He realized, finally, as he stood there with her in his kitchen. Angel realized what he had done to her, to both of them, when he left her standing among the ruins of the failed Ascension, when he did not even have the courage to say goodbye. She was his redemption, this tiny girl with a heart of gold. Los Angeles was not his saving grace. The countless victims of the city would not ever be enough to save him. Only Buffy would ever save him, had in fact saved his worthless hide with her own blood, and he had repaid her by leaving her. He opened his mouth to speak and found there were no more words, he had nothing to say that would erase the cruelties he had done. So Angel stood there helplessly, hoping against hope that she would not walk away from him in her anger.

"I could never," she said.


"Walk away. That's what you were thinking, wasn't it? Even now, you're still thinking how undeserving you are."

"I'm not deserv--"

"You ARE," she said fiercely. "You ARE deserving. You're good and kind and worthy, Angel. You are."

And then, not knowing what else to do, he kissed her. She melted under him immediately, her rigid stance relaxing, molding to him. There was no talking in the kitchen for a long time, save Buffy's soft sighs and the small sound of hands being run over clothing.

Angel growled and nipped at her, trying to take all of her into his mouth at once, sweeping the warm recesses with his tongue and feeling her respond in kind. Their bodies were pressed together, hardness meeting pliancy, and suddenly Angel hoisted her to his waist and felt her wrap her strong legs around his middle. He walked with her that way to the bedroom, kissing her all the while, feeling his erection press uncomfortably close beneath the fly of his black jeans. The pressure of Buffy's thighs squeezing his hips was torture, he wanted nothing more than to drop to the floor and rid both of them of their damn clothes, and make her ride him until she couldn't breathe.

Instead, he put a knee on the bed and sank onto it, Buffy beneath him, still clutching him with her legs. He broke away from her mouth and pressed his forehead to hers. "Are you sure, Buffy? Are you?"

Buffy felt a tiny flash of anger that he could still have to ask that question, then realized that, for Angel, it was not a matter of "have to". For Angel, it was a matter of "need to". He needed to know, he needed the reassurance, though she had already shown him countless times how sure she was. It was something that would stay with him forever, the insecurity, and he would always need to be calmed and soothed.

"Of course, love," she smiled, smoothing his hair from his forehead. "I'll never be as sure of anything else. I love you, Angel, don't you get it? That won't go away, no matter how far apart we are, no matter who else may come into our lives. Being apart from you is the worst thing I've ever had to do."

He quirked an eyebrow. "Worse than sending me to--"

She cut him off by clapping a hand over his mouth and shaking her head sternly. "Too much talking. Not enough kissing." Buffy drew his mouth down to hers again, warming inside when she felt him smiling against her lips.

"Sorry," he murmured against her mouth, darting a cool tongue out to trace the contours of her lips. Rolling to his back, he took her with him so she lay full length atop his body, and she slipped her legs to the side to straddle him. Exerting light pressure, Buffy ground against the hardness beneath her, sending Angel arching his neck against the pillows and hissing through his teeth. "Damn clothes," he mumbled, gripping her hips with tight fingers.

She giggled, and when he opened his eyes, he saw why. She had quickly discarded her shirt and bra and sat atop him with only her pants still on, her cream and coral breasts glowing in the dark.

"Still too many clothes," he growled, sitting up quickly. They sat facing each other, their legs entwined, and Angel lifted a full breast in his hand. "Beautiful. Just....beautiful," he murmured before lowering his head to taste it, the nipple tightening under his tongue. There was sweetness and spice on her skin, and she smelled like outdoors. He grazed the nipple with his teeth, feeling her shiver, and did the same to the other breast. Angel switched back and forth for long minutes, worshipping her body, until Buffy was whimpering and clutching his dark head.

"Stop," she gasped, and he grinned.

"You liked it well enough last time."

"But...more. I need more."

"More, is it? Easy enough," he agreed. "Anything you want."

So saying, he lay her back down among the pillows and kissed her again, a tender kiss, trying to convey all that he felt for this tiny girl in a single moment. He tried to claim her with his tongue, and then his kisses trailed away below her ear to the small white scar at the curve of her neck. Deep, primal satisfaction welled up in him as he tasted the raised skin. He had branded her, marked her as his, and the world could see it. Then back to her mouth again, while he used one hand to deftly work the button on her pants, and then he was pushing them down and ridding himself of his own clothes as well. Shirts and pants littered the floor of the bedroom but the two in the bed didn't notice or care, they were lost in each other and the new discovery that had been given to them.

Angel's hands swept down her body, tantalizing her, dipping into soft warm crevices and then teasingly dancing away again. He found the moistness at her center and licked his lips at it, wonderingly. "All for me?" he murmured in her ear, sliding a finger into it and then out again.

"Yes," she gasped, "always for you, only for you." She arched into his palm, seeking more pressure, and then his finger was replaced with his tongue and she cried out. It went on and on, the exquisite torture, with Angel sweeping his mouth over her throbbing bud and licking up the juices that dribbled down and left a damp place on his sheets. The smell of her wetness and want brought out the ridges on his forehead and he could feel his fangs lengthening in his mouth, and for once he did not curse the demon that lived inside him. He welcomed it, it fueled his passion for her, and before she even knew what he was about, he had used the razor tip of one fang to bring forth a tiny drop of blood from her clitoris. So sharp was his fang that Buffy did not even feel the prick, she only felt Angel begin to purr deep in his throat and suckle at her pulsing center.

Buffy wanted to cry out but could not, she could not find the breath to do it because all of her concentration was centered around her core, feeling Angel suck her so strongly. All she could do was clutch at the silky fringe of his hair and bring him tightly against her, and then she was shuddering and sobbing and flying.

Before she came down from her peak, Angel was looming above her. The question was back in his eyes again, and Buffy did not feel anger at it, knew she would never get angry at him for it again. "It's all right," she assured him. "I want you, Angel. I need you. Like I could never need anything else."

He bowed his head in relief and sank into her in one smooth stroke, his arms shuddering while he tried to hold himself still. Buffy felt him tremble, heard the throaty catch in his voice as he spoke against her creamy shoulder.

"I love you. Always. For always."

She clung to him, her hips moving instinctively against his, her heart filling and healing. They ground together, Angel thrusting deeply, sweeping her up with him in a flood of emotion. He was gentle at first, then not so gentle, setting a masterful rhythm for both of them, forcing Buffy along with him as he drove into her. Feeling her warmth, her tightness, when he had thought it lost to him forever, was like a wolf nipping at his heels and he sped up his thrusts as if he were reaching, searching. He was filled with an aching pleasure when he felt her grip his arms with her fingers and toss her head on the pillow, crying out for him to hurry, hurry. Buffy bent her knees and gripped him with her legs to absorb the impact of him, and Angel knew just when she had had enough. He ground his hips against her, rubbing just the right spot, and when she began to tremble beneath him, he let his climax come with primal ferocity. It rocked him, and he could only hold tight to the girl beneath him while he spilled his cool seed into her warm recesses and they both cried out.

A long, long while later, they still lay entangled in one another, Buffy's golden hair spread across the dark pillowcases. Angel raised himself on one arm to look wonderingly at her. "You always come to find me," he said.

"I will *always* find you," Buffy repeated solemnly. "But I wish you wouldn't make me."

"Maybe...maybe it's time to stop running away." He looked concerned as he said it, as if she would not accept the decision.

"I can make my own choices, Angel. I save the world on a daily basis, I can make up my own mind."

He nodded, ashamed.

"Now," Buffy said, stretching like a cat. "Whatcha got to eat around here?"

A corner of Angel's mouth quirked up.

"I have some peanut butter."