Secrets & Lies, Part XVI

Author’s Notes: Future-ish fic.  The question of Angel’s redemption is resolved, Buffy loses a bet to Angel, Connor moves out, and a whole bunch of other stuff happens…Warning – character death.

Other Warning – this chapter is sappy, fluffy, cheesy, corny, smutty (of course)… did I mention sappy? There will quite possibly be eye rolling at times as well. Don’t say you haven’t been warned! *g* (Hey I figured that Buffy and Angel deserved a little happily ever after!)

Once again I want to say thanks, thanks, thanks to everyone for such wonderful feedback! *smooch*

Rating: Adult; explicit sex

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

Pairing: Ultimately B/A. Has C/A and mentions of B/S.

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

Originally posted: Jul 16, 2003

A hushed silence descended as everyone turned to stare at Connor and the man who had escorted him into the hotel. Gunn tensely shifted his stance, putting himself between Fred, Amelia and the newcomer, all the while keeping an eye on Skip and Cordelia. Lorne examined Connor with a careful look before turning his eyes to the short demon next to him with a look that was part skepticism and part awe.

At Whistler’s appearance, Skip sighed dramatically and his large body seemed to wilt in stature. Cordelia, still dazed and groggy from her blow to the head, sat holding her hand to her face and covering her nose, which was gradually ceasing to bleed.

With Buffy’s attention focused on Whistler, Angel used the moment to lunge forward and seize her by the wrist.  Echoes of Nikkos’ warning about the consequences of heartbreak for Buffy ricocheted ferociously through his brain and into his gut. Panic was clutching at his stomach, rising with a steady swelling force at the pain he could see in her eyes, that he could feel emanating from her in increasing waves.

Dismissing everyone in the room from his thoughts, he pulled her into his arms. She struggled slightly but his grip only tightened.

“Hey, look at me.” His lips brushed her ear as he splayed one hand across her back. “Buffy, sweet, please, look at me.”

She shook her head as a single tear escaped her lashes and rolled silently down her cheek.

“Oh, baby.” Pressing his forehead to hers, he forced her to tilt her head back and look up at him. His voice was soft and low, his mouth inches away from hers. “Hey, now, listen to me. I love you. I told you I wasn’t letting you go again and I meant it.”

Buffy inhaled deeply, still fighting the rising tide of emotions. A sharp, cold pain stabbed her in the chest and she gasped. Once more she tried to wriggle free but he held her too securely.

“I know I’ve got a lot to learn about love, Buffy. About how you tell someone that you love them so that they believe it, how you show them so that they feel it.” He murmured softly drawing her closer. He was beyond worried that his efforts to date to convince her of his love and devotion might not have been enough, given the ramifications of the spell, and his past mistakes. “I’ve never loved anyone before I met you, so I don’t know if I’m doing it right – but I can learn if you show me.”

Another tear trickled down her cheek and she choked back a sob.

“More than anything, I want my life to be with you.” He whispered as his eyes held hers. “This is real, Buffy. I’m never going to leave you again. I love you. You’re staying with me. Now. Forever. Don’t imagine that it will be any other way. Whatever the future holds, we’ll face it together. Remember, we agreed to take care of each other?”

Buffy gulped, shaking her head. She closed her eyes. How could he give up his chance at redemption? He couldn’t, she wouldn’t let him. With renewed resolve, she opened her eyes again. “But Angel, you can’t just give up-”

“There’s no but or can’t, Buffy. I’ve made up my mind.” One hand ran up her back, caressing, soothing. With his jaw set firmly, decisiveness evident in his features, he added, “No one is going to decide our future but us. Trust me.”

“Angel, you know how much I love you.” She sighed, resigned to be strong even while he was being so stubborn. She wished it was as easy as he made it sound, but then they had never had the luxury of putting themselves first. They were warriors for a purpose larger than themselves, with missions and jobs that had to be done regardless of their own interests or wishes. “But if the Powers said-”

“Buffy, Skip’s lying and even if he wasn’t I wouldn’t care.” Angel insisted adamantly, his gaze burning into hers with the intensity of his emotions. “I promised you that we’d make it work this time and I mean to keep that promise. If you don’t believe me then I haven’t done a good job in convincing you how much you mean to me. How much I care for you. How deeply I love you.”

At the mention of the demon guide’s name, the others in the room turned to look at Skip, who had been quietly inching toward the door. Whistler’s eyebrows lifted and he nodded, as if affirming Angel’s words. Almost absently he then drew a glass orb out of his pocket, toying with it.  His eyes met Skip’s and the demon guide froze in his spot.

Buffy was silent for a moment, captivated by something that she could see in the tall vampire’s eyes. There was love, affection, and warmth, along with a certain primitive possessiveness – things she had become used to seeing, but now there was also fear. What was he afraid of? Of losing her? Did he mean it – that he wanted his life to be with her even if it meant giving up his chance to Shanshu?  Or was it true that the demon was lying? That being with her wouldn’t take that chance away from him?  The icy gripping pain that had been spiraling through her chest began to ease as she considered his words. He seemed so sincere, so certain.

“But Angel, your chance at redemption.” She reminded him, concern in her voice. Her hands came up to rest on his biceps as she studied his face. What if the demon wasn’t lying?

“My redemption, if you will, is as likely to be linked to a certain beautiful and amazing Slayer as anything else.” He smiled slightly, aware that the near frantic beat of her racing pulse was evening out. Her eyes were no longer swimming in tears. Was he getting through to her?

“Huh?” Buffy tilted her head to the side in confusion, her eyes widening in surprise at the unexpected statement.

“He does have a point there.”  Whistler nodded with a smile, glancing away from Buffy and Angel to grin at Lorne and Connor then at Fred and Gunn. The short demon fairly beamed, his hands in his pockets as he rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet.

Angel and Buffy glanced at Whistler briefly for the first time since he had entered the room. Tipping his hat, he gave them a crooked grin and nodded, showing his agreement to Angel’s statement.

Rousing, Cordelia snorted indignantly and rolled her eyes. She pushed herself away from the back of the couch and sat forward. Skip looked worriedly from Whistler to Angel and back again.

“It’s just a prophecy, Buffy, and you know better than anyone how unpredictable and uncertain they are.” Gently he cupped his hand to her face, his thumb brushing away the traces of her earlier tears, “It may or may not happen, sweet, so I don’t want to get your hopes up, but you should know that there’s another prophecy, one that Giles translated from the Pergamum Codex. ” Angel trailed off with a small smile, brushing a stray tendril of hair back from her cheek. “Hey, I don’t want to spoil the plot for you, so I’ll let you read it for yourself. It’s in his journal.”

She stared into his eyes. Could it be true? Was it possible that they were going get their future together after all?

“Stay with me.” He pleaded softly, wrapping his arms around her and nuzzling her cheek with his nose. “Stay with me and we’ll make this work.”

“Are you sure?” Her voice quavered slightly as her eyes searched his face.

“Absolutely. Completely. One hundred percent certain.” He kissed her then, a sweet, gentle in-love kiss that gradually deepened to something closer to touching the depth of their feelings.

Lorne sniffed and dabbed at his eyes. “Oh, true kye’rumption. It’s so beautiful.”

That is so not kye’rumption, you big green idiot.” Cordelia snorted indignantly, coming to her feet. Her movement caught Connor’s eye and he shifted, positioning himself between the dyed blonde seer and the door. Noting his stance, Cordelia shot her former lover a disdainful look and grabbed her bag that had fallen to the end of the settee when the fight with Buffy had broken out. With her eyes mutinously trained on Connor, she reached in her bag and extracted a package of tissues.

“You’re stuck with me, sweetheart. For good.” Angel whispered against her lips when he finally lifted his head.

“Okay, great, so what about-” Gunn interjected, only to be shushed by Whistler as if they were watching a movie and needed silence to hear the dialogue.

“Angel, oh. I love you.” Buffy whispered emotionally, her eyes once again filling with tears. She wrapped her arms around his neck and clung to him, hugging him tightly. “I love you so much it makes my heart ache.”

“No, sweetheart,” Angel firmly objected, pushing her away from him slightly to look down into her eyes. “Love me so that your heart is filled with happiness … because that’s how I love you.”   He smiled down at her. His eyes and his hand then drifted meaningfully to her stomach. “And because that’s how I will love our baby.” He said the last with a hushed reverence, his gaze once more returning to her face.

“Baby?”  Her eyes flew up to meet his, her voice questioning. Her hand reached between them to cover his. Did he mean-?

“Yes, our baby.” He murmured softly, a smile on his lips. He brushed a gentle kiss across her open mouth.

“You’re sure?” Her eyes, wide with wonder, sparkled happily as she took in the implication of his words. Her eyes narrowed speculatively and tilted her head, “How are you sure?”

“Yes, love, I’m sure.” In answer to her second question, he only lifted his brows.

“Oh?  Oh. Angel!” Buffy excitedly rose to her toes and circled his neck with her arms, hugging him so tightly that it was a good thing that he didn’t need to breathe. Her lips found his and she kissed him with all the enthusiasm and excitement she felt.

Behind them, Whistler smiled broadly, like a proud parent. He once again glanced around the room at the others. After almost a minute, Gunn gave a loud wolf-whistle. Fred only smiled, her cheeks pinking slightly in a blush, Lorne grinned and dabbed at his eyes again while Connor found the toes of his shoes very interesting.

After a few increasingly heated more seconds, Buffy and Angel broke off their kiss.

“No way. NO FUCKING WAY!” Cordelia shrieked, stomping her foot. “This is so not happening.”

Everyone turned to stare at the seer, who was now frantically digging through her bag that she clutched to her chest.

Connor advanced toward her slowly, distrustful and suspicious of her actions.

The dyed blonde drew out the dart gun loaded with the doximall shots and aimed it directly at Angel. Sure, it was a risky plan, but it was her last chance. She had nothing else to lose. If she guessed correctly, Angelus would kill Buffy, getting rid of the blonde Slayer once and for all or Buffy would kill Angelus – thus freeing her up for a new champion. Angelus might kill the other do-gooders if they were stupid enough to stick around, but she was betting that he wouldn’t kill her since she released him. Either way, it was a win-win situation for her.

Just as she pulled the trigger on the gun, releasing the first shot, it was slapped out of her hand.  Connor shoved her back down on the couch and glared at her angrily, daring her to try anything more. When it appeared that she wasn’t moving, he kicked the gun away from her, and it skidded to a halt just in front of Gunn.

The misfired dart went wide, past Buffy’s right shoulder and into the far corner of the lobby. The blonde Slayer curiously went to retrieve it.

“Let me guess. Doximall?” Buffy returned to stand next to Angel, placing the liquid filled dart in his hand. “You hoping to bring Angelus out to play, Cordy?”

“Oh, why? You afraid, Buffy?” Cordelia sneered angrily, her battered face mottled with rage at having been so easily thwarted. “Surely as the Slayer you could take out one vampire. Oh wait, no, you couldn’t. Angelus kicked your ass. Many times if I remember correctly.”

“Are you crazy?” Gunn blurted in surprise, turning his eyes to Cordelia. Angelus was not someone he wanted to mess with; that he remembered from years ago.

“I don’t know what you hoped to accomplish, Cordelia, but I don’t think my demon would be very amenable to your plans.”  Angel smirked as the demon alternated between curses for the shot having missed, laughter at the dyed blonde’s ridiculous plan and lusty comments about Buffy. “He most likely would have snapped your neck and then taken off with Buffy for parts unknown.”

Cordelia glowered angrily, crossing her arms over her chest. She turned to leave, but found Connor blocking her path. With a huff and a noise that sounded like a strangled snarl, she sat down.

“My, my. What a mess.” Whistler proclaimed sadly, shaking his head as he looked at Cordelia and Skip. Turning back to Buffy and Angel, he shrugged and smiled, “Sorry to stop with the romantical stuff here kids, but we do have some business to take care of. I stopped by to see you a few days ago, but well, seeing as you two have been ah, well, a little busy there like a coupla bunnies, I didn’t want to interrupt the honeymoon. Nice house. Great location, near the beach and all.”

Buffy flushed slightly while Angel said nothing, only reached around her with his arm and tucked her close to his side.

“Oh, and sorry about the kid.” The demon jerked his thumb in Connor’s direction, “I didn’t know he was yours. He was following me around.” Whistler grinned at Connor, “A guy’s got to defend himself and all. And being that this is Los Angeles, well, you understand my concern.”

“What’d you hit him with? A two by four?” Buffy eyed Connor’s bruised face critically before turning an exasperated gaze back to the small demon.

“A two by four, huh?” Lorne glanced over interestedly, as if mentally making a note. Connor had always made him a bit jittery, so knowing what weapons worked against Angel’s hell spawn was useful information as far as the green demon was concerned.

“Hey – I don’t have the superpower thing going that you do. I have to use whatever’s handy. That just happened to be what was handy.” Whistler muttered querulously, adjusting the collar on his jacket. “He’s okay. Mostly. Right, kid?”

With a slight lift of his hands Connor shrugged. He hadn’t known that his father knew the short demon nor that the demon was a good one… he only knew that he had been poking around the hotel and later his father’s house down by the beach.

“But, that’s not the business at hand here.” Shifting his glance to Angel, Whistler grinned. “I suppose there’s no need to tell you that more than a few visions that were sent your way were not delivered.” The small demon turned to Cordelia, his tone caustic. “For example, the one for you to return to Sunnydale back around say, January of 2001.”

Buffy looked up at Angel then narrowed her eyes at Cordy as the significance of the date established itself in her mind. That was just before her mother died. Only months before she had to face Glory and she herself died. Had Angel been there to help her, things might have been different.

“Ah well, can’t exactly change the past now, can we? The circumstances have been most unfortunate, but we have to look to the future.” Walking in a slow circle, Whistler paced around the room. “Buffy, what would you say if I were to tell you that you can retire?  You’d keep all that supernatural Slayer strength and you could slay if you wanted, but your job guarding the Hellmouth is done.”

“Really?” Buffy asked skeptically. She had never heard of slayers being retired – other than when they died of course.

