Angel drove into Sunnydale for the first time in over five years. He peered through the deeply tinted windows at the street lights shining on his midnight blue Mustang. The chevy he'd had for so long had finally given up the ghost a few months ago and Cordelia has urged him to get something a little classier than the old car, something with air conditioning. So he'd gotten himself the latest model Mustang.
"Hey, man, what yer doin here?" Angel heard Doyle ask from somewhere above the car.
"Doyle, get off the roof. I don't want nitchu' paw prints all over the paintwork. I just got it polished." Angel muttered to the nitchu above him. He saw from the corner of his eye as the nitchu oozed into the car, forming into a bright eyed cat that settled down onto the passenger seat beside him. Doyle had returned around the same time as his chevy had died, and Angel, for that reason alone, did not regret loosing that piece of machinery. Okay, so Doyle had returned as a nitchu. One of the most annoying spirit creatures you can get, but Angel figured that Doyle deserved to come back as a nitchu. For all they were annoying and had little effect on the world surrounding them, they retained their memories of their previous life, which meant that Doyle was still Doyle. Just a little weirder, if that was possible.
"Well, buddy?" Doyle prompted in Angel's mind. "You gonna tell me what yer doin in Sunnydale, or just let me guess?"
"Cordelia had one of your visions." Angel said shortly.
"Not moine any more, man. I gave dem to Cordelia fare and square. Dere her's now." Angel knew that the nitchu spirit didn't need to talk with an Irish accent, but that it chose to, so that Angel would feel more comfortable. The cat sat up and stretched, slowly melting and growing, and within moments Doyle was sitting beside him, looking as natural and alive as he had four years ago.
"What vision?" He asked out loud. Angel looked briefly at him, then turned off the main street, heading towards the Bronze.
"She saw Willow and me, talking at the Bronze." Angel answered him as he parked the car near the nightclub that was so much a part of Sunnydale history.
"That's it?" Doyle asked as Angel climbed out of the car and locked it remotely.
"Yep. But she said that the moon was out." Angel looked up at the moon shining down on his head. "Moon's out." He looked around, suddenly quiet.
"You're brooding, Angel." Doyle said from beside him. Angel grunted in reply, but smoothed his features out. "That's better. Ayah! I'm outta here, man. See ye soon." Doyle vanished between one word and the next, and Angel turned to see why. Just turning the corner was a group of three people. Angel felt his heart jerk in his chest. He recognised the shining red hair of the girl in the middle, and from her, recognised the short one and then the tall dark hair one on either side. Willow, Oz and Xander. Taking a deep, if unnecessary breath, he stepped backwards into the shadows provided by the warehouse opposite the Bronze. His acute hearing picked up their conversation several metres away.
"He's moved since I was last there." Oz spoke quietly.
"And he didn't leave a forwarding address?"
"Xander, the guy doesn't want to be traceable, now does he?" Willow asked, reaching up to cuff her tall friend over the head.
"Oh. I suppose not." He hunched his shoulders, putting both hands in his pockets and skulking along beside the other two.
"When's your next gig in LA?" Willow asked her boyfriend, turning back to him.
"The Dingoes have one there next weekend. I suppose I could go a few days earlier, see if I can track him down."
"Or I could call Cordelia!" Xander said with enthusiasm, walking past an extra dark patch of warehouse. As they past, it separated from the rest of the shadows and stepped in behind them, following silently.
"Xander, Cordelia would hang up on you just on principle." Willow reminded him gently. She was jerked almost off her feet when Oz abruptly stopped.
"Oz!" She protested. She paused when he put his head up, scenting the air.
"There's a vampire near." He stated with certainty.
"Shit." Xander muttered, diving into his coat for a stake that was permanently inserted into the pocket there.
"Put the stake away, Xander." Angel said softly, coming into the light of one of the street lamps.
"Angel!" Willow leapt forward after a stunned moment and hugged him around the neck, hard. "You haven't changed at all!" She exclaimed, then blushed.
"It kind of works that way, Willow. I don't change." Angel reminded her softly, smiling down at the petite red-head.
"Oz." Angel nodded at Oz, then looked at Xander. He'd grown up and filled out in the last five years.
"Xander." He thought he should at least try to be civil.
"Dead-boy." Xander replied. Then he grinned. "Damn, man. It's good to see an old....I mean young...ah, hey." Angel grinned to himself quietly.
"What are you doing here, Angel?" Willow demanded, bringing his attention back to her.
"Cordelia. She had a vision."
"Okay, huh?" Xander asked for all of them.
"Oh, sorry. I forgot, you guys haven't had updates lately. Cordelia, she has visions. For the powers that be, that is. She had a vision that you and I were talking outside the Bronze. So here I am."
"And me!" Doyle said, appearing as a small version of his nitchu self on Angel's shoulder. In the light from the streetlamp above, the three humans saw the tiny creature, no bigger than a ferret, perched on Angel's shoulder, peering down at them. His ears were pointed forward, his long snout similar to that of a chinese dragon. He had curled his long tail around Angel to lie curled on his other shoulder. The bright green wings were folded neatly down the long, supple back. His soft black fur was shiny, reflecting the light from his nose right down to his tail.
"Doyle." Angel berated the nitchu.
"Sorry, man." He hopped off Angel's shoulder, his wings flapping briefly, then as before, he seemed to melt and grow. Doyle's human form appeared where a flying nitchu was before.
