Part Three

Buffy didn't sleep very well that night.  She wasn't that comfortable on Angel's couch, but she was even less comfortable leaving Angel alone.  Too much had happened this night for her to rest easy anyway.  Actually, it felt like she had just fallen asleep when Cordelia and Wesley returned the next morning.  Maybe she had.

"Rise and shine!" Cordelia called as she came down the stairs.

Buffy groaned and tried to hide her head under the blanket.  "What time is it?  It's too early."

"We wanted to get here early to…check on Angel," Wesley explained.  "Then we'll leave you two alone.  I'm sure you have much to talk about."

"But no touchy feely!" Cordelia interrupted.

"No problem," Buffy said, sitting up.  She ran a hand through her hair.  It was a mess, but there was nothing she could do about it at the moment.  "I don't suppose Angel's got any real food here?  I didn't get much in the way of dinner."

"If he's himself this morning and you're nice to him, he might make you some eggs," Cordelia said, smiling.  "He's not a bad cook."

"Really?" Buffy said, raising an eyebrow.  Why didn't she know this?  There had always been a lot she didn't know about Angel, but she had never felt so out of place in his life.  *Why did I come here, anyway?*

She must have said that out loud, because Cordelia came and stood next to her.  "If there's any justice in the world, it'll work out," she said.  Buffy looked at her in surprise.  "Hey, I'm not oblivious!  I've seen how he misses you.  He won't say anything about it, but he does.  He spends all his time making sure everyone else is happy, but he's miserable."  She stood up.  "Just get yourself cleaned up.  You're a mess.  Let things work themselves out from there."

Buffy stayed where she was sitting until both Cordelia and Wesley had gone into Angel's room.  She stood slowly, stretching, and picked up the bag she had brought in last night.  Luckily she had enough presence of mind to pack before she'd torn out of Sunnydale.  She made her way to the bathroom to freshen up.  It was hard to get her hair neat without a mirror, but she thought she managed pretty well.

She leaned over the sink, trying to think.  What exactly was she going to do?  She'd come down here because she thought Angel might have the answers to her dreams.  Now she had the answers…so what now?  As much as she didn't want to admit it, Angel's reasons for leaving weren't exactly wrong.  She might not agree with them, but they were hard to argue with.

There was only one conclusion Buffy had made &endash; she wanted to make things between her and Angel work.  She wasn't going to leave him this time without a fight.  She'd told Willow one thing that had remained true at all times; she'd take Angel any way she could get him.

She emerged from the bathroom with renewed purpose.  Cordelia and Wesley were gone as far as she could tell, but Angel was awake as evidenced by his muffled voice.  And back to his old self if Cordelia and Wesley had left him alone.

"Hello?  Anyone?" his voice called from the bedroom.  "Look, I said I was sorry!"

Buffy chuckled to herself.  They must have left him chained up.  All the more fun for me.

 

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Willow yawned.  She and Tara had been up all night, pouring over spell books and anything else that might be relevant.  In the early dawn hours they might have finally found a solution.  They'd done all they could for now; whether it worked they would have to wait and see.

"Is there nothing else we can do?" Willow asked, mostly to herself.  She was staring at the large crystal lying quiescent in front of them.

"We've done our part," Tara said.  "It's up to them to do theirs.  Get some rest &endash; I'll see you later."

"Sure," Willow said as Tara left the room.  Just as soon as I know if this worked.

 

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Angel blinked in surprise at the sight that greeted him a couple of moments later.  There was Buffy, her eyes twinkling in amusement, leaning casually in the doorway.

"Of all the fantasies I ever had involving you," she said, "I never thought I'd see you like this."

"Buffy…" Angel said, to bothering to hide his shock.

"That's it?  No 'hello Buffy?'  No 'nice to see you, Buffy?'"  Her voice was surprisingly light.

"Hello, Buffy," he barely managed.  "I…I thought I saw you last night, but…"

"Yeah, well, you weren't exactly yourself last night," Buffy said, coming into the room.

Angel flinched.  "I'm sorry," he said yet again.

"Don't be.  What you said…it was true."

He was decidedly uncomfortable.  Being here, last night's embarrassing events, Buffy being here…plus there were the chains.  "Um, if we're going to have this conversation…could you please untie me?"

"I don't think so," Buffy said, smiling slightly.  "It's not very often I have a captive audience."

"Buffy…"

Her smile faded.  "No, let me talk Angel.  I…I need to get some things off my chest, alright?"

"Alright."

