disclaimer in part 1

Several minutes later Buffy and Angel walked into the mansion. The walk back
had been silent, and the tension had grown between them, neither sure what to
say to the other. Buffy stood uncertainly in to foyer as Angel moved to the
fireplace and stirred the embers to new life, adding a few logs so that a
small blaze soon lightened the room. He took of his jacket and sat on the
hearth next to the fire, motioning g for Buffy to join him. Hesitantly, she
walked across the room, leaving her jacket on the arm of the couch. The
normally self-confidant slayer stood uneasily before her vampire love, unsure
what to do.

        Angel looked up with a soft sigh. "Sit down, Buffy. I don't bite." A
bit of the tension eased out of his body when her lips quirked in a small
grin at his unconscious repetition of what he'd told her the night they met.
Buffy sank to the floor, not really next to him but still within arms reach.
The tension gradually built up again, as neither said anything until Angel
couldn't take it any longer. "This won't ever get better until you start
talking to me and stop hiding."

        Buffy flinched a little at his harsh tone, hearing the anger in his
voice. "I know," she whispered. "I just don't know where to start, and I'm
afraid that if I say the wrong thing it'll just make thing worse." Angel
simply looked at her calmly, waiting for her to begin. Buffy took a deep
breath and did just that. "First of all, I need to tell you two things. The
first is that I'm sorry I hurt you last week when I left. It's the last thing
I ever want to do. The second is that no matter what, I love you. I have to
feeling this is going to be an ugly, painful discussion, and that I'll
accidentally hurt you more, or make you angry, or disappoint you, but no
matter what happens, I still love you."

        "I love you, too," Angel responded quietly. "And you're right, I am
hurt and angry. But I know that you are upset too, and I hate that. We may
not get it straightened out tonight but I do love you and I will keep trying
until things are better." Angel shifted uncomfortably when he was finished,
wondering if Buffy had read into what he was saying. If she could hear what
he meant in what he wasn't saying. This unbearable tension was about more
than just the gut wrenching pain that had resulted from his masquerade as
Angelus. In actuality it had been building since his return from Hell, if not
from the point he had lost his soul. The perpetual emergencies in their lives
had forced some confrontations, but nothing had really been resolved, and
they both needed that sense of closure, no matter what the eventual outcome.
Angel was not giving up his light without a fight.

        "I guess I'll start at the beginning?" Buffy asked hesitantly. She
guessed that he wanted to talk about the other problems they had, but she
wasn't ready yet. *One problem at a time* she said to herself. "I came to
talk to you one night and Faith was here. She was so close to you, and it
kind of hit me hard and fast. What the happiness clause means. That if I'm
the one you love, and I'm the only one that can truly make you happy, you
can't loose your soul if you're with someone else." Buffy's head was down,
unable to face him. Angel stared at her in shock, as a tear ran down her
cheek and dripped off her chin. He opened his mouth in protest, but she
continued before he could speak. "I know you wouldn't do that Angel," she
whispered. "I meant it when I told Faith that you would never voluntarily
touch her. But it kind of struck me that because you're with me, you're
alone, and I don't want that for you. You shouldn't have to be alone any
more, you shouldn't have to suffer more."

        "Buffy I don't want to be with anyone else. I want to be with you,
and the reason I want you is that I love you. Faith came on to me yes, but I
said no because I love you. I don't want her, I want you." Angel sighed in
exasperation. "Even if we aren't together I can't be with anyone else as long
as I'm in love with you. That would be using the other person. The demon used
and killed people for over a hundred years; I'm not going to do the same
thing for a few moments of fleeting pleasure."

        Buffy smiled at him shyly. "I know," she whispered. "But it's really
nice to hear." She dropped her eyes and cleared her throat nervously as she
prepared to continue. "We didn't really talk about the emotional problems
that might happen when I asked you to pretend to be Angelus. I didn't want to
tell you how much he scared me, how much he still scares me. But that's not
what freaked me out when I saw you, when I saw how good you were at being
him. It was the instant where I instinctively locked up at not only a threat,
but the possibility that it might be real. That if it wasn't real this time,
what about next time? And knowing that if someone ever succeeded in taking
your soul, I would lose you again." Tears were now running slowly down her
face, and Buffy struggled to choke back the sobs that were welling from deep

        "I'm not going anywhere...." Angel started, his voice trailing off.
Buffy jumped to her feet and started pacing, missing the pain and regret that
dominated his face before he managed to pull a calm mask together.

