Epiphanies

By AnneGables
Author's Notes

Wesley was eerily silent. Anytime Wesley was silent was strange for Angel. He had gotten used to the incessant talking that comforted the new addition to his world. He knew that Wesley was curiously watching what Angel was going to decide to do, and that it would invariably end up in the Watcher’s Journal that Wesley was keeping to comfort himself. He knew that Wesley somehow supposed that by keeping to his training and schedule as a Watcher he would redeem himself in the eyes of the Council. Perhaps by someday giving to his father and the Council the world’s first documents regarding the only souled vampire. Angel understood the desperate need to impress a father as well as the need to be involved in a quest for what was right. After all, wasn’t that just why he was in his present dilemma?

He could feel what Faith had done right down to his ever present soul. She had done what he was trying to accomplish – to atone. In a way, he was jealous of the simple path that Faith had to take to make that atonement. She had killed and society simply provided the answer to that predicament. Society did not provide a path for him. How did one pay for thousands upon thousands of murders and unending evilness? Not really in a penal code of any sort. Still, Faith had taken her opportunity to make things right. Not that Buffy saw it quite that way. Buffy...

Angel looked up into Wesley’s oddly expectant face. Wesley had somehow become his errant knight-in-waiting. He sighed with the weight of another’s future in his hands. Buffy, Wesley, Cordelia, Faith....and then there was the new wrinkle. Kate. Now she was a definite problem he was going to have to deal with as she simply knew too much about him for it to be safe. Angel knew she had been attracted to him. That sense of smell that everyone thought was “gross” let him know when he had a power over those who wanted him. But Kate had shown a capacity for hatred towards him now that she knew what he really was and towards those around him. Something would have to be done. He sighed with the weight of yet another person towards whom he felt guilty. He had a sudden wish for the days of Angelus before he was able to catch it.

It was hard to think about Buffy when all these other things were weighing down his mind. Although he could feel the pull in his body, that was for sure. It was always there. The wish that he could just let everything go and follow her. Sink himself into the pure bliss that he knew awaited him in her. Remembering the complete lack of guilt he felt when he was laying beside her...the complete lack of any thought at all, except of pleasing her and the pleasure she brought him in return. He was no different than the drug addicts that lined the streets he now walked nightly. His age and experience allowed him to know that mentally. It was why he had allowed first Doyle, then Cordelia and now Wesley to invade his personal space. He knew it would be the only thing to keep him here and away from Buffy. Not that it changed his thoughts which were constantly of her. Constant with the memories of the sounds she made and how she felt quivering with need for him... and now she had been here and he had hurt her and she had left quivering with the anger that was consuming her. That he had caused. Then he smiled as he thought of how she had once again thrown herself to the wolves for him in the police station. Really, he was sometimes full of pride at how much power he had over Buffy. Which was very, very wrong as Cordelia would say. But it was no wonder the underworld was slightly frightened of him even in his soulless form. What other vampire had ever had a Slayer at his disposal?

Angel looked up and, for one moment, felt bitter that he had to explain himself to Wesley, who was simply another lost soul no better than himself. And, yet, Angel knew that Wesley expected him to do what was right. To be that righteous man. But Angel was just tired, tired, tired of sacrificing. And he just wanted to see Buffy who had suddenly told him she had something better with some other man than she had had with him. He could smell that there was another man invading his property. Yes, he knew that Buffy could not be his property. Not with the new politically correct world. But he was also a man of an old world and Buffy was his. His. He was old enough to know that she had left out something important in her “rant”. She had not used the word love at all. She had simply thrown things at him in her anger not even understanding what she was trying to do to him. But Angel understood completely. If there was one thing he understood it was attempting to destroy the ones you loved. He had spent decades perfecting that trick with Darla, Spike and Dru. Not that Buffy needed to know that piece of knowledge.

“I am going to go to Sunnydale and talk to Buffy, Wesley”. Angel braced himself for the disapproval that would soon emanate from the Watcher who had been charged with Buffy and Faith’s futures. He knew that the Watcher training would kick in.

“Do you think that is wise? Faith will need someone here while she goes through the process. And who will represent her at court? And make sure the Council doesn’t get their hands on her again?”

“All valid points, Wesley. But Kate will keep Faith locked up quite tight for the next day or so until she is transferred. We can rely on that. I will be back before there is any court date. And I know that you are quite capable of tracking down a lawyer who will help her, Wesley. I will need to leave that sort of thing up to you in the future, don’t you think?” Angel appealed to Wesley’s natural love of administration and knowledge.

“Yes...but Angel, Buffy and you....”

Yes, Angel knew what he meant. Buffy and he were volatile. Everyone knew it. Like a flame that they were both attracted to put their hands into, though they knew how it would hurt. If everyone ever knew the connection between them he knew he own life would be in danger. Even Wesley would feel he owed it to Buffy to stake Angel. And Buffy was unaware as to what it even was – she only spoke of being able to “feel him”. All that blood from Buffy careening around his body. The extra strength it had imbued him with and the resulting bond he had with a Slayer. Not something the Council would allow if they knew. And he had Wesley and Giles to thank for not relaying that knowledge to the Council. He was so fortunate that they were both on the outs with England. He had spent some time in Sunnydale and L.A. wondering when those Council thugs would be there to kill him. He had actually wondered who exactly those men had been sent to kill, and had felt a brief sense of relief to find they were here for Faith. Which had led to a new round of guilt on his part.

But he had to find out who this new man was in Buffy’s life. Why did she trust him so quickly? What if he was sent from the Council? Buffy showed an alarming lack of fear for the Council. Giles had obviously never filled her in on the Council’s regular decision over the centuries to simply erase Slayers whose behaviour they were not pleased with. It was one of Angel’s reasons for leaving Sunnydale. After all, a Slayer defending a vampire, even trying to kill another Slayer for a vampire’s life? Not really an acceptable form of behaviour for a Slayer. And Buffy existing at all was destroying the “only one girl in all the world” mantra, to say the least. But Buffy just blithely slayed on without any thought of these things. Angel tamped down his frustration with Giles, who seemed determined to simply protect Buffy and never actually give her the knowledge she required.

He pushed himself off the wall with a sigh and looked at Wesley with some concern.

“Can you take care of things here, Wesley? Try to talk some sense into Kate? I can’t very well try to help her with cases if she is trying to kill me.”

“I will try to reason with Kate.”

Angel could feel Wesley’s disapproving eyes on his back as he walked down the stairs. But as he went out the front door, he felt the curious lift of senses as he walked towards his car. He knew he should not be going to Sunnydale and he didn’t care. He couldn’t wait to get to Buffy and try to sort out what was happening with her. He may not be able to have her in his bed, as he dreamed of at night, but he could make her feel loved by him. He could give her that gift. And he knew it would be a gift, because she had betrayed unknowingly, through her anger at him, that she still was in love with him. And he had the memory of what she had been willing to do just a short while ago. She threw everything to the wind when she knew that he was human. Of course, Buffy would throw everything to the wind to have him even now, as a vampire. That’s why he had to be the strong one. Angel smiled at the memories of that night in his bed. He knew it was strangely selfish not to tell Buffy about that weekend. But he needed to have that knowledge all to himself – to get him through his future of watching her with other men.

Angel could not believe that he had run into this man that Buffy was “trusting”. He knew Sunnydale was a smaller town but really.... though he was strangely cheered that he had beaten the boy in a fight. He laughed with elation though he knew it was juvenile. There were certain things about being a man that never went away. Buffy would not approve, he knew, even as he grinned around his split lip.

He started to make his defence mentally. He had just been searching for her as he knew she would be out on her nightly rounds. It wasn’t his fault that the soldiers had recognized he was a vampire, right? But now he thought he had better just look for Buffy where she was living and wait for her there. He had her address from when she had been there that weekend with him. For once, he would be able to enter where she lived without an invitation. He briefly allowed himself the luxury of pretending that he was just an ordinary boyfriend dropping by to see his girlfriend. He realized that if he just dressed differently, younger, that he would be able to walk in these halls without even being looked at twice. What would that be like? He thought of when he had walked up to her in the sunshine and kissed her until neither of them could breathe. Would Buffy like it if he...

He shook himself from his brief daydream. No...what he had to do right now was explain to Buffy why he had just taken a round out of her new beau. He found her door and could hear her inside. And smell blood?? He knocked hard with sudden worry. And, as usual, when she opened he was hit with emotions pouring off of her. He could see things were even worse than when she had left him in L.A. He stepped forward to take her in his arms and then remembered that he didn’t have the right when she moved back just a little at his movement.

“Let me guess. You thought of something else really hurtful to say, and, well, you couldn’t tell me over the phone because the funniest part is that look on my face.”

Angel thought he knew what had been going on but now he was just wondering when it was that he had said all the hurtful things. He thought she certainly had done her fair share. But he was bleeding and she was bleeding and, all of a sudden, the look on her face and the smell of her blood was overwhelming to him. He reached out and pulled her into himself – holding her tight against him, smelling her blood. She struggled a little, out of shock, and then submissively folded into him like a child. He took a deep breath and decided to give her everything that he could. Just as she had when he was human.

“Buffy, the only thing I think of when I look at your face, is how you looked when you were beneath me and how I wish I could put that look there again. I don’t want to hurt you, but you want to hurt me, and I understand. But you have to understand that when I see you I just think about is how beautiful you are and how much I want to have you in my bed, and maybe fighting together – but not with each other, I mean fighting where you are so beautiful to watch!” he added hastily. He knew he had her unawares when she started a little at his words and pulled back. She looked up at him with that cute, confused face she always would have when trying to sort through something. He thought he had better keep on the roll and not let her have too much time to think.

“And I think about you a lot when I try to sleep, Buffy, but it’s not about hurting you. Well, a little, maybe...” he said quite softly into her ear and rather suggestively. He could feel her melting back into his arms and he started to kiss her softly on top of her head and run his hands over her back. He lifted her easily off her feet and carried her a few paces over to her bed. He sat back and settled her against him, resting her head against her shoulder and holding her tight to him. They had sat a lot like this after he returned from hell. Taking comfort from each other. Angel leaned down into her hair and breathed deeply, but her scent was being drowned out by her blood. And that was really keying him up. He could feel how his control was slightly slipping and he reined himself in. What would Buffy do if leaned in and licked her forehead, he wondered? But he had always worked so hard not to have Buffy know of those cravings and now was not the time to start. He had to concentrate on her right now and, well, try to sort out the two of them.

“Buffy, I know you don’t like to hear how I am older than you but, sometimes, I do recognize what’s happening between us. I didn’t react well when you turned up and accused me about Faith and I didn’t think what it might mean to you. But you didn’t realize what it meant for me, either. I was actually able to atone for something I had been responsible for, Buffy. You tried to kill Faith for me. Don’t you ever think about how that made me feel – that I had brought a Slayer to the point where she was trying to kill another Slayer just to save me? I wanted to save Faith to atone for both of us, Buffy. I didn’t know everything she had done to you until she told me. Then she told me about your boyfriend...and I was angry and jealous. When you came in, it wasn’t as it appeared, Buffy. We are both just upset because we can’t be with each other and it makes us lash out at each other and say what would be most hurtful to each other. We have to try and remember that, Buffy.”

Buffy was looking up at him now with huge eyes and with such a shocked look on her face. He supposed it was because he had just talked for more than two sentences in a row. He couldn’t blame her. It was a shock to him, as well. But it had occurred to him on the drive to Sunnydale that he had the memories of that weekend and how much she was willing to sacrifice to have him in her life. And that he ought to return the favour though she was unaware of it all. She had poured out to him how his leaving had affected her. He had obviously gone about leaving Sunnydale all wrong.

“I don’t trust Riley more than you, Angel. He just seems like the type who won’t leave me.” Buffy replied in a very low voice.

Angel knew she meant it. Buffy was lying in his arms, right now, with just a few words on his part. Angel realized that all he had to do was continue to hold her and she would leave that overgrown boy behind in the dust. The poor guy wouldn’t even know what he had done wrong. Angel could tell him he hadn’t done a thing wrong – he just couldn’t beat what Buffy and he had between them. Did he want Buffy to do that? Was this his comeuppance? He had told her to have a normal relationship but, now that she was doing just that, he knew that he couldn’t watch or know of it actually happening. He could feel his whole body and mind screaming at the thought of her with another man. He unconsciously tightened his hold on her.

“Need to breathe, Angel.”

“Sorry, just...I ran into your boyfriend on the way over here. I imagine he will be dropping in soon as he thinks I am all evil. Can’t figure out why he would think that...”. Angel tried for the slightly sarcastic approach in dropping this piece of news.

“I kind of figured you had run into something from the whole beat-up thing you have going. But I have always thought that was a very yummy look on you.”

And then she surprised him as she reached up and softly pulled his face towards her and kissed him on the lips. He reached for her so quickly that she mewed in surprise and then he just didn’t think at all. He sank into memories of her and melted them together with the softness of her right now. No one had ever felt like this for him. Not ever. And, it was selfish, but he didn’t think he could let it go now. That lost weekend had broken him – the resolve to stay away from her was disappearing. Didn’t he at least deserve her when he had to give up humanity? Surely...he broke out of his reverie when he felt her hands slip down the front of his shirt, slowly unbuttoning it and kissing him as the shirt peeled back. He just looked at her in wonder. Just like that, with a few words, and his whole world was tumbling.

He slipped both his hands into her hair as she kissed him across his chest. He could feel the wildness in him loosening and he tried to concentrate but she had reached his belt and he decided to just hang on and think about anything but happiness. Too many of his fantasies of her had included this and....

The door bounced against the wall as it was thrown open by that G.I. Joe wannabe and Angel grabbed at Buffy and pulled her up his body to cover both of them. He knew he shouldn’t be so elated by the look on Riley’s face but....maybe this was a bit of Angelus in him, he hoped?? Buffy buried herself into his neck obviously hoping this was a bad dream. Then he felt her break out of herself and slowly sit up. Which left her straddling him and was likely not the look she had been heading for. Buffy seemed to realize that as well and showed her Slayer muscle by jumping off in one move. Angel wondered, once again, how anyone could miss that she was less than normal when she moved like that. And, remembered, not for the first time, but with a little more knowledge now, how all those muscles felt when he was sunk inside her up to the hilt. He mentally shook himself and put his belt together as he tried to concentrate on the situation, and not on how he could get Buffy back into bed after this was over. Because Angel knew that he was going to make sure that this was over, one way or another. He waited to see what Buffy would do with the toy soldier, who was currently looking at Angel and seemed shocked to silence by what he had walked in on.

“Knock much, Riley?” Buffy stated quietly but not unkindly.

Both Angel and Riley looked over at her, surprised by the banality of her statement. Angel got up off the bed and tried to decide what to do about his unbuttoned shirt.

“He’s a vampire, Buffy. And he tried to kill me. And now, you’re, what...sleeping with him when your my girlfriend?”

Angel thought Riley had the situation pretty dead to rights but he did have a bit of feeling for him. After all, Angel had been dealing with losing Buffy ever since Faith had told him about Riley.

“Yes, he is a vampire but a good one. He didn’t try to kill you or you wouldn’t be standing here right now. And...I guess we are breaking up...?” Buffy’s voice trailed off with uncertainty as she swung around to look at Angel with a look he would not forget soon. He realized how much he would have to help Buffy understand that it wasn’t his lack of wanting her that had caused him to leave. He knew what he did now would change everything but he suddenly didn’t care. The Powers That Be would just have to deal with the wrinkle in time that was Buffy and Angel.

He realized that he had waiting a few seconds too long as her whole body started to crumple within itself at what she was perceiving as reluctance on his part. She was unaware of the epiphany that taking place in his mind and heart about their future. He took the few steps toward her and took her face in his hands.

“I am yours, Buffy, for as long as you want me.” Angel felt he couldn’t say anything more permanent that that and his reward was the flood of gratefulness in her eyes and he held her up as her whole body seemed to sigh with relief.

“What are you doing, Buffy?”

The anger in Riley’s voice reminded them both he was still in the room. Angel let go to allow Buffy to deal with Riley, but he stood behind her as she turned to speak.

“I’m sorry, Riley, but I have to do this. I’m in love with Angel. You are a good man and....”

Angel and Buffy stared at the door slamming as Riley left without waiting for Buffy to finish. Angel’s heart lurched, though, when Buffy threw it open and ran after Riley. He ran after her, instinctively, and was shocked to hear her begging Riley to wait.

“It’s about Forrest, Riley. Please. It’s really important.”

Angel could hear the desperation in her voice and knew that he had walked into something bigger than he had imagined. And he knew he would stay and help her. And he knew that there would be more trouble than just the Council now. This soldier represented danger to himself and Buffy. There was the Faith situation, his L.A. crew, Wolfram and Hart and there were the problems with her Watcher and friends which would never go away. He knew that he and Buffy would fight and misunderstand each other because neither of them could change the fundamental problem of vampire and Slayer.

But he stood there, in amongst the trees, and watched her tell Riley that something bad had happened earlier. He listened as Riley shouted at her that it couldn’t be worse than what he had just walked in on, and Angel heard her answer and say that it was worse. As he slowly walked towards them, he saw Buffy hold Riley’s hands as she told him about someone named Forrest dying, and Angel knew that he would be with her until this fight was over. And then he would stay with her until all the fights were over. All over. And it would be the highlight of his entire existence.

The End

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Author's Notes:
Rating: PG-13
Summary: Set after Buffy and Angel have their fight at the police station in L.A. For anyone who asks why Angel can go into Buffy’s dorm room without an invite: Spike didn’t need one when he went in Willow’s room and Sunday’s vampire crew stole Buffy’s stuff, right? I just choose to feel that Angel’s asking for Buffy’s invite in the ‘The Yoko Factor’ was more an emotional requirement. Anyway – just go with it.
Disclaimer: Whatever.....sigh.
Big shout out to our erstwhile hostess for throwing this shindig for all of us this month. Thanks!

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