Chapter 3, Cursed

Author’s Notes: This is pretty much AU. Or maybe it’s AR. It’s vampires and Slayers, and based on canon but totally different. What’s the genre for that?

For everyone who sent me such great feedback on this and my other stories – Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! It’s that much easier to write when you know someone’s reading!

And a special thanks to Pamela for picking up all my stories on Secrets of the Slayer and a resounding “you rock” to Starkitty for not only hosting my stories, but for the new graphics and page layout! It’s awesome!

Rating: Adult; explicit sex

Disclaimer: Own nothing. All belongs to Joss, ME, Fox,

Pairing: B/A; some references to B/R.

Distribution: My site, EverySixSeconds; sites currently with permission to host my fics; all others please ask.

Originally posted: Sep 24, 2002

When they reached LA, Oz and Xander promptly managed to get lost. Giles’s directions had unfortunately been scribbled hastily on a napkin that Xander had used to mop up spilled coffee only minutes after they left Sunnydale, something neither of them realized until they were frantically searching for the directions in order to determine which exit to take off the freeway.

Oz pulled over for the third time and they dialed Xander’s number, again. They had been calling for the last half hour with no luck, unaware that the gang had gone out for breakfast. Finally Anya answered. “Hello, Xander’s apartment.”

“Anya! We thought something had happened to you guys.” Oz looked at Xander with relief. While they hadn’t given a voice to the thought, they both had worried that Angelus might have found Xander’s apartment after they had left.

“Well, it *was* pretty awful. The toast was burnt, the eggs were runny and-”

“Anya. We need directions to the place where we’re supposed to pick up the orbs.” Oz interrupted, anxious to get moving and annoyed with Anya’s preoccupation with herself.

“You took the directions. I know you did. Giles wrote them down for you. I saw him.” Anya glanced over at Willow who was typing away at her laptop.

“Yeah, but Xa- something spilled on them. Look, just get us the directions.” Oz was getting frustrated, knowing time was of the essence.

“Ok. Hold on.” After a few minutes of muffled conversation, Giles finally came on the line. He had them give him the closest street numbers where they were, then asked Willow to get them directions off the Internet from their location. A few minutes later they were on their way again.

The unusual warmth next to him woke Angelus only a couple of hours after he had dozed off. He blinked, clearing his eyes and glanced down at the source of that warmth. Buffy was curled against him, her bottom pressed against his hip, her handcuffed hand resting almost behind her and against his, which was also dangerously close to the now growing erection between his legs.

Buffy was dreaming. She smiled in her sleep and moved against the large hand erotically caressing her breasts. Angel. She sighed and arched, pressing back against the hard shaft now nestled between the cheeks of her bottom. She’d had this dream before, of them together. It almost made her blush to think of it, the things he would do to her with his hands, his wicked tongue…

Angelus smiled as Buffy moaned and moved against him. She obviously had not yet woken fully and recalled where she was, or who she was with. Quietly, with slow measured movements he released the handcuff from his wrist. With a sliding caress along her arm, he managed to raise her head above her and attach the cuff once more to the headboard even as he rolled her on her stomach.

Buffy whimpered slightly, rousing. Angelus’s lips drifted across the nape of her neck, tickling her. Yet, her body arched into his hands as he reached under her to once more tug at her hardening nipples. Buffy sighed again, not wanting the elusive sensations to end. His hands swept along her sides as his lips continued down the column of her spine. With another caress he managed to raise her other arm and lock her wrist above her head. This time, the resounding click of the lock brought her eyes open and her head up.

“Damn it.” Buffy muttered, frustrated with herself for having fallen asleep next to the monster last night and also for allowing him to so easily retie her to the bed. And, if she would have admitted it, she was also disappointed to find that she had been dreaming. Although, the reality wasn’t half bad… No, Buffy. Stop those thoughts right now. She chided herself even as she pressed against him.

With his groin hard against her buttocks, pressing her into the bed Angelus lifted her hair away from her neck and leaned down, his lips close to her ear. “I think I’ll keep you like this. Naked… Wet… So you’ll always be ready to please me…” His hips undulated against her, leaving no doubt in her mind as to what he meant.

Buffy’s eyes closed at the husky whisper, her body so receptive to his slightest touch. His suggestions triggered a flood of wetness between her legs, no matter how much she wished to deny him. His hands moved leisurely down her back as he too moved down. His palms flat, he traced the firm contour of her ass, eyeing her as a connoisseur might examine an expensive object d’art. “You have a great ass, Buff.” He punctuated his words with a bite, his blunted teeth sinking firmly into the rounded fullness of one cheek.

Buffy gasped in surprise, lifting her head and attempting to roll over and face him. Angelus only smiled up at her at he held her down, leering as his hands continued their exploration. His fingertips slid between her bottom cheeks and dipped lower, tracing her outer lips before dipping inside. Removing his finger, he sucked it into his mouth. “Ummm. Slayer pussy.”

Buffy squirmed in surprise as his fingertips once more poked between her legs, this time to press at the tight rosebud of her rear. Buffy glanced over her shoulder at him fearfully this time, even as she tried to squirm away.

“What’s the matter, Buff? Oh, that’s right. I haven’t fucked you in your little virgin ass yet.” Angelus dipped his hand once again to the wetness between her legs as he slid two fingers forcibly inside her.

Buffy tensed when his now dampened fingers returned to her rear and began to penetrate her behind. Angelus waited only a moment for her to relax, the pressed forward, sliding one finger completely inside her.

“Don’t… it hurts…” Buffy groaned when he added a second finger, stretching her slowly. She once more attempted to pull away but he held her hip tightly.

“Oh yeah, it’s going to be a nice, tight fit…” Angelus gritted his teeth. He was already so hard, he ached. At this rate, he’d come the second he stuck his traitorous cock inside her.

Angelus reached under her and began to massage her clit, moistening it with the wetness that was flowing between her legs and pressing firmly. Even as he did it, he wondered disgustedly why he should he care about the little bitch’s pleasure. He finally decided that it was because he enjoyed the humiliation she felt when she was unable to resist him, that seeing the lust in her eyes for a creature she was supposed to despise was pleasure in and of itself.