"Hey. Me name's Doyle."
"We've met." Oz said briefly. "I was under the impression you were dead."
"Oz!" Willow gasped in horror.
"Oh, now don't you worry, little lady. He was roight. I was dead. I'm a nitchu now. I help Angel-"
"Hah!" Angel laughed.
"Like I said, I help Angel with stuff he needs from the other worlds, and get him information that he can't get by hisself."
"Oh. I see. You're a spirit." Willow nodded her understanding. Xander looked lost.
"Although I hate to repeat myself, I'm going to now. Huh?"
"He was human-"
"Half human, thank you very much!"
"Sorry, half human. When he died, the Powers that Be decided that they weren't done with him, so he returned as a spirit." Willow looked at Doyle for confirmation. The nitchu nodded.
"You mean a ghost." Xander said.
"No. If I meant a ghost, I would have said ghost. I meant a spirit. A ghost cannot affect this world. A spirit can. He can go between this world and others, and exist in both."
"Oh, okay." It was clear from his tone of voice that Xander still didn't know what she meant.
"So, Willow, what did you need me for?" Angel asked, bringing them all back to his reason for being in Sunnydale.
"Oh! I forgot! We-"
"Hey, Will! Xand! Wait up." The group turned to see a short blonde woman walking towards them, talking closely with a tall fair man. Willow heard Angel make a soft, painful sound, and turned back to find the vampire gone. She looked at Doyle, who was looking at a dark patch of shadow.
"Hey, Angel. Look, you're gonna have to face her eventually. Come out, man." The nitchu growled with impatience and turned towards the others.
"Hey, who's this?" Buffy asked, coming up to the group.
"This is Doyle." Willow said, introducing the nitchu spirit to the slayer.
"Doyle, this is Buffy and Matthew."
"Ah, so you're the pretty blonde, are ye?"
"Huh?" Buffy asked, confused.
"The pretty blond Angel got all groin-."
"Doyle!" Angel barked, coming out from the shadows, then cursed. Doyle grinned, then vanished to avoid any damage the vampire intended to inflict on him.
"Angel." Buffy breathed to quiet for any one but him to hear, then stood up straighter. Angel watched her step back slightly and bump into the tall fair man.. Matthew, Willow had said. So this was her boyfriend. Angel looked at the young man in front of him. He looked young, was all Angel could think. Young and na´ve.
"Buffy. How are you?" Angel asked inanely.
"Good. Fine. And you?" She asked automatically.
"Good." They fell silent.
"Um, I hate to interrupt this fascinating conversation, but did anyone notice that there was a guy here, who just disappeared?" Matthew asked of the group at large.
"That was Doyle." Angel said.
"Yes, so I heard. Who, or should I say, what is he?" Angel frowned at the note of demand in the young human's voice. He stayed silent.
"Is anyone going to answer?" Matthew looked around at the other three, who were all equally silent, for once taking their cue from Angel. "God damn it, I want to know." Matthew instinctively knew that Angel was the one who knew the answer. He stepped forward. His size would have intimidated someone smaller than Angel. But Angels' size, age and the knowledge that he was faster and stronger than Matthew meant that he wasn't. Matthew saw this and stepped forward again, a few inches from Angel.
"Matthew-" Buffy said, trying to get him to back down.
"I want to know who that guy was, Buffy. And this jack-ass knows. I can smell it." Buffy threw up her hands, knowing that she could do nothing to stop him.
"You going to tell me who the hell that guy was, jack-ass?" Matthew demanded. Angel lifted a brow at the insult, then smiled. It wasn't a pleasant one.
"Ah, young man." A voice said from behind him.
"Jerk off, man. This ain't your business."
"Ah. Fione. Can I just suggest, though, that if you are going to go up against a 250 year old vampire you might want to have some sort of weapon?"
"A what?" Matthew whirled around to find the guy who had disappeared behind him, grinning like a fool. Angel took his cue from the nitchu and vamped out.
"A vampire." Angel snarled behind him. Matthew turned back and recoiled sharply from the ugly image.
"Oh, shit!" He staggered back and hit Buffy, who was there to catch him. "Shit, shit, shit!" He almost screamed when Angel smiled, still game-faced. Admittedly, a smiling vampire does not instill confidence. "Run, guys!" He yelled at the others, already hot footing it out of there.
"Doyle." Angel said quietly, smoothing his features.
"Rioght, boss-man." Doyle vanished quickly, and appeared in front of Matthew, several metres away. After several brief words, a very reluctant Matthew returned, watching Angel every moment.
"Here he is, boss-man. Can we do it again?" He asked, grinning. Angel smiled back, then shook his head.
"No. Fun as it was, I don't think he'd appreciate it."
"Angel, that was cruel." Buffy chided him.
"Angel? This guy is Angel?" Matthew looked at him again. "Oh, well." Matthew drew himself up and then looked the vampire in the eyes and punched him in the jaw, hard. Angel went with the punch, but let the man hit him, knowing he deserved it after that little performance. But it had been fun. He touched his bleeding lip gently, then suck the blood into his mouth. He hadn't fed in several days. He needed every drop.
"Oh, shit. I forgot about that, Angel. You want me to-?"
"No, it's okay, Doyle. I'll get there later."
"You sure, man?" Angel snarled at the nitchu. He held up his hands in defence. "Sorry, just asking. Can't a guy ask anything any more?"