        "You can't promise me that Angel. It's not like you're a popular
guest at the vampire family reunion. They all pretty much want you dead.
Spike would love to start a 'Let's Drain the Slayer and Turn Angelus to Dust'
club. There's all the weird stuff that's going on; it seems to be getting
worse. It's entirely possible the next bad guy, evil demon, or dimensional
gate will kill you. And it would destroy me to loose you again. It almost did
the first time. I was practically brain dead when you lost your soul, and I
wanted to die when I sent you to Hell. When I came home it was because I'd
managed to lock all those feelings up so I could function again, and then
what happens?" Buffy threw her arms in the air, as if beseeching heaven for
answers. She continued pacing, her movements sharp as she continued. "You
come back and I start losing control again. I don't know what to think or
feel anymore Angel."

        "I'm sorry," whispered Angel, his dark chocolate eyes swimming with
tears and guilt. He hated thinking about her hurting for any reason, and
knowing he was the cause was unbearable.

        "NO!" Buffy shouted at him. "Don't be sorry Angel, it's not your
fault. You warned me at the very beginning that we couldn't be together, but
in the end we couldn't stay away from each other. It's happening again. But
this time something is different. I know you love me, and I didn't know that
before. I have a very clear grasp on what you mean when you say you've done
horrible things, even thought it wasn't really you. I know what it'll do to
me to loose you again. And I've know you can hurt me worse than anyone or
anyone else in the world. I also know it doesn't matter."

        Buffy took a deep breath and calmed down, crouching in front of him,
resting her hands on his knees. Angel reached out to wipe the tears away, and
she leaned into his touch with a small sigh of contentment. "It doesn't
matter because I love you. Still, always, forever, no matter what. When I was
fighting with Faith, and watching you pace behind her, a part of me was
focusing on how I felt, not on what we were trying to accomplish. I have the
feeling you think I left because I couldn't trust you again, but nothing
could be farther from the truth. I left you because I trust you, need you so
much it terrified me. I realized that no matter what happens I will always
love you. If you lost your soul again I would still love you, want you, miss
you. I would fight Angelus but not kill him unless I was forced to because I
know Willow can bring you back. You can hurt me and I'll always forgive you
because you never do it on purpose. I would follow you anywhere, do anything
you ask, give up everything because I love you."

        "Buffy, I love you, so much. I was hurt because I thought you didn't
trust me. I had no idea your were scared of your feelings; I thought you were
scared of me. And I would never take advantage of you," Angel breathed,
touched beyond belief at what she was telling him. He had never doubted that
she loved him; trust and forgiveness were hard sells, but he always knew that
Buffy loved him. But he had never dared hope that she loved him that deeply,
that surely. That she could return his own feelings so exactly. He knew that
it could easily turn obsessive if the emotions were just a little darker, but
the absolute purity of self sacrificing love kept things from getting out of
control. He would do anything to ensure Buffy's happiness, even if it meant
watching her move on with someone else, or returning to Hell.

        "I know. And that only makes me love you more." Buffy sighed with
relief when he gathered her into his lap and cradled her head against his
chest. She knew things weren't completely resolved between them, but the
tension that had been in both of them since she left him two weeks ago was
now gone. They would have to talk about everything they'd been avoiding since
his return eventually, going into more details about what had happened, and
how they both felt, and she certainly wasn't looking forward to it, but it
was infinitely better than the alternative. 'I will not give up on you Angel,
on us' she thought to herself, relaxing in Angel's embrace, slipping into the
first deep sleep she'd had in weeks.

        "I love you Buffy," Angel whispered to the drowsy slayer, feeling her
breathing slow as she drifted off. "More than I'll ever be able to tell you."
Angel wasn't looking forward to telling her of the warning Whistler had
brought, or talking about their other problems, but he resolutely pushed
those worries aside. Buffy loved him still; she'd simply been overwhelmed. He
would make sure she understood she could talk to him about everything and
anything later. Right now he just wanted a few minutes of peace as he held
his sleeping Slayer, and basked in the glow he got from knowing she loved him.