Buffy closed her eyes as she felt the heat streak through her body. She was stretched tautly, the thickness of his fingers filling her and stimulating her nerves. She knew it was madness to want him so desperately, yet she couldn’t stop. She was powerless against her lust for him. She glanced at him over her shoulder as he slapped her behind. “On your knees.”

Leaning on her elbows, Buffy came to her knees. Briefly she considered kicking him, something that she could easily do from her position, but changed her mind when his fingers tugged at her clitoris once more sending sharp waves of pleasure through her. Angelus spread her thighs wider, then leaned down and ran his tongue up the inner side of one thigh and down the other. She tasted of lust and faintly of vanilla. At the first touch of his mouth on her swollen nether lips, Buffy whimpered. With leisure and experience, he licked her wet folds, exploring the outer lips before dipping inside to taste her. As he ate her, Buffy gave up any thought of resistance and ground her hips against him, craving release. She came hard, biting her lip to keep from crying out his name when his lips seized her clit sucking hard, his fingers still pressed firmly in her ass.

Refusing to release her, Angelus nibbled further at her sensitive flesh, once more driving her toward orgasm. His lips explored her, sucking and licking her highly sensitized flesh. Buffy was over-stimulated; the pulsing unfulfilled ache between her legs taking precedence in her thoughts. She didn’t care what he did to her just then as long as he didn’t stop…

When she was teetering on the brink again, Angelus knelt behind her and plunged inside, his jaw clenched at the feel of her hot, wet channel around his cock. Leaning over her, his muscled chest pressed hard against her back, Angelus grabbed her breasts, pinching and tugging at one nipple and then the other.

Angelus felt his features changing once again as the demon inside him took over. He moved inside her with a powerful rhythm, moving with long hard strokes as he penetrated and tested the limits of Buffy’s yielding flesh. He lowered his mouth to her neck, running his tongue across her nape and moving up toward her ear. His tongue traced the delicate shell as he told her what he was going to do to her in a husky whisper, his words explicit, stimulating. She whimpered as he nipped at her neck, scraping the flesh with his now sharp fangs.

When he felt the first convulsions of her orgasm, he drove her harder. Rendered almost insensible by the explosive assault on her senses, Buffy buried her face into the pillows, gasping for air. Without waiting for the pulsing to subside, Angelus jerked out of her and guided his erection to her bottom hole, pushing forward with persistent, deliberate pressure.

Buffy gasped at the pain, the steady fullness as he slid steadily up her tight rear channel. She whimpered and tried to squirm away, the pain increasing as Angelus continued his slow progression. With one hand, he reached under her and began to massage her wet pussy, his thumb tracing circles around her clit. When she relaxed, he pushed hard, driving his cock the rest of the way inside her.

Angelus licked his tongue across his fangs, glancing down at himself buried inside her. He wanted to ram himself so deep inside her she’d taste it. He felt an ungovernable need to possess her, to own her. He wanted to bury himself in her in all her glory and ravage her innocence, her delectable beauty. And he wanted her to need him desperately, to crave him as he did her.

When he moved, she moaned softly. As he continued to rub her clit she slowly began to push back against him. With gradually increasing strokes he moved as slowly Buffy began to rock in rhythm with him. Finally, spreading her legs wider, she encouraged him on as she adjusted to the feel of him inside her and the pleasure took hold.

“Yesss…Don’t stop…” When her husky plea came to him, he almost lost control. She writhed against him, the combined pleasure and pain creating an overwhelming sensation.

When he heard her high keening cry out and felt the first shuddering spasm around him, he responded with a feverish desperation. Intent on joining meeting her in climax, he drove deep in a hard, driving rhythm. Leaning down, he sank his fangs into the nape of her nape. He sucked hard and ravenously, like a man starved, drinking in the delicious, rich blood as he filled her with his sperm. Holding her hips between his large hands, he pressed down with such savage intensity that Buffy cried out again, her orgasm so breathtaking, so prolonged, so excruciatingly acute that she collapsed, quivering on the bed.

Angelus withdrew from her and rolled away, collapsing on the bed next to her and studying her prone form under his lashes. She was a woman of inestimable beauty, remarkable, lush, sumptuous; his own glorious prize. And he looked forward to furthering her education in other ways that would please him…

Oz and Xander drove as fast as Oz’s van would safely allow them, the orbs tucked safely in an old ice chest with several layers of bubble wrap and two blankets surrounding them. They were taking no chances with these – they would get back to Sunnydale whole.

Giles and Willow had set everything up for the ritual, prepared to begin immediately when the guys arrived. While they all waited, the tension in the apartment built. Cordelia and Doyle sat in the kitchen, Giles and Willow stayed in the living room and Kate spent most of the time either in the bedroom or the bathroom. Anya was the only one who didn’t seem bothered by the whole ordeal, and she casually flipped through several magazines. Finally bored, Anya turned on the TV, breaking the silence.

“Can you turn that thing off? We need to concentrate here.” Giles snapped, annoyed after only a few minutes of arguing voices on “Jerry Springer”.

“It’s my boyfriends apartment. I can watch whatever I want to.” Anya snapped back without looking away from the TV.

“Oh, hell.” Giles sighed in exasperation as Cordelia and Doyle peeked in from the kitchen.

“Can you people please keep it down out here?” Kate snapped from the door of the bedroom, her head still pounding from her hangover making their raised voices sound twice as loud.

“Oh, like we should keep quiet for you?!” Cordelia yelled back, her anger at Kate undiminished. “Do you keep forgetting that this is all your fault?! If you hadn’t insisted on coming along, if you weren’t so obviously panting after Angel then this would never have happened. Don’t you get it yet? He’s not interested.”

Kate crossed her arms across her chest as a realization dawned with Cordelia’s words. She smiled slightly as she spoke. “Oh. I see now. You’re jealous. You have a thing for Angel, but he doesn’t even know you exist, does he Cordelia? No, wait, let me re-phrase that. He knows you exist, but he doesn’t care. Is that about right?”