"What are you doing here, Angel?" Buffy asked quietly.
"I don't know." Angel answered truthfully. He stared at Buffy for a long time, his heart in his eyes. After five years, he still loved this tough slayer. If anything, absence had made his heart stronger.
"Oh! Dammit, I forgot again!" Willow exclaimed. She grabbed Angels' arm in her excitement. Angel almost groaned in pain. He'd forgotten about that. It was why he needed blood so badly. He'd trained himself to go for almost a week without blood. But because of that injury, he would need blood much sooner.
"Angel?" Buffy asked in response to his grimace. "Willow, he's hurt." Willow glanced at her friend, then stepped back. Buffy reached out and pulled up his sleeve then gasped in horror at the wound.
"What the hell are you doing driving around with that kind of wound?" She demanded fiercely. She reached into her big weapons bag and pulled out a First Aid kit. He frowned when he saw it.
"A medi-kit. It's for emergencies." She answered him, tearing off some auto-wrapper. Spraying it with detol, she wrapped the self-adhesive around his arm, sealing the gaping wound closed with it. "Now what the hell did that?"
"Ah, a Mareu demon. Pretty nasty, but easy to kill. Of course you have to kill the Chu-mareu first. He did this. He wanted to eat my bones. From the inside out." He had been watching while she closed the wound. "It actually looks a hell of a lot better now that it did yesterday." He commented, turning it this way and that.
"You need blood." Buffy said, looking into his eyes.
"I can wait." Angel was fascinated by the very small glitter in those blue eyes of hers.
"You've probably lost enough blood for two people. You need to drink." They were speaking quietly, to each other. His eyes wandered to the scar on her neck.
"I'm sorry." He muttered, sorrow drowning his voice. He looked back to her eyes to see them swimming in tears. "Buffy, don't." He pleaded, reaching up to brush her long blond hair behind her ear. She grasped his hand hard and nuzzled the palm briefly, her eyes closing. The spell broke without warning, and she looked up, dropping his had abruptly.
"We need to get you some blood. Willow, can you-."
"Matthew, come on. I'll take your cousin home now, Buffy. You get Angel to the bloodbank." Willow clearly emphasised the word cousin for Angel's benefit, and he was glad she did. The groups split up, Angel Buffy and Doyle in one direction, the other four in another. Just as they were getting into the Mustang, Angel heard Willow shout out to them.
"Angel, stop!" She screamed, tearing down to road towards them. Angel hesitated half in and half out of the car. He stood up again. "The reason you're here." Willow panted. "It's because Giles and I found something. About you. Or rather, your condition. We can cure it!" Willow beamed.
"Ah Willow. I hate to point this out, but...He's a vampire. It's not something you just go around giving out penicillin for, you know?"
"I know that. That's why it's taken this long." She turned to her friend. "That's what Giles and I have been spending all our time on these past three years. We found some hints, clues about a cure, but we needed to be sure. Not just sure, but positive that there would be no 'happiness clause'." She put her hands up in the air, signing air quotes with her fingers.
"What kind of cure?" Angel asked softly, not wanting to hope.
"Well, it's an immortality spell, basically."
"Immortality spell? Willow, that doesn't make sense. If one existed, wouldn't there be millions of people wandering around immortal?"
"The spell involves......aspects that would normally kill a human, or mortal being." Willow explained, looking from Buffy to Angel and back. She could see the hope flickering dimly in both sets of eyes.
"What kind of aspects?" Buffy asked.
"Mmm...the one who is to become immortal must be drained of his or her blood. There must be only a minimal amount of fluid left in the body. The kind of margin we're talking about is very hard to judge. Most human's die from blood loss if they try to perform this spell." Willow looked at Angel, who was standing, staring at Buffy. "That's why I wanted you to not go to the blood bank. You must be almost....bloodless by now. We could perform the spell tonight, if you want."
"Whoa, hang on, Willow. Tonight? Don't you think he needs a little more time to think things through?" Buffy stepped in front of the silent vampire.
"Not for me. Buffy, I'm already immortal. This would be the cure we've been looking for. We both thought that if I was human I wouldn't be able to help you. This way I can still fight, still have the strength I need, and be able to ...." Angel stopped speaking, unsure how to word his desire. The slayer whirled to face him.
"Do you think that's all I care about?" She demanded.
"No, just shut up and listen for once." She pressed a finger into his chest. "Do you know what it's like to know that the one person in this life that you've been destined to love absolutely is going to live forever, stay the age they are while you age and die? What it's like to know that while I may age, I may become wiser, I will always seem to be young to you?" She turned to face the withdrawing witch. "And you go and offer him a solution, so that just when I think that I can live, if not blissfully, then happily, knowing that we made the right decision. Oh no, you don't think of that! You just come up and say, Hey, Angel! Now you can come back to Buffy!" Buffy's breath hitched in her throat. She paused for a moment, gathering herself. "Well, maybe I don't want him back! Maybe I'm happier by myself. Maybe-." Her voice broke and she turned away to hide the tears she knew were gathering in her eyes. She felt Willow's eyes on her, felt her sympathy, and cringed away.
