From: Ktbookworm@aol.com

disclaimer in first part

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"It might work," Buffy allowed, grudgingly as she turned the idea over in her
mind. "I could send my diary with him; it explains everything. I might even
be able to sneak him a copy of Giles' Watcher Diary, if you think that would
help?" At Whistler's encouraging nod, Buffy continued. "If I asked, Will
might be able to help too; she was probably the most observant of all of us
after Jenny died. But I'm not sure I want her to know." Buffy looked up at
Whistler's perplexed expression and explained. "This is deeply personal
stuff, just between me and Angel. I don't know that I want everyone to know
what's going on. The last thing either of us needs is more pressure."

        "OK," allowed Whistler. "This is up to you two. But there are some
other advantages to Angel's departure." Whistler just shook his head as the
hurt look returned to Buffy's face. "This is an excellent time for Angel to
start making amends." Buffy made an indignant noise, but Whistler rushed on.
"Not that he has anything to make up for. He can't and couldn't control the
demon. But you and I both know he doesn't accept that, and maybe he never
will. He *needs* to do something to make up for what he considers his sins.
Helping you out was a start, and it makes him feel like he's accomplishing
something good. But right now the tension between you two, along with the
knowledge that you're strong enough to take care of most of these problems
alone kind of lessons the impact against his 'debt.' If Angel comes with me,
I can set him up in his own little hot bed of demon activity. He alone would
be responsible for the consequences. That would go a start to lightening that
load of guilt my man Angel carries around."

        Buffy sighed sadly. The garish little demon had her right where he
wanted her; Buffy would do just about anything to help Angel stop hurting,
and Whistler knew it. "I'll think about it," she whispered, knowing she'd
agree. Now all she had to do was convince Angel. "It's just that I'll miss
him so much!" Another thought occurred to her and she straightened up with a
jerk "Alone! What if he gets in over his head?" Buffy's voice was panicked,
imagining all sorts of horrible things. "What if he needs my help?"

         "Right. It's not like he's survived two and a half centuries or
anything," Whistler said wryly, remembering his conversation with Angel.
"Besides, I never said 'no' contact did I? I said 'limited' contact. If he
*really* needs help he can ask for it in most cases, same as you. There are
some things he has to do on his own, but you get the picture." Whistler
smiled, relived. If he hadn't been able to win Buffy over, well, the
alternatives were ugly. They ranged from someone convincing Angel he was bad
for Buffy, making him leave town, to her death at the hands of some demon,
freeing Angel to stalk the earth with revenge on his mind. "He's fighting
this because he doesn't want to leave, so you guys will have to talk it out."
Whistler warned, before a sneaky smile slipped onto his face. "No one knows
how long he'll be gone, or where to, but I've got my own ideas, and a
*little* influence. You might be surprised." Whistler sauntered back to his
chair and added cryptically, "And I might just get some contacts working on a
little present for you two, for when this separation is over." Buffy looked
ready to wring straight answers out of him, but he just shook his head and
smiled before glancing pointedly at his watch.

        Buffy frowned and glanced at her own watch. No time to go home and
change; she'd have to get her change of clothes for Giles' office, and do
without the books she'd left at home. The Slayer stood up and glanced around
the room, grabbing her jacket as she prepared to leave. She paused at the
door, turning back to tell Whistler, "I still don't like you very much. You
never bring good news. But I'll think about what you said. Tell Angel I love
him, and that I'll come see him tonight after my first sweep." She took a few
steps out the door before turning back to say, "Whistler? If you're wrong
about this being necessary, if I'm loosing him just because, I *will* kill
you."
 
        Whistler nodded in acknowledgment, and then the slayer was gone,
running to make it to school on time. He stood there for several moments,
going over their conversation again, making sure they'd covered the main
points. Then Whistler just sat in his chair, staring into the future, trying
to see if what he'd accomplished that morning had helped.
 ####################################################

        Angel was pacing in front of the fire, and small frown on his face
when Buffy arrived that evening. She stood for a moment at the garden
entrance, just watching him. Her eyes slid over his broad chest, and when he
turned she continued past his slim hips down his powerful legs, pausing
briefly at his firm backside. Buffy blushed lightly as he turned and caught
her gaze on him before remembering she was angry with him. "Hey," she
murmured, stepping just in side the door. She carefully masked her emotions,
maintaining her distance emotionally as well as physically. They had a lot to
cover tonight, and Buffy knew if she let Angel start apologizing he'd loose
track of the conversation due to guilt, and she knew he'd do the same if he
got to close. He distracted her too much, and she needed to stay on top of
the conversation.

        "Buffy?" Angel asked, stepping forward when she didn't come farther
into the room. He asked, "What's wrong?", though he had a pretty good idea.
He'd been on edge ever since Whistler had given him Buffy's message before
leaving. 'Just how mad is she?' he wondered.