“As if. I could have Angel if I wanted him.” Cordelia sniffed, the blonde’s words striking a nerve. “And don’t try to change the subject. It’s your fault that we’re in this mess and if and when we get out of it, I’ll make sure that Angel knows that.” Turning, Cordelia went back into the kitchen, Doyle following.

After an angry glare at Giles and a half-smile at Willow, the only one that she perceived as friendly, Kate went back into the bedroom. She was uncomfortable here with these people that she didn’t know. She wished she knew someone that could take her back to LA.

When the knock sounded twenty minutes later, everyone returned to the living room and stared at the door anxiously. When no one dared to move, all of them seemingly frozen to their spot, Anya finally sighed and got up to open the door.

“Riley. Won’t you come in to Xander’s apartment?” She smiled and stepped back. She knew Buffy wasn’t really in love with the sandy hair boy, but she actually found him quite attractive. More than attractive. The only drawback was the Initiative and his involvement. If she thought for a moment that he’d be interested in her, a former demon, for more than just a lab experiment, she’d drop Xander in a minute…

“Any news?” Riley smiled absently at Anya, bemused that she was staring at him as if she might devour him, and looked anxiously at Giles as he entered.

Giles updated Riley on their progress, explaining that Oz and Xander were due back within the hour. Nervously, they all sat down to wait. All of them that is, except for Anya, who chose to continue watching “Jerry Springer” while sneaking peeks at Riley during the commercials.

Doyle hadn’t really meant to start the conversation when he did, but they had a long time to wait and the silence was really starting to get to him, so it finally just sort of came out.

“So, then, do you really have a thing for Angel? I mean, I’d understand if you did. Most women seem to.” Doyle cleared his throat, a little uncertain. “Seem to like him, that is.”

“No. Me? No. Oh no.” Cordelia answered a little too quickly, giving lie to her words. “I just don’t think he should be with Buffy. The curse and all. And she’s always trouble. I don’t know what guys see in her anyway. Her hair, well, it’s just so last year. And her fashion sense? Non-existent. Not to mention the fact that she’s so short and freakishly strong. Don’t you think?”

“Uh, no. Not really.” Doyle was disappointed, hoping that he and Cordelia might actually have something together. But, he wasn’t about to give up just yet. He and Angel had talked on several occasions since they’d known each other regarding Buffy and he had no doubt that the vampire was still very much in love with his blonde slayer. But that was something that Angel needed to tell her himself. Cordelia would eventually have to give up her dreams and move on. And he was just the guy to help her with that.

When he realized that Cordelia was looking at him with an irritated expression, he shrugged. “Well, she’s cute and all, but not really my type. I’ve always had a thing for brunettes, myself.” With a wink and a smile he stood, leaving Cordelia to ponder his words.

It was only minutes later it seemed when they heard running footsteps on the stairs. Everyone came to their feet once more when Oz and Xander burst into the room, Oz carrying the cooler of orbs tightly in front of him. Xander was panting heavily, having tried to keep up with Oz during their run from the car.

Giles breathed a sigh of relief. Finally.

Angelus came awake with a sudden gasp, waking Buffy who had been slumbering beside him. She glanced at his face in time to see the light swirling through the room, then into his eyes.

He gripped his midsection as if in pain, then rolled off the bed onto the floor. Panting heavily, he broke out into a sweat as his soul made it’s way back into his body. His last thought as Angelus was that he should not have let his lust for Buffy’s body sway him from seeking out those that wished to return his soul. He should have gone after them when he had the chance instead of trusting those minions that he knew would be not be able to do the job…

Buffy watched anxiously as Angel knelt on the floor. She had a pretty good idea what was happening, having seen this once before. When she attempted to go to him, wanting to somehow ease the pain he appeared to be in, the handcuff chaining her to the bed rattled.

Angel looked up at the sound, the earlier convulsions now calming. “Buffy. What have I done? My god. I’m so sorry.” As Angel searched frantically for the key to the handcuff, the memories of the last few hours began to wash over him, furthering his remorse and guilt.

Buffy, too, was feeling her own shame. She was sure that Angel would be disgusted or angry with her at the way she so brazenly responded to Angelus. Those feelings were reinforced as he refused to look at her as he unlocked her.

Buffy stared down at her wrist dumbly for a moment, before slowly rolling off the bed to retrieve her clothing.

Angel dressed, his mind recoiling in horror at what he had done. He was sure that he would never be able to repair the damage; he only prayed that he had not hurt her terribly. Sneaking a glance at her, he noticed that she was still nude, her arms wrapped around her as she picked up her tattered clothing. Everything had been torn beyond wearing. Another wave of guilt washed over him as he realized he was once again responsible. He flinched at the sight of the new bite marks on her, adding another offense to the list of wrongs he had done to her.

Without a word, Angel swept his coat over her shoulders. She glanced up at his face briefly, attempting to read his expression but it was shuttered. He retrieved the key to the room from the windowsill where he had taken to stashing it, and unlocked the door. He gestured for her to lead as he followed her out the door.

Buffy clutched his coat tightly around her, glancing around at the house as they walked toward the front door. It was the first time she’d seen any more than the bedroom or the bathroom, and she was admittedly curious. It appeared to be Angel’s, but she wasn’t sure where it was. Or how long he had lived there, if he lived there at all. It had a vacation home feel to it, sparsely furnished. Yet it was neat and clean, indicating that someone had been there recently.

Angel swiped his car keys off the table near the door, then they both stopped short.

Buffy cleared her throat. “It’s, uh, day.”

“Here, you can take my car.” Angel held out his hand with the keys. He never let anyone drive his car, never. And Buffy was a terrible driver – but he knew that she probably wanted to get away from him as quickly as possible. It seemed the least he could do.