"Buffy." Angel said gently, coming up behind her. "Buffy, that kind of thinking goes two ways." He paused, trying to find some way of telling her what he felt without hurting her. "You're afraid of growing old while I stay like this." He held out his arms, indicating his youthfullness. "Well, I don't fancy watching you age and die while I stay....the same. If you want to know the truth, that was one of the things that made me leave in the first place. The thought of watching you grow old and die is just too painful. When you healed me, just before I left, I saw how vulnerable I was.....no, am to you. You almost died, Buffy. You lost so much blood that night. A normal human being wouldn't have survived." Buffy had turned around while he was talking, and was gazing at him through tear-heaving eyes. She watched as his eyes grew wider, and a brilliant smile spread over his face. "A normal human being wouldn't have survived!" He repeated emphatically. "A normal human!"
"Angel, we got that part. Do you want a bit of a shove, get you over the glitch in the CD?"
"No, you don't understand." He turned to Willow and grabbed her by the arms.
"Willow, you said that this....procedure would actually kill a normal human being, right?" He demanded, shaking her in his excitement.
"Uh, yeah." Willow said, staring in confusion.
"Buffy isn't normal!" Angel sounded like he was telling them something that they didn't know before.
"Yes, we know that. I'm the slayer." Buffy didn't understand what had come over the vampire.
"Yes, she's the Slay-oh!" Willow's eyes went wide, if possible, than ever before. "Oh! She's the Slayer!" Willow turned and hugged Buffy hard. "You're the Slayer!"
"I know that! I've known for close to ten years now. What the hell are you two on about?"
"Don't you understand? You're the Slayer! You're not a normal human being! Angel proved that five years ago." Willow took a deep breath. "Buffy, if you hadn't been the Slayer, you would have died of blood loss when Angel drank from you. It was the fact that you are the Slayer that kept you alive, nothing else." She glanced at Angel briefly. "I think what Angel is saying now is that you would have enough strength, be enough not-human to be able to survive the spell."
"Survive the spell?" Buffy repeated slowly, trying to get her mind around what her friend was saying. "You mean-?" She looked from Angel to Willow and back again. All of a sudden, she realised what the two were trying to tell her. The ground trembled underneath her, and then moved from under her completely. She sat down abruptly, in the middle of the road, her back leaning up against the new model Mustang.
"Buffy?" Angel asked, squatting down in front of her, his hand holding hers.
"Give me a sec, please? It's not everyday you learn that you could become....immortal." Her mouth struggled around the word. She saw Xander, her cousin and Oz making their way slowly back to them.
"Willow, can you gives us a couple of minutes? Please?" Angel asked softly, then jerked his head towards the trio coming towards them.
"Sure." Willow walked over to the others, leaving Buffy and Angel alone for the first time in five years. Angel sat down next to Buffy, his back against the front fender of the car. He kept her hand in his, knowing the touch would help them both through this.
"What are you thinking?" He asked after a brief silence.
"I don't know. My mind is whirling at warp factor 9.... Sorry, I've been staying up lately, and after patrol Star Trek's the only thing on at that time of night." She sighed heavily and leant her head back against the metal work. "This.....this opportunity is something that I have dreamed about. I never told anyone that I did, but you can't help it, you know?" She paused for a moment. "When you're the slayer, you know that your life isn't going to last all that long. God, the oldest Slayer to live yet was in her late 20's. I'm almost there now. There's going to be a vampire quicker than me one day. It could be tomorrow. So of course I've thought about how it would be to live forever, be always young and fast. But.....but the only way before tonight I knew of was to become a vampire. And that wasn't an option." She turned her head on the car door, looking at him through old eyes. As old as his, he suspected. "But now, now I have this choice. I can stay here, be who I am, die in a few years." She put her hand up to forestall his objection. "Maybe live for another ten years, but they will get me. Or I can choose to have this spell done to me, become immortal. But do I want to? What will it mean to my friends? How can I sit here and contemplate this when I know that if I do do this, I'll be leaving Willow and Xander and Oz and Mum and Giles. Everyone one I know will get old and die." She closed her eyes and swore softly. Then opened them to look at him.
"What would you do, were you me?"
"Buffy, I can't choose for you. As much as I would like to, this is your decision. Whichever way you go, I'll support you the whole way. Whichever way you decide, I'll not leave you again. I can have this immortality spell performed on me, so our separation can end. You need to decide what you want, how you feel." He shuffled around slightly, placing a hand against her heart, through her blouse. "You know I love you. I never stopped, nor will ever stop loving that heart that is in there." He looked up and smiled crookedly. "While the packaging for that heart right now is absolutely perfect, I would not care were it the packaging of a 90 year old crone. What I love about you is your soul. Your heart. The fact that you are also a woman that I can love, in every way," he grinned suddenly, "Well, hell. That's just a major plus on my part!"
"And mine." She said softly. She leant towards him, resting her head against his shoulder. "Give me till tomorrow, Angel. Just till then." She purred when she felt his hand on her hair, stroking gently.
"Buffy, I'll give you all the time in the world." He kissed her head through her hair, and closed his eyes, relishing this contact after so long without it.
He was pacing, up and down in the mansion that was still his home. Even after so long away from it. Doyle was curled up on the mantle, watching with his yellow eyes.
"Angel, man. Would you stop! You're making me dizzy."
"I waiting." Angel muttered, not stopping.
"Yeah, well, I can tell that! But you're wearing a hole in the stone deep enough to get to China! She'll let you know when she's decided."
"I know. I'm just......waiting." He paused for a moment, then went back to pacing. Doyle hissed in frustration and disappeared.
