SUMMARY: After the latest battle is won, Buffy and Angel take a little time out to repar their relationship. Set after "Amends" but before "Helpless".
NOTE: I'm thinking this may become a series of little stories of the private time Buffy and Angel spend together. Some will be happy, some will not. Of course, don't hold me to that. It might not happen.
Buffy curled up on the bed, her eyes closed, as she listened to the sound of the shower running in the bathroom just a few feet away. All she wanted was to go to sleep and forget everything that had happened that day, the battle with her latest vampiric foe, the fight with her friends, the harsh words exchanged with her mother. But she couldn't do that until she knew that he was okay, that *they* were okay. So she laid there, fighting against the exhaustion demanding to take over, waiting for him to emerge so that she could see for herself that things were right between them. Until then, nothing else mattered.
The water stopped and she dragged herself up, holding a pillow against her. Long minutes later, the door opened and he stepped out. His gaze immediately found hers and he looked at her, his eyes looking deeply into hers. After a moment he turned away, his gaze slowly taking in the room they were in. When he turned back to her, his eyes held a question.
"Why are we here?" he asked as he walked toward her.
She frowned. "You don't remember?"
He shook his head. "No, the last thing I remember is a crossbow bolt imbedding itself in my gut." He looked down at his abdomen, lightly fingering the healing wound there. He'd gotten the wound when the vampire he and Buffy were fighting got ahold of her crossbow and used him as target practice. "Since I'm still alive, so to speak, I take it you got me out of there in time." He sat down on the bed and stretched out beside her. "That still doesn't answer the question of why we're here and not at my place," he continued.
Hugging the pillow tighter against her she sighed. "I didn't want anyone looking for us," she answered. "This is the best place I could think of."
He nodded, conceding that point. Since everyone knew he was now making his residence at the mansion, anyone looking for Buffy would immediately go there. His old apartment would be the last place they'd think to look.
"So, why are you still here?" he asked her after a moment. "I figured you'd be with Giles, telling him about your latest adventure."
Her eyes chilled slightly at his comment. "You mean, explaining to him why you're not dead yet?"
He smiled coldly. "If that's the way you want to put it."
"You're such a bastard," she hissed, her heart breaking just a little bit more as she said the words.
He shrugged. "I took classes in Hell," he replied. "It passed the time."
As her anger was replaced by guilt, she looked away. "I wanted to make sure you were okay," she said softly. Burying her face in the pillow, she heaved a sigh. "Can we not do this, please? Can we pretend you don't hate me and just be?"
Angel sat up, and, pulling the pillow from her grasp, he took Buffy's hand in his. "Buffy, I don't hate you," he told her once again. He hooked a finger under her chin, tilting to her face until their eyes met. "You know I don't."
Tears welled up in her eyes and she bit her lip to keep from crying. "And I don't hate you," she told him, knowing he needed to hear it. "It's just that it's all starting to get to me."
Ever since she'd told Willow, Xander, and Giles that she and Angel were going to continue to see each other, despite everthing that had happened, they'd been giving her a major guilt trip. At every opportunity, Giles talked about how disappointed he was with her decision, reminding her how much Angel had hurt him. Xander kept talking about her shameless cavorting with the 'vicious killer', about how she'd abandoned her duty and put all their lives in danger just so she could share smoochies with her demon. But what hurt the most was that Willow, who in private had no problems with she and Angel being friends, turned her back when Buffy needed her most.
Pulling her hand away from his, she grabbed a pillow and threw it across the room. "I hate this," she shouted in angry frustration. "I hate having to choose. I hate pretending that I don't care. And I hate having guilt piled on me for not choosing them." She stopped suddenly and let her tears take over.
Angel pulled her into his arms, holding her tightly as she sobbed, offering her the comfort of his presence. "I'm sorry."
"It's not your fault," she said when her tears subsided. She pulled out of his arms and looked up at him. "I have to go out and save everyone's ass every night. I'm supposed to do what's expected of me and I'm not supposed to feel a thing. And I'm not supposed to care that they take me for granted, that they don't give a damn about how I feel. I'm supposed to sit there and take all their bitching and I'm not allowed to do any myself. I give them everything I can. What more do they want from me? And if they can have what they want, why can't I?"
"I think you know the answer to that."
She smiled and wiped the tears from her eyes. "Yeah, I guess I do." There was silence in the room as she took a minute to compose herself. "Being the Slayer really sucks sometimes." Her voice was small and childlike and it saddened him to see her that way.
"That it does." He wrapped his arms around her one last time before pulling away. "You okay?" He smiled when she shook her head. "I didn't mean emotionally, I meant physically. You took some pretty bad hits tonight." He fingered the small bandaged cut above her right eye. "That fight was not pretty."
"Not as bad as the one you took," she answered, her hand reaching involuntarily to touch the fading wound in his stomach. Seeing that crossbow bolt hit Angel, seeing him fall to the ground in pain, had scared her a lot more than was letting on. She'd almost lost him and the thought of going home without him had been too much to take. "You lost a lot of blood."
"I'm fine," he said reassuringly. "I'm more worried about you. Are you sure you're all right?"
Closing her eyes, she leaned back against the pillow and nodded. "Yeah, I'm okay. Although I'm not looking forward to facing the firing squad."
"You took care of the vampire," he said softly. "And very well I might add. You didn't get yourself killed. That's all that matters." She sent him a skeptical glare and he chuckled. "Is it really that bad?"
"Yeah, it is," she replied, her voice soft with pain.