“We should go back together.” Buffy’s voice was soft, hesitant, as she spoke knowing that Angel probably wanted her out of his sight as soon as possible, but she felt strongly that they needed to return together. She didn’t want her friends to think badly of him. After all, he’d done what was necessary to get her out of there. And it wasn’t like he had really forced her… Once he got past her initial objections, she was, in fact, a willing participant. More than willing. A thought that made her once again lower her eyes in shame.

Angel realized that she was probably right. He didn’t want to leave Buffy to face this alone. He would take responsibility for what he had done to her, he wanted no blame or embarrassment attached to her for what had happened.

“We can’t leave for another…” Angel glanced out the window then at the clock on the nearby shelf. “six hours or so.”

“Ok. I should call Giles.” Buffy looked even smaller dwarfed in his long black coat. It pooled on the floor around her feet and the sleeves covered her hands.

“Let me get you some other… clothes.” The thought of Buffy nude, wearing only his coat gave Angel a momentary unwarranted thrill. Quickly he pushed away the thought. He’d already done more than enough to her. How could he think of that at a time like this? Besides, they couldn’t… “The phone is through there.”

“Um, ok.” Buffy shuffled across the room in the direction he pointed.

Angel rounded up a pair of sweats and a t-shirt for her while Buffy dialed Giles’s number. “Hm. No one’s there.” Hanging up the phone, she glanced up at Angel as he entered the room with the clothes. “I don’t know how many times I’ve told him to get an answering machine.”

Angel said nothing, only handed Buffy the clothes.

“Thanks.” She took them and made her way to the bathroom. “Uh, do you mind if I shower?” Buffy looked over her shoulder at Angel but he had already turned away and was staring intently at something on the wall. “No, not at all. There are clean towels in the cabinet.”

Buffy started the shower, then looked around while the water was warming, curiously opening the cabinets and peering inside. There were all the basics, but nothing particularly personal. Nothing that really gave her any clue about Angel, how often he stayed here. Who he stayed here with… That thought disturbed her as she recalled Kate. Earlier he had said there was no one else, but did he mean it?

When the water was hot, Buffy stepped into the shower. She stood under the hot water for only a few minutes before the tears began. Her tears mixed with the spray of the water, hot silent tears running down her face. She should have known from the moment Angel appeared in that army bunker that bad things were going to come out of this. Now he couldn’t even look at her, and he’d probably never look at her the same again. Even the few times Angelus had come to her when she was 17 she hadn’t responded with the same wanton behavior she had shown him now. The difference between the girl she had been and woman she had become was clear. And she was sure that he was disgusted with her. Just as she was also sure, without a doubt, that she still loved him. If anything, her feelings for him had only grown… Yet another difference between the girl and the woman. With her face in the spray, Buffy sobbed out her heartbreak until she had no tears left.

While Buffy was in the shower, Angel remembered his cell phone and retrieved it from the kitchen counter. He dialed Doyle and waited.

Doyle jumped in surprise when his phone rang, fumbling it in his hands as he tried to get a hold on it to answer. Everyone stared at him as he finally got it under control and glanced down at the caller-id. Flipping it open, he answered. “Lo, Angel? That you?”

“It’s me.” Angel’s tone was morose.

“You’re sure it’s you?” Doyle looked at Giles then at Willow.

“Yes. I’m sure. The curse- it worked.” Angel paced through the living room, stopping when he neared the bedroom. He couldn’t bring himself to go there again. The memories were too vivid. In his mind Buffy’s cries of passion had become cries of pain, her moans of pleasure were moans of anguish.

“And Buffy? How’s she?” Doyle tensed, asking the question that Giles has been mouthing. Given Angel’s distinct sound of misery, Doyle would not be surprised if the news were bad. He braced himself for the answer. When Angel was silent, Doyle prompted him again. “Angel, talk to me man.”

“She’s… okay.” Angel sighed, unsure about his choice of words. Would she ever be okay after what he had done to her?

“Okay?” Doyle repeated Angel’s reluctant word. “How okay?”

“Okay.” Angel’s voice was irritated.

Doyle’s words and worried expression alarmed Buffy’s friends. “Where are you?”

“A place I have just outside of Sunnydale. I’d rather not… Look, we’ll meet you at Giles’s as soon as the sun sets.” Despite the circumstances, Angel didn’t want to reveal the location of his house. In the last few years, it had been a sanctuary of sorts for him, and a place where he could retreat from the demands of life in LA. And it was a place where he felt close to Buffy. He wasn’t sure that after what had happened here that it would be the same, yet something inside him still felt the need to protect his safe haven.

“Giles wants to talk to Buffy.” Everyone was still watching Doyle intently, looking for any sign, any clue that would tell them what had happened. Even Kate peered over Willow’s shoulder, having heard the commotion.

“She’s in the shower. She tried to call him, but there was no answer.” Angel could still hear the sound of the shower running. For the hundredth time he wished that things were different, that Buffy showering in his bathroom was a normal, everyday occurrence – not the result of yet another horrific event that they would now add to the array of bad memories in their collective past.

“We’re at Xander’s. I think her friends would feel better if they heard from her, so have her call as soon as she can.”

“I will.” Angel grimaced knowing that her friends were right to worry.

“So, we’ll see in you in a few hours then?” Doyle breathed a small sigh of relief. He didn’t know yet what had happened, but he trusted Angel that everyone was relatively okay. Maybe he and Buffy needed some time alone, to sort out what had happened… As for the rest of the gang, well, they’d get any details – at least those that Buffy and Angel might choose to share – later.

“Yes. And Doyle? I’m going to want to know what took so long with the curse.” Angel hung up the phone, his thoughts once again preoccupied with the events of the last day. He wondered how he’d be able to live with himself. She must hate and despise him for the things he’d done to her. He wanted to scream in rage and pain. Why did he always have to hurt the one person he cared about most?

Buffy called Giles a short while later and assured him, as well as Xander, Willow and finally Riley – all of them insisting on hearing her voice, however briefly – that she was fine. No, nothing bad had really happened. She glanced at Angel when she said those words and saw him visibly wince.