Buffy was sitting in her mother's house. She was in her old room, staring out at the tree overhanging the roof. She was curled up on a couch, her knees drawn up and her arms wrapped around them, slowly rocking. She jumped in shock when the little nitchu spirit appeared on her roof, just outside the window.
"So, Blondy, you decided yet?" She heard the voice in her heard, thick with an Irish lilt. Figuring it to be Doyle, she relaxed slightly.
"I think.....No....I don't know." She sounded completely defeated. "How can I contemplate doing this, becoming immortal?"
"Okay, look at it this way." The nitchu stood up, stretched his long body, rolling out his tail and spreading his wings wide. The black fur glistened brightly in the morning sunshine. He walked forward and stopped just outside the window and put his nose against Buffy's knee. "What's going to happen tomorrow?"
"What do you mean?"
"What's going to happen tomorrow?"
"How should I know? I'm not one of the Powers that Be!" Buffy snapped out.
"Exactly! Now, if you don't know what going to happen tomorrow, how can you know that you're going to have 50 years to be with your friends, to stay with dem? How do you know that when Angel becomes "clause" free you're not going to be killed within a few months, if not days?" The nitchu reared up on his hind legs and looked straight into Buffy's eyes, and Buffy felt that stare right down in her soul.
"How can you deny what the Powers have offered you, knowing that all of this could be taken away? You won't get another chance." The nitchu's accent had disappeared briefly.
"But-." Buffy still wasn't sure.
"If you won't do it for selfish reasons, think of it this way. I have it from someone who knows that when you do go through with this, you will come out the oder side stronger than you've ever been. You'll be able to do what you do without every worrying about getting old or slow. How's that for a major plus, huh?" The nitchu cocked his head to the side, looking so much like a silly puppy that Buffy laughed before she could stop herself. She stared out, past the silent spirit and thought for a moment.
"Tell Angel I'll meet him at Willow's in two hours. He can get there, can't he?"
"There's always a way. He'll be there. Should I tell him anything?"
"No. I'll tell him myself when I see him." The nitchu disappeared without a sound, leaving Buffy alone to talk to her mother.
Angel was pacing, again. This time Willow, Oz and Doyle watched.
"Are you sure she didn't tell you what she'd decided?" Angel asked Doyle.
"For the hundredth time, no! She didn't tell me. Would you please sit down! All this pacing is not good."
"Doyles' right, Angel." Willow supported the spirit. "You're low in blood. Stress and exercise can't be doing you any good at all. I want you to sit down and relax." Willow stepped up and put a hand on Angel's arm and drew him over to the chair in the middle of the room. He sat down, reluctantly. Oz walked over to the window and looked outside.
"She's here." He said in his quiet way. Immediately, Angel got up and started pacing again. Willow and Doyle sighed in frustration. "With Giles and Mrs Summers."
"That's Mrs Giles, now, don't forget."
"What?!" Angel asked, whipping around to stare at Willow.
"Oh, we forgot to tell you last night. Late last year Giles and Mrs Summers got married."
"You have got to be kidding me!" Angel breathed, groping for the chair he had just vacated.
"Nope. Took them long enough, too!" Willow beamed.
"So the Watcher is now Buffy's step-father?"
"Ahhh, Angel? He's not a Watcher anymore." Oz reminded him.
"Bull. He may not be employed by the Council anymore, but he's a Watcher. It's not what he does, it's what he is. And he's the best Watcher I have ever come across."
"Come across a few, have you?" Buffy asked, standing in the doorway. Her arms were akimbo across her chest, and she was leaning up against the doorframe.
"In two hundred and fifty years? Just a few." Angel was staring at Buffy, trying to figure out what she had decided from her face alone. It was impossible.
"Can we have a minute?" She asked Willow, who nodded and drew Oz and Doyle out of the room. Buffy waiting until the door was closed and then turned to look at the vampire standing in shadow. She crossed to the still open curtains in the front window and drew them shut, allowing Angel access to the whole room. There was silence for a long time. Buffy was motionless beside the window, Angel equally still in the chair. Finally, when neither could stand it any more, they both spoke.
"I've been awake-."
"Have you decided?" The both paused and smiled shyly at each other.
"I have." She moved over and sat down on the coffee table opposite the chair, leaning forward to stare at her clasped hands in front of her. "I've been awake all night, thinking about what I should do." She broke her hands apart and rubbed them hard down her face. "I watched the sun come up this morning. The sky was just.....perfect. And I thought to myself, I wish he was here. Then I remembered that you couldn't have watched it even if you were." She looked up and smiled at him. "You have this little problem at the moment. Extreme allergic reaction to UV rays. That's going to be fixed soon. I realised that after today, you could watch the sunrise with me. Every day of my life." Angel held his non-existent breath, his heart dropping in his chest when he followed the words she was saying. She wasn't going to stay with him forever. He bowed his head in defeat. "You could be with me until my dying day. Which could be tomorrow, or it could be fifty years from now. That's over 18 000 sunrises that you could watch with me." She paused and watched as his face twisted in pain, then righted itself and he looked up, doing as he'd promised, and backing her decision. She watched his face closely, wanting to see his expression.
"But that's not enough. Not nearly enough. I'm greedy. I want forever." She got down on her knees in front of him, grabbing hold of his cold hands and staring into his disbelieving eyes. "I want to be with you, like this, forever. And I mean that with every bone in my body, every thought in my head, every drop of blood running around my heart." She was stunned to see his eyes fill with tears. He shut them quickly, and then leant forward and pressed his forehead against hers.