        "We need to talk Angel," said Buffy as she took another step into the
room, wishing she could step into his arms and forget her talk with Whistler.
Instead, she nodded her head towards the couch, and when Angel had taken a
seat Buffy moved to stand before the fire. The cheerful blaze warmed her, but
she was still filled with a cold loneliness. "I talked to Whistler this
morning," she began. "He said you were leaving." Buffy's eyes were firmly
focused on the fire. She knew if she looked into his warm, loving eyes she'd
melt and Angel needed to be reminded that they couldn't afford to hide things
from each other

        "That's what I thought," sighed Angel. He had only gotten Buffy's
message from the little demon; nothing else on what the two had discussed, if
anything. Whistler had left after his third attempt to pump information from
him, leaving only a phone number behind. Angel's attention focused once more
on Buffy. His heart hurt at the sight of her standing in front of the fire,
head bowed and arms crossed defensively. Angel new that while her anger was
real, Buffy was more hurt than angry and Angel hated that he'd hurt her
*again*. He could hurt her more than anyone, even when he was trying to avoid
just that. "Buffy," he started, wanting her to meet his eyes. When her head
didn't move, Angel stood and joined her at the fire, trying to look her in
the eye. "Buffy, look at me." When she raised her hazel eyes to meet his, and
an answering pain flashed through his own chocolate brown orbs. "Buffy, I am
not leaving you," Angel stated firmly, ignoring the twinge of fear he felt.
Whistler had been so sure, but Angel knew he would never leave unless Buffy
asked him to.

        "Yes, you are," Buffy stated, just as firmly. "I may not know
Whistler well, and I don't like him much, but I do believe him. You *will* be
leaving Sunnydale." Angel shook his head, anger starting to spark in his eyes
now. Buffy stepped forward then, reaching out to touch his arm briefly in an
effort to calm him. Though she needed her anger to make it through the
emotional minefield, Buffy knew she had to keep Angel in a fairly receptive
mood so he would listen. "I'm not saying you want to Angel. I'm not happy
about you going, but that's not why I'm mad." He nodded slowly, the anger
receding as she continued. "Angel, we've dealt with absolute foretelling
before; nothing is exactly what it seems. The Codex said I would be killed by
the Master, but nothing about you and Xander saving me. Whistler said you'd
be leaving, and we have to accept that you will." Buffy's voice and face
softened for the first time that evening as she touched his arm again. "But
Angel, he never said where you were going, of for how long."

        Angel stared at Buffy for a long moment, absorbing the hope she'd
offered. Then confusion crossed his face. If she wasn't angry about him
leaving, then why ... Buffy met his gaze calmly, one eyebrow raising as she
watched understanding dawn in his eyes. "You're mad because I didn't tell
you!" he burst out. "You opened up last night to set things right, and I told
you I wasn't leaving even though I'd already talked to Whistler." Buffy
nodded as he reached for her. She tried briefly to avoid him, though she
admitted later that it was a halfhearted attempt. She relaxed as Angel
gathered her into his embrace in apology, warming her more than the fire
despite the coolness of his body. "I didn't mean to lie to you, or hide it
from you," Angel murmured into her hair. "I just didn't want to believe it. I
don't want to go anywhere."
 
        Buffy looked up at him as his arms tightened around her. A soft smile
lit her face as she chided him. "I thought you knew better than to hide
things from me, especially when they affect me. Didn't we go over this when I
went to face the Master? And again when Druscilla came to town?" Angel nodded
and bowed his head sheepishly, looking at her from underneath his lashes.
Buffy sighed and stood on tiptoe to give him a brief kiss, pulling away
before she could give into the temptation to deepen it. They still had a lot
of ground to cover. "Don't think this let's you off the hook," she scolded
Angel as she pushed him back towards the couch. "I'm still upset. We need to
figure out how to do this being apart thing, and not be, ya know, *apart*."

        "You're talking about us having a long distance relationship." Angel
shifted on the couch, suddenly uncomfortable with the topic. He was all too
aware of how very young and beautiful Buffy was. How could he ask her to stay
with him when there would be parties, and fun at school? The boys couldn't
help but be drawn to her.

        "You stop that right now!" Buffy stamped her foot in irritation. "I
love *you*, and I want to be with *you*, not some nameless, faceless guy I
haven't met yet. I'm not saying it'll be easy Angel, and I can't even
guarantee that it'll work. What I'm saying is that I want to try. I can't
imagine not loving you, not wanting to be with you. Don't give up on us
before you even leave!"

        "I'm not giving up on us," Angel shot back. "I just don't want to tie
you down!"

        "Maybe I want to be tied down!" Angel raised an eyebrow, and Buffy's
face flushed and she bent over at the waist, covering her eyes with her
hands. "I can't believe I just said that," she muttered between her fingers.
When Angel couldn't stop a chuckle from escaping, Buffy raised her head to
glare at him. "You get your mind out of the gutter," she snapped, face still
red. "It's all his fault anyway," she whispered to herself, turning away to
regain her composure. "All I meant was, I don't feel tied down, knowing we're
together. I feel like I could wait for you forever if it means we get to be
together when forever is over." Buffy moved to sit next on the couch next to
Angel, turning sideways to face him. "Don't leave me before you leave me
Angel," she said gripping his hand tightly.

        Angel threaded his fingers with hers, acknowledging her request with
a nod. "OK," he said, pulling her into his lap. "I won't give up on us, I
promise. But this separation will be more than a little unbearable."

        "Maybe it'll help if we're working on something together while we're
apart," Buffy offered. At Angel's quizzical expression Buffy continued,
explaining everything Whistler had suggested, touching briefly on some of
those long avoided topics. Things were far from resolved, but they were
better than they'd been in a long time. Buffy and Angel had a plan - to be
together.


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