When she hung up the phone, silence hung in the air. Finally Buffy looked at Angel across the counter in the kitchen where he stood by the stove.

“Hungry? Marty – she cleans the place for me – she insists on keeping the place stocked with a few things…” Angel trailed off, uncomfortable. “I can make eggs…”

“Um, ok. I mean, yes I’d like that.” Buffy sat at the counter stealing glances at him under her lashes as he turned on the stove and took out the pan and necessary ingredients. She watched him quietly as he proficiently scrambled eggs, adding chives and other herbs for a gourmet touch.

“I didn’t know you could cook.” She ventured softly as he put a plate in front of her. For some reason Buffy found the idea of him cooking for her incredibly sexy. Maybe it was the cozy setting, just the two of them, or maybe it was from the events of the past day – the fact that they had experienced the ultimate intimacy and now were having breakfast together like a normal couple. Regardless, she felt a warmth stirring in the pit of her stomach as she watched him, as she thought about his hands, his mouth on her…

“I don’t very often…” Angel replied, realizing that he hadn’t cooked for her. Only recently had he started cooking for the AI team, finding it something he enjoyed and was proficient at.

Angel cleaned up while Buffy ate, then he excused himself and went to shower.

Buffy sat in the living room and stared out the window, finding only a couple of French novels to read. Since she didn’t speak or read French, they weren’t of much interest to her. She thought a lot about her life, about Angel, about Riley. She felt a wave of guilt that she hadn’t thought of Riley since Angel had walked through the door and back into her life. As usual, he easily dominated her thoughts, her world, – and heart a little voice in her mind added – with his presence. After sorting through her muddled feelings, Buffy decided that she needed to break things off with Riley, the sooner the better. It was unfair of her to give him hope that she’d love him when she couldn’t. She couldn’t return his feelings. Not now, maybe not ever.

Angel startled her out of her reverie when he sat on the couch across from where she was curled in the chair. His hair was still a little damp from the shower, and Buffy thought she could smell the faint clean scent of his cologne. For a minute she almost went to him, wanting to crawl into his lap and cuddle next to him, to lick the patch of skin appearing just above the v-neck of the sweater he now wore.

He studied her under his lashes for a few minutes, taking in her small feet sticking out of the much too large sweats, her legs curled under her. When his eyes drifted upward, he quickly averted them from her chest, the outline of her nipples faintly visible under the white t-shirt, and chastised himself once again for his thoughts. Unbidden flashes of those same warm breasts pressed against his chest filled his mind. He shifted uncomfortably.



They both spoke at once, breaking the long silence.

“You first.” Buffy replied, nervously twirling a strand of her hair.

“No, go ahead.” Angel couldn’t help recalling all the times that he had wished to have her here with him, how he imagined a life for them together. Seeing her like this now – wearing his clothes no less – brought those feelings out in a rush.

“You’re hurt…Those knife wounds. That, uh, scrape on your face…” Buffy trailed off self-consciously, cognizant of the cause. “You should put something on it.”

“I’m okay.” Angel felt that he deserved every wound, every pain that he received and then some for what he had done. “They’re healing. How about you? Are you hurt?”

“No. I’m good.” Buffy felt only a faint lingering soreness in a few intimate areas, the bite marks there but healing.

After a minute of silence, Buffy started again. “Thank you for coming to get me.”

“You know I would do anything to help you Buffy. You just have to ask.” Angel ran his hand carelessly through his hair, “Maybe if you would have told me from the beginning what it was about, the whole thing could have been prevented.” His anger with himself made his words come out differently than he intended, harsh and angry.

“What are you saying? That it’s my fault?” Buffy responded to the emotion in his voice, her own feelings spurring her reaction. “I try to keep demons and the Initiative from capturing you, and you just decide to walk into their trap and somehow that’s my fault!?”

“No, that’s not what I’m saying. If you would have worked with me rather than just going there on your own, thinking you could handle it, things might have turned out differently.”

“You left me, remember? That means I handle things on my own now.” Her eyes flashed with anger, hiding her hurt.

“I know that Buffy.” Angel looked away, shifting once again on the couch. This was not going as he intended. They were both touchy and on edge. “I-”

“Well then, don’t think you can tell me how to run my life or what to do.” Buffy lashed out, wanting to hurt him before he hurt her. “Last time I saw you in fact, you were clear that you wanted to… forget.” Buffy’s voice nearly broke as she recalled those few minutes in his office.

“Fine.” Angel wasn’t sure how to respond. As before, he felt it would be better for her if he were out of her life. He couldn’t think of anything to say that would undo what he had done, anything that would make it better. How could he apologize for the things he had said? Can you actually apologize for rape? Maybe it was best to leave well enough alone.

“Fine.” Buffy wasn’t sure what else she could say. How could she explain her reaction to Angelus? Would he believe that her body, her mind recognized him despite any evil façade? She couldn’t think of anything to say that would undo what she had done, anything that would redeem herself in his eyes. Besides, he’d only leave her as soon as he was able. She’d only humiliate herself if she tried to explain. Maybe it was best to leave well enough alone.

They sat in silence for the next three hours, both believing that their thoughts were accurate, both sure that the other was disappointed or worse with them, and both sure that irreparable damage had been done. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

Xander paced by the door watching for Buffy and Angel as soon as the sun neared the horizon. Giles made tea, as was his usual behavior when he needed a distraction, while Cordelia and Kate had both spent time primping, naively assuming that Angel would notice. Willow seemed preoccupied with her notes, shuffling papers and searching online, whereas Oz and Doyle talked quietly.

When Buffy and Angel finally arrived, forty minutes later, they were quiet and somber. They carefully avoided contact when they stepped through the door at Giles’s place, unwilling to break the imaginary boundary that they had resurrected between them.

Cordelia and Kate rushed forward and nearly collided in their attempt to throw their arms around Angel and welcome him back. Cordelia, in fact, did run into Buffy knocking her back a step and away from Angel.

Buffy stiffened, contemplating shoving Cordelia in response, but Willow and Giles circumvented any such action as they seized her in a hug. She closed her eyes for a moment, glad to be with her friends again. After a few seconds, Xander joined the group hug. Riley hung back and watched, uncertain.

