"You remembered?" Angel swallowed tightly and watched Buffy carefully. She could mean any number of things. Better to listen and wait. But oh, her scent, that faint smell of daffodils that always surrounded her, was washing over him and practically bringing tears to his eyes. He wanted to say,"Thank God," and snatch her into his arms, and then dump her right back into his bed.
Instead, he crossed his arms over his chest and waited.
She stared at him with those luminous eyes, those eyes filled with hurt and resentment and anger. "Did you hear me? I said I remembered."
Angel thought it best to not say, "Remember what?" He knew very well what, he was only fooling himself if he thought she might be talking about something else. "I see," he said slowly.
Buffy shook her head in disbelief. "Why do you always take my choices away?" she asked softly.
"It was for the best--" he began lamely, then was suddenly surprised by two small fists beating on his chest.
"I'm tired!" Buffy shouted at him, punctuating each word with a shove, causing Angel to step back to keep his balance. "I'm tired of you choosing for us! I'm tired of your self-sacrifice! I'm just tired, Angel!"
She had driven him backward into the apartment in her anger. He let her rain the small blows on his chest, not moving to defend himself, in fact welcoming the rage. It was her right to be angry, and it was a relief to him that she had, for whatever purpose, remembered their fleeting day. He would not be alone now in his anguish, and he felt guiltily happy that she was here, no matter what the reason or the result.
Angel let her beat out her anger on his body, until he felt her blows weaken and watched her face crumble. It was only then that he enfolded her in his embrace, resting his cheek atop her golden head, and felt her hot tears soak his shirt as she sobbed. "I'm sorry," he murmured. "I'm so sorry, it was never meant for you to remember, I was promised you would never remember. It was only supposed to be me."
Buffy quieted after a time, listening to Angel's soothing words. She realized, as she stood with her ear to his chest, that she was struggling to hear a heartbeat. None came. "Was it real?" she murmured, so softly that Angel had to strain to hear her.
"I wanted it to be," he replied honestly, his lips in her hair.
"I remember everything," she whispered. "How could it not be real?" She lifted her head to stare at the kitchen table, standing strongly in one piece. "That was broken," she said, her eyes filling again.
Angel swallowed. "It was. We broke it."
Buffy left the comfort of his embrace to stand in front of the refrigerator. She placed a hand on it, feeling the coolness of the metal, letting the hum of the motor travel through her fingertips. "You kissed me here," she said sadly, the memory of it as clear as if it had really happened.
When there was no answer, she turned around to find Angel staring into the bedroom, his eyes locked on the large bed. Buffy came to stand beside him, and they both stood looking at the bed where they had found their lost souls again.
"It happened," Angel said fiercely, his fists clenching. "It was not a dream, or just a memory. It *happened*." His eyes were blazing in the darkness, and he turned to Buffy and clutched her upper arms. "I want it again. I want to make it happen again."
Buffy tried to laugh. "Let's just find one of those weird demon guys. They can probably help us out."
He let go of her abruptly and fisted his hands. "We don't need them."
Her breath caught on a sob. "Angel, I want it too. But we can't, it's impossible, it's the reason you're here and I'm there. You said it yourself, there's nothing we can do."
Buffy tilted her head and looked at him. "There is, what?"
She stepped closer to him and took his face in her hands, smoothing the pad of her thumb over his cheek. "It's all right," she promised. "You can tell me. Let *me* make the choice this time."
Angel looked at her, and like always, was unable to deny her anything. His words came out rushed. "Doyle said the Oracles took away my humanity and kept the curse with it."
For a moment Angel was unsure if Buffy had heard him. Her facial expression did not change, she did not give any indication that she had understood the implications of what he had told her. After a very long moment, she spoke.
"Tell me what you mean, 'and kept the curse with it'." Her words were quiet, careful, and Angel realized with a pang that she was holding herself at a distance, making sure that her battered heart would not suffer another beating.
"I mean," he spoke into her eyes, "that the gypsy curse was lifted when the Oracles stripped me of all my human qualities."
"But your soul stayed," she pointed out, almost desperate to find the loophole, knowing that there had to be some sort of terrible catch and she would find herself plunging back down into the numbness of despair.
"My soul stayed. It was kind of like a...I don't know, a reward, I guess, for giving up such a precious gift. That's how it was explained to me." Although his soul would never feel like a reward, not as long as the memories of death stayed with him. But for Buffy, to have Buffy here, in his arms, in his bed, it was more than enough.
"You didn't tell me," she accused, realizing the implications of it. He had known, he had known for some time that they could have formed some sort of relationship with this new development, and he hadn't told her.
"I didn't tell you," he agreed solemnly. "Your words came back to haunt me, and I just couldn't, Buffy. You said you were on the verge of something good at home, and for me to take it away would have been the cruelest thing I'd ever done." Angel looked at her sadly in the half-light from the kitchen, feeling as if she were slipping away even as he held tightly to her hand.
"The cruelest thing you've ever done," Buffy said slowly, "was to go away and leave me."