“What’s the catch?” Angel asked tightly. It was his nature to be suspicious of things that at first glance appeared to be too good, which, he admitted to himself, the idea of Buffy being able to leave the Hellmouth was certainly that. His experience had shown him all too often that it paid to be wary, that there was often some exorbitant price to be paid.

“There’s no catch. Warriors that have done their duty may be retired, it’s a common enough practice – well, when the warrior in question lives long enough that is.” Whistler’s gaze landed on Connor with significance. “Besides, a new guardian has been selected, so you can pass the torch.”

“Me?” Connor fairly squeaked. He looked at his father who was now watching him closely. He squared his shoulders proudly, a lopsided grin crossing his face before he hid it behind what he hoped was a serious and mature expression.

“Yeah, kid. You up for it?”  The demon grinned, toying once again with the glass orb that he held in his hand. “It’s not the hub of action like it used to be, thanks to the Slayer here, but there’s still a demon or two around that’ll put up a good fight.” His glance fell again on Skip then on Cordelia, who was now fairly seething from her position on the settee. Her eyes darted around anxiously, seeking an escape route.

“Sure, yeah, I’ll do it.” Connor replied with barely contained enthusiasm. He couldn’t believe he was going to be entrusted with such a task but he was anxious to prove himself.

Angel quirked an eyebrow upward, his own thoughts uncertain. Objectively he knew Connor was a more than proficient fighter, but some ingrained parental concern adamantly objected to the idea that he was ready to handle such a job. Nor, he admitted, was he ready for his son to take on the possible risks of guarding the Hellmouth, much less leave LA.

“That is, if Buffy doesn’t want to-” Connor amended quickly, not wanting to appear as if he were trying to take over the Slayer’s responsibilities.

“I suppose I could find something else to do.” Buffy teased, glancing up at Angel out of the corner of her eye. She could almost feel the indecisiveness warring within the tall vampire as he sorted out his feelings.

Angel looked from Connor’s expectant face to Buffy then back to Connor again. He sighed. It was, he thought wryly, a problem all parents faced at some point in their lives – learning how to let their children go. He knew Connor was more than ready and he was proud that he had been chosen. He’d worry about him, of course, and would help him out when needed – and probably when not needed as well, at least until he was more confident about his son’s safety and abilities. It would give Connor some responsibility as well as a purpose, which Angel knew was something that the young man needed. Of course, it would also free up Buffy to move to LA. Finally, he nodded encouragingly.

“True, you will need something else to do.” Whistler pondered thoughtfully, turning back to face Buffy. “Angel here is in need of a new seer.  You interested?”

“No.” Angel replied flatly before Buffy even had a chance to speak. He turned, his eyes meeting Buffy’s as if explaining his reasons to her instead of Whistler. “No visions. I don’t want them. They’ve been a distraction and a hindrance. I’m not even sure I trust them or the Powers at this point.”

“It’s your choice.” The demon replied agreeably. Everyone in the room ignored Cordelia’s shriek of outrage.

“But Angel, are you sure?” Buffy stared into his eyes, happy to help him in any way possible. If he didn’t want the visions, that was okay too. She still planned on being there to help him out.

“Positive.” He replied with a smile, his arm around her back squeezing her waist gently.

“You have got to be kidding me. You can not possibly offer my visions to- to her.” Cordelia blurted disgustedly, the last word containing a wealth of disgust and loathing as if she could barely even bring herself to pronounce the simple word. “Angel is my champion, do you hear me? Mine! Now do your fixing thing here and fix this mess.” She punctuated the last with a stomp of her foot.

“Cordy, get over it already.” Buffy acerbically replied, rolling her eyes at the dyed blonde’s continued assertions. The former May Queen really was delusional.

“I have just the thing for you, Cordelia.” Angel dropped his arm from Buffy and walked slowly to the weapons closet. Well, it’s about time. Christ, I was beginning to think you were never going to show some spine, the demon muttered impatiently as Angel pulled a long, sharp broadsword from the closet. You could just snap her neck, but spilling her blood is good too. Wait, hold up!  You do realize that we’re going to smell her putrid blood stench in this lobby for months. Guess we’ll have to stay at my beach house with Buffy. Oh, and pick up that dart gun there, will ya? We could use that you know, sometime.

“Angel?” The seer questioned, licking her lips nervously as her eyes moved from the blade to the vampire’s face. His expression was dark, determined. He really hated that things had come down to this, but he felt that he no longer had a choice. He had killed other demons for less than what she had done.

“I’m really sorry, Cordy, but I should have done this a long time ago.” Stepping forward purposefully, Angel stopped a few feet away from the dyed blonde.  I’m not. Angelus purred ruthlessly, but I have to agree, it is long over due.

“I helped you.” She weakly stammered, her eyes frantically searching the room for the slightest sign that anyone would help her. She held up her hand and cowered back into the settee.

Lorne muttered something and turned away while Gunn put his arm around Fred and Amelia and escorted them back into the office, out of sight. Skip only stared at the floor, immobile, a defeated expression on his face. He knew that there would be no escaping the wrath of the Powers now that it was apparent that he and Cordelia had been found out.

Buffy watched calmly, worried for Angel. She knew that this wasn’t easy for him, as Cordelia had at one time been his friend.

“You only helped to save yourself, not because you wanted to. You stayed with me because you thought it made you noble to “love” a demon, a vampire. Did you think it gave you some kind of moral high ground?” Angel said with a snort, shaking his head. “You didn’t love me. You only clung to the ideal of my quest for redemption, thinking that it would also save you. But the sad fact is that you were the only one you wanted to help. Being selfish doesn’t mean you’ll be able to save yourself.”

You would have to give sermon first. Get off the soapbox and get on with it already, the demon muttered with bored irritation.

“Well, hold up there a minute.” Whistler stepped between them, holding out the orb. “You could use that thing there or you could let me use this.”

“What is that?” His tone wary, Angel looked at the glass object thoughtfully. He lowered the sword that he held in his hand.

“This, my friend, is their future.” The demon nodded to Skip and Cordelia. “And if you ask me, more fitting than a quick death.”

Angel considered the demon’s words and glanced over at Buffy questioningly.

Cordelia’s eyes widened with horrified recognition as she really looked at the object in the demon’s hand for the first time. She screeched loudly and attempted to run for the door, but Connor grabbed her forcibly by the arm and swung her to a stop. The dyed blonde wailed loudly and struggled to break free but to no avail.

Buffy shrugged. Returning his gaze to Whistler, Angel nodded.

Whistler tossed the glass orb through the air. It shattered at Cordelia’s feet and a cloud of thick muddy brown vapor filled the air along with a vile, putrid stench.

Connor coughed and choked, releasing Cordelia’s arm and stepping back out of the way.  An instant later, the orb reformed and rolled around gently on the floor. In the diminishing haze Skip and Cordelia were nowhere to be seen.

With a grin, Whistler retrieved the orb and slipped it into a small black velvet pouch. He held it out until Angel reluctantly took it from his hand. “You probably want to put that up somewhere where it won’t break.”

With a smug grin, Whistler tipped his hat and went out the door. He stopped just inside the door and turned around, “Oh, and congratulations. I’ll expect a call and a cigar – a good one, you know the expensive ones – in a few months.”  He winked and left.

The Hyperion bustled with activity for the next few days as everyone moved back into the hotel. Business at Angel Investigations resumed with new fervor as well; all the files for unsolved cases or uninvestigated leads were pulled and reviewed, no lead or tip too small or obscure was turned away.

There was a decidedly lighter, happier atmosphere in the hotel as well.  Angel smiled more than the others could remember having ever seen him, and the unfamiliar sound of his laughter could occasionally be heard through the hotel – usually accompanied by an answering female voice or laugh.

Buffy confirmed Angel’s belief with a home pregnancy test and a reluctant visit to an obstetrician. She rushed excitedly to the training room to share the news with Angel, which eventually led to one very determined Slayer arguing loudly with one very overprotective vampire about the dangers of working cases and patrolling. The training room doors were abruptly slammed shut, yet their muffled voices could still be heard through the door. When they both emerged hours later, Buffy’s hair was in wild disarray, her cheeks were flush and their clothes were disheveled, but it was apparent from their smiles and affectionate glances that they had reached some sort of accord.

Nikkos performed the locator spell for Angel finding two more nests of Shaqti demons: one in Sherman Oaks and the other near Carlsbad, north of San Diego. The dozen or so demons crowded in the small hovel near Carlsbad were dispatched with quick efficiency.  Angel grated his teeth in anger and disappointment when they arrived at the Sherman Oaks site the next night: the demons had obviously cleared out in a hurry. It seemed that perhaps they had been warned about the vampire that was hunting them with a determination to extinguish their race. Finally, two nights later they were found near Valencia. The fight was vicious and brutal, but Angel, Gunn and Connor ultimately prevailed.

Toward the end of the week, Connor began packing his things for the move to Sunnydale with obviously mixed feelings. He was eager for the opportunity to prove himself outside of his father’s shadow, but he wasn’t at all certain about living alone in a strange, new place.

Angel, aware of Connor’s warring feelings, assured him during a sparring session one afternoon that he didn’t have to go to Sunnydale if he didn’t want to, but the young man shook his head firmly. He was ready and eager to go, despite his hesitations and doubts.

They all agreed that it made sense for Connor to move into Buffy’s condo since she was moving to LA. After some discussion of details, they settled on making the move at the end of the week.

As they left the Hyperion that night to check out a demon sighting near Silver Lake, Angel told Gunn that he and Buffy would be at the beach house for the next couple of days. Call if anything urgent came up.

“Angel?”  Buffy whispered, her eyes scanning the darkened room.

“Yes?” The hushed reply came from the far side of the room along with the flare of a match. One by one, each of the five scented candles on the tray was lit and the faint scent of ginger and pear drifted through the air.

“What are you going to do?” Buffy whispered, shifting her position and turning her head as Angel approached her with his characteristic predatory grace. He stopped next to her, his wine colored shirt now unbuttoned and open, hanging loosely over the black leather pants. Her eyes moved from his face to his chest and then lower to the evidence of his arousal.  She licked her lips unconsciously in a provocative gesture and returned her gaze to his face.

“I’m not sure yet.” He surveyed her with a hungry look, his dark eyes assessing. “You said anything I wanted – no rules.”

“I said winner’s rules.” Buffy replied petulantly, yet a shiver of desire raced wildly up her spine. Her bottom lip jutted out in a pout. “Besides, you cheated. Yalarak demons normally do not stand that still. I’m thinking vampire thrall.”

“Ah. But I won, so my rules.” His smile was wicked. Leaning down he kissed her, his tongue lapping at her bottom lip and tasting the faint sweetness of the dessert she had eaten earlier that evening, her appetite for sweets increasing with her pregnancy. His tongue probed her mouth insistently, sending delicious waves of pleasure coursing through her body. Breaking the kiss to allow her to catch a breath, he continued in a soft murmur against her lips, “Which means anything I want.”

Buffy sighed softly into his mouth as his lips settled on hers again in passionate demand. She arched slightly and attempted to press closer to the hard strength of the body so close to hers, her pulse rate accelerating rapidly under the knowing touch of his lips.

Passion, raw and unbridled, rose between them. She squirmed slightly as her tongue dueled with his in flagrant invitation. The silk sheets felt cool against the heated skin of her bare shoulders and arms, the string-back halter-top offering only scant covering.

Straightening, Angel walked slowly around the bed, his dark gaze narrowed on her in speculative scrutiny. Retrieving something from one of the dresser drawers, he returned to stand next to the bed.

Her eyes tracked him in the dim light as he moved, a spike of nervousness flaring through her senses along with a touch of curiosity. She tugged nervously on the golden chains holding her wrists securely over her head and they rattled softly.

“Angel?” She queried again softly, her eyes searching for any indication of what he had in his hand.

“Hm?” Placing one hand on the bed, he half leaned over her. His dark sensual eyes held a touch of wildness and Buffy was reminded of the predatory creature that she knew him to be. She shivered in anticipation.

“Did you want something, love?”

“Yes,” She demanded in a throaty whisper, impatient and slightly nervous. “I want to touch you.”

“Later.”  His voice was velvet soft.

“You can’t just make me stay here.” She twisted slightly and tested the strength of the chains again. The lascivious thrill that had swept over her when he had impatiently walked her backward toward the bed and then chained her up with a wolfish smile still lingered, despite her small protestation.

“Yes I can.” He calmly replied, standing again and removing his shirt. “I can do anything I want with you.”

The authority in his voice sent another heated tremor spiraling down through her body; her nipples tightened under his gaze and she felt another surge of liquid warmth between her legs. She was already feverish for his touch. His compelling words only further tantalizing her with their authority.

“Now let’s see if you like this.” He slipped the black velvet mask over her eyes and tied it securely behind her head.

Pitched into complete darkness, Buffy felt a tremulous leap of her senses. She could still feel Angel nearby and she could smell him, the clean scent filling her nostrils. After a few seconds, she felt the dip of the bed beneath his weight as he lay down next to her.

Buffy gasped when he reached out with one hand to possessively cup her breast, squeezing the firm mound before rolling the tight bud of her nipple between his fingertips. She arched her back slightly, pressing into his hand as his fingers played, stroking and plucking the taut peaks through the silky material of her top.

His hand evoking such delicious sensations lifted away, but before she could protest, she felt the strings of her top being untied and the pale turquoise material slithered away, leaving her breasts bare.

“Maybe I should suck on your nipples first.” He said lazily, his voice close to her ear.

A thrill blazed through her and she drew in a shuddering breath.

His fingers brushed her glossy pink lips and her tongue darted out to taste him. Intrigued, he slipped his fingers closer and she sucked them into her mouth with such tantalizing languor that his erection swelled harder in the leather confines of his pants. He inched forward and rubbed the hard ridge firmly against her hip.

“Mmm. Nice.” He murmured softly, withdrawing his fingers from her mouth and sliding them down along her jaw to her throat.

“Now which one should I suck on first?” Angel questioned silkily, his damp fingers moving ever closer to the tip of one breast.

This one?” He asked softly, reaching out to flick one jewel hard peak gently.

“Yessss…” Buffy whispered, pressing her thighs tightly together.