For his part, Angel held his arms out to the side, not resisting but not returning the hug from either woman. In fact, they seemed to be trying to jostle each other out of position more than they were hugging him. He nodded at Doyle over Cordelia’s head, and finally broke free.

When the group released Buffy, she stepped forward and hugged Riley. With his arms around her, Buffy realized how good it felt to be held in a pair of strong arms by someone that cared. Maybe she had been too hasty with her earlier decision to break things off with him. Maybe she should reconsider, particularly in light of Angel’s feelings.

Angel steeled himself against the sight of Buffy in Riley’s arms, Riley leaning down to whisper in her ear and asking her if she was all right. Buffy nodded against his chest, and Angel resisted the urge to tear her away from him.

When she released Riley and turned back to face the group, suddenly everyone was talking at once. “Are you okay?” “It’s all her fault!” “What happened?” “Where have you guys been?”

“Guys. Guys!” Buffy raised her voice over the commotion, her patience short with Cordelia and the blonde, whom she assumed was Kate, hovering near Angel making what could only be described as cow eyes at him. With effort, she attempted to shift her thoughts away from the phrase bitches in heat and focus on the questions her friends were asking.

“Let’s start with why it took so long for the curse.” Angel broke in, looking at Willow.

“Well, the orb- it broke.” Willow started to explain, feeling responsible.

“And we had to find another one. Closest one was in LA.” Oz put his arm around Willow, prepared to speak up if it appeared that Willow was going to be blamed.

“Broke? Broke?! Try drunken Kate knocked it off the desk and shattered it.” Cordelia screeched, eager to see Angel angry with Kate.

“You? You broke the orb?!” Buffy couldn’t believe her ears. This was priceless. With her blunder, Angel’s new girlfriend unknowingly helped to drive them further apart.

“It was an accident.” Kate muttered, shooting a dirty look at Cordelia. “I fell.”

“Yeah, after you drank Giles’s entire bottle of whiskey.” Cordelia replied snottily.

“Buff, where are your clothes?” Xander blurted the question, noticing for the first time that Buffy was wearing clothes that were much too big for her. Clothes that he guessed belonged to Angel.

Buffy looked down self-consciously as all eyes were now on her once again. She felt especially uncomfortable since Kate and Cordelia were dressed and made-up perfectly. As she flushed and stammered, Doyle saw a glimpse of the girl that Buffy had been, and that Angel had obviously fallen in love with.

“They were, uh, torn.” Buffy refused to look at Angel, uncertain what she would see in his eyes.

Doyle noted that Angel seemed particularly uncomfortable, looking down at the floor as she replied. His mind quickly came to the conclusion as to how her clothes had been torn. As did everyone else’s.

“Well, I can guess how that happened, seeing how you have the matching accessory bite marks on your neck.” Xander replied cuttingly, his eyes on Angel. Xander remembered clearly how Buffy protected Angel when they were younger, how she made excuses for him when he turned evil, how she couldn’t kill him and how she protected him when he returned. He jumped quickly to the conclusion that she simply spread her legs for him again, a thought that made him angry with her. He never liked Angel, and resented the hold that he seemed to have on Buffy. He wondered more than once if there was some truth to the whole vampire thrall thing.

“Bite marks? You bit her?” Kate glanced at Buffy, then back at Angel.

“Yes.” Angel replied, willing to take blame, responsibility, whatever necessary to protect Buffy. He had refused to look away from Xander, daring him to continue his tirade. In his present mood, Angel would willingly wipe the floor with the boy. He only needed a little more of a push.

“I thought vampires killed people when they bit them. Don’t they drain them?” Kate stared at Buffy rudely, as if any deviation from the norm were her fault. Once more, Kate wondered what Angel saw in the petite girl.

“Not during sex.” Anya, who had been watching quietly, joined the conversation. When everyone turned to look at her, Anya shrugged. “What? It’s true. Vampires have an oral fixation. They usually bite during sex, but not to kill. It’s to enhance pleasure and prolong orgasm. I remember Dracula-” Anya’s face took on a dreamy expression.

“How could you do that, Angel?” Kate was incredulous, noting that there were two bite marks. It never crossed her mind that there might actually be others that she couldn’t see.

“He was Angelus, not Angel. Angel – Soul. Angelus – no Soul. Don’t you get it yet?” Cordelia, unhappy with the turn of the conversation, once more attempted to attack Kate. “Angelus would bite her, Angel wouldn’t.”

It crossed Angel’s mind that Cordelia did not have a clue what she was talking about. Soul or no soul – that didn’t change a vampire’s desire for blood, particularly during sex.

Buffy felt a hysterical giggle bubbling. The conversation, the comments, Kate – the one who broke the orb, Kate and Cordelia bristling over Angel, Xander behaving, well, like Xander – it all just seemed unreal.

“Look, what happened, happened. The mishap with the orb was unfortunate, but after a few calls and a quick drive to LA – thanks to Oz – order has been restored. The important thing is that Angel was able to get Buffy out safe and sound and everyone seems to be fine now.” Giles interrupted, tired of the constant bickering.

“Minus a few pints of blood and who knows what else.” Xander muttered, shooting a dirty look at Angel. When Angel leaned forward as if to step, Xander squeaked and jumped back, falling over the end table and tumbling clumsily to the ground. Doyle put his hand up to stop Angel’s progress, but it wasn’t necessary. Seeing Xander fall and nearly wet his pants was amusement enough.

“Giles is right. Angel, thank you.” Riley, finally speaking up, extended his hand. He had put his arm around Buffy again, much to Angel’s displeasure, and was holding her against him. Buffy however, not in the mood to be coddled, shrugged out of his embrace.

“We should go.” Angel shook Riley’s hand even though it grated him to do so. He didn’t like being thanked by anyone for Buffy’s life. Suddenly he wanted out of the crowded room and out of Sunnydale. “We need to get back to LA.”