"Thank you." He muttered in a thick voice. The he pulled back abruptly and stared at her in abject terror. "Buffy! Get Willow!" He cried out in pain and terror and Buffy saw something in his eyes that she never thought she'd see again. Angelus.
"Willow!" Buffy screamed for her friend, searching for something to hold Angel down. She looked up at the curtain cord then at Angel writhing on the floor in pain. She grabbed for the cord and reefed it away from the window, pulling down the curtains at the same time. All the better, she thought abstractly. Angelus can't get across the room with the sun shining in like that. She heard the door crash open and spared a quick glance towards it. Willow, with Giles behind her.
"Willow, he's turning! Get the spell ready!" She reached over and pulled his hands behind his back, binding them tight with part of the cord. Her heart felt as the last part of Angel was swamped by the demon. She almost cried out. Instead she shoved him hard against the floor, stunning the newly awoken demon. She reached down and pulled his ankles together, tying him up like a calf at the rodeo. She sat back quickly, and breathed deeply.
"How long?" She demanded of her friend, still keeping a close eye on Angelus.
"About ten minutes in all. Just watch him." She heard Giles answer for Willow.
"Hey, lover." Angelus was awake and aware. What had always amazed Buffy was how even when they inhabited the same body, had the same eyes and voice, Angelus sounded and felt completely different from Angel. In that regard, Buffy was eternally grateful.
"Willow, will we need to re-curse him again?" Buffy asked the wicca.
"No, the spell will banish Angelus for good. He won't be coming back." Buffy was relieved to hear her answer. "What happened?" Willow asked next.
"I told him I'd stay with him." She looked up at the Watcher and Wicca with tears in her eyes for just a second. "I guess he was happy." She tried to smile and failed.
"Man, it's good to be me again. I was getting sick of that do-gooder." Angelus rolled his head around to glare at the Wicca who was chanting madly. "That isn't going to do any good, you know." He snarled at she just smiled at him. The Willow girl had always annoyed him. He turned to the slayer. She hadn't changed much in the last five years. "You know, lover, you should try to lighten those streaks in your hair. It looks like you're trying to cover up some grey." He grinned at her. "You're old now, lover. I may just beat you this time round." He grinned wider when she jumped up and moved away from him.
"Try it, and find out how old I am, lover." She snarled back at him. Her eyes widened in shock when he broke the curtain cord.
"Okay, then." He stood up and shook off what was left of the rope bindings. "You're losing your touch Buff. There was a time when it would have taken me more than a minute to get out of your bondage. Haven't been practising, hey?"
"Willow, you've got five minutes." The slayer told the still chanting wicca, then strode forward and struck Angelus hard the chest with her foot. Angelus was ready for the strike, though, and caught her leg, twisting it and causing Buffy to turn with it and spin over. She dropped to the ground and summersaulted out of the way, jumping up to face him again.
"Well, come on, then old Man!" Buffy taunted the vampire, realising that if became distracted by Willow's chanting, he could hurt the wicca and stop the spell. "Prove to me how old I am!" She backed away from Willow and Giles, Angelus following. Angelus jumped her, giving her a good hit to the head, whipping it around. He followed it with a swipe of the leg, pulling hers out from under her. She dropped to the floor, stunned for a moment, then as he dropped down, ready to gloat, she pulled her legs up and thrust him away, his body hitting the other wall hard. She flipped up and was ready again.
"Your bleeding, lover!" Angelus smirked. She snarled and wiped away the blood dripping from her mouth.
"One hit does not a success make you. My turn." She ran forward and round-housed him in the cheek, spinning around the punch him in the guts and then step back and knee him as he crouched over in pain. Or at least, that was the plan. She was left wobbling when the vampire didn't lean over, her knee up in the air. She watched in slow motion at the hands she loved so much came up and grabbed her leg and wrenched it sideways. She heard in stereo as the leg popped out of it's socket, then in surround sound as the femur broke. She had time to think, this is going to hurt, before the pain came racing up her leg, through her torso and into her heard, screaming all the way. She fell back, almost in a feint. Watching through almost detached eyes, she saw Angelus vamp out and look down at her. She saw satisfaction with a hint of disappointment in his eyes.
"See? Like I said, you're old lover. But don't worry. You won't be old for long." He snarled, drawing his lips back from his teeth, and bit her, the teeth going through scar tissue.
"Willow!" Giles said, urgently. He was trying to pull the vampire off his slayer, to no avail. Buffy noticed abstractly that this feeding was nothing like the previous one. This one hurt, and it was not lover-like at all. She struggled in vein, which only made Angelus laugh as he fed. Then he froze, and Buffy frowned in confusion. He wasn't going to finish? His head snapped up and he roared in anger. All Buffy could think was that it was very loud, but it was peaceful at the same time. She couldn't feel her leg any more. That was a good thing, wasn't it? She opened her eyes to see a glaring vamped out Angelus trying to get to his feet, but unable to for some reason. She moved her head slightly and saw an awful cut deep in his back, blood was pouring out of the wound, fast. Was it her blood? It looked kind of Slayerish. There was an awful lot of it, too.