“Are you sure?” He questioned softly, his fingers closing around the taut crest with increasing pressure. He knew the answer of course, he could tell from the heated response of her body, the aromatic scent of her arousal. He knew her body extremely well, knew the sensitivity of her breasts and how she liked to be touched. He squeezed harder.  His lips were cool as he pressed them against her throat in a wet, open mouth kiss.

Beneath the dark covering, Buffy closed her eyes. He was so close, yet she ached to have him closer. Much closer. She rolled slightly and arched her body toward him in abandoned entreaty, inviting him closer. The taut peaks of her nipples brushed his chest briefly before he moved away. A soft whine escaped her lips as he pressed her shoulder back down on the bed.

His tongue laved roughly at the scar on her neck and her breath hitched. She tilted her head away from him in submission, and he growled slightly in approval. After a few bites with blunted teeth, the lazy gliding journey of his tongue continued, moving lower along the outer curve of her breast and up to the center to take soft suckling possession of her nipple.

Buffy whimpered softly, the staggering pleasure racing through her senses. She lifted her hands to bury them in his hair to hold her to him, but was stopped abruptly by the chains around her wrists holding them tightly above her head and to the pillow. She tugged in frustration as his lips traced a path across her chest.

“Relax, love, just feel.” He whispered against her skin before his lips again closed around her nipple and tugged on the hardened peak. He suckled gently then harder, drawing the tip deep in his mouth while his other hand idly played with her other breast.

“Don’t stop.” She pleadingly whispered, her voice filled with intemperate need. Her hips rocked slightly in an age-old rhythm as the potent swell of desire rose within her.

He willingly obliged, sucking and nibbling and softly biting each jewel hard nipple in turn, creating a steady of rush of molten liquid pleasure flowing through her body in heated waves. When he lifted his head long moments later, her breath was coming in soft pants.

He shifted slightly and she felt the firm, cool muscular expanse of his chest hovering over the wet, aching tips of her nipples. Her head dropped back on the bed and she surged upward, wanting the crushing weight of his chest against her breasts.

“Are you wet, love?” His voice was deep, rich and very close to her ear. “Ready for me?”

“I’ve been wet … since you first came downstairs … in those leather pants.” She purred breathlessly in reply. She had put them as well as the deep wine colored shirt in place of the clothes he had set out while he showered, but she hadn’t been at all certain that he’d wear them. His demon had, of course, crowed loudly at the sight of them, his lewd chuckles and suggestions accompanied with an occasional ‘I told you so’.

“You should have told me.” He nipped at her ear, his thigh parting her legs as he moved over her. He obliged her body’s request, lowering his weight on her slightly and feeling the pebbles of her nipples press firmly against his chest.

“You should have known.” She countered in a seductive whisper, lifting her leg and rubbing it caressingly along the smooth leather of his hip and thigh.

“I did,” He confessed, nuzzling her neck as one hand settled on her supple thigh. “I could smell your luscious scent.” His hand moved up her leg, dragging her skirt up. She shifted her hips, allowing him to push the material up to her waist. She was naked beneath the short skirt, her tiny lace panties lost in the initial teasing wager that had begun their amorous game.

“Now let’s see if you’re wet enough for me to fuck.”

The coarse word sparked an erotic image in her mind of Angel moving between her legs, the muscles of his back and thighs flexing with each thrust, his tattoo moving in a primitive rhythm; it was so graphic, so exciting, she felt an answering surge of heat race through her blood.

She moaned softly, enthralled by his voice and his hand steadily moving along her thigh.

“Spread your legs for me.”  Angel ordered quietly, his eyes raking over her luscious form as he crawled slowly down on the bed.

Bending her knees and placing her feet flat on the bed, she moved her legs wider, away from his hips.

“Wider.”  He prompted, sliding back further. He kissed her gently curved stomach then rolled off the end of the bed. He shoved the leather pants down his hips and off, his gaze never leaving the exposed wet, pink cleft between her legs.

With a soft exhalation of breath Buffy complied, opening her legs wider slowly.

His view of her was explicitly clear. Drops of pearly fluid were evident on her thighs and along the plump pink flesh of her bare cleft. He sat back down on the bed and ran his fingertips along her slick folds, stroking with deft fingers and smearing the lush profusion of wetness along her nether lips and throbbing clit. When his fingers drifted lower, between the cheeks of her bottom, Buffy’s breath caught in her throat.

She held her breath, unsure if she wanted him to stop or to continue. Her hips however, lifted and rocked, enticing his caresses. The subtle friction of his probing fingers continued, sliding back and forth. Each touch ignited another spark of want, of need, within her, each seeming more desperate than the last as he brought her to the very edge of climax and left her suspended on the precipice.

Withdrawing his hand, he planted soft kisses on her thigh just above her knee. Another wet licking kiss landed higher up then another, so near the apex of her thighs she whimpered and twisted against the chains that bound her, seeking his touch again to ease the burning ache.

Unable to see, she was acutely aware of each probing touch, each wet kiss. Her hands curled around the chains above her wrists and she gripped them tightly, waiting with anxious anticipation for his next move. Her muscles tensed and quivered in expectation, her skin seemingly oversensitized yet greedy for each touch.

His hair brushed her thigh as he leaned forward; his fingers parted her plump folds gently. With only a few deft swipes of his tongue, she expired in breathless trembling orgasm. Her soft cries of pleasure sounded deep in her throat and drifted out in keening accompaniment to the expertise of his fingers, lips and tongue.

“I can’t move,” she whispered when she recovered her breath to speak.

“You can’t anyway.” He whispered back as he settled his hips between her thighs. His gaze traced a path over her face as his erection nudged her slick flesh. He ran his hands up her arms, his fingers interlacing with her bound hands and pressing them firmly to the pillow on either side of her head.

She caught her breath as he entered her with one powerful, complete thrust. He stretched her, filling her completely. She lifted her legs, wrapping them around his hips to entice him deeper.

A low growl sounded in his throat, riveting sensation washing over him in waves. He flexed his back and thighs as he drove into her, beginning a relentless rhythm, moving faster, harder. She rocked her hips to meet each thrust until, breathless and panting, she reached the pinnacle of sensation with a sudden, shimmering explosion.

He paused, holding her down and savoring the tight ripples of her climax and the intense liquid heat surrounding him. He slipped the blindfold from her eyes and tossed it aside. When her eyelashes fluttered open, he began to move again, once more building up the exquisite, glorious ache of passion.

Kissing her deeply, Angel buried one large hand in her hair and held her still while his mouth ravished hers; his probing tongue matching the rhythm of his lower body: insistent, demanding.

She arched wildly beneath him as his hands moved down and cupped her bottom, guiding her to him as he indulged his wanton lust for his mate. She met him eagerly, her arousal for him fierce, unrestrained. He made demands of her body and she more than willingly complied. She stifled a scream as yet another earth shattering climax washed over her.

Bonelessly she collapsed into the bed, only to have Angel begin the torturous rhythm anew. His hands roved over her body eagerly, impatiently. He clenched his jaw to stave off his release, burying his face her neck and laving at her rapidly beating pulse.

When she raced wildly toward her next orgasm, Angel hastened to meet her. He gripped her tightly as the tumultuous rapture sent them soaring over the edge together. At that moment, there was no sense of him or her as two, unique beings, no separation of their hearts or their souls. They merged blissfully together as one.

Without reserve, his features shifted and he claimed her. His mate.

Hours later, half dozing in his arms, Buffy murmured softly, “I was thinking… maybe. you want to get married?”

“Hm.” Angel kissed the top of her head and smiled, his eyes still closed. Teasingly, he murmured, “I’d love to but I’m already married.”

“What?” Buffy’s eyes snapped open. Her head came up and she glared at him, her mossy green eyes alight with anger.

“It’s an old Irish custom; rings exchanged followed by consummation.” He wiggled his eyebrows suggestively, the white of his teeth showing in the dim light as he smiled. “It’s as good as married.”

Buffy stared at him in consternation. One brow lifted. “And just who did you do this with? And when?”

“Beautiful blonde. About your size. Let’s see, it was about 8 years ago now.”

“Oh?  Oh!” She snuggled back against his chest. “You are talking about me, right?”

“Yes, love. I’m talking about you.” He kissed her temple and adjusted her in the curve of his arm. “I’ve thought of you as my wife since that night.”

“You never told me.” She ventured softly, her mind drifting back to her birthday so many years ago.

“I know. I should have.” He closed his eyes, resting his cheek on her head. “I’m sorry.”

“You! You encouraged me to – to – you know – with other guys.” Buffy sat up suddenly, her hair in wild disarray. She punched him in the chest with a small fist. “You told me to find someone else even! That’s- that’s . adultery!”

He grunted softly at her half-hearted punched, grabbing her arm and pulling her back down to him. “I made a mistake. I’m sorry.”

He kissed the corner of her mouth and rolled her beneath him, whispering against her ear. “Let me make it up to you.” He began to plant soft kisses along her neck.

Buffy’s smile turned into a laugh as she teased, “You’re going to buy me chocolate? Ooh, and ice cream?”

Looking up at her in the dark, his gaze amused, he laughed.

“What? It’s for the baby.” She settled comfortably back in the pillows, her hands toying with his hair. “He likes chocolate.”

“Or she.”

He. But, in the meantime.” She purred suggestively, tugging on his hair to pull him closer for a kiss. Her leg curled around his and she ran her foot along his calf. “I’ll take something more personal.”

Connor opened the last and bottom drawer of his bureau and began to sort through the contents. The two knit caps and the bandana went into the box that sat on the bed along with a few other pictures and mementos. When he reached the small strip of black and white photos he stopped abruptly and stared.

It was a series of four pictures that he and Cordelia had taken in a photo booth near Venice Beach one afternoon almost two years ago. She was in front of him, her head half blocking his in the first, her face turned to the side toward him in the second, then titled to the side with laughter in the third, and they were kissing in the last. He had believed then that she had loved him.

“Hey.” Buffy knocked on the door, startling him out of his reverie. “So, you about ready to go?”  They had been loading Connor’s things in Angel’s car and Gunn’s truck, preparing for their trip to Sunnydale that night.

Connor jumped almost guiltily and turned to face her. The picture slipped from his fingers and fluttered to the floor, as if in slow motion. He moved to get it but Buffy picked it up before he reached it.

She glanced down at it thoughtfully and searched her mind for something to say. She and Connor had talked a few times since everyone had settled back in the Hyperion, but the conversations hadn’t been about personal topics. Angel had, of course, told her about Connor’s affair with Cordelia but it wasn’t a subject that had been touched upon.

Connor dropped his eyes, afraid of the condemnation that he would see in her face. Instead, he felt her touch him sympathetically on the arm.

“I’m sorry.” Buffy held the strip of pictures out to him and blurted out the first thing that popped into her mind.  “I know what it’s like to have your heart broken.”

Connor’s gaze swung around to Buffy before he again looked away. He shuffled his feet and stuck his hands in his pockets, hunching his shoulders.

“It’s none of my business, I’m sorry.” Buffy said hesitantly, her gaze drifting absently over the sparse contents of the room, most of Connor’s things already packed and ready to move, before returning to his face. “And you don’t know me, so it’s not like we can just talk about this stuff.”

Finally glancing up to look at her, Connor took the offered pictures.

“But if you ever do want to talk.” She said with a small shrug, “I can listen. ‘Cause well, keeping it all bottled up inside?  Not good.” Hastily, she added, “Or if not me, then talk to Angel – your father – he won’t judge you or blame you or anything bad that you might think. He loves you.”

“Thanks.” Connor mumbled awkwardly. He opened his mouth as if to speak and then closed it again. He hadn’t talked about his feelings for Cordelia with anyone, even his father.  Would Buffy understand? “I don’t know-”

“Anything else?” Angel stuck his head in the door then, unintentionally interrupting whatever Connor had been about to say.

“No. This is it.” Connor replied after a moment, picking up the box on the bed with one arm.

He glanced one last time at the strip of pictures in his hand before he tossed it in the trash and followed both Angel and Buffy out the door.

Buffy carried another box from the back of Gunn’s truck and set it along with the other boxes in the back bedroom. She smiled at Connor as he swept past her, carrying a box of her things from the house to car in exchange.

She was leaving her furniture behind for Connor; her other personal effects had been mostly packed up and already loaded into either Gunn’s truck or Angel’s GTX. Buffy grinned as she entered her old bedroom, overhearing Angel’s grumbles about the sheer number of shoes that she owned as he packed yet another box.

“But honey, shoes are-”

“Hello? Buffy?”  Willow called out from the living room, the sound stopping Buffy in mid-sentence.

With a surprised expression on her face, Buffy came out to find not only Willow, but Xander and Anya there as well.

“Hey guys. What a surprise.” Buffy greeted them with an almost sheepish smile. She had thought to call her friends several times over the last few days, but it had never seemed like quite the right time or she couldn’t figure out just what to say. They’d never been particularly supportive of her relationship with Angel, so she wasn’t sure how they would respond to the fact that they were back together again and that she was moving to LA. And if they wouldn’t accept that, then she could only guess how they would take the news that she was pregnant.  It wasn’t as if they been particularly close in the last few years either, which only added to the awkwardness of any type of personal disclosure.

“Were you going to tell us – your friends – that you were moving?”  Xander blurted abruptly, his tone angry and judgmental. “Or were you just going to send us a change of address card later?”

“I was going to call you, I was. Things have just been – well busy.” Buffy began apologetically, her eyes going from Xander’s to Willow’s. She realized now that the spell she had done all those years ago had also separated her emotionally from her friends. She regretted it, but she wasn’t going to take complete responsibility for the rift in their friendship. “Look, things have just been happening so fast.”

“Things, Buff? What things? Oh, it must be another of those things that you didn’t tell us about.” Xander sneered, turning his head to stare at the wall as he played with the brake on his wheelchair. “But why would I have expected anything different? You were never one to consider anyone else first. No, it’s always about you. You-”

“Xander. Remember, I words. I feel worried, I feel bad.” Willow interjected in an attempt to manage the conversation in a more mature and less judgmental fashion.

Xander turned back angrily, “Okay then, Will, I feel that Buffy is again behaving like a selfish bitch – again.”