Doyle nodded in reply and gathered up the few things that they had brought. He impulsively hugged Buffy goodbye and said that he hoped that next time they met it would be under better circumstances. Buffy nodded and smiled slightly in reply, but thought it highly unlikely that they would meet again.

Angel stared a Buffy for a few minutes, wanting to say so many things. He wanted to beg her forgiveness, he wanted to hold her in his arms… hell, he just wanted her.

Buffy stared back, wanting to tell him not to go, not to leave her again. She wanted to hear him say that he still loved her.

But neither of them said a word. As he had done to her once before, Angel simply turned and walked away.

Kate and Cordelia were still bickering as they made they way out the door, Angel speaking with Giles privately for a moment before following them to the car.

“I’ll be right back, okay? I want to make sure that they didn’t forget anything.” Riley squeezed Buffy’s hand and went outside. Angel had just climbed in the car and was waiting for Doyle when Riley stopped next to his door.

“Look, I appreciate what you did for Buffy but make no mistake, vampire. If you come back to Sunnydale I will turn you in to the Initiative. That is, if I’m feeling generous. If I’m not, I’ll kill you. Either way, you won’t get a chance to hurt her again.”

Angel said nothing. He simply stared at Riley until Riley turned and walked away.

With some difficulty, Buffy finally managed to convince the others to let her go home, alone. Self-pity was threatening to overwhelm her, and even Giles and Willow thought it best to let her be.

Retiring to her room, Buffy locked the door, lay on the bed and stared at the ceiling, trying to put her feelings in some semblance of order. She still loved Angel, even as Angelus – an appalling, wretched fact. Like Cordelia, like Darla, like Kate, like a dozen – or even hundreds – of other women, no doubt. And, while he may have loved her once, but there wasn’t a hope in the world that he would reciprocate her feelings now. He seemed incapable of ever loving her again.

So, the question was – how to get over him? How to dismiss unrequited love and move on with one’s life? She understood, practically, the liabilities in loving him. The mayor had outlined many of them in painful detail once. Over the course of the evening, Buffy considered her options. Unfortunately, none of them helped to soothe her misery.

By morning, Buffy had managed to reconcile fact and fantasy, and had put what had happened between her and Angel, and between her and Angelus in perspective. She stopped berating herself for her inability to distinguish them sexually, or for her ardent response to him – either of them. Sex was sex, and Angel, uh, Angelus happened to be particularly skilled – so it was natural that she would enjoy it. That didn’t change the fact that they couldn’t be together – physically – because of the curse. Nor did it change the fact that he didn’t want to be with her, regardless. So, there was no point in wishful thinking.

She finally settled on diversion, knowing that the more activities she filled her life with, the less time she’d have to dwell on what she did not and could not have. It had worked for her before, and it would work again.

When they arrived back in LA, Angel coldly dismissed Kate, suggesting politely that she go and not come back. She protested and pleaded with him, trying to convince him that she wasn’t at fault and that he should give her another chance. When he remained unmoved, she screamed at him. Only when she changed her tactic and began to malign Buffy, did she see any sign of emotion in his eyes – and it scared her. Grabbing her arm, he pulled her to him, his eyes flickering with gold. “Don’t. You can’t even begin to understand what your clumsiness caused – and unless you want to find out I suggest you get out of my sight.” He fairly threw her away from him and stalked away. From the shadows Cordelia laughed as Kate scrambled to her feet and left the office. She hadn’t been back.

Angel also decided on diversion as a course of action, and spent his every waking moment for the next two weeks working on cases. He patrolled, he researched, and he fought with relentless energy, determined to make amends for his latest offenses.

He was sitting in his office going over yet another case file when Doyle knocked on the door and entered.

Angel glanced up and scowled, not wanting the company. “I’m not in the mood to talk. Or actually, for company at all.”

Doyle smiled, undaunted, and sat in the chair across the desk. He was used to Angel’s churlishness these last few weeks. “And just what has put you in such a charming mood?”

“I hate springtime.” Angel replied sarcastically, recalling their conversation of a few days ago when Doyle, in a good mood after taking Cordelia to the movie, recanted the joys of spring.

“Ah.. so you’ll be an asshole for the next few months then.” Doyle leaned back in the chair, crossing his legs and crossing his arms behind his head.

“Don’t get too comfortable. I don’t think you’ll want to stay.” Angel returned his attention to the file on his desk.

“Then I’ll pass along my advice and be on my way.”

Angel looked up moodily, used to Doyle’s continued attempts to draw him in to conversation. “And?”

“It’s said that a simple apology can go a long way,” Doyle glanced at Angel with a small smile on his lips. “For yourself and others.”

“Really?” Angel crossed his arms in front of him, “Then I’m sorry you’re here.”

He’d expected Angel to be difficult about this, but he also believed that it was like lancing a sore. It had to be done. “Did you even tell the lass you were sorry?”

Angel sat upright, his back stiffening. Doyle’s words broke through the anger that had been simmering under the surface for the past weeks. “What do you want, Doyle? Do you want to hear that I raped Buffy? That I sodomized her? That I fed off her, not once but several times? Do you think if I just say, ‘Gee, Buffy I’m sorry, I wasn’t myself’ – that it will be better? That saying those words will take any of the pain and the hurt I caused her away? Well, I have news for you my friend, it won’t.” Angel put his hands over his face, trying to shut out the images that his words created in his mind, his distorted memories of what he had done.

Doyle contemplated Angel’s words for a minute, not surprised by any of what he heard since he’d expected as much. Angel’s outburst was the first time he’d spoken of what had happened since they had returned from Sunnydale. “Maybe not. But it can be a start at healing what ails you. Besides, Angel, do you think you can live with yourself if you don’t?”

Angel swore softly and slumped into a sprawl. He wasn’t sure of anything.

Willow double-checked the address for the third time, searching for street numbers on the buildings that they passed.

“There it is.” She pointed and Oz circled the block, looking for a parking spot.

Willow knew Cordelia worked there, but somehow she hadn’t really expected to see her when they walked in to the offices of Angel Investigations. It was almost surreal.