"Willow, you need to do Buffy!" Giles said as he watched the ex-vampire collapse on the floor next to the pale slayer. He reached down and felt for a pulse in her neck. A rapid, skittish pulse answered his probe. He watched in horror as the light faded from the Slayer's eyes and felt the pulse falter. "Hurry!"
Angel shook his head in confusion. He would swear that he was just talking to Buffy about her decision. What the hell was he doing face down on the floor? Then he remembered.
"Oh, Christ!" He swore. His head turned around to see Buffy lying beside him, pale and cold. "No!" He cried out, pulling her to him. He felt for breath and a pulse and found none. She was cold. Colder than him. Horror and disgust filled him. Minutes from being with her forever, and he'd killed her.
"I'm sorry, Buffy." He whispered. "Oh, Christ, I'm sorry." He started sobbing in absolute pain. Wanting the pain to end, he thrust himself up from the ground and ran into the sunlight, his eyes shut. He waited for seconds, minutes, before he realised he wasn't burning. He opened his eyes and stared at the happily burning sun, mocking him in the sky.
"That won't help." An Irish voice said behind him. He spun to find Doyle and Willow behind him, both looking on with sympathetic eyes. "The spell is complete. You're immortal now."
"I killed her!" Angel cried out.
"Well, we're not too sure about that. You did drink a heck of a lot of her blood, though. We're waiting to see what happens in the next few minutes." Doyle got up and walked over to put a hand on his friends shoulder.
"But, she's got no pulse, no breath. She's cold!"
"So were you until about five minutes ago." Willow said from the lounge.
"We just have to wait and make sure that she will come round." Doyle gave his friend a grin. "What's your name, by the way?"
"Doyle." Angel growled, then realised Doyle's concern. "Angelus has gone, Doyle. It's just me.....For the first time in 230 years, it's just me." He almost smiled, then caught sight of the cold, still Buffy. He moved over and sat at her head, pulling it into his lap and brushing away the blond hair. Within moments he'd noticed a slight change in her temperature.
"Willow." Angel said quietly. Willow got up and came over. She had a look at the warming Buffy and smiled in relief.
"She's alright. Let her come out of it in her own time. We'll be in the kitchen, waiting." Willow rose and pulled Doyle out of the room. Angel turned back to watch Buffy come back to life.
"Buffy?" He said softly as she mumbled to herself a few minutes later. She was breathing normally again, and her face was gaining colour back, rapidly. "Buffy? Can you hear me?" She muttered something and he leaned closer, trying to hear her.
"What?" He asked her again. He was stunned to hear she was singing. He listened for a moment. "Buffy, what are you singing?" Buffy opened her eyes and looked up at him with a dreamy smile.
"I love you." She said. She sounded drunk. "You know, I don't like that Angelus person. He's mean. Nasty. And he broke my leg!" She started crying silently. Then she smiled. "But you're here!" She flung her arms out wide. "Which means he isn't! Oh, I love Angel. Angel.....such a pretty name. Did you know there's a song about you?" She started singing again, and this time he caught the words.
"It's easer to believe in
this sweet madness
oh this glorious sadness
that brings me to my knees
you're in the arms of the angel
may you find some comfort here."
"Buffy." Angel said quietly, trying to get her to stand up.
"No! Want to stay here. In the arms of my Angel."
"What's the matter with you?" He asked, confused. Then he remembered what it was like when he was turned, even though he was Angelus. That drugging effect of no ailments, no colds, aches, pains. It was an elixir that was difficult to explain, but what a rush it was. She was drinking of the same pain and mortality free elixir. He decided to give her a little longer to get used to it. Her mouth was too inviting, though, so he decided to give in to temptation. He leant forward and brushed his mouth against hers, and heard her giggle in delight.
"She was coming around when we left. What the hells' taking them so long?" Doyle demanded, pacing the kitchen. Willow noticed that he paced in a carbon-copy of Angel.
"I don't think you want to know, spirit-man." Xander said slyly. In the five years since he'd last seen Angel, Xander had come to the decision that Buffy really did love him, and because of that, he would accept the ex-vampire.
"You don't think-!" Joyce stood up, ready to defend her daughter's virtue. Giles grabbed her arm and pulled her back down again.
"Joyce, I'm sure that whatever is happening in there, it isn't what Xander thinks. Even if Buffy and Angel wanted to right now, our presence would stop them. Just wait, they'll be here when they're ready." Giles was still the voice of reason. They sat sipping coffee for a few more minutes, then heard the lounge room door open and they all turned to watch the two lovers walk into the kitchen. Angel exuded a subtle difference. He was no longer broody. There was no shadow glooming just behind him. Buffy, on the other hand, had changed dramatically. For all the differences outwardly were minor, they added up to a huge overall difference. The years of fighting to save to world and stress had added up and put age into a face that wasn't old. That had disappeared now. She was as she look at 19 - young and fresh. The scar on her neck had disappeared.
"You know what's not fair?" Buffy asked the room at large. "The scar's that I have earned over the past ten years have all decided to go away on holidays. I earnt those damned things!" It broke the ice. Joyce jumped up and rushed over to her daughter.
"How do you feel, honey?" She asked, examining her daughter minutely.
"I'm fine Mum. Better that I've ever been. A little high right now, but my Angel assures me that that wears off after a while."
"High? What did he give you?" Joyce demanded.
"Nothing Mum. I'm high on life!" She grinned, spinning around. Angel sighed and reached for her, grabbing her around the waist and stopping her dance.