With a worried expression, Willow looked from Buffy to Xander then back to Buffy again. Almost contritely, she said, “Buffy, we haven’t heard from you in a while and we were getting worried. We were afraid that something, you know, might have happened to you.”

“Yeah, like maybe you got turned or died or something.” Anya added with a casual lift of her shoulders, her hands resting on the back of Xander’s chair.

“Is there a problem here?”  Gunn asked with an edge in his voice as he stopped next to Buffy. He had just walked through the door, one of Connor’s boxes in his hand. He stared at Xander as he set the box on the sofa, having heard the condemnation in the man’s voice as he came up the walk. Connor, following behind Gunn, walked around Buffy to her other side, the two of them flanking her almost protectively.

“Willow?” Gunn questioned with a slow smile as he recognized the red haired wicca from years back when she had come to LA and restored Angel’s soul. “Hey! I didn’t know you were here. Nice to see you.”

“Hi.” Willow smiled with recognition at the familiar faces, her eyes darting back curiously to Buffy. Seeing his friend and his son, she suddenly recalled her last conversation with Buffy a few weeks earlier regarding Angel. Had the Slayer in fact resumed a relationship with the vampire? She opened her mouth to speak, but was interrupted before she even got a word out.

“So, Buff, you going to tell us what’s going on?” Xander demanded, his tone reproving. He completely ignored the fact that Willow seemed to know one of the men, his irrational anger focused solely on the blonde Slayer.

“She got a new boyfriend and she wasn’t even going to tell us.” Anya stated bluntly, her gaze moving from Connor to Gunn with curiosity as she sized them up. She had jumped to that conclusion when she realized that one of them appeared to be moving into Buffy’s condo, the box on the sofa containing men’s clothes.

“A new boyfriend?” Angel walked with casual deliberation into the living room. In his hands he carried a box that was filled to overflowing with shoes. “You replace me already, sweetheart? I said you could keep all the shoes, I just said I didn’t know where we’re going to put them.”

As he set the box down, his eyes came to rest on the brown haired man in the wheelchair. With his vamp senses, he had heard every word, including the insults that Xander had hurled at his mate. Always before he had simply turned the other cheek when the boy had blurted out his insults and childish comments, but no more. He couldn’t care less about anything Xander had to say about him, but his childish barbs would not be allowed to hurt Buffy.

“Dead boy?”  Xander’s mouth dropped open in surprise. He hadn’t expected the vampire to be here, not knowing that the two men in the room were in any way acquaintances of his.

“Oh, so not a new boyfriend.” Anya stated flatly. She shrugged one shoulder dismissively, as if disappointed. “An old boyfriend.”

Feeling the tension in the tall vampire’s body, Buffy reached out and took Angel’s hand. She then introduced Connor and Gunn to Xander and Anya then explained that Connor was moving into her condo since he had been selected to take over as guardian of the Hellmouth. She then added that, yes, she was in fact moving  – to LA with Angel.

“Really?  The Chosen One is replaced and the Hellmouth has a new keeper. That’s convenient.” Xander glared at Angel, but looked away when the tall vampire met his stare easily. “Especially the timing, now that you and dead boy can get pelvic again. Sounds like you’re dumping your responsibility, just like you dumped your friends.”

Buffy shot a hurt glance at Willow, knowing that she must have shared the news about Angel’s soul with the others. She was also a surprised at the degree of anger and bitterness in her friend’s voice.

“Buffy-” Willow began, only to be interrupted by Xander again.

“Course, what else should we have expected?” The young man continued sarcastically, his eyes once more settling on Angel. “We all know you conveniently forget about your duty when it comes to certain things, don’t we? I hope it’s worth it, Buff. Wonder if it’ll last this time?”

Without hesitation, Angel leaned down and put his hands on the arms of Xander’s wheelchair, rolling him closer. His eyes cold, his face only inches away from Buffy’s former high school pal, Angel said in the merest whisper, “Insult me all you like, but don’t let me hear anything that even sounds like an insult coming from your mouth to Buffy again. Now I suggest you apologize.”

Xander hesitated, his eyes flitting left and right. The vampire had never directly challenged him before – at least not with his soul. His eyes widened and he stared into Angel’s face. Did he still have his soul?

“No one here is going to help you. They wouldn’t stop me if I were to snap your puny neck. And yes, I still have my soul.” The vampire murmured silkily, allowing his demon to enjoy the boy’s fear. Angelus was offering encouragement and a few suggestions for handling the situation, all of which ended in Xander’s slow and painful death.

Stepping back with a small shove, Angel swung the boy around to face Buffy again. Casually he leaned an elbow on the fireplace mantle and waited.

“I’m sorry.” Xander muttered quietly after several seconds, his eyes downcast.

“You know, I don’t think that’s really the best that you can do.” Angel rubbed his hands together in front of him, his brows lifted in mild inquiry.

Buffy stared with wide, surprised eyes at Angel. He’d never spoken out to her friends before, always taking their comments quietly as if he deserved any insult or slur that they flung at him.

Willow glanced from Angel to Buffy nervously, uncertain if the tall vampire would carry out his threat and equally uncertain if the Slayer would even attempt to stop him if he did.

“If I were you, I’d come up with something better quick.” Gunn told Xander with a smirk, “Cause, man, you don’t want to see what he did to the last guy that insulted his girl.”

“I don’t think we ever did get all that blood out of the carpet.” Connor added seriously, glancing at Gunn and shaking his head.

“Hey!” Anya objected, shooting everyone in the room a stern look. “There will be no spilling of Xander’s blood here.”

“No, no blood spilling.” Buffy added, smiling at Angel. It felt wonderful to have him speak up for her, to defend her even if she didn’t need it. She was too happy to care if Xander approved of her choices now or not. It would be nice if they could still remain friends, but if not. her life was moving on.

“I’m sorry I haven’t called you guys but I have been busy.” Buffy stepped over to Angel and put her arm around his waist. “And just so you know, we’re getting married in a few weeks. I’ll send you details when we have everything planned. I’d-” She glanced up at Angel briefly, then amended, “We’d love it if you could be there.”

Without a word, Xander jerked his chair around and wheeled himself out the door.

Willow hesitated briefly then stepped forward and hugged her friend. “Congratulations, Buffy. You too Angel.”

“Thanks.” Buffy returned the hug, smiling slightly.

“I love weddings! Will there be cake? And those little favors with Jordan almonds and the little bows with the names on them?”  Anya blurted excitedly, her hands moving in wild animation. “I wanted those, but I couldn’t tie those damn little bows. Besides, Anyanka and Alexander made for really long tails for such tiny bows. Ooh, and they make these really cute tiny champagne glasses.”

“We’ll work on Xander.” The red haired wicca said apologetically, ignoring Anya as the former vengeance demon continued with detailed questions and comments about wedding favors.

Buffy only shrugged. “If he does or doesn’t, it’s his choice, Will. I’m not going to choose his friendship – and I use the term loosely here – over Angel.”

“I understand.” Willow nodded. “We should go find out where he went. Come on, Anya.”

Buffy and Angel stayed in Sunnydale for two more days to help Connor settle in. During the day, Buffy took him around town and showed him all the places that he’d need to know – the bank, the grocery store, the Bronze and the coffee shop, the last two of which she insisted would be important for his socializing as well as patrolling.

At night, the three of them took to the streets of Sunnydale. Soon Connor was familiar with all of the cemeteries and possible demon haunts that Buffy’s former town of residence had to offer.

The following evening, Buffy sat in a chair next to a large desk, her legs crossed beneath her, carefully reading the neatly printed journal that was open on her lap. Seated in the chair behind the desk, Angel reviewed case files and occasionally glanced at Buffy from under his lashes. He was worried about her reaction to the Watcher’s Council’s edicts regarding their first child, nervous about her emotional response to the whole thing and more than a little curious about her reaction to the prophecy that Giles has translated years ago.

A long while later, Buffy closed the book with a sigh. Angel glanced up from the file he was reading at the small sound. Without a word, she climbed into his lap and tucked her face in the curve of his neck.

He simply held her and waited for her to speak.

“I should go see him.” Her eyes blurred with tears. Despite the misunderstandings, the lies, and his betrayal, Buffy still loved her former mentor. He had been more of a father to her than her own father had ever been.

“That’s probably a good idea.” Angel kissed the top of her head, his thoughts wandering to Giles and his ill health. He wondered if the former Watcher had much time left; he’d been so obviously wracked with pain and disease when he had visited LA just after Christmas.

“After the wedding, I’ll go.” Buffy murmured softly, her mind racing through the next few weeks. There was so much to do and what seemed like so little time. She tilted her chin to look up at him. “If that’s okay with you?”

“Of course.” He couldn’t realistically go with her but the thought of her traveling to England alone terrified him. He knew though that she needed to resolve things with Giles and soon. He didn’t want her to carry that regret with her.

They were silent for a long moment, both lost in thought. Buffy toyed absently with the buttons on his shirt while his fingers tangled idly in the silken strands of her hair.

“You think it’s true – the prophecy?” She said in almost a whisper. She shifted on his lap and Angel leaned back, settling more comfortably in the chair. He held a lock of her hair to his lips.

“Nothing is certain. Prophecies can be wrong.” He replied after a moment.

She peeked up at him under the veil of her lashes. “But if it is? True, I mean.”

“If it is-” He paused, thoughtful. He rarely allowed himself to consider the possibility of redemption; it led to seemingly impossible hopes and expectations that might only lead to disappointment or worse. But, for a brief moment, he savored the possibility, letting it wash over him. For a shimmering moment he could see their future. He took a deep unneeded breath. “If it is, it’s more than I had ever dreamed possible.”

A small, impish smile curved her lips. “You’ll have to work hard. I mean, just because I got pregnant so quickly this time doesn’t mean it will happen that way again.”

“True.” He smiled, the seriousness of the moment having passed. Their future was uncertain, but their happiness at being together now was unparalleled in his existence.  He planned to enjoy every second, every minute, every hour. “But then, you’ll see I can be very diligent when it comes to certain. things.”

“Diligent? Really? Is that what you call it?” Her smiled widened to a playful grin. Deliberately she squirmed on his lap, leaning forward to run her tongue along his neck. She nipped at him with her teeth and felt his arousal firm under her bottom.

He stood easily, holding her in his arms. “I’m feeling rather. diligent right now as a matter of fact.”

“Oh?” She wrapped her arms around his neck as he brushed aside the papers and books on the desk and set her on it. Her lips found his neck again and she sucked the cool flesh through her teeth. A low answering growl sounded in his chest and she felt a furious surge of lust through her veins. It was not a new feeling, yet with each day she expected the sheer urgency of her need for him to lessen. Still, it hadn’t shown any signs of diminishing; if anything, she only wanted him more.

“Show me.” She murmured against his skin, her voice husky. Her hands reached for his belt only to be caught and held in one of his, dissuading her for a brief moment.

Leaving her sprawled on his desk, he crossed the room in three quick strides and kicked the door closed. Returning with a devilish smirk on his face, he pulled her into his arms.  “I plan to.”

And for the rest of the afternoon, he did. Most diligently.

Weeks later.

“So he was that bad, huh?” Buffy glanced at her sister in the mirror as she applied the finishing touches to her makeup.

Since her arrival last night, Dawn had ranted continuously on the evils of men after having found out that Todd had been cheating on her for months with not just one woman but two, including Susie, Dawn’s former best friend.

“Worse!”  Dawn flounced to the window and parted the heavy drapes. The sky was cast in an orange glow as the sun slowly sank toward the horizon. The day had been clear and unseasonably warm for April, for which Buffy was grateful. She saw the good weather as a good omen.

“I still can’t believe you’re getting married!”  Dawn wailed and turned back from the window, dropping the heavy curtains closed again.

Buffy smiled indulgently at her sister as she crossed the room to retrieve her dress from the closet. As she reached inside, she found a small, simple pleasure in just seeing her things hanging in the closet next to Angel’s.

“And having a baby!”  The brunette fairly squealed as she flopped down on the bed. If anyone else in the house didn’t already know that Buffy was pregnant, they would certainly know now given the volume of Dawn’s voice. In fact, the neighbors probably knew now as well.

“It is hard to believe.”  Now dressed, the petite blonde stood in front of the mirror, turning from one side to the other to see how evident the small swell of her stomach was going to be under the ivory satin and chiffon of her dress.

“Are you sure it’s the right thing, Buffy?” Dawn rose from her lounging position on the bed and crossed the room, zipping up the back of her sister’s dress.

With a dreamy expression on her face, Buffy smiled. “Definitely.”

She glanced at the framed picture of her and Angel that sat on the nearby dresser. It had been taken at an impromptu celebration that Fred, Gunn and Lorne held at the Hyperion almost two months ago after hearing about the wedding; she was sitting in Angel’s lap, her head turned to the side and a smile on her face while he, also smiling, leaned forward and whispered something in her ear. She would never forget the words of love he had whispered in her ear that night, nor the erotic suggestions – and then events – that followed. She sighed wistfully. “Most definitely the right thing. The most right thing I think that has ever happened in my life.”

“But how did you know, you know, that Angel was the one?” Dawn questioned, her eyes meeting her sister’s in the mirror as Buffy adjusted her veil.

Buffy smiled, thinking of the first time she had seen Angel. She had knocked him flat on his back, sensing him behind her. He had looked up at her with those dark eyes and she was lost. “He’ll walk into your life one day and you’ll know it. With the right guy – the guy – it’s like the lights will dim everywhere else when he’s around. You’ll feel something in your heart and in your soul, some sort of, like, connection. It’s so strong, so powerful and so there that it will make you wonder how you could have mistaken anything else for love before. In your heart, you’ll just know.”

“Well, I’m swearing off men all together.” The slender brunette declared dramatically, causing Willow’s eyebrows to lift as she knocked on the bedroom door. Dawn caught Willow’s bemused expression and hastily added, “But not in a I’m going to like girls kind of way.”

Laughing and shaking her head, Willow only said, “Buffy? We’re going to head over now. We’ll see you later.” With a smile and wave, the red haired girl retreated down the stairs. Without missing a beat, Dawn once more resumed her tirade on men – stopping every so often to add in “except for Angel” for her sister’s sake when detailing what she considered to be the faults of the members of the opposite sex.