“Can I help- Willow. Oz.” Cordelia’s smile froze in place as she looked past them, expecting to see Buffy. “What are you doing here?”

“Uh, we came to see Angel.” Willow ignored Cordy’s less than friendly welcome, not really expecting otherwise from the former Sunnydale cheerleader.

“Oh god. Buffy isn’t here with you, is she?” Cordelia leaned over and looked past them.

“No. Is Angel here?” Willow nervously looked at Oz. Buffy didn’t even know that they had come or why.

“He’s busy. Besides, he’s never in a good mood anymore. It takes months for Buffy broodiness to wear off, and I don’t want to restart the clock with you two – so why don’t you just tell me why you’re here and I’ll pass along the message.” She smiled, but it was forced and insincere.

“Well, it’s kinda personal.” Willow clutched her bag, then looked up as Doyle came down the hallway.

“Well, hello there. Oz, Willow. What brings you to the City of Angels?” Doyle sat on the edge of Cordelia’s desk, smiling at them in welcome.

“They want to see Angel. Which, I don’t think is a good idea.” Cordelia gave Doyle a wide-eyed look, clearly attempting to send him a not-so-subtle signal to make sure he agreed.

“Really? Well, it is the City of Angels.” Doyle chuckled at his own pun, ignoring Cordelia’s hint and pointing behind him. “He’s in the back. Right through those doors.”

Willow said thanks and Oz nodded before following her through the doors.

“Doyle! You idiot – we don’t even know why they’re here. It could be bad stuff – Buffy stuff and now Angel will be all growly and broody again.”

“Princess, Angel hasn’t stopped being ‘growly and broody’ as you put it, since we got back from Sunnydale. Maybe they’ll make it better.” Doyle hoped it would, since his own conversation with Angel days ago had done very little.

Angel was in the training room, practicing several jujitsu moves when Willow slowly opened the door. She waited, watching his graceful movements for a while until he noticed her. Oz stayed outside, giving them some privacy.


“Hi.” Willow was nervous now, the words she had practiced so often on the ride here having completely flown out of her head.

“Is everything okay?” Angel walked toward her slowly, an anxious feeling building in the pit of his stomach. He stopped and pulled on his t-shirt.

“Yes. I wanted to be sure before I said anything, but it took me a while to research it. I wanted to be thorough and all. And then, I had it verified – several times-”

“Willow.” Angel looked at her curiously, her words making no sense.

“Oh- duh!” Willow slapped herself on the forehead. “You’re probably wondering what I’m talking about. The curse. I changed the curse – but I didn’t have a lot of time to decide what to change it to, and then I wasn’t sure because it was an old Romany phrase-”

“Slow down. What are you saying?” Angel felt that anxious feeling again. His nerves were on edge.

Willow took a deep breath, realizing that she was babbling still. Again. “When I had to do the curse again, I did some research and found the phrase that limited the curse to ‘perfect happiness’. I replaced that phrase with another Romany phrase that I found; I had another wicca that I met, Tara – she’s great – anyway, I had her confirm the change and I also sent it to a coven in Romania to verify the translation. I would have come earlier, except it took them a while to find someone who understood that particular dialect. But, everyone believes it to be air tight.”

Angel slumped heavily against the wall, finding it difficult to comprehend what Willow was telling him. “So, uh, then…” He wasn’t even sure what to ask.

“So you should be able to er, you know, without losing your soul. There’s no perfect happiness clause.” Taking a guess at what he might be asking, Willow answered.

Angel’s mind raced. How ironic that this would come up now – when it mattered so little without Buffy. He’d be considered Doyle’s words carefully for the last two days and had come to the conclusion that he should apologize to her. If nothing else, she’d know that he had never wanted to hurt her, however he didn’t really expect it to change anything. But if he went to her now, would she think it was because of the change in the curse?

“Does Buffy know?” Angel said the words almost without thinking.

“Not yet. I wasn’t sure…” Willow trailed off. She knew that Buffy had put on a good front these last weeks but Willow could tell that she was guarded emotionally, shut down to protect fragile feelings that had been bruised and battered again. And Willow didn’t want her hurt even more if she found out that Angel could be with her, but still chose not to.

“I’ll tell her, if you don’t mind. When the time is right.” Feeling as a prisoner that had just been pardoned, Angel sighed. After a few minutes of thought, he asked softly, “How is she?”

“She’s Buffy. Patrolling, fighting…” Willow looked at his eyes. She could easily see the emotion, the pain in them. Debating briefly, she came to a decision. “She shut down again after you left. She’s afraid to let anyone get too close, afraid that she’ll get hurt. I mean, she tries to pretend that every thing’s okay, but-”

Angel closed his eyes briefly, guilt for the pain he had caused her overwhelming him.

“She told me – a little – about what happened between you, and- and she doesn’t blame you. If anything, I think she believes that you don’t care anymore. That you’re disappointed with her – or worse.”

Angel slumped to the floor, Willow’s words running through his mind. Could Buffy really believe that he’d think any less of her because of what he had done?

“I don’t know if it would be fair to her. I still can’t offer her much…”

“She may want to make that decision herself, rather than having you decide what’s best for her, again.” Willow knew that Buffy loved him and that she had been heartbroken when he left.

“I don’t know if she’ll ever forgive me.” Angel murmured, his mind preoccupied now.

“Well, you won’t know if you don’t ask.”

Angel smiled slightly. “True.”

“But Angel? If you go to her, make sure that you mean it. Because if you fuck it up again, I’ll stake you.” Willow turned to leave, the stopped as she reached the door.

“Oh! Pickles!”

“What?” Angel looked up, a perplexed expression on his face.

“Pickles! You can’t have pickles. The word I changed in the curse was happiness to pickles. I couldn’t think of anything else under pressure, and it was the first Romany word I found in that dialect. Apparently they were a common food then. Anyway, I’m sorry if you liked them…”

Willow grinned as she opened the door where Oz waited. Mission accomplished.