talking about Buffy very disrespectfully."
"Good. I don't respect her." Spike grabbed the pillow and shoved it behind him. "But I do feel sorry for her because she's miserable and I've been there. And I pity you, Angel because you're too stupid to realize how much she needs you. You think it's noble to leave her here to fight alone? I think tonight proved otherwise."
"Spike, you don't know what the hell you're talking about." Angel said, lifting his head long enough to glare at him.
"I don't? I had the fucking be all and end all of great love affairs, you idiot. Ducks and me, we were a modern day Romeo and Juliet. A Sid and Nancy. A Bo and Hope." He paused and cast a withering glance at the two men. "Not that I watch Days of Our Lives or anything."
"Do you have a point, Spike?" Giles asked calmly.
"I do. My point is that I know about love. I spent the equivalent of two lifetimes with one woman, loving her, needing her and wanting only her. I can also say, with certainty, Angel, that you don't have that luxury. The woman you love is a mortal and a Slayer on top of that. Hell, Buffy's already lived longer than most and her card could be up tomorrow. You have a chance to make her happy and you're blowing it."
"I can't give her a future." Angel said.
"Why do you have to have any guarantees?" Spike asked, staring at his sire like he was covered in small pox. "Why are you so worried about the future when all anyone truly has is the moment. Have you seen the news? People killing people with guns, this Y2K thing and parents killing their kids. It' s sickening. None of us may have a future, but you have the chance now."
Angel looked at Giles, seeking some sort of guidance and Giles smiled at him. "Spike does make a very good point. Although, I think Y2K is a good thing, damn computer, the rest of what he said makes sense. You love Buffy, Angel. I know she loves you."
Shaking his head, Angel sighed. "But the loophole wasn't the only thing that stood in the way. She'll age. I won't-
"Have you seen the Slayer, mate?" Spike shouted. "She's like Goldie Hawn. That woman is fifty years old and still looks twenty. And a body like the Slayer's will never sag."
"I don't care about her looks." Angel snapped. "I'm saying that it will seem odd for people to see her getting older and me not. And I can't take her into sunlight. I can't go out with her during the day and I can't give her-"
"Then you probably shouldn't." Giles shrugged. "I mean, it's obvious to me that you don't love her as much as you say."
"No," Spike held his hand up and silenced Angel. "Giles is right. Love is a positive thing and if all you can find with Buffy is negative stuff then it' s all wrong."
"Exactly." Giles nodded at Spike. "I mean, we've only heard the reasons why he can't."
"All negative. You can't get love with a negative and a positive. It has to all be positive." Spike made a show of sighing heavily and holding his chest. "It's just so sad."
"I can find positive stuff!" Angel rose and held up his hand, counting off on his fingers. "Number one, I can help her, just like I did tonight. Two, we have fun together and she needs that. Three, she trusts me enough to confide in me and she knows that I love her enough not to judge her or condemn her. Four, we're good together. I mean, it's passionate, even when there is no passion and five, we love each other." He glanced at the two men and held his hands up. "Well?"
"Well," Spike smiled at Giles and both men simultaneously said, "Why are you still here?"
Giles shifted as Angel burst past him and raced out the front door. Scratching his head, he looked at Spike and yawned, "Speaking of Days of Our Lives, did you tape it today?"
"Indeed, I did. You'll never believe what Sami's done now."
Angel forgot that he had the motorcycle and ran through the streets of Sunnydale on foot. As he raced toward Revello, he replayed the past few years through his mind. In the beginning, he used to stand under the tree in her yard and watch her light go off just so he could whisper goodnight to her. After they had kissed for the first time, he would climb up and stand guard at her window so she could sleep peacefully. She had also never known that the night of the ascension, he had turned his car around and come back. He had gone to her window again and saw her clutching her stuffed animal to her chest and didn't have the heart to say good-bye.
When the house came into view, he stopped running and paused. Her light was not on and the place looked deserted. It dawned on him that one day he would be standing there without the option of seeing her because she would be forever gone. Swallowing back the lump in his throat, he whispered, "There's now though."
He walked quietly onto the porch and peeked into the living room. From there, he could see the kitchen light was on so he made his way to the back of the house. Knocking would have been the easiest thing to do, but he needed to see her first. Stepping up onto a recycle bin, he glanced in the window. Buffy was sitting at the island, pouring herself a drink from a liquor bottle. He hopped down immediately and knocked on the door. "Buffy, it's me."
Buffy set the glass down and rose to her feet slowly. Her heart began to pound against her chest and she swallowed hard. There was a small part of her that wanted to scream at him to go away, but the part of her that wanted to see him again, even if it was going to break her heart, urged her forward. She slid the lock back and opened the door. "Angel, what-"
He pushed past her and grabbed the bottle of liquor. As she watched him, he poured the contents down the sink and slammed the bottle in the trash. "What are you doing, Buffy?"