Buffy glanced at the clock and breathed a sigh of relief.  It was almost time.

Several strategically placed torches lit up the small roped off section of the beach. An archway decorated in riotous arrangement with deep purple dendrobium orchids, white stargazer lilies, purple larkspur, white snapdragons and lush greenery sat at one end, the abundant beauty of the flowers highlighted by the gradually fading sunset. At the other end, there were several café style tables and chairs, a longer table with a simple buffet style spread, all of which were liberally covered with candle votives and flower petals.  At one end of the buffet table sat a beautifully decorated two-tiered cake.

Angel, dressed impeccably in a black merino wool Armani tuxedo, waited calmly in the limo with Connor, the darkened windows protecting him from the vanishing rays of sunlight until the ceremony was scheduled to begin, just after sundown.

“So, um.” Connor stammered awkwardly, tugging at his tie. “How do you know, you know, that this is… um, it?”

Angel’s gaze swung around to his son, seated next to him. “It?”

“Um, yeah, you know… love.” Shifting on the seat, Connor toyed with the door hiding the bottles of alcohol in the small cubby on the side of the car. He lifted one, took a sniff and twisted his features into a frown. He put it back and picked up the next one. “And not just… I don’t know. Something else.”

Thoughtfully, Angel studied Connor’s face. They had talked almost every day since Connor had moved to Sunnydale and Angel had been to visit several times, most with Buffy in tow, but they had never directly addressed the subject of Cordelia. He knew they should have, but they hadn’t and now certainly would not have been the time he would have chosen, but he supposed that couldn’t be helped.

“I mean, how did you know that Buffy was like, the one?” Connor added, a touch of bitterness in his voice. He closed the small door, once again hiding the crystal liquor bottles from view. “And not just, you know, like all the rest of them?”

“Them?” Angel inquired with a faint smile. He knew that Connor had been dating, he’d seen him while lurking around Sunnydale to check up on his offspring. Afterward, he had awkwardly broached the topic of ‘safe sex’ only to have Connor abruptly show him a condom package, which effectively ended the discussion – much to the relief of both of them.

Determined to get over Cordelia, Connor had thrown himself into the dating scene in Sunnydale. His choices, unfortunately, had not been particularly good ones. Sheila, whom he had dated for a few weeks, dumped him cruelly for another man who was what she termed, a ‘better prospect’; he would be able to buy her the things that she wanted and deserved. Karen followed, a vivacious blonde that was attending UC Sunnydale and studying to become a nurse. After only three dates, she became a neurotic, clinging vine that went into a jealous rant when he spent any unaccounted for moment away from her. Then there was the beautiful Dominique. Connor had been head over heels in love with the blue-eyed, titan-haired girl the minute she had bumped into him outside of the Bronze. He had thought she was the one. That is, until he introduced her to his father. Dominique made a pass at Angel the second Connor stepped out of the room. She was lucky that it was one of the few occasions that Buffy stayed in LA, otherwise it could have been an even uglier scene than it had been. As he found out later, Dominique had never been one for an exclusive relationship. Since their breakup, Connor had only less than positive things to say about members of the opposite sex.

“Like all the other women that say one thing and mean another. Or only want a guy that can buy them things or do things for them.” The young man muttered cynically, leaning back heavily in his seat. “Or say they care when they really don’t.”

“I’m not the best person to give advice about love, Connor,” Angel brushed a few stray gray cat hairs off his sleeve with a grimace. Even though she was rarely in the house, Chloe’s hair still somehow managed to show up on everything he owned. He glanced briefly out the darkened window, attempting to gather his thoughts.

“But you’ve been with a lot of women.”

A little chagrined, Angel lifted his eyebrows as he turned back to look at his son. He shrugged slightly, dismissively, before he spoke. “Not all women are like Dominique or Karen or even Cordelia.”

Connor’s gaze swung back to his father’s.

“You can believe yourself to be in love with someone for a lot of reasons. Maybe it’s simply because they’re beautiful. Maybe they make you feel special somehow. Or, maybe they just make you feel.”

Angel leaned forward slightly, resting his elbow on his knee.

“Then one day they break your heart. Maybe you find out that maybe they didn’t really feel the same way about you as you felt for them. They lied or they cheated. Maybe there were a thousand little betrayals that made you feel like you deserved to be treated that way. They were never honest with you, not completely, so you never knew the truth about them or about how they felt. You never saw their real face. Eventually you realize that you didn’t really love them at all. You couldn’t have, you never even knew who they really were.”

Connor dropped his eyes and stared at the seat in front of them. After a brief paused, he glanced back at his father. “So then how do you know the difference – between that and something real?”

Angel glanced toward the window again, the last rays of sunshine now having disappeared from the sky. How could he adequately describe his feelings for Buffy so that Connor would understand?

“Love – real love – isn’t just the pretty stuff that you see in movies or on TV. It can be at times, but it’s more than that.”  Turning back to face his son, Angel smiled. His thoughts drifted back to the very first time he had seen Buffy, sitting on the steps of Hemery. “One day you’ll walk into someone special’s life and you’ll know. You’ll know because you’ll see her heart. You’ll feel a connection to her, something that tugs at you deep in your soul. After that you’ll wonder how you could have even thought anything else you had ever known or felt was love, because at that moment, you just know.

Connor opened the door and stepped out of the limo as Angel stepped out the other side.

“Well, it doesn’t matter because I’m giving up women all together.” Connor declared firmly after almost a minute of consideration. He walked around the car to stand next to his father. Hearing Connor’s comments, Lorne’s eyebrows lifted as he strolled up to greet them. Connor caught The Host’s bemused expression and added hastily, “But not in a I’m going to be gay kind of way.”

Lorne chuckled and shook his head, a smile crossing his face. He brushed the shoulder of Angel’s jacket, frowning at the gray cat hairs. “Nervous yet, Angel-cakes? Everyone is here now I think, we just need a bride.”

“I’m ready.”  Patting his pocket to ensure he still had the ring, Angel reluctantly turned it over to Connor for safekeeping. Behind them, the limo pulled away from the curb, the driver in route to pick up Buffy.

Following his father toward the beach, Connor began detailing the reasons why he was giving up women in the immediate future, listing what he considered to be their faults. It was unclear whether he was trying to justify his decision to himself or to Angel, but every so often he would add in “except for Buffy” for his father’s sake.

Angel sighed, only half listening to his son’s whispered litany. He could offer more advice, but this was obviously something Connor was going to have to figure out for himself.

A few minutes later, the two of them stood next to the priest and in front of their small group of friends, waiting as the returning limo stopped once again at the curb.

“Who’s that?” Connor whispered to his father with a touch of awe in his voice as Dawn, in a beautiful lavender chiffon dress cut in a similar style to Buffy’s, made her way from the car down the short aisle to where the men stood next to the archway.

The young brunette stared at Connor curiously, a flirtatious smile curving her lips. With her eyes still locked with Connor’s, she turned too soon and tripped over the first row of chairs, stumbling ungracefully. She recovered her footing without falling, but blushed furiously as she took her place. A few muffled chuckles were heard in the audience, increasing Dawn’s embarrassment.

Angel replied to Connor’s question in a whisper, his lips quirking into a smile. His son’s decision to give up on the opposite sex had lasted about twenty minutes.

The three-piece orchestra then began playing Pachebel’s Canon in D, announcing the arrival of the bride. Buffy, with her hand on Nikkos’ arm, now stood at the edge of the small group of chairs and waited.

When Angel turned dark assessing eyes to his bride and smiled, it was plain to see that he adored her and she him. She returned his welcoming and intimate smile with one of her own and for that one evanescent moment if was if it were only the two of them, alone on the candlelit beach.

Buffy wore a beautiful ivory satin and chiffon off-the-shoulder gown with a scoop neck and cap sleeves. The slight flare of the A-line dress hid the gently rounded swell of her belly that was just beginning to show.  Sizeable pear-shaped diamonds – a gift from her bridegroom – hung from her ears and sparkled in the candlelight.  A delicate halo in antique silver encircled the rich golden curls of her upswept style, the dainty rhinestone and pearl accents of the filigree design seeming to twinkle with each movement of her head. The attached seed-pearl edged veil fluttered behind her in the light breeze.  In her hand, she held a small nosegay of lavender roses, white tulips, and fragrant white and lavender freesia.

Incongruous to the elaborate dress was, perhaps, the bare feet that peeked out from beneath the hem. After serious consideration, Buffy discarded her high heel sandals for fear she would twist her ankle in the sand.

With a big smile, Nikkos gave the bride away to her groom then joined a sniffling Mona and Lorne in the first row of seats.

The ceremony was intimate and brief, the priest intoning the appropriate words as they pledged their hearts and their lives to each other.  Buffy’s lip quivered emotionally when Angel slipped the platinum Claddagh ring on her finger, to which Angel responded by pulling his bride closer and gently kissing her. The priest smiled patiently at the show of affection and offered a teasing comment about not being to that part of the service yet which brought a chuckle from the small audience. He then resumed the ceremony, a blushing Buffy slipping a matching Claddagh ring on Angel’s finger.

The reception that followed on the beach was informal and fun, the newlyweds mingling with their friends in a rare gathering of everyone in one place. Buffy grinned at Dawn’s unsubtle attempts to sneak peeks at Connor and so, taking pity on her sister, introduced them. Every so often Dawn’s laughter would ring out from the corner table where the two of them had been sitting and talking since.

Gunn, Nikkos and Lorne drew Angel aside and teased him good-naturedly about the demands of marriage as Nikkos drew out a bottle containing a very rare vintage brandy. They shared the bottle amid toasts to the couple’s happiness.

Angel watched Buffy across the small expanse of the beach as she chatted with her old friends from Sunnydale; his gaze lingering on her warmly, possessively. Feeling his gaze on her, Buffy met his eyes briefly and was immediately assailed with all of those familiar feelings he so easily evoked in her: the subtle anxious tension, that heightening of her senses and the accompanying immediate spark of desire. It was perhaps unseemly for a three and a half months pregnant woman, not to mention all the time they had already spent together, yet the thrill was still there, the sudden breathlessness, the ache of need, the wonder of love. She wondered if the feeling would ever fade.

Xander repeating her name insistently drew her attention back to him and she smiled at him absently.

“Congratulations, Buff. Really. I mean it.” He took her hand in his and squeezed it, drawing her full attention to him for the first time. “I know this is something that you always wanted. You and Dead boy-”

Anya kicked his wheelchair less than subtly with her foot and looked down at him with lifted eyebrows.

“Angel. You and Angel have been through a lot. You’ve waited for this a long time.” Xander glanced up at her briefly, nervously wringing his hands. His eyes darted away to the darkness of the ocean then back again to Buffy. “I know you love him and- and well, he’d be a complete idiot to not love you in return. I hope you’ll be happy with him.”

Clearing her throat loudly, the former vengeance demon stared into her husband’s eyes with an exaggerated the lift of her brows. She then smiled innocently at Buffy.

With a heavy sigh, Xander muttered, “And I’m- I’m- sorry that I’ve been such an ass.”

“See that wasn’t that hard.” Anya smiled proudly and patted Xander on the shoulder. Jessie returned from the buffet with a small plate of food and Anya’s attention shifted immediately. “Are there any more of those shrimp things? I like those. It was worth the drive here just for that.”

“Thanks, Xand. It means a lot that you guys all came.” Buffy leaned down and kissed Xander on the cheek as Anya, still babbling on, walked away. Life was much too good for the diminutive Slayer to feel it necessary to hold a grudge.

“The wedding was really beautiful, Buffy.” Willow added with a smile. She and Buffy had talked last night and earlier that day and so Willow was hopeful that at least some semblance of their former friendship could be salvaged. They’d all grown up a lot in the last few years; they admitted that they had all made mistakes, had taken each other for granted or made assumptions that had caused their friendship to deteriorate.

“And Angel looks super hot in his tux.”  Anya piped in, returning with a plate of food that she offered to share with Xander. “What? He does.” She added when her husband shot her an annoyed look.

“Yes, he does.” Buffy replied with a wistful sigh as she glanced back at her new husband. Husband. It was almost unreal to think of him in those terms. His head was turned away from her just then as he listened earnestly to something Nikkos was saying.

A short while later, a pair of strong arms encircled her waist. She sighed, leaning her head back against the hard chest behind her and glancing out into the darkness of the ocean. One hand splayed over her midriff, holding her against him. Her friends suddenly found the buffet table interesting and drifted away, leaving the newlyweds alone.

“Missed you last night.”  He whispered softly against her ear. “And today.”

Angel had spent the previous night and day at the Hyperion with the men, while the women had stayed at the beach house, Mona insistent that Angel not see his bride before the wedding.

“Mmm… me too.” She purred in reply, closing her eyes and savoring the moment. She’d discovered that she had easily become used to having a large, cool body in bed next to her. Without him, she hadn’t been able to sleep.

“Kiss me.” He murmured, loosening his hold so she could turn in his arms.

Her lips curved into a smile as she gazed up at him. She titled her head back and her eyes closed in anticipation of his kiss.

Lowering his lips to hers, Angel brushed her mouth with a kiss. His arms surrounded her, pulling her closer as the kiss gradually deepened. Buffy’s hands slid up the hard planes of his chest to his face, framing his jaw. She slipped her tongue between his parted lips to tangle caressingly with his. He tasted wonderful, like fresh mint with a hint of cinnamon and something else indescribable, but something elementally male and powerful. Slanting her head, she pressed closer.


Buffy’s lips clung to Angel’s for a moment longer as he reluctantly drew back. He pressed his forehead to hers for a brief second, their eyes meeting before they turned to look over at the source of the sound.

Mona stood just to the left, a smile playing on her lips. Her teasing expression and lively blue eyes suddenly sparked a memory. Angel and Buffy both blinked at the strange sense of déjà vu.

“Time to cut the cake, kids.”  The sultry redhead’s smile widened to a grinned. She whirled around and began walk back toward the others. With a devious expression on her face, she casually remarked, ” So, Angel?  You, of course, packed up a few of your demon’s naughty little purchases for the honeymoon, I hope?”

Angel’s head came up with a jerk and he stopped short, a touch of embarrassment marking his features. Buffy flushed and a small embarrassed chuckle escaped her lips.