She sighed and sat in the chair next to the bed.  "I had a lot of time to think yesterday, and it's not just what…you said.  I was thinking about all of this before I got here.  But…well, you hit the nail on the head last night.  That stuff about forgetting?  You were right."

"I…I was?"  Cordelia had scolded him for only being honest when he was evil.  This was hardly a conversation he ever expected to have.

Buffy nodded.  "I've been trying really hard, Angel.  Too hard.  To forget.  I got so caught up in trying to be normal that I've been ignoring everything that's really important to me.  And you're one of those things."

Angel sighed.  "Buffy, please tell me we're not having this conversation.  You know why I left.  You should have something normal, even if you can't have everything.  I get in the way of that."

"No you don't!" Buffy began to argue, then sat back in her chair.  "The truth is I came here for a specific reason, and you need to know that.  I don't know what it changes, but…I remember, Angel.  And I'm tired of forgetting."

"You…remember?" Angel asked, blinking at her.  She couldn't mean what he thought she did.

"Yes, I remember," she said, smiling a bit wistfully.  "I remember that you were human…what it felt like to be really together, and for the first time not have anything get in the way.  And I remember that you gave it up…for me and for the world.  And right now I'm more than a bit overwhelmed by it all."

"You weren't supposed to remember," Angel whispered.

"Well, I never was good at following the rules," Buffy replied flippantly, then instantly sobered.  "I'm glad I remembered.  That was a beautiful day.  And it helped me realize that I've been spending too much time fooling myself.  My normal life pales in comparison to what we had for twenty-four hours."

"But we can't have it again," Angel said a touch bitterly.

"I know," Buffy replied.  "But maybe it's time we found something new between us, you and me."  She sat forward again, that merry twinkle returning to her eyes.  She rested her hand on top of the chains encasing him.  "So how did you get into this situation, anyway?"

Angel noticed her abrupt change of subject, but didn't comment.  "You mean how did I get into a situation where an out-of-work actress could drug me to the point where my employees had to knock me out and chain me up to keep me from killing them?"

"Yeah, that sums it up nicely."

Angel looked at the ceiling, not meeting Buffy's gaze.  "Short version is…I rescued her from a stalker.  Except he wasn't a stalker &endash; he was a publicity stunt to revitalize her career.  Somewhere along the way she found out I was a vampire.  When she didn't get the part, she decided that she…wanted to be young and beautiful forever."  He tried not to let any emotion through.  The thing was, immortality was one of those things that Angel wanted desperately to be rid of.  Buffy was the only one who knew that.  To have someone else ask for one of the very things that Angel despised in himself…  She may not have known what it really meant to be a vampire, but her request had hurt in its own way.  It had also been a betrayal of what Angel thought was a beginning friendship.

"But Angel," Buffy said softly, "how did she get close enough to drug you?  And how'd she do it without you noticing?"

"She put it in the champagne," Angel muttered.

"What?  Champagne?"

Angel finally looked at Buffy again.  "She…said she wanted to thank me," he tried to explain.  "She came over with champagne and…"  He tried to think of what to say, what words were the right ones for the moment.  Finally he took Cordelia's advice…and went for honesty.  "I was lonely," he said.

Buffy's mouth opened in a silent 'oh,' and she leaned further onto his chest.  "Do you think, maybe, we could both stop the loneliness now?" she said softly.  "I'd…I'd really like to try this us thing again."

"I'd like that," Angel replied in the same soft tone.  Buffy smiled very slightly and placed a hand on the side of his face.  It sent a shock through him.  Her eyes shown with something surpassing joy.  He wanted to take her into his arms and hold her forever, but he was still bound.  "Uh, could you…"

Buffy's grin turned mischievous again and she leaned as far onto him as she could.  He couldn't do anything to stop her if he'd wanted to.  She pressed her lips to his in a kiss that started very gentle and became something more when he eagerly returned it.  There was much about being with Buffy that he missed.  There was her kindness, her friendship…and there was this.  The taste of her, her warmth…It was positively electric.  Barely past the decision to try and find some way to be together again, and already he could feel her down to his soul.

When she pulled away they were both breathless.  Buffy's eyes showed her delight.  "Buffy," Angel whispered, then tried again.  He couldn't seem to…  "Buffy, I can't breathe."

"I know," she whispered back.  "When I'm with you…"

"No," Angel gasped urgently.  "I can't breathe."  The chains were impeding the movement of his chest…which usually wouldn't be a problem.  "The chains, Buffy…"