"What are you doing?" She reached for the glass she had poured, but he beat her to it. "Angel, you can't just come in here and-"
"Yes, I can." He tossed the glass into the sink and grabbed her by the shoulders. "I can because I love you."
"Awww, you love me so much that you make every decision for me. About my future, about what's right for me and now my drinks. Do you want to go look at my clothes and make any adjustments?"
"I deserve that." Angel leaned back against the kitchen counter and clasped his hands in front of him. "Go ahead and get it out of your system, Buffy. Yell at me if you want to because I deserve that to
o." Buffy chewed her lower lip, watching his face closely, "Why did you come back?"
"I love you."
"You came back to tell me that you love me?"
"I came back to tell you, to show you, to hang onto you and most of all, to fix it. I can't take back the past few months Buffy, and I can't make up for the time we lost but I can do something right now." Angel didn't make a move toward her, but his eyes pleaded with her. "I was a fool."
"What are you saying?" She couldn't decide if she was hearing what she wanted to hear or if he was actually saying it.
"I'm saying I'm sorry." Angel took several steps forward and put his hands on her waist. "I'm saying I love you, so much, Buffy. I'm saying that I can' t promise you a perfect life with me but I can promise you me … for as long as you'll have me. I was wrong to make all the decisions so I'm asking you now. Do you want to be with me?"
Buffy put her hands on his arms and leaned her forehead on his chest. She felt him rest the side of his face against the top of her head and let herself break down. He pulled her tighter and she wrapped her arms around him, clinging to him. Crying softly, she said, "Oh, Angel. I love you and I don't care what happens or how hard it is … I want you."
He picked her up and sat her on the island in the middle of the kitchen. She lifted her face and he brushed the tears off with his lips, tasting their salty sweetness. His mouth found hers, tenderly at first and then with a fierce need. Buffy hooked her heels behind his thighs and scooted closer to him, scalding him with her body heat.
Angel tangled one of his hands in her hair and began to unbutton her shirt with the other one. Pulling away from her mouth, he trailed kisses down her neck, pausing when he brushed over the scar, a reminder of what she had sacrificed for him and what he was. "Buffy, I'm-"
"Don't say you're sorry. Never be sorry." She cupped his face and shook her head. "You branded me. It proves that I can never belong to anyone else and I'm proud to bare that mark."
"I love you."
"I think we've talked enough."
"I agree." He kissed her again and pushed her shirt over her shoulders, cupping her breasts in his hands.
She moaned against his mouth when he slipped her bra off and rolled her nipples in his fingertips. "Angel …"
Smiling, he lowered his head and tugged one taut nipple into his mouth. As he moved from one to the other, he felt her working the button of her jeans and shook his head. "I'll do it."
"Then do it now." Grinning, she yanked his shirt over his head and ran her hand over his smooth chest. "I can't wait."
He caught her hand in his and pulled her off the island. Kneeling in front of her, he unzipped her boots and tugged them off. Raising his head slightly, he caught her nipple again and sucked it into his mouth. His fingertips trailed up the outside of her thighs and then hooked in her waistband, slipping her pants down her hips. Angel moved lower, following their descent, dipping his tongue into her belly button and nipping playfully at her pubic bone.
Giggling, she caught his head and pulled him back up to her mouth as she stepped out of her pants. Her fingers fumbled with the zipper of his leather pants and she broke the kiss to look down. Smiling devilishly, she kneeled in front of him, the same way he had done and used her teeth to tug the zipper down. As she peeled them over his hips, his erection sprang free and she gripped it, glancing up at him.
Angel watched her as she trailed her warm tongue around the tip of his cock. He rested one hand on the island, to steady himself, and put the other hand on her head, brushing her hair back. Buffy engulfed him and his eyes rolled back, "Oh god, Buffy."
Using one hand, she pumped him slowly, pulling him in and out of her mouth. She could feel him tense and then he gripped her under the arms, mumbling something about waiting. Before she could protest, he lifted her again and brushed everything off the kitchen island with one arm. She squealed as he pressed her onto the cold tiles, but he quieted her with a kiss and moved his hand lower, gently probing her wetness.
Buffy thrust against his hand, begging for release and found her legs tossed over his shoulders and his fingers replaced by his tongue. He devoured her, licking and sucking at her tender flesh, making her beg for more. His hands twined with hers and she squeezed tightly, exploding against his face and drenching him with her juices. The orgasm shook her, forcing tears, laughter and fulfillment to consume her.
Angel stood and stared down at, smiling at the red flush on her body. Her slipped his pants the rest of the way down and pulled her into his arms. Carrying her into the living room, he laid her on the sofa, convinced that he wouldn't be able to make it up the stairs. He covered her with his body and she accepted him, guiding his swollen member into her eager flesh. Buried to the hilt inside of her, he relaxed for the first time that night and let himself enjoy the woman he loved. He covered her in soft kisses, his fingers tangling in her hair and finally clasping her hands and raising them above her head. As he rocked into her, he stared at her face, berating himself for the fool he had been and loving her for the undeserved chance she was giving him.