“And do make sure you take some vegetable oil.” Glancing back over her shoulder Mona casually remarked, “It’s the only way to remove that liquid latex if it gets in your hair.”

As they all walked over to where the others stood near the cake, Mona continued her casual teasing ramble, “I have to say, you do have excellent taste. That commissioned jewelry really is exquisite.”

Her gaze swung back to the newlyweds playfully, “I’ve hinted that Nikkos buy me something similar, but perhaps with dark blue sapphires.  Blood red rubies hold more appeal for . certain of us.” She winked mischievously.  “Maybe you could let him know if it was. um. worth it. You know, give him that little nod of encouragement.”

His discomfiture slipping away, Angel glanced down at his bride with a wicked gleam in his eye. A slow smile curved his lips, “Oh, it was definitely worth it. You can tell him that I highly recommend it.”

Buffy’s cheeks turned even pinker under his heated gaze, but she laughed. Unable to resist, his arm curved around her and he drew her close for a kiss.

Mona sighed dreamily; they were just too damned cute together. This was exactly how it should be.

Not long after they cut their cake and posed for a few more pictures, Angel determined that it was time for them to slip away. He captured Buffy’s hand in his and tugged her along behind him, stopping after only a few steps to sweep her into his arms to speed their progress.

They waved goodbye to their guests as the limo pulled away; the newlyweds were off to spend a few days in blissful solitude in one of the private bungalows at Chateau Marmont. The cottage Angel selected was romantic and cozy, surrounded by lush garden landscaping. With a private entrance and driveway on one side and a hillside on the other, it also guaranteed them their privacy.

Buffy gave Angel a surprised smile as they exited the limo and made their way inside. She had no idea he had arranged this; she had been more than happy with the idea that they would simply be spending their first few days as husband and wife at their beach house.

“How… when.” Buffy stammered, turning to face Angel as he stood behind her just inside the door.

“I couldn’t take you on the kind of honeymoon you deserve, but I wanted to do something to make tonight special.” With his hand on the small of her back, he guided her down the hallway.

When she reached the bedroom door, she stood arrested, her breath held as she gazed at the array of twinkling candles. Colored votives lined the windowsills and were clustered in arrays on the top of the night tables and armoire, illuminating the room in jewel like splendor. The delicate fragrance of rose filled the air, a large vase of the deep red flowers prominently displayed on the bureau near the door.

“And maybe I made a few small requests when I made the reservations.” Taking her hand, he lifted it to his lips.

“It’s beautiful. So romantic.” She smiled up at him, thinking about all of the small things he often did that were so special, so caring and romantic. “And very special. But then I only need you for that.”  She reached up to untie his tie and he watched her intently. The ivory satin of her wedding gown shimmered in the golden glow of the candlelight, the pearls and jewels on her dress and in her hair sparkling as she moved.

In the hushed silence, he drew her into his arms and gently kissed her. She swayed into him, the kiss turning into one of barely restrained hunger.  Her lips were parted beneath his, her tongue luring his into her mouth. Stretching up on her toes, she molded against him as his palms slid down her back.

Breaking off the kiss to take a breath, Buffy eased back slightly and began to unfasten the buttons on his vest. She eased his jacket down his shoulders and arms, tossing it on the nearby chair. He shrugged out of the vest and laid it on top of his coat.

“I love you.” She breathed softly as their eyes met and held. There was magic in the air tonight, surrounding them. It was ridiculous perhaps, since they had been together countless times before, yet the feeling persisted. With her fingertips she traced the slant of his eyebrow, the line of his jaw. When she reached his lips, he caught her hand with his and kissed her fingers.

“You’re my life.” He murmured in reply, his voice heated and low. “I love you very much.”

Carefully he removed her veil and the pins from her hair, running his fingers gently through the golden tresses. Buffy stood completely still, her eyes half-closed as he planted soft butterfly kisses on her lips and cheeks, on her temples and her earlobes, on the warm pulse of her throat then his mouth drifted lower, following the neckline of her dress. With a gentle nudge, he encouraged her to turn away from him. Gathering her hair in his hand, he lifted it away and continued his delicate kisses along the nape of her neck, causing goose bumps to rise along her shoulders and down her arms.

He unbuttoned the tiny row of buttons along the back of her dress, the expensive fabric sliding down to pool at her feet. His hands moved slowly, lingeringly from her shoulders down her arms. His fingers laced with hers and he kissed the curve of her shoulder tenderly.

Now clad only in a tiny lace bra and panties, ivory to match her gown, Buffy stepped out of her dress as Angel picked it up and laid it carefully on the chair with his coat.  She removed the rest of her clothing with slow, leisurely movements as he watched with dark sensual eyes.

With a seductive, graceful walk she moved to him, her hands reaching for the buttons of his shirt. The hard strength of his body excited her, her skin grew flushed and heated, her nipples hardened. Between intoxicating kisses and lingering caresses, she undressed him, taking her time to explore his body with hot, wanting eyes, eager hands and soft lips.

Impatiently he lifted her in his arms and carried her to the bed. His palm slid up her rib cage to her cup her breast as he followed her down on the wide expanse of the bed. His fingers splayed over the ripe mound then squeezed gently.

“Beautiful.” He murmured softly before his lips descended once more on hers. Her mouth opened under the pressure of his lips and he slipped his tongue into her mouth. His hands continued to rove over her, enjoying the feel of her skin so smooth and soft and warm.  Buffy sighed softly into his mouth, a small sound of pleasure.

Pushing lightly at his shoulder, she rolled him on his back. Following him over, she straddled his hips. She glanced down at him through half-closed eyes, her hands gliding over the wide expanse of his shoulders. Leaning down she kissed him with lazy, warm seduction. She whispered soft words of love against his lips, her mouth sliding along his jaw to his ear where her words became shockingly erotic. Kissing a path along his throat, she continued her tantalizing whispers. Crushing her breasts against the firm muscles of his chest, she bit his neck, leaving crescent teeth marks in his pale flesh.

A soft sound, almost a growl, escaped his lips and he adjusted her to sit more directly on his now painfully hard erection. His hands roved over her hips, her thighs, and her bottom possessively, rocking her gently, encouraging her small undulating movements.

The hard tips of her breasts felt oversensitized as she slid them up the cool skin of his chest to tease his lips with the taut pink crests. Cupping her hand around one breast she guided it to his mouth. Her eyes closed as he licked and gently bit, then sucked her areola into his hungry mouth. The heated flame of desire moved with rapid rushing speed from her breasts to her belly and lower.

Sliding back down, she returning her lips to his, her tongue probing his mouth as she rocked her hips in teasing seduction against him, brushing his swollen erection with the lightest touch of her mons.

She wanted him to possess her, utterly, totally. She wanted him deep inside her body.

As if he understood her need, he changed their position rolling her beneath him. Her eyes opened briefly to meet his before he trailed kisses from the corner of her mouth to her ear, tasting her earlobe with his tongue. She arched her neck, surrendering herself fully as his open mouth moved down her neck to suck at the pulse beat in her throat. She could feel his arousal against her thigh, hard and blatant. Her need for him rose with shimmering impatience and she clutched at his shoulders, her fingers gripping tightly.

He brushed his fingers lightly between her legs and Buffy’s breath hitched. She was almost surprised to feel the light touch so intensely, yet he always seemed to know how and where to touch her. and how deeply.  A soft moan escaped her lips and she arched into his hand. His long fingers slipped inside, preparing her for his invasion.

He moved over her and entered her in one smooth stroke as her arms curved around his neck, her fingers sinking into the thick mass of his hair. Overwhelming sensation washed over her as the welcome weight of his body settled on her. The strength and power of his body surrounded her, filling her completely as he moved with steady gliding strokes. The hushed silence of the room was broken only by her panting breaths and soft whimpering moans.

The muscles in Angel’s back, legs, and arms flexed and contracted, sustaining his slow measured progress. He withdrew, paused for a brief suspended moment then slid back in with infinite slowness, savoring the building tide of passion. He was in no hurry, enjoying each wave of exquisite pleasure, gliding in and out with tantalizing slowness. She was so hot, so wet and so tight around him, he released a low hiss of satisfaction.

Uttering a breathy sigh of pleasure, Buffy clung to him, arching her back and pressing closer. Her knees bent and clasped his hips.

“I love you.” Angel whispered into her tangled hair, crushing her to him. His arms were now wrapped tightly around her slender back, crushing her breasts to his chest as the driving penetration of his hips continued.

Buffy matched his need and desire, clinging fiercely to him with intemperate need. Her lips searched for his and she kissed him wantonly, feverishly as she ran her hands over his back. She reveled in the hard, muscular frame pressed so tightly to hers, so intimately entwined with her in the age-old dance of love.

“Now. Angel. please.” She panted in his ear, straining against him impatiently.

Moments later, a soft keening cry of rapture escaped her lips as he brought them to the peak of ecstasy, holding her tightly as he poured his own impassioned release into her welcoming body.

With tenderness and love, and later with urgency and fevered hunger, they celebrated their marriage and their love.  Some hours later when most of the candles had died out, they drowsed in each other’s arms, sated.

Buffy, curled against Angel, her head resting on his shoulder, whispered with something akin to awe, “I never thought I would have this you know. Us, together. And married.” She held out her hand, looking at the Claddagh ring encircling her finger. “It’s unreal.”

“It’s real.” Angel whispered in reply, kissing her forehead gently.

“I just never thought.I’m so happy, Angel.” She murmured, closing her eyes as she drifted off to sleep. With a content smile she snuggled closer, her hair draped over his arm, the warmth of her breath on his chest. Sighing softly, she finished, “I love you.”

In her sleep she clutched him closer.

“I’m here.” He whisperingly reassured her, gently kissing her head once again.

Content, they slept.

Buffy shivered and drew her coat around her tightly. The morning was damp and cold, even for an English morning in June. She stared almost blankly at the flower-laden casket as the minister’s words rolled over her, only half invading her consciousness.

She only had five days.

She had arrived in London only eight days ago. A driver, arranged courtesy of her husband, had met her at the airport and whisked her to the small cottage just outside of the bustling city where Olivia and Giles lived.

She had knocked on their door with a small amount of trepidation. It had been years since she and her former mentor had exchanged more than brief pleasantries. She hadn’t even told him that she was coming.

Olivia greeted her warmly and escorted her to the study in the back of the house. Giles spent a good bit of his time still holed up with his books, reading, studying, and even translating ancient manuscripts. Some old habits never really died, did they? Not like people.

Buffy choked back a sob, her eyes watering with tears. She closed them tightly and wished again that Angel were there with her. Now more than ever she wanted his strength, his comfort.

Giles had been speechless when he had looked up to see her standing in the doorway. Then he smiled and his eyes clouded with tears. She stifled her initial shock at seeing the formerly healthy man reduced to almost a shell of his former self. He seemed so very frail that she hugged him carefully, afraid that she could easily and unintentionally hurt him.

They had sat on the grass in the yard behind the house that afternoon and had talked only of superficial things, both of them nervous and somewhat hesitant to broach the more difficult topics right off the bat. She told him about Dawn at college, about Willow and Xander and Jessie – even though he already knew about them thanks to the occasional letter from Willow.

The minister’s voice changed cadence as he chanted something in Latin and Buffy’s attention returned to him and then to the mass of white lilies that adorned the casket containing her former Watcher and mentor. Over the years he had become so much more to her. He had been more of a father to her than her own father had ever been. She couldn’t believe he was gone.

The next morning over tea and biscuits, she had shown him pictures from the wedding. When Giles sighed wistfully that he wished he had been there, Buffy dabbed at the tears in her eyes. She wished he could have been there too.

That day they had talked in carefully worded phrases about Angel, tending to stay more on the topic of recent events. As they took a short walk across the field near the cottage, she told him proudly about the coming baby and Angel’s endearing over protectiveness. Even wracked with pain he had smiled at her obvious bubbling happiness. He’d been reticent to mention the now noticeable bulge of her stomach, although Olivia laughingly insisted later that Buffy wouldn’t have minded a bit. She proudly discussed the growth of her baby.

Olivia stepped forward and tearfully put a small bouquet of red and white roses atop the casket. She held a hand to her mouth and stifled a sob.

Giles had taken to his bed the next day, the pain unmanageable even with the heavy doses of medication – both prescribed and magically self-prescribed – that he imbibed. The next day he emerged, stronger and refreshed as if he only needed rest.  That day he initiated the conversation about Angel’s soul. He told her everything; he told her about the change in the curse and his own selfish betrayal that kept it from her and from Angel all these years. They had both cried that day.

The former Watcher clearly did not expect her forgiveness, nor, he said, did he deserve it.  Buffy hugged him tightly and told him that she forgave him anyway. The words that he had said to her once, still echoed clearly in her mind, “To forgive is an act of compassion, Buffy.  It’s, it’s not done because people deserve it. It’s done because they need it.”

Unmoving, Buffy watched at they began to lower the casket into the ground. The people around her talked quietly, some sobbed, while others began to drift away. She had no idea who most of them were or how they even knew Giles. It was clear though from the sheer number of people that had turned out, that he had been loved and respected.

There was no doubt that Buffy regretted the choices that had been made, but she forgave him and she told him so. Everyone makes mistakes; it was all part of being human.

The next day it was as if any lingering tension had been lifted. They talked about Spike, his soul and ultimately his demise without judgment or guilt. She told him about the various demons she had encountered in recent years, the activity on the Hellmouth and Connor’s new role as guardian. Later that evening Giles excitedly shared with her his latest project: the translation of yet another set of ancient documents that appeared to detail the origins of vampires – and if he were not mistaken, Slayers as well.

Giles had died just before dawn the next morning.

They had five days to cover almost as many years of distance, although realistically their relationship had suffered even years prior to that.  Now, three days later, she watched as he was buried.

Olivia stopped beside her. They were alone now, the sky turning gray as the day faded into evening.

“It meant the world to him that you came and that you forgave him. He had been consumed by guilt and self-recrimination for what he had done. He was deeply sorry.”

“I know.” Buffy murmured in reply. It was unreal that she would never see him again, never talk to him, never get his advice or opinion on anything. She hadn’t in years, of course, but knowing that she could have was very different than him being gone for good.

