Taking Hold of the Future:
One Step Forward...


"I can't believe it! I mean, my MOM and GILES! Ugh!"

Buffy was pacing in front of Angel's fireplace after her first patrol, her arms waving about wildly. Watching her, Angel had a hard time suppressing the smile that wanted to spread as he listened to her. It reminded him much of the tirade she'd been on when her mother had started dating evil robot Ted. Those had been good times, and the smile was harder to fight as Angel recalled *exactly* how that evening had ended. Apparently, he failed to suppress the smile, because his small, blond, Slayer rounded on him accusingly.

"Are you laughing at me? Because this is not funny in the least!" Buffy tried to inject anger into her voice, to let Angel know exactly how upset she was, but it was hard. Everything else was slipping to the edge of her consciousness as she watched him struggling to wipe the smile off his face, and she was inordinately pleased when Angel gave up and let out a small chuckle. It had been so long since he'd smiled that big, or laughed even a little. It made Buffy's heart warm, and her spirits lighten with delight, that he could let go of the guilt just a little bit.

"Come here," Angel invited when he saw the small delighted smile playing about her lips. He held out his hands, and when she grasped them with her own, Angel drew his love down into his lap. They shifted a bit, until they were curled comfortably together in a corner of the couch. "I'm not laughing at you, you know that," he smiled down at her. "I just can't help but smile. I mean, think about it. They've probably done the exact same thing you're doing now. 'I can't believe she's with him! I mean, he's a vampire!'"

Buffy knew that Angel had intended it as a joke, poking a little bit of fun at one of the problems that still lay between them, trying to keep the mood light. But, it hit a little too close to home, and she frowned. When Angel's cool fingers came up to gently smooth the line between her eyebrows, Buffy flushed and looked at him guiltily. "I'm sorry," she sighed, trying to snuggle an imperceptible bit closer, drawing comfort from his embrace. "It's just...That's happened to often, and far more recently than I'm comfortable with, for me to laugh."

"Buffy, we knew going into this that it wouldn't be easy. That's why we tried to walk away from each other at the Bronze two years ago. It didn't get any better after I lost my soul and started wrecking havoc. It got even worse after I got back from Hell." Angel's arms tightened around her, reassuring himself of her presence as he pondered the inadvisability of their continued relationship. Sometimes it seemed that no matter what he did, he hurt her, and their recent experience only supported the theory. Angel had thought that they'd worked through most of those problems last week, when discussing his departure. Yet, they had barely touched on the more intimate fears Buffy had about their relationship, and how seeing him with Faith had brought those feelings to the fore. Sometimes it amazed Angel that she still let him near her, and Angel fully recognized Buffy's love for him as the miracle it was.

"I know Angel, but still..." Buffy's voice trailed off as she debated how much to tell him, but their recent agreement to talk things out, and to keep things from getting worse before Angel's imminent departure prompted her to spill all of it. "I guess I thought when Giles let you back into the library, and started including you in our plans, that things were better. I know that it's not *good*, that he's still really uncomfortable around you, and that there's still a lot of anger and hurt there, but I really did think it was getting better. And I know Mom isn't thrilled about us trying to be together. But, she doesn't wince every time I come over here, and she hasn't been pressing me for details, so I thought that was getting better too. But it's not!"

"Buffy, can you honestly say you're surprised? Nothing has really been resolved between any of us. Your mother and Giles have no real reason to trust me and a dozen reasons not to." Buffy started to speak, but Angel ran over her next words. "Your word isn't going to cut it because your judgment isn't the best where I'm concerned. Your heart maybe in the right place, but jealousy, anger, hurt and love have all made you take the wrong path from time to time."

"But Angel," Buffy's frown, though distressing to the vampire that desperately wanted to see her happy, was also decidedly adorable. Tired of traversing the same ground over and over again and, much as Angel loved her, tired of Buffy's whining, Angel decided to distract her. That his chosen method would also satisfy his never ending hunger for her light was an added bonus, as Angel silenced the Slayer the best way he knew. He tilted her chin up and captured her pouting lips in a sweet kiss.

The instant their lips met, Angel forgot all about their conversation and became utterly absorbed in the taste of her mouth. His Slayer was unbearably sweet, and he tried to satisfy his thirst for her by plunging his tongue deep into Buffy's mouth. Her soft, pleased moan served only to spur him onward, and Angel was soon lost in their embrace. Buffy's arms stole around his neck so her fingers could tangle in his hair to angle his head more perfectly as she returned the kiss. His hands slid down the soft curve of her back to pull her closer, her nails raked lightly against his neck in response, and still the kiss continued, growing deeper and fiercer. They shifted, eager for more contact. Only the feeling of one Buffy's hardened nipples pressing into the palm of his hand, and the welcome pressure of her hips on his aching erection brought Angel out of the haze of desire, at least partially.

They had slid down on the couch and Angel dimly realized he was now laying stretched out with Buffy sprawled over his chest and straddling his hips, and that his self control was fraying at an alarming rate. Still locked in her heated embrace Angel fought for control, reminding himself fiercely what the cost of continuing would be. He shifted slightly to the side, spilling Buffy onto the couch next to him, breaking the kiss lightly. She whimpered at the loss and Angel returned to her mouth, this kiss more controlled, gentler as his hands and mouth moved soothe her as he slowly eased them both back from the edge. Moments later Buffy was shaking in reaction, realizing how close they'd come to the point of no return, but Angel merely brought her back to his lap as he sat up, raining soft kisses and reassurances down on her upturned face.

Once they'd both managed to regain control and calm, Angel forced his mind back to the matter at hand and out of more dangerous territory. "Buffy, complaining to me about your mom and Giles won't help the situation. It will only release a little of your frustration at the situation and eventually drive me nuts. You need to talk this out with them. We can't change their minds for them; they have to see that things will be all right for themselves. All we can do is be honest with them, and continue to support each other, until they see that we won't do *anything* that will cause me to loose my soul." At Buffy's doubtful look, Angel smiled ruefully and allowed, "I'm not saying we won't come close sometimes Buffy, but we stopped in time. And we have to believe that one of us will always remember or there's no point in trying to stay together. We'll figure something out, and the distance will help to keep temptation out of arm's reach."

Buffy sighed and tucked her head back under Angel's chin, relaxing as he gently stroked his cool fingers through her hair and down her arm. "Sometimes I really hate it when you break out the wisdom," she complained, stifling a yawn. "I know that you're older, and usually wiser, and you have very good points, but you make it very difficult to keep up a good mad."

"Sorry," Angel chuckled, pressing a kiss to the crown of her head. Buffy turned her face up for another and Angel was delighted to oblige her, but after a single kiss he gently pressed her head back to his chest so he could continue. "So," Angel started, but found his voice to be a little strained, much like his self control. He cleared his throat and began again, bringing forth a small giggle from the young woman in his arms.