Wrapping her legs around him, Buffy bucked upward, her clit finding enough friction against the base of his cock to push her over the edge again. He pulled away and slammed into her fast and hard as another orgasm rocked through her. He felt her body begin to clasp and unclasp around him and growled, spilling himself deep inside of her. As he collapsed on top her, she felt the wetness on his face and wrapped her arms around him. "It's going to be okay, Angel. It is."
He leaned onto one of his elbows and looked at her, her skin aglow from one of the street lights. "It is."
"I don't want to ever know what it feels like to be without you again." Her lips trembled and she closed her eyes, forcing herself not to cry.
"Do you trust me?" Angel asked, tracing the side of her face with his thumb.
She looked him in the eye and whispered, "With my life."
"I promise you I will never, ever leave you and not come back. I will always come back to you and you won't ever be alone."
"I'll always be here."
"I love you." "I love you."
"I like this one." Angel pointed to the tree in the corner of the lot and tugged Buffy toward it. They had been tree shopping for over an hour. "Let's get it."
"It's kinda small." She stood back and tried to picture it decorated.
"If we just patch the rough spots and give it space, it'll be perfect, just like us." Angel wrapped his arms around her waist and kissed her ear. "And if we spend less time shopping, we can spend more time doing other stuff."
Buffy grinned and motioned for one of the workers. "We'll take this one."
Angel chuckled and paid the man before they loaded it onto his car. They drove back to Buffy's in silence, each one lost in thought. Buffy was thinking about the gift she had chosen for him and he was wondering if he should have picked something less extravagant. He parked in her driveway and untied the tree while she unlocked the door. They had already set out the tree stand and filled it with water so all he had to do was carry it inside.
As soon as it was standing in front of the window, Buffy clapped her hands and hopped up and down. "It's beautiful."
Angel smiled at her and handed her a string of lights. "Ready?"
"No!" Buffy's eyes widened and she headed toward the stereo. "We have to put in a Christmas C.D."
"Sorry, I'm a little rusty with traditions."
"That's probably a good thing." Buffy mumbled, wondering how he would feel about what she had planned later that night.
"What was that?" He called.
"Nothing." She smiled as the sounds of ‘I'll Be Home For Christmas' filled the room.
When she joined him again, they worked together to string the lights and place the ornaments all over the tree. Playfully, they tossed icicles at one another and Buffy sprayed Angel with the tree snow before he tackled her and tickled her into apologizing. Side by side, they lay in the floor, watching the lights flicker. "I think we did a good job." She sighed.
"I'm sorry your mom isn't here." Angel said, tracing the line of her hip.
"If she was, we couldn't do what we've been doing non-stop." Buffy rolled into the crook of his arm and played with his buttons. "I'm glad you're here."
"We should go to bed, baby. Your friends will be here early and you volunteered to cook."
Buffy watched him sit up and sat up behind him, wrapping her arms around his waist. "Angel, it's after midnight."
"Merry Christmas." He turned slowly and pulled her into his lap, kissing her tenderly.
She reached into her pocket and pulled out a small box. "You know, you said you weren't big on traditions?"
"Yeah." He nodded and sat back, taking the box when she offered it. She indicated that he should open it and he did, gasping when he saw a gold wedding band. His throat constricted and his voice cracked when he spoke, "Oh, Buffy …"
"I'm not into tradition either and I don't have any problem with deciding for myself when the right time is." Buffy lifted the ring and smiled nervously. "It says ‘Remember Me' on the inside. I don't plan on dying or anything but one day … you'll have this and you'll know how much I loved you when I can't be here to tell you."
"Isn't there a question that usually goes along with something like this?" When she swallowed and started to speak, he put his finger on her lips and shook his head. "This is the part where I put my foot down and ask for myself."
Buffy watched him reach into his coat pocket, which he had tossed across the sofa, and pull out another box. He pulled a ring from it and held it up to the light. A heart shaped diamond sat atop a small gold band that glimmered like one of the ornaments. "I also had something engraved for you. It says, ‘It lives in me' and it always will, Buffy. As long as I'm alive then every laugh and every kiss and every tear is right here." He pointed at his chest and then at the ring. "And it's right here in this heart. Will you marry me?"
"YES!" Buffy said through her tears and watched him slide it onto her finger. She took his hand and put his ring on. "While we're breaking tradition, we'll just go ahead and say I do."
"I do." Angel whispered, and pulled her into his embrace.
The angel on top of the tree blinked several times and Angel glanced up at it, wondering if it had a shortage. He stood and helped Buffy to her feet. They moved closer to the tree together and then glanced out the window. Out in the road, standing under the street light were the Oracles. Angel gripped Buffy's hand in his and whispered who they were.
"Should we go thank them?" She asked, starting for the door.
He caught her and pointed back outside. Where the oracles had stood was now empty. "I think we already have."
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