“He loved you as if you were his own daughter, you know.” Olivia said, dabbing at her eyes with a tissue.

“I loved him too.”  Buffy replied on a broken breath, a wave of sadness washing over her.

“He can rest in peace now.”

They stayed at the cemetery a while longer before they made the walk back to the now strangely empty cottage.

Gunn shook his head and smiled as Angel paced restlessly around the lobby for what had to be the fifth time in the last half hour. The vampire would stop every so often to fidget with case files or other items that sat on the counter, then he would sit down at his desk as if to work, which resulted in the opening and closing of a file or two, then a book and maybe a desk drawer, then he would check the clock on the desk and see that only five minutes had elapsed, after which he would make an impatient sound then rise and pace to the door and start the loop over again.

Buffy had been gone over three weeks and every day the vampire grew edgier and more restless, even though Gunn knew for a fact that Angel talked to his wife each and every day. Today was probably the worst day yet, with Buffy’s flight due back at just after four in the afternoon. Unable to sleep during the day as he usually did, Angel had been prowling around the Hyperion since around ten a.m.

When Buffy left for London, she had planned to stay only a week in order to make her peace with Giles. After Giles’ death, Buffy changed her plans and stayed for a while to mourn her former mentor with his widow and help her to clear his things. Several boxes of ancient texts and manuscripts had arrived at the Hyperion yesterday; things that had belonged to Giles that Olivia insisted they have.

It was almost six o’clock before the bright yellow taxi stopped outside the Hyperion. Pacing like a caged animal behind the door, Angel watched as the driver walked around to the trunk and began unloading bags. Buffy’s blond hair gleamed in the sunlight as she exited the car to pay him.

Angel growled in frustration, unable to go even the few feet out the door to greet her. Gunn, knowing the vampire’s dilemma, went out to carry in Buffy’s bags.

Just as she stepped through the door, she was swept up in a pair of strong arms.  Angel hugged her tightly then held her at arms length, gazing at her intently as though assessing her appearance.

“What’s wrong?” Buffy smiled and held her hand up to her hair. “Funny plane hair?”

He shook his head, his eyes now riveted on her stomach. The baby had grown noticeably in the three weeks she had been gone. Noticeably, at least, to someone who had measured such a thing with a careful touch every day prior to her departure for London.

“You’ve forgotten in three weeks what I look like?”  She asked, glancing up at his face.

Another small shake of his head.  He attempted to squash the lusty thoughts that he wasn’t at all sure he should be having right now. The weeks of abstinence had only enhanced his usually strong desire for her.

“Oh.” She small sound escaped her lips and she smiled playfully. She realized then the direction of his thoughts. She slid her hands up his chest over his shoulders to twine around his neck. She toyed with the soft strands of his hair that curled at his nape.

“You haven’t even kissed me yet.” She pouted with a small moue, her eyes locked with his.

He kissed her then, thoroughly and completely, in full view of Fred and Gunn and a new client that had wandered through the door only minutes ago.

“Now.” She purred, nipping at his ear, “Take me upstairs and make love to me.”

“I missed you.” Buffy said a few minutes later as he set her on her feet in their bedroom. She tilted her head to give him better access to her neck as he licked delicately at her throbbing pulse.

Her dress pooled at her feet as Angel pushed it off her shoulders, her other clothing following as he undressed her with smooth, impatient motions. Pulling her back against his chest, he ran his hands lightly over her bare stomach.  Leaning her head back against him, Buffy closed her eyes. Reaching up, she wrapped her arms around his neck and wiggled against the hard length of his erection now pressing into her behind.

“You were gone?” He questioned teasingly as one large hand drifted upward to cup her breast, his thumb lazily drawing circles around her silk covered nipple. He nipped at her neck again, tampering back his hunger for her.

“Hey!” Buffy rolled in his arms to face him. “You missed me. Admit it.” She began unbuttoning his shirt with deft fingers.

“I did.” He whispered against her lips as he pulled her closer for a kiss. Buffy sighed and leaned into him, opening her mouth as his tongue gently traced her lips before probing inside. Slanting her head, she invited his tongue deeper into her mouth, sucking it softly.  Twining her arms around his neck again, she stretched upward fitting her nearly nude body against him, delighting in the feel of his bare chest against the now aching tips of her breasts.

Breaking the kiss, she sighed against his lips, “I want you.” She tugged on his belt, pulling him toward the bed. She lay down and watched as Angel undressed, licking her lips unconsciously at the sight of his sexy, half-naked body. She held out her arms to him, feeling a surge of unassuaged lust streak through her body. Three weeks without him, without this had been much too long.

Moving toward the bed, Angel gently lifted her foot, kissing her toes and biting the pads gently. His hand slid upward, along her calves caressing and massaging gently. His lips followed his hands, leaving a trail of kisses along her lower legs. Slowly he inched upward, stroking her thighs and parting her legs.  His lips and tongue followed his hands, kissing and licking a slow, wet path up her thighs.

Buffy stirred restlessly on the bed, her hips rising in invitation to him as his hands and mouth drew closer to her wet sex.

“Let me show you how much I missed you.”  His fingers lightly traced her pouty folds, sliding easily through the lush profusion of wetness.

“Oooohh, yess.” Buffy moaned as his tongue swept over the taut nub of her clit, lapped softly and withdrew.  She whimpered softly, lifting her hips and arching toward him.

“That’s my girl.” He licked her again, slowly, leisurely as if savoring her taste.

Buffy let out a soft exhalation of breath along with a whine, “An-gell.”

Using his fingers, his lips and his tongue he explored her plump luscious folds, moving at a leisurely pace intended to prolong the exquisite sensations. With his thumb, he applied pressure to the sensitive nub of her clit, rubbing it firmly before sucking it into his mouth.

At the first tugging pressure, Buffy felt her orgasm begin, the sensations exploding within her. She keened softly then collapsed back on the bed, panting heavily.

Buffy stirred, opening her eyes as she felt Angel’s lips gently pressing kisses to the rounded curve of her stomach. He smiled up at her and crawled up her body.

Her breasts were noticeably fuller now with her pregnancy. He cupped them in his large palms, stroking gently before leaning down to lick tenderly at the hard tips of her nipples.

Buffy moaned softly and tugged at his hair, wanting the firm, sucking pressure of his mouth on the sensitive tips instead of the gentle licks. Instead, he continued a path upward with his lips, kissing the curve of her shoulder, the scar on her neck. Settling between her legs, he eased inside her gently, as if she might break.  Supporting his weight on his elbows and knees, he began to move slowly, tenderly. Her erect nipples teased the hardness of his chest, her breasts moving against him as she stroked his back.

Angel moved with cautious, gentle motions, murmuring love words softly against her ear as he withdrew. Unfamiliar with making love during pregnancy, he was reluctant to drive into her as his body feverishly demanded.

“More, baby.” Buffy whispered huskily, rocking her hips insistently against his and attempting to force the pace. “Harder.”

“The baby,” he whispered, the prospect of fatherhood much more prominent in his mind with the rounded curve of her stomach, the increased size of her breasts. His unease with the nuances of making love was natural. His familiarity with pregnant women was limited.

“I’m fine.” She insisted.

“You’re sure?” He hands drifted over her gently, carefully.

“Yes.” She replied impatiently, pushing him off and rolling to her knees. She glanced over her shoulder at him, her voice a husky whisper. “And I’ll be much better soon if you do what I know you know how to do best.”

At his hesitation, she parted her legs further and reminded him in a seductive murmur that she wasn’t fragile; she was healthy, young and much too aroused to be treated with such gentleness.

His chest was cool against her back as he eased slowly inside her, gentle still despite her reassurances. She moved back anxiously into the solid hard wall of his body, her desire overwrought from the weeks apart. She sighed blissfully as he filled her a few more inches.

When he moved away she whimpered in protest only to release another breathy sigh as he slid inside her again, this time with slightly more force. Reaching under her, he cupped her breasts in his hands and pulled her closer.

Her hips moving with impatient demand, Buffy reached between her legs to feel the velvety hard shaft moving in and out of her body, her fingers alternately teasing him and her own swollen flesh.

Angel felt himself lengthen at her touch. After a few more fevered strokes, he gripped her hips tightly and held himself motionless as he swelled inside her, his climax washing over him with savage ferocity.

Her breath ragged, Buffy moved feverishly beneath him as one hand slid from her breasts to the taut swollen nub of her clit. He massaged her expertly.

Buffy released a soft keening cry of contentment as he gathered her close.

She was home. They were together. Paradise had returned.

Whenever possible that summer, Buffy and Angel snuck away to the sanctuary of their beach house, the place that they had both begun to think of as home. When they weren’t working on cases, they took long walks along the beach after sunset, they read books together, played cards, and of course, spent time creatively exploring the nuances of physical pleasure.

Buffy put her hand on her back and eased herself down on the couch next to Angel. He glanced nervously at her large stomach and tired face. The unusually warm fall weather was making her miserable, and even now, just after dawn, the house was already uncomfortably warm.  They had just returned from what had become their usual pre-dawn walk along the beach, Buffy unable to sleep and insistent upon getting out of the house for a little while each day. Besides, she had heard that walking had been known to induce labor and she was more than ready.

“Ugh.” She murmured, her hands caressing the large mound of her stomach beneath the pale blue t-shirt as she sank back into the sofa. The baby kicked vigorously again. “Your son is lively this morning.”

“Or daughter.” He angled himself on the wide couch and lifted her to sit between his legs. With one hand between them, he began to rub her lower back. She sighed and leaned back heavily to rest against his cool chest. It was a months old argument: Buffy insistent that the baby was a boy, Angel uncertain but equally open to considering the possibility that the babe would be a girl.

“I think he wants out.” Buffy insisted as Angel’s hand settled on her stomach, caressing and feeling the movements of the child. He smiled when the baby kicked again, his hand still and possessive on her belly.

“And I’m so ready for him to meet his father.” Buffy sighed again and wiggled slightly to make herself more comfortable. She blew a hair away from her face and then frowned down at her protruding stomach. “My skin is about to burst and I waddle like a duck.”

Angel chuckled and kissed the top of her head, “You make a beautiful duck. I like the orange feet particularly.”

Buffy groaned softly and giggled, “If they’re orange then I’m glad I can’t see them. Orange – feet or otherwise – is so not my color.”

Another sharp kick under his hand made him frown. He worried constantly now that they were so close to her due date. He left her side only when he absolutely had to go out for more celery, cream cheese, peanut butter, chocolate or cookie-dough-fudge-mint-chip ice cream to satisfy one of her many cravings in those instances when the delivery service wasn’t able to get there soon enough for her. He simply could not refuse her when she pouted; her quivering lower lip was definitely a weakness of his that she knew how to exploit.

He held her as they lazily dozed on the sofa that warm September morning. Buffy, in her typically uncomfortable state as of late, barely aware of the repetitive tightening of her stomach that was gradually increasing in frequency.

“Oh!” Buffy’s mouth opened in a small ‘O’ as a stronger, longer contraction seized her, jarring her awake almost an hour later. “I don’t think I was kidding earlier, he really does want out.”

Instantly alert at the sudden tension in her body, Angel’s first panic stricken reaction was that he should never have given in to her wish to stay at the beach house. The Hyperion had sewer access; he could have taken her immediately to the hospital despite what he knew would be her wishes to the contrary. Here, he would have to wait until dark or risk a run through the sunlight.

They both quietly counted the seconds until another contraction tightened her stomach just under 15 minutes later.

Buffy turned her head and smiled up at him excitedly, “I think it’s starting, Angel!” A sense of elation coursed through her at the thought of finally holding her baby in her arms. She relaxed back against him happily and waited with hopeful expectation for the next contraction.

Months ago, when Buffy had informed him that she wanted to have the baby at home, Angel had stared at her as if she had grown two heads. She had come into his office at the Hyperion that afternoon almost casually, but with a gleam in her eye that made him immediately suspect that she was up to something. First she handed him a decorative gift bag, which he opened to find a book titled, “She’s Having a Baby: And I’m Having a Breakdown”.  He looked at her with lifted eyebrows, then she rapidly told him of her decision. Before he could even form a reply to her blurted out statement, she calmly and logically laid out her reasons; she said she would rather have the baby at home than anywhere without him, then she mentioned the benefits of natural childbirth in a familiar and comfortable environment as if she had memorized a brochure.

Moving around his desk to stand between his legs as he turned to face her, she leaned on the arms of the chair and batted her lashes at him. He knew then that he was in trouble. This was an argument she did not intend to lose. She continued her line of reasoning with the fact that she still had her Slayer strength and healing abilities and if normal women have babies at home, then there was no reason that she couldn’t too. Physically, she had an advantage. She dropped in his lap then, her fingers toying with the buttons on his shirt as she looked up at him innocently with wide green eyes.  Besides, she hated hospitals. Why would she want to have their baby there? She’d be frightened and tense, which couldn’t possibly be good for the baby. Right?

Staring down into her expectant expression, he couldn’t find the words to disagree. Then, to seal her argument, she sprang up from his lap and opened the office door to admit Bronwyn Verwoerd, a midwife recently moved to LA from Amsterdam, where home births are more the norm.

Unable to refute her arguments with Bronwyn looking on patiently, Angel greeted the woman politely and offered her a chair. Buffy then sat on the arm of his chair, her arm on his shoulder and absently stroking the back of his neck with her fingers as she encouraged Bronwyn to tell them about her experience and recommendations.

A tall confident blonde with years of training as both a midwife and nurse practitioner, Bronwyn’s calm and knowledgeable demeanor did much to reassure Angel that it was reasonable and safe to have the baby at home. She met with them several times over the next few weeks, providing them with the basic instructions of what they needed to know and how to prepare and discussing any concerns. When Buffy’s labor began, they were instructed to call her and she would come immediately.

Right then, however, Angel cursed softly for leaving his phone upstairs and debated disturbing Buffy who seemed so happily content at the moment and almost dozing. He had read everything he could, had memorized much of the information in fact. Still, at this very moment, he felt inadequately prepared.

After another few minutes of deliberation, he swept Buffy up in his arms and carried her upstairs to their bed. The sterilized towels, water and other instruments were in place just as Bronwyn had instructed.

“I love you.” He murmured softly, dropping a kiss on her head and settling her on the bed. Mentally he searched for his phone until he remembered that he had left it across the room on the dresser. Buffy clutched at his hand when he started to go get it so he paused. “Buffy, sweet, I need to call Bronwyn now. Unless you’d rather go to the hospital.”

Reluctantly she released him, sticking out her tongue as he crossed the room and retrieved the phone, immediately dialing the number he had programmed into his phone months ago. Bronwyn answered on the third ring. Recognizing Angel’s voice, she asked a few key questions about Buffy’s contractions then assured him that she would come right away. She was in Santa Barbara teaching a class but should have no problem finding someone to take over for her.

Angel ended the call and dropped the phone on the table next to the bed. Repressing a frustrated sigh that help was so far away, he knelt down by the bed next to his wife.

Buffy gasped as another strong contraction shook her, squeezing his hand. He was with her, she was healthy and strong and that’s all that mattered.  Angel murmured encouraging words of love, smiling at her or kissing her and encouraging her to breathe each time to help take away the piercing pain.

They monitored Buffy’s contractions while they waited and with each passing minute Angel considered the idea of calling Gunn and having him take Buffy to the hospital, wanting only the best medical care for his wife and baby.

When her water broke a short while later, her contractions growing steadily closer, he felt another wave of panic. Where the hell was Bronwyn?  He glanced at the clock. She should be here by now. Damn. How were they going to manage this?  Suddenly everything he had read about what could go wrong during childbirth flitted terrifyingly through his mind.

“Oh, Angel. We’re having a baby,” Buffy excitedly murmured, her voice broken in the middle by another intense contraction. “Maybe the only baby. Sorry.” She squeezed her eyes tightly against the pain. “I’m not sure I want to do this again – ever.”

“You’re doing great, love.” Angel whispered, his words low against her ear as he smoothed the tendrils of hair away from her face. “Remember now, breathe.”  He smiled at her, suppressing his fears along with pangs of guilt that he was responsible for her pain. His fingers gently stroked her now sweat soaked brow and he felt the tension within her ease a little between the bursts of pain.

Buffy gritted her teeth with each new contraction and gripped Angel’s hand with nearly crushing strength. He glanced longingly at his phone. He wanted to call Bronwyn again – or maybe an ambulance now – but didn’t dare take his attention off his wife for even take the few minutes that it would take.

Buffy bore down as their son began to push himself into the world. She screamed then as the pain reached an entirely new zenith.

Angel, still gripped by panic, forced his words to be soothing. “You’re doing great, love. Breathe.”  He was terrified for maybe the first time in his life. He could lose her.

Buffy was panting, her hands now gripping the sheets tightly with each painful clawing contraction as their baby slid free and into his father’s hands. With quick efficiency, Angel tied off the umbilical cord as Bronwyn had instructed and wiped the baby’s face with a soft, sterilized towel. Letting out a short soft cry followed by a sigh, the infant drifted off to sleep as his father held him with trembling hands.

Angel grinned at the tiny baby, his joy overwhelming. He was small, perfect. Content and placid, lazily making small sucking motions with his mouth and his eyes tightly closed, the baby seemed immune to the world he just entered.

“Let me… see him.” Buffy breathed tiredly from the bed.

“We have a son.” Angel wrapped the baby in a warm fluffy towel and laid him in the crook of Buffy’s arm.

“I told you it was a boy.” She smiled, reaching her hand to touch the perfection of the tiny features, the thick crop of dark hair. Her eyes were soft with love. “He’s a beautiful baby, isn’t he?”

“Yes, love. He’s a miracle.” Angel’s joy in that moment was boundless, and he knew without a doubt that had he been able to lose his soul due to perfect happiness it would have been long gone. He touched Buffy’s face gently, “A miracle that came into my life. Like you.”

He kissed her sweetly, tenderly. In that moment if he could have given her the world and the sun and the stars then he would have. She was his heart; inhabiting his soul. Without a doubt, she was more important to him than his own life. He kissed her again with a quiet intensity that sang through both their senses.

“Angel?” Her voice was soft, tired. Her eyes closed wearily.  “I love you.”

The door opened downstairs and rushing footsteps sounded on the stairs. Bronwyn skidded to a stop just inside the door, a harried look on her face. “There was an accident on the 405, so I got off the freeway and then got lost.” She stopped abruptly and smiled. “I’m too late, aren’t I?”

Angel returned her smile and proudly showed off his son.

Bronwyn examined the baby first, noting his length and weight on a small card, then checked on Buffy. The almost 9 pound baby was large for such a petite woman, so she was relieved that there had apparently been no complications and that both mother and baby were fine.

Angel bathed a very tired Buffy with quick efficiency while Bronwyn cleaned up and changed the sheets on the bed. Kissing his wife gently on the brow, he dressed her in a simple nightshirt and settled her back in the freshly cleaned bed.

Congratulating Angel once again on the arrival of their new baby, Bronwyn departed, leaving the new family alone.

While Buffy slept, Angel carefully bathed his son, marveling at the tiny fingers and toes, the thick crop of dark hair on his head. Diapering him and wrapping him in a soft blue blanket that Nikkos and Mona had given them as a gift, the proud father stood at the window and talked to his son, the moon light illuminating one dark head bent over a much, much smaller one.

He talked to the sleeping infant in nonsense and baby words, part English and part Gaelic. He kissed the tiny head softly. If the prophecy were true, this son would grow to be a great warrior.

When the babe woke a short while later with a screaming demand for food, Angel retrieved him from the bassinette and handed him to Buffy, who blushingly held him to her breast.

Angel watched them, his dark eyes intent on the scene of mother and child. Both his. It was a feeling so powerful he had to resist pulling them both into his arms. He pulled up a chair and sat next to the bed.

“What did you want to name him?” Buffy asked, stroking the cap of fluffy dark hair on the baby’s head. They had talked about names, several in fact, but hadn’t settled on one.

“Brendan?” He suggested, his gaze once more on his son now suckling greedily.

“Brendan Patrick.” Buffy agreed with a smile.

The house hummed with activity over the next few days as everyone came to see the new baby and offer their congratulations to his parents.

Nikkos and Mona were near constant fixtures at the house, having deemed themselves the baby’s official godparents. Fred, Gunn and Amelia came often as well. Amelia, who was now walking, seemed to be fascinated by the small baby.

When Connor and Dawn arrived from Sunnydale along with Willow and Jessie, the women immediately rushed over to the basket where the baby slept while Connor hung back near the door. Although they had talked on the phone, he’d seen less of his father over the past two months, Angel overprotective of his pregnant wife and unwilling to leave her along for even a short trip. Equally, he worried that taking her along would be too much stress for her or the baby so he often made excuses that kept them close to home.  Now that Angel had a son with Buffy, insecurities about his place in his father’s life surfaced.

Seeing Connor’s hesitation, Buffy crossed the room and greeted him affectionately with a hug. “We’ve missed you! You and Dawnie don’t come to see us often enough.”

When Dawn’s spring semester ended at U. Mass, she returned home to Sunnydale claiming that she was homesick and missed her friends and family. Buffy, aware of the real reason for Dawn’s transfer to UC Sunnydale, withheld her skeptical comments. By the time classes started in the fall, Dawn had moved in with Connor and the two of them were inseparable.

“I know.” He replied sheepishly, stuffing his hands in his pockets and looking down at the toes of his shoes.

“Are things really busy there?  The Hellmouth-” Buffy questioned earnestly, genuinely concerned. The sound of her son, now crying loudly, drew her attention and she glanced across the room.

“No. No, it’s fine.” The young man returned quickly. He knew that both his father and stepmother would rush to Sunnydale to help if they thought he needed it. “The Hellmouth is fine that is. We just- we really don’t really get out that much.”

“Ah.” Buffy suddenly smiled in understanding. She suspected that the young couple, much like she and Angel, preferred each other’s company to most anything else and were content to spend their free time together, just the two of them.

Connor blushed slightly confirming Buffy’s suspicions.  Across the room, Dawn laughed as Angel teased her about making the baby cry. With a smile, he scooped Brendan out of his basket. Secure in his father’s arms, the babe quieted immediately.  The proud father said something more to Willow and Jessie to which they smilingly replied then he crossed the room.

He greeted Connor warmly, genuinely happy to see his son. “Did you want to see your brother?”

Connor’s eyes flicked from the baby to his father’s then back to the baby again. He answered hesitantly, “I . yes.”

Carefully Angel handed him the small bundle wrapped in a pastel plaid blanket. He studied Connor’s expression as the young man looked down at the baby.

“Of course, he’s small and helpless. It’ll take years before he acquires any useful skills at all.” The tall vampire replied blandly, putting one arm around his wife’s shoulders.

Buffy quirked an eyebrow at Angel’s statement. Normally he went on and on about the absolute perfection of his new son.

“We’ll both have to train him to be a warrior, if indeed he is to be one.”

“Yes.” Connor smiled, his eyes lighting up as he looked down at his brother who was now looking up at him with wide eyes. “We will.”

Seven years later.

Buffy paused in her packing and cocked her head to one side. She stood still, listening. The constant chatter that had been coming from the room next door had suddenly stopped. In most cases silence wasn’t worrisome, but with her two boys it typically meant that they were up to something.  Quietly she crept toward the door.

“You’d better put it back, Bren. We’re gonna get in trouble.” Hearing the loud childish whisper from her youngest son, Buffy picked up her pace.

“I’m just lookin’ you big scaredy cat. Dad says we can look at stuff.”

“Not that stuff.” The dark haired young boy insisted. “That’s his like special stuff.”

Buffy crossed the threshold of the doorway to see her oldest, Brendan, clinging precariously to fourth shelf of the tall bookcases in Angel’s study with one hand. In his other hand, he clutched a black velvet bag.  Standing directly beneath him, Ryan watched his brother with doubtful eyes.

Both boys were mirror images of their father with the exception of their eyes. Brendan had his mother’s large mossy green eyes while Ryan’s were an unusual golden color. At seven and five, they were already showing signs of following their father in size as well, both tall for their age. And, like their parents, they were both preternaturally strong.

“Boys, what are you doing?” Buffy questioned with what she hoped was a stern tone of voice.

The mischievous twosome had a habit of unknowingly stirring up trouble. Remarkably precocious and clever, not to mention seemingly endowed with some sort of mystical propensity, they had once opened a portal to another dimension while visiting Nikkos with their father at the magic shop. It had taken both vampire and warlock to close the gateway before any demons crossed over, and had led to one of the boys’ first experiences at being on the receiving end of their father’s anger – something neither of them preferred to see again.

Two pairs of eyes swung around to the door. Buffy watched as the glass orb slipped from the bag in Brendan’s hand and fell in what seemed to be slow motion toward the floor.  It landed on the thick Turkish rug with a soft thud, bounced slightly then rolled gently along the floor to stop next to Ryan’s feet.

Buffy released the breath she had been holding and crossed the room. Brendan jumped down from the shelf and looked curiously at the object now held in his younger brother’s hand.

“Hey look, Mom.” Ryan rolled the orb in his hand, staring at the unusual shapes and colors through the thick glass. “Coooool.”

“Boys, you know you’re not supposed to be climbing on those shelves.” With a small shake of her head, Buffy held her hand out. Ryan grudgingly handed over the giant marble, even as Brendan tried to get a closer look.

Upon examining the glass object, it appeared to be undamaged, except for a tiny chip on one side. Inside the orb, the muddy sand-like mist clouding the object began to clear.

Buffy peered into the glass curiously.  A large larvae-like creature appeared to ooze across the sandy surface inside the orb, its sides heaving as it labored to cross the barren ground. Thick brown hair covered the glistening, almost oily looking surface of the creature’s head and upper torso. On it’s back there were two large baskets that appeared to contain excrement and other waste. One demon marched behind the creature, cracking a whip. Another demon, one stone like and faintly familiar, walked beside the large larvae-beast carrying a shovel. Filthy, disgusting demons of all types roamed back and forth between the stone caverns on one end and the rock-like city on the other, some of them stopping to laugh and point at the creature, others to perform vile acts simply to torment the beast.  When the larvae-like being turned around, Buffy gasped in surprised recognition.

“What Mom? What’d you see? Huh?”  At the small sound from their mother, Ryan and Brendan craned their necks and tried to see in the glass orb again. Brendan made to move to climb up on Angel’s desk only to drop back to the floor at his mother’s stern look. “Huh? What is it?”

“It’s nothing, honey.” Buffy once more peered closely into the glass object to confirm her suspicions. If she was not mistaken, the creature was none other than Cordelia. It had been years since the former May queen had even crossed her mind.  The stone looking creature next to her must be. Skip. The demon guide that had come to the Hyperion all those years ago!  So this is what had become of them – confined to a hell dimension, Cordelia in her demon form.

“All ready to go?” Angel questioned from the doorway, carrying his tiny daughter who was now dressed in a pink floral sun suit. Almost six months old, Brianna was tiny, pink and blonde and the apple of her father’s eye. She often slept protectively cradled against his strong arm, oblivious to the people and events around her as he worked around the office or at home.

Born breech at almost eight weeks premature, she had given her father a scare that he was likely never to forget – and on a date that changed his life – all their lives – forever.

They had all been returning from the beach one evening late. Brendan and Ryan had raced a few feet ahead, while Angel walked beside his pregnant wife. Suddenly, as if out of nowhere, a Mohra demon raced toward them, it’s sword aimed at Brendan who had stopped to examine the small anthill on the edge of the sidewalk. Without a second thought, both Buffy and Angel sprinted toward their sons. Angel, unencumbered, arrived first and swept the child out of the way while Buffy, much to her husband’s dismay, kicked the sword out of the demon’s hand then struck him hard in the jaw with her fist.

Striking back, the demon landed a hard blow to her protruding stomach that sent her tumbling to the ground in pain. The Mohra demon laughed as he turned to face Angel who was torn between helping his wife and protecting his children. Anticipating the direction of her husband’s thoughts, Buffy bit her lip to hide the piercing pain and rose to her feet.

Pulling out an ornate jeweled medallion, the Mohