Second Chances

Second Chances

By angelic_amy
Author's Notes

Part One

Buffy curled herself into a little ball, leaning up against her bedroom door. She was still in shock over what had just happened. What she allowed to happen, what happened because of what she said.

“Hey. I was wondering when you were coming.”

“I’m not coming back.”

She still couldn’t believe that those words had actually come out of her mouth. The events of the day were so blurred that she wasn’t even sure anymore of what was real and what was imagined. Maybe it was a dream… Maybe this was all some weird and horrible dream that she would soon wake up from. It could be one of those prophetic slayer dreams, hinting at what’s to come. If it were a dream of the wiggy kind, then maybe she could fix other things before it everything all goes to hell. Willow and Xander won’t get kidnapped, which means Oz and Cordelia won’t walk in on them in a compromising position at the factory. Cordelia won’t be in hospital. Her friends could still be happy. All she had to do was find Spike before he does anything stupid. Buffy liked this idea.

Her chest heaved once, twice, as she inhaled a shaky breath. If it’s a dream then she needs to wake up from it. The thumb and forefinger of her left hand squeeze the flesh of her other arm, pinching hard enough that it will likely leave a nasty bruise in the morning. Buffy’s resounding yelp of pain concluded that no, this wasn’t a dream. Tears immediately filled her eyes when the false hopes were dashed. With that mental acknowledgement the memories began to wash over her again, looping over and over like some twisted form of torment.

“We’re not friends. We never were. And I can fool Giles, and I can fool my friends, but I can’t fool myself... Or Spike, for some reason. What I want from you I can never have. You don’t need me to take care of you anymore. So I’m gonna go.”

“I don’t accept that.”

Salty tears rolled down her cheeks, as an image as vivid as if he were standing before her right then flashed through her eyes. She almost wished that he were there…

“You have to.”

“How can...”

It had taken every ounce of self-control in her possession not to leap into Angel’s arms when he had stepped forward, and she was pretty certain that the strength it took to back away from him was borrowed from some higher plane. Buffy had been fighting against her body’s desire to be near to him, for once listening to her head instead of her heart. Giles had been trying to train her into becoming more stoic; more level headed for months. If Giles had been there today, Buffy was sure he would have been proud.

Buffy laughed sarcastically, harshly brushing the tears from her face. Sunset wasn’t very far off, the sky already darkening. Soon it will be time to head out. Buffy knew that if she were to perform her patrolling duties and not get herself hurt—or killed—she needed to be clearing her mind, not dwelling on her broken heart.

Broken heart, I wonder what genius came up with that lame saying… she thought to herself, a hand wiping away yet more tears.

Broken doesn’t describe how her heart felt right now. Didn’t even come close. Even shattered wasn’t a strong enough word. The thing that scared her the most, was knowing that it probably hadn’t sunk in completely yet, and what she felt right now was only going to worsen.

Angel’s face flashed before her eyes again, like when she was watching a movie where everyone knows what the lead characters are going to do next. And all you want to do is shake—or in Buffy’s case—beat some sense into them.

“There’s gotta be some way we can still see each other.”

“There is: tell me that you don’t love me.”

The tears gush from her eyes and roll down her cheeks in a constant, steady stream. The inevitability of streaking black lines didn’t even faze her. Buffy didn’t even think she’d care if she had an audience right now. What’s the point of getting all pretty if the guy you do it for, the guy who means everything to you, has just been shut out of your life?

Even worse when it’s a self made decision.

Angel hadn’t said anything to her when she had asked that, pleaded that of him. All he had to do was tell her that he didn’t love her. And Buffy wanted nothing more than for him to go along with it. But he had just looked at her, his love for her shining through his eyes and she knew that his heart was breaking just as much as hers. For once Buffy wished that Angel would just lie to her. Lie to her; tell her that he didn’t love her. So then at least she would be able to see him again.

Angel loved her and she threw that away.

A chill ran down Angel’s spine signaling the pending sunset. His demon rejoiced, in the knowledge that it would no longer be trapped within the confines of the cold, empty Mansion. A place that once felt like which now only felt empty, barren. A place that she would no longer visit.

Buffy.

Without her in his life, Angel didn’t know if it was worth living. She gave his un-life meaning, a purpose. As long as there was her, he had a place in this world. That was no more. They were no more.

He felt weak, he didn’t know if he could do this. Stay in this town, live so close yet at the same time be so far from his heart’s desire. Without Buffy he was nothing.

He paced the great hall of the Mansion, pausing momentarily where his gaze finds the scorched burn marks that mar the tiled surface of the floor. A mark that serves as a reminder of where he was banished, a place he wished never to return to.

The burnt tiles also mark his return to this plane of existence. Why the Powers that Be intervened, deemed in necessary that he return was beyond him. It perplexed him. Why would the Powers intercede and save the life of a vampire? It didn’t make sense. It troubled Giles as well.

He knew that the watcher no longer trusted him, and Angel didn’t blame him. The things he did—what Angelus did—were unforgivable. And while it seemed that Buffy had come to accept his demon and had also forgiven him of Angelus’s past transgressions, he could not forgive himself. Not wholly. Each day, bit by bit, he had been improving. Not just physically but also mentally, emotionally. They had been growing closer. Things had felt right.

And then Spike had returned to town and ruined everything.

Where this girl, this incredible being was concerned, Angel was lost. At her command he would walk across hot coals, through fire, into blinding and deadly sunlight if it meant being with her. He would almost gladly suffer eternal torment and persecution for his crimes as Angelus as long as he was promised her love. In a way, he kind of had.

It had been the memory of Buffy; of her kindness and compassion, her beauty, her wit, her strength in the face of insurmountable odds… memories of her and their time together that had lent him the courage and strength he needed to survive that place. That hell. Without Buffy, he surely would not have survived.

And now she was gone.

That conversation repeated over and over in Angel’s mind as he walked out of the hall, pushing through the large wooden doors at the entrance of the Mansion and stepped out into the moonlight.

Night meant vampires and vampires meant Buffy on patrol.

Angel hoped that he would receive an opportunity to speak with her. She needed to know how much he loved her, how much he needed her. He was going to remind her of just how great they were together. Buffy was Angel’s world.

And he wasn’t giving up on her without a fight.

Angel skulked through several quiet and empty cemeteries before he finally had some luck. Up ahead he could here sounds of fighting; the slap of fists hitting flesh and the resounding groans and growls of pain spaced intermittently by witty quips that could only come from Buffy. She was one of a kind.

He watched her dust a vampire with the ease of squashing a bug, after all theses years still in awe of her.

Angelus may never have added a slayer to his body count, but he had sure seen a fair few in action. None of them compared to his Buffy. Powerful, deadly, yet graceful at the same time; Buffy had more potential to cause harm than any of the others he had witnessed. And it made him proud. His girl was deadly. His girl. Angel didn’t think he was ever going to be able to think of her as anything but his.

A slayer and a vampire; it was a forbidden relationship. But for all intense purposes it worked. Their combined strength made them an unstoppable duo, a fighting machine. They loved just as fiercely as they fought. And they could protect each other. Isn’t that what mattered in a relationship? Being able to protect and care for the one you loved.

A shriek of surprise ripped through the night air and Angel’s attention instantly diverted to the scene before him, adrenaline coursing his under veins the second fear that something had happened to his beloved took hold. He needn’t have worried. The shriek had come from Willow, who had been caught by surprise by a curious spider that had decided to crawl across their textbooks.

Angel watched with a faint smile, kept hidden by the shadows of the trees.

“Spider! Spider!” Willow shrieked as she dropped the pile of books to the ground.

Buffy swiftly returned to her friend’s side and quickly found the culprit. The small yet furry creature seemed to quite happily be exploring the books, seemingly unfazed by the yelps of disgust and semi fear coming from Willow. Dropping to her knees Buffy lifted the book it was currently creeping across.

“Nyah! Buffy, don’t touch it!”

“I’ll be fine, it’s just a bitty spider Will,” Buffy laughed as she walked several feet away and pressed the spine of the book against the edge of a nearby crypt.

After a few moments of hesitation, the spider crawled off the book and immediately became hidden amongst the foliage that covered the stone structure.

“Buffy what if it comes back?” Willow asked hesitantly.

“It won’t. And if it does I’ll get rid of it.”

“Buffy Summers, spider removalist,” Willow snickered.

“You think they pay well in pest control?” Buffy questioned with faux interest, joining her friend in laughter a moments later.

Angel was mesmerized by her smile, by the way her hair bounced freely around her shoulders as she moved, the way her eyes lit up as she traded jokes with Willow. She looked… Happy. And it cut right through to his under heart.

Maybe she did the right thing. Maybe he should leave her alone, let her live her life… without him.

“It’s good to see you laugh,” Willow commented when the chuckles finally died down a couple of minutes later. The last few weeks had been hard on everyone, Buffy especially. Willow knew how hard it had been for her friend to return to town and try to pick up her life again. She had no guarantee that things would work out, but still she tried. Willow admired her for that. And felt guilty at the same time.

Angel had come back from the dead, literally from the hell he had been sent to when Buffy had closed Acathla’s portal. Hearing a few weeks ago what her friend had gone through… it still broke Willow’s heart. The spell had worked, Angel had been re-ensouled. It had just been too late.

Upon his mysterious return Buffy had cared from him. The events of the previous few months leading her to believe that she wouldn’t get any support from those closest to her. And in a way, Willow supposed she had the right to believe that.

Giles had lost Jenny to the hand of Angelus, and that was not something that the watcher was going to easily forgive even though it was not Angelus who had returned from that hell place. Giles loved Buffy like his own daughter; Willow could see it in his eyes when he thought no one was watching. It was more than watcherly duty behind his warnings; it was also fatherly love.

Then there was Xander. Xander had always been a rabid supporter of the ‘dust Angel’ club, even before he went all evil and started killing people again. Willow knew that Xander now understood that he and Buffy would never be, and he had Cordelia now, but Willow guessed that loss still smarted a little. She knew it still smarted. He and Cordelia weren’t okay anymore. Neither were she and Oz.

All because of that stupid spell that Spike had been forcing her to complete.

Willow’s smile began to fade when she thought of what everyone had lost the

The bright grin slowly slid off Buffy’s face to be replaced with a weak smile. Shrugging her shoulders she slumped to the grassy ground beside her best friend, their backs pressed up against a headstone.

“I’m okay,” Buffy finally spoke, breaking the silence that had been closing in on the pair.

“Buffy, you don’t have to be okay. You and Angel… you two are --”

Buffy cut her off. “Were. Past tense Will. We aren’t together anymore.”

“Buffy when? Why didn’t you tell me?” Willow’s face crumpled with hurt for her best friend, her own pain momentarily forgotten. The Buffy Angel love story was something right out of a fairytale. Unfortunately complete with the wicked family ties that so often occur in the tales. The way Angel looked at Buffy…

Giles, Xander and even herself have done and will continue to do anything and everything they can to help Buffy.

Angel, he would give his life to protect Buffy. There was no question about it, not doubt in Willow’s mind. That man, vampire, loved Buffy more than life itself.

That kind of devotion wasn’t something you came across every day.

“Willow, what you and Xander are going through right now is my fault. Can’t you see that?” Buffy’s voice broke from the emotion, from the guilt that she felt right now.

Willow frowned. “Buffy, what are you talking about? That’s ridiculous. Xander and I --“

“Would never have been kidnapped by Spike if I’d dealt with him.”

Buffy lifted herself to her feet and began pacing the space in front of where Willow sat. “I should have been more focused on patrol, on my duties as the Slayer. But all I’ve been able to think about… is Angel.”

Angel wanted nothing more than to step out from the shadows and sweep Buffy into his arms. Her heart was breaking all over again, and there was nothing he could do to help that. She genuinely felt she was at blame for what had happened.

And that filled him with guilt. If he had recovered from his injuries sooner, if he hadn’t been monopolizing so much of her time of late, if he had dealt with his awry family member then Buffy would be blaming herself right now.

Once more Angel hesitated on his decision of speaking with her tonight. Maybe Buffy really was better off without him…

“Buffy, it’s understandable that you’d be worried about him. He’s still healing from that place he was sent to.” Willow immediately regretted her choice of words when she saw how Buffy’s face began to crumple with guilt and pain.

“I sent him there Will,” she cried, her eyes misting with tears that she was desperately trying to hold in. “He went there, because of me.”

“You had to! If you didn’t send him there then the world would have been destroyed.” Willow was on her feet, slowly approaching her friend, wanting to console her.

“Why did he come back?” Real tears were now streaming down Buffy’s cheeks. “It hurt, so bad when I had to send him away.” Buffy inhaled deeply before she continued.

“When I… killed him.” Her breaths were coming in ragged as she tried to control the pain that was slowly eating at her heart. “But then he came back. Why? The Powers stepped in and no one knows why. Did they do it to hurt me? Are they trying to tear my heart to shreds? Angel and I can never be together again, I can’t have --”

“Buffy, you DO have him. Don’t you see? Angel is yours and always will be,” Willow pointed out. “He would do anything for you.”

Buffy knew what Willow was saying was right but it didn’t lessen her pain. “I thought sending him to hell was the hardest thing I’d ever have to do. I was wrong. Telling him that…”

“Telling him what?” Willow coaxed gently.

“That I wasn’t coming back. That the only way he could see me again was if…”

Willow laced her fingers with Buffy’s, giving her hand a gentle squeeze as her friend fought to get the words out.

“Was if he told me that he didn’t love me.” Buffy’s vision blurred as another torrent of tears ran from her eyes and coursed down her cheeks.

“Oh Buffy, he didn’t say… he wouldn’t say…” Willow shook her head in disbelief. She couldn’t believe that Angel would admit that, but she didn’t know what else he could have said that would be causing Buffy so much pain.

“He didn’t,” Buffy confessed. “He wouldn’t…” Her cries became vocal as she collapsed to the ground, burying her face into her discarded jacket.

“Oh,” Willow mumbled in understanding, following Buffy to the ground seconds later and wrapping her arms around her sobbing friend.

“H-he still loves me and I t-threw that away!”

Buffy’s pain sliced Angel’s heart into a million tiny shards. She was hurting because of him.

It would’ve been better if he’d never returned from that hell.

It would’ve been better if he hadn’t stuck around once he’d returned.

It would‘ve been better if he’d lied…

But Angel couldn’t do that. He couldn’t lie, not to her.

Not to Buffy.

Angel turned in the shadows and away from his hearts desire.

Part Two

“Are you sure that you’re going to be okay?” Willow questioned gently.

“I’m fine,” Buffy replied with an unseen nod. After her little cry-fest in the cemetery it became painfully obvious that she was in no state to be out patrolling. Buffy had walked Willow home before leaving for her own place, only allowed to venture outside alone after promising to call the moment she got in.

“Oh-kay…” Willow drawled out slowly, not completely convinced but accepting her friend’s reassurance. For now…

“Alright Will, it’s getting late. I’ll talk to you tomorrow, k?” Buffy suggested.

“I’ll see you at school.”

“Goodnight Will.”

“Night Buffy.”

Buffy returned the receiver to its cradle and curled herself up into a little ball on her bed, drawing Mr. Gordo close to her chest.

Angel paced across the lawn of the Summers’ house for the fifth or was it sixth time. After witnessing Buffy’s heartbreaking retelling of this afternoon’s events with Willow the vampire had slunk off into the night. Being near her yet not being able to touch her, hold her, console her, was unbearable.

Keeping to the shadows he had disappeared into the darkness, finding himself a quiet place to sit and think. And brood.

After brooding in the shadows of the Weatherly Park he had made the decision to come see her, to speak to her. They needed to talk about this, even if Buffy didn’t change her mind about the decision she made. And he wanted to make sure she had gotten home safely.

After a few minutes walk he had tracked her scent and discovered that she had in fact been heading towards her home. Hesitantly he had made his way to her house, seeing dim light shining out from her bedroom window. For a long while he had just watched, staring up towards that window, waiting for her to move towards it and notice him. To give him some sort of opening that didn’t involve him having to approach her first.

He didn’t know how to fix things, didn’t even know if they could be fixed. Buffy was right, they weren’t just friends, never had been. And pretending that was all that they were, cheapened their history, their relationship. But Angel didn’t think he could just stay away, knowing that she was hurting because of him. Because of their past, both the good and bad, and of the future that seemed impossible.

A small part of his conscience argued that it was better off this way. That without him around, Buffy would have the chance of a more normal life, of a normal relationship. She might actually have the chance of happiness if he stayed away. The other side of him argued that she would never be as happy as when she had been with him: that he alone could provide for her what she needed. Buffy was the light in his dark existence, and without her he didn’t know if he could go on. Not that he would ever attempt to take his un-life, he didn’t have the courage or the strength to do something like that. Without Buffy, his life would be meaningless.

Angel fought for his redemption, patrolled nightly to protect the lives of the people of Sunnydale in the hopes that one day his crimes as Angelus would be forgiven. That was all he wanted… forgiveness, and the love of the woman he treasured more than anything on this earth.

Buffy’s earlier words from the cemetery repeated over and over in his mind, and once more he began to doubt that coming here tonight was the right decision. She was right in saying that he could never be with her. Not in that way. It didn’t matter how desperately he craved the feel of her flesh on his, of knowing again the complete bliss that was their one and only coupling. The night of her seventeenth birthday his soul was soaring on such a high, Angel felt as if he had died and gone to heaven.

And then in the blink of an eye it had all been taken from them.

“You’re not enough,” he chastised himself. “She needs…”

Angel dropped his head in shame. With the gypsy curse still in place, they would never be able to give into the carnal side of a relationship. Without it, his soul would return to the ether and Angelus would walk once more. With the soul he couldn’t express his love physically and without it, he couldn’t love at all.

With a growl of frustration Angel balled his fist and slammed it into the trunk of the tree he was currently standing beneath. The skin of his knuckles instantly split, blood dripping from the self induced wounds. With the pain the wound brought, Angel also found clarity. What he wanted from Buffy he could never have, not with the curse in place.

But there had to be some other way…

With newfound courage and determination Angel approached the front door to the Summers house, lifted his hand, and knocked.

Inside her bedroom Buffy wept. Wept for Willow and Oz, knowing that the pain of the heartbreak that they felt. She wept for Cordelia; both for the injuries she suffered and the reason why she ran out of the factory. And she wept for Xander, for learning where his true feelings lied far too late.

And she wept for herself.

Buffy wasn’t the sort of girl to wear her heart on her sleeve, and she didn’t hand it over into the care of another without a great deal of consideration. She made calculated risks, only opening up to people she was certain would care for her heart, not break it. Sometimes her decisions backfired on her and people left, like her father, but for the most part Buffy’s heart had survived unbroken. It was Murphy’s Law that deemed it reason to have her first true love and first heartbreak come from the same person.

Only he wasn’t really a person.

Buffy reprimanded herself for those thoughts. Angel was more human, showed more human kindness and compassion than half the people she fought and risked her life for on a nightly basis. If anyone deserved to be considered humane, it was Angel.

Rolling over on her bed, Buffy resigned herself to the fact that would likely have a sleepless night.

Angel fidgeted on the spot as he listened for movement on the other side of the door. When he heard someone approaching a wave of panic washed over him and he had to fight the urge to dive off the porch and into the shadows. Holding an unneeded breath he waited, eyes downcast. Angel listened as the door squeaked slightly as it opened slowly, finally dragging his gaze upwards…

…and into the angry eyes of one Joyce Summers.

“Mrs. Summers,” he stammered.

“Angel,” Joyce snapped in response. “What are you doing here? Haven’t you caused enough hurt for one evening?”

His jaw gaped slightly, not knowing how to answer that question because in a way, she was right. Buffy was upset and hurting because of him. “Is Buffy in?” he asked even though he already knew the answer to that question.

“She’s asleep,” Joyce lied. When she had heard the knock at the door, the last person she had expected to see standing on her doorstep, was him.

“Oh,” Angel responded with disappointment. It was possible that Joyce was telling the truth, he had spent a long time pacing out on the lawn. But if there was a chance that she was awake, a chance that she would speak to him…

The determination in Joyce’s eyes was not going to be something easily bypassed.

“Could you tell her that I stopped by?” he asked hesitantly.

Joyce’s pursed lips relaxed ever so slightly. Anybody could tell just by looking at him that this was a man in love. Well not so much a man as a vampire and that fact was still something that Joyce was having difficulty in dealing with. But it didn’t change the fact that Angel did love Buffy.

Having been in a similar position of heartbreak that Joyce now found her daughter, her instincts were pushing for her to close the door on the being that had caused her daughter so much heartache. Joyce knew what it was like to have love and lose it. The hopeless romantic buried deep within her knew that whilst Buffy was hurting right now, she hadn’t lost that love. It was that side of her that pursued questioning of the love struck creature before her.

“Angel, what are you intentions concerning my daughter?” Her arms folded over her chest in a manner that suggested that she would take nothing but the truth. “Are you here to break her heart again? Because I promise you that if you think you can --“

“I’m not,” Angel interrupted with a shake of his head. “Hurting Buffy is the last thing I’d ever want to do.”

“Then why did you? Why did you hurt her?”

Angel frowned, unsure of where Joyce was going with this line of questioning. “Joyce, I’m not here to hurt Buffy. I came here tonight because I wanted to speak with her… about us.” He dropped his head, unable to hold the unwavering stare of Mrs. Summers. She didn’t trust him, he knew that much. Which is why he found it surprising that she was even allowing this conversation to continue.

“Buffy came to see me this afternoon. She broke things off,” he informed. “And I couldn’t exactly follow her outside to discuss the decision…” he added wryly.

“Sunlight challenged, I understand,” Joyce replied wittily. She was a little surprised by his confession. Joyce had been certain that Buffy’s current depression had been because of the man before her, not self-induced.

Angel laughed despite himself. It seemed Buffy had inherited her sense of humour from her mother. The chuckle died in his throat as suddenly as it had begun. “I’m here because I don’t want to give up on her, on us. I can’t give up. Buffy means more to me than anything, and…” He trailed off. There wasn’t much else he could say to Joyce in an effort to convince her to allow him to speak to Buffy anyway.

“Can you, can you pass on a message for me?” he pleaded, his chocolate brown eyes filled with longing as his gaze darted up the stairs.

Joyce thought it over, weighed the pros against the cons and made a decision. Opening the door a little wider she stepped to the side to allow him access. “You can tell her yourself.”

Angel blinked in surprise. “Mrs. Summers, I…”

“Don’t make me change my mind now. Buffy’s upstairs, although I doubt she’s sleeping.”

“Thank you,” Angel expressed his gratitude genuinely.

“Don’t make me regret this,” she warned.

“You won’t,” came his promised reply as he stepped inside the house.

A soft knock sounded on Buffy’s door and she groaned at the gentle intrusion. She knew her mother probably had the best intentions but the last thing she wanted to do right now was talk.

“Mom, I’m alright. Please, I just want to sleep.”

“Buffy…”

Buffy’s heart began pounding. That voice, was not her mother’s.

“Buffy, I…” Angel struggled to finds the words he wanted so much to express. “I just, wanted to talk.”

Buffy’s eyes fluttered shut as the silky tones of his voice washed over her. It seemed like days, weeks even since she had last seen him when in reality it had just been several long and painful hours.

“I needed to see you,” Angel continued as he hesitantly reached for the doorknob and began twisting slowly. “Can, can I come in?”

Dragging herself into a seated position Buffy harshly wiped at her eyes and cheeks, trying to hide the evidence of her sorrow. Leaning herself up against the pillows, knees pulled up to her chest, she finally answered.

“S-sure.”

The door creaked slightly as Angel entered the dimly lit room, softly closing it behind him. The first thing that he noticed was the redness around her eyes. He inhaled nervously, catching the salty scent in the air. She had been crying, crying because of him.

“M-maybe this wasn’t such a good idea,” he murmured as he turned towards the door.

“Angel, wait…” Buffy called abruptly when she saw his movement towards the door.

Slowly and hesitantly the vampire turned to face his heartbroken beloved. Her eyes were filled with such questioning, such hurt… that it was almost too much to bear.

“Why are you here?”

Her voice was barely above a whisper, if it hadn’t been for his vampiric hearing he probably wouldn’t have heard the question at all. He found himself asking the same question…

“I needed to see you,” Angel confessed honestly.

“Why?” Buffy probed with hesitancy. Her hands fidgeted at her sides, grasping hold of chunks of material of the bedspread and squeezing her frustrations upon it. She didn’t know if she wanted to hear what Angel was going to say. Common sense informed her that if it was a rejection then he wouldn’t have bothered turning up to her house to do it. Especially after what she had said to him at the Mansion. But she was still worried.

“Because…” Angel trailed off; searching her face for answers while his mind was running rampant with thought. Did she still love him? Would she hear him out? Did they have a future, or even a chance of a future together? His eyes dropped to the floor as he slowly began moving towards her, finally lifting to meet hers again as he spoke.

“Because I love you.”

Buffy gasped at the simple declaration, her eyes glazing over in shock. Before, at the Mansion she had asked him to tell him otherwise and he could not. But at the same time he hadn’t exactly spoken those words either. Hearing it now, after the heartache she had been suffering through, it was almost unbelievable. A part of her thought it was her mind playing tricks on her.

The mattress dipped slightly and subconsciously Buffy knew that Angel must have sat near her, but she didn’t react. She must have been shaking her head no in response to his confession because he spoke again, this time clearing through the fog.

“I do, Buffy, I love you. Almost more than I can stand.”

When her eyes cleared and she looked up she saw the same sorrow reflected in those expressive brown eyes of his. “Angel, you can’t do this. You can’t just come into my room and tell me that --“

“I love you,” he finished her sentence for her. “Yes I can, and I just did. And I’m going to keep on coming over and telling you until you believe it.”

“Angel…” Buffy began, only to be interrupted again.

“Buffy, you can’t just give up on us like that. We have something special. Something I believe is worth fighting for. And I’m not willing to just sit back and watch whilst you throw that away,” he informed. His tone was gentle but his conviction strong. They had been through too much to just give up on each other. Angel believed in his heart that they were meant to be together. And if he was right, then they could work through the things impeding their relationship. Together.

“I’m not throwing it away,” Buffy tried, but Angel wasn’t having it.

He nodded emphatically. “Yes you are. So we’ve got some issues, there are forces trying to keep us apart. Are we supposed to just lie down and give up? Let them break us apart, let them win?”

“Angel, this isn’t about winning or losing or giving up.”

“It’s what you’re doing right now. Giving up,” he pointed out.

Buffy dropped her gaze from his; unable to stand the looks he was giving her right now, because he was right. In a way, she was giving up. Buffy didn’t know if she was strong enough to survive this. She didn’t know if she could be with him, and not be with him.

“It’s just so hard,” she cried, tears slipping down her cheeks, refusing to look at him. “Being so near to you, wanting you. And not being able to have that.”

Angel understood completely what she was saying. It was hard for him as well. Wanting her, wanting to be able to express the love he felt for her, and not being able to because of the curse.

“Buffy, that doesn’t mean that we can’t be together,” Angel protested.

“What if something happens one day? What if I… I lose control, and we do something that we can’t come back from.” It was now that she dared to look at him, her eyes filled with the pain and longing that she felt right now. She had made the right decision… hadn’t she?

“What if we lose control, and I lose you.”

Tears ran freely down Buffy’s cheeks now, her worst fears now out in the open. Not being with Angel was hard. But losing him, having his soul torn away like it was that fateful night and truly losing him would be much, much worse. She couldn’t stand that happening twice. Sobs wracked her body as she relived that night.

“You won’t,” Angel promised, drawing her shaking form into his arms and cradling her gently against him. “You’ll never lose me Buffy. I’m yours, forever.”

Buffy felt comforted and safe in his arms even as her mind began to imagine worst-case scenarios all over again. “But what if --”

“Shhh,” Angel shushed gently. “It’s going to be alright. We’re going to get through this,” he promised.

“But what about the curse? Angel, I’m not strong enough to den--”

“We can work around it,” he responded. Ever since he had come back from hell, since he had been recovering from his ordeal, he had been searching. And researching. Trying to find a way to anchor his soul, permanently. He didn’t want to tell Buffy about it so prematurely, not wanting to get their hopes up only to have them dashed. But now seemed as good a time as any to let her know.

“I’ve been… looking into some things. Things that might help…” he trailed off.

“Help what?” Buffy asked as she wiped some of her tears away, sitting up slightly to look him in the eyes.

“My soul. There might be a way to anchor it. Permanently.” Angel studied Buffy’s face for several long moments, waiting for it to sink, wanting to see her reaction. And for a while there was nothing, her expression was slack. Then it hit her and both eyes widened in surprise, followed by the curling upwards of her lips into a smile.

“Do you mean that one day…” she trailed off, her cheeks blushing pink as she thought the words before speaking them. “… one day we’ll be able to… without you…?”

“Losing my soul?” he finished for her, smiling at her shyness. “Yes.”

Another moment passed before the hint of a smile on Buffy’s face stretched into an enormous grin. “No more Angelus?”

Angel shook his head.

“And we’ll be able to… have a normal relationship?”

Angel inhaled an unneeded breath before putting is answer out there. “If that’s what you want?”

“If? If?”A delighted peal of laughter broke from Buffy’s lips as she threw her arms around Angel neck, her momentum throwing them both off the bed and landing on the floor in a heap.

Angel groaned in faux pain whilst he secretly delighted in Buffy’s reaction. It was going to be okay. They, were going to be okay.

“Oh Angel! Are you alright?” Buffy questioned anxiously from her lain position on top of him.

“I’m great,” he replied, a brilliant smile stretching across his face. “So long as I’ve got you…”

“You’ve got me,” came Buffy’s adamant response.

Unable to contain his happiness any longer Angel wrapped his arms around Buffy’s neck, lifting his lips to meet hers in a gentle yet passionate kiss. In each other’s arms they laid for several minutes, reacquainting their lips with the others, tongues gently dancing together as they poured their love into one another.

Finally pulling away from the kiss Buffy looked down at Angel with adoration, her eyes fluttering shut when his hands tangled in her hair in an attempt to draw her down for another kiss. “How long have you been researching?” she asked, needing some questions answered.

“A couple of weeks,” he answered truthfully. “Nothing is definite yet, but there are a couple of leads that have good prospects…” he trailed off as he looked into her eyes, none of the earlier hurt or sorrow present in the hazel depths.

“I don’t know what I would have done if I had lost you. I was so scared that --” Angel began only to be cut off.

“You’ve got nothing to be scared of. You’ve got me,” Buffy nodded, wrapping her arms even tighter around his neck as the distance between their lips once again began to close.

“I love you Angel.”

“And I love you.”

The End

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Author's Notes:
Rating: PG
Summary: Post ‘Lover’s Walk’ Pre ‘The Wish’.
Author's notes: This is my first attempt at writing a Bangel fanfic so any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

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