        Whistler watched the Vampire Slayer and the vampire with a soul from
the shadows in the garden. They sat in front of the fire, sitting close
together as they conversed. The demon kept a close eye on the diminutive
Slayer, watching as her tense, sharp body language relaxed into slower, more
graceful motions as she and Angel talked out this most recent problem.
Whistler was relieved to see some color back in her cheeks, some in her eyes
and that she'd gained back the weight she'd lost the previous spring.
Angelus's reign in Sunnydale had been brief, but brutal for the young Slayer,
and Whistler, more than anyone save Buffy and Angel themselves, knew exactly
how high the toll in her had been.

        The cessation of quiet murmurs from inside drew Whistler's attention
back to the couple inside. Buffy was now curled up in Angel's lap as he sat
in front of the fire, with her head tucked under his chin. The mighty Vampire
Slayer, one of the strongest to ever live, was now sleeping peacefully in the
arms of one of the most vicious vampires that had ever walked the earth.
Whistler shook his head at the irony, as he waited until Buffy's breathing
slowed and deepened to move into the room.

        "So, everything's square now? " he asked Angel, leaning against the
mantle to see his friend's eyes.

        There was a brief pause before Angel answered, and then his words
were measured carefully. "We've worked out the problems caused by Buffy's
reaction to role I played," was the vampire's response.

        "But nothing else was resolved," guessed Whistler. The demon watched
as Angel shifted uncomfortably, unconsciously tightening his arms around
Buffy, silently confirming Whistler's comment. "I bet you didn't even tell
her that you're leaving," Whistler commented with a knowing smirk.

        "I am not leaving," Angel snarled at him. Buffy stirred at the rumble
and Angel immediately calmed, stroking her blond hair until she settled back
into sleep. "I will not leave her," he repeated quietly, emphasizing each
word to get his point across. "Not again, not on purpose."

        "You say that now, but you will leave her Angel," Whistler's voice
was stern and calm, indicating in no way the turmoil he felt. His job to even
balance the fight between good and evil influenced Whistler on everything.
Whistler felt his friend and the Slayer had suffered too much, too recently,
to be separated just yet. These two deserved a little breathing room, a
little peace, but it was not meant to be, at least not yet. They kept
achieving the impossible, beating prophecy after prophecy, keeping the future
a murky cloud, but some things Whistler could see clearly. "Events are in
motion, and you will be leaving Sunnydale. I just thought you'd like to give
the kid some warning."

        "I thought I was supposed to help her, protect her," Angel growled
again. He and Whistler had gone round and round on this earlier in the
evening, prompting Angel's abrupt departure to go hunting. Angel hated the
thought of leaving; he and Buffy had been through so much together and he
wasn't going to give up now. Buffy provided him with the only peace in his
life, her love a healing balm for his tortured soul.

        Whistler merely raised an eyebrow and said, "I thought you said she
was the best slayer you'd ever seen. I thought you said she could accomplish
anything." Angel glared at Whistler, unable to refute the truth. Buffy didn't
really need his help just to survive any longer. Still, Angel lived in fear
of the day someone stronger or faster brought her down, or the day her
enemies grew brains and overwhelmed her in sheer numbers. He wanted to be
there to watch over her always, offering his life instead of hers. Anything
to forestall her eventual death. At the thought of Buffy's death, the vampire
grew restless, once more disturbing Buffy's sleep.

        Whistler glanced out into the courtyard, noting the subtle lightening
of predawn, feeling the imminent sunrise in his blood. "Look, you're not
helping her out; right now she needs her sleep. The sun will be up soon and
you can sleep on this. Hopefully you'll be more reasonable tonight. Tuck the
Slayer in on the couch and hit the sack. I'll wake her in time to go change
for school."

        Angel's scowl didn't waver, a low, steady growl emanating form his
chest, until a sleepy Buffy murmured, "Angel? What's wrong?" Angel forced
himself to calm down, and started to rock his precious burden as the Slayer
tried to wake up.

        "Nothing's wrong Buffy," he whispered, pressing a kiss to the top of
her head, breathing in the smell of her shampoo. "Go back to sleep." Sleep
deprived, and hearing no further tension in Angel's voice, Buffy stopped
struggling to awareness and settled back into sleep. A short while later,
when her heartbeat and breathing had evened out, Angel stood carefully and
settled her on the couch in front of the fire, tucking a blanket around her
small body. With a final glare at Whistler, and then one at the rising sun,
the vampire stalked off to his bedroom for the day.

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