"It's a little side-benefit of becoming immortal. You go a little silly for a while. She'll adjust in a couple of hours, a day at the most."
"I don't want to adjust. I like feeling happy." She started crying again, staring at Willow. "How can I think you, Willow? You gave me back my Angel." She reached forward, pulling free of Angel and grasped Willow around the waist, hugging her tight.
"You don't need to thank me." Willow said, hugging her back just as fiercly. Buffy cried harder, then looked around and saw Giles. Her mood changed again and she smiled brilliantly, and jumped over to him. She hugged him hard, stunning the quiet Brit.
"You know, you're like my Dad." She said, smiling up at him. "I like that. You're my Dad." She frowned slightly. "But so is Hank. How can you be my dad and Hank be my dad, too? I know, I can have two Dads!" She grinned, happy with her solution. "I love you, Dad!" She hugged him again, and this time Giles returned the hug, choked up with emotion. She turned to Xander, who was backing away.
"Xander!" She cried, bounding over to him. "You're my bestest friend! After Willow and Angel! You're like my little big brother! I love you, too!" She hugged him for so long, and so hard that Xander started turning blue. Luckily, she saw Doyle off to the side.
"And Mr Doyle! The nicchy spirit!"
"Nitchu, thank you."
"That's what I said. Nicchy." She walked up to him, solemn for a moment. "I want to thank you for your emotional support of my Angel over the last few years. You've kept him sane for me!" She hugged the non-plussed nitchu spirit, then turned for the last one in the room. By now, Oz had resigned himself to the Slayer's attention.
"Oz! Oz!" She was bounding again.
"Buffy." Oz said, catching her mid-bound. "You almost finished?"
"Yup. Just wanted to tell you that I'm glad you came back for Willow. She was very...blue without you. Love you for that!" As she was hugging Oz, Angel leaned over to speak to Giles.
"I think this may last a little longer than anticipated. With me, it was about two hours. That could have been because I was a demon though. I think I should get her out of here, otherwise she may start all over again." Giles nodded his head in agreement. Buffy finished with Oz and spotted Angel.
"Angel! Did you know there's a song about you that I know? It goes like this-"
"That's okay, Buffy. You sang it to me earlier. Come on, we'll go back to the mansion for a while. Let this wear off in private." He grabbed hold of her hand and started dragging her towards the door.
"But, I want to talk to my Mother! And my new Dad! And my big-little brother! And Oz. And Willow! Thank you Willow!" Buffy was walking backwards, shouting at her friends when she bumped into Angel, standing just before a spot of sunlight. Buffy turned to see what had stopped him. She looked down and saw the patch of sunlight. She looked up at Angel in question.
"Two hundred odd years of avoiding sunlight makes it hard for me to just walk out into it. You want to go first?"
"Nup. We'll go together." She swung their joined hands between them, like they were getting ready to jump off a bridge. "Ready? One.....two.....three." She pulled him out into the afternoon sun. He froze, dread rippling over his whole body, causing shivers up and down his spine. He winced away, then stood up straight. He put his face up towards the heated globe and breathed deeply. Within moments they were running down the road, Buffy's enthusiasm rubbing off on the newly freed man. The mortal group behind them flowed out of Willow and Oz's house and watched them as the sprinted down the road, their steps matching.
"Well, this should be interesting." Giles muttered to his wife, drawing her into his arms.
"What?" Xander asked, looking at the man Buffy now considered her father.
"Well, for so long, Buffy and Angel have been held apart by their destinies. They've kind of gotten used to being matyrs. Now they're going to be together forever." Giles went quiet, ponderingly British.
"Somehow, Giles, I don't think they're going to be bothered by that fact." Willow said confidently.
"No, I think you might be right."
The air car pulled up beside the mansion, easing onto the ground silently and with no obvious impact. The door slid open automatically, letting the two occupants out. The man stood up tall, his black hair shining in the sunlight. He reached in and helped the woman out. Those who studied history would see his actions and recognise chivalry for what it was. He helped the woman to her feet, and her blond hair contrasted with his black. Complete opposites. She was elfin, petite and outgoing. He was tall, almost brutish and came across as reserved and shy. Together they formed a whole. The air car shut it's door and lifted off the ground, heading for the garage installed below ground. The man watched it go, a fascinated look on his face.
"What?" The woman asked, hugging his arm as the walked toward the mansion door.
"It's just that.....when I was born, the thought of flight was inconceivable. The thought of it being done automatically, an every day occurance." He shook his head, still amazed at what humans had achieved in just under half a millenium.
"You think I thought that going to Mars for the weekend was going to be a possibility, did you?" She said tartly.
"Now, Buffy." He smiled down at her. "You were born in an age were anything was conceivable. Hell, look at the classics. Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate....You know, your culture was obsessed with stars." He grinned down at her, letting the door open for them.
"Well, Mr I-was-born-before-the-steam-engine. I'll have you know that without our obsession, our recent holiday to Diarin III would never have been possible." She danced into the hallway, her hair flying. Angel watched, fascinated. As he had been since he first met her.
"So, what are we doing next week? Cause you know, it's my 400th Birthday. Want it to be special." Buffy flirted with him. He just smiled. Buffy loved surprises, and he wasn't going to spoil it.
"You're not going to tell me, are you?" She fake pouted.
"Pretty please?" She begged, following him to the kitchen. He just laughed.
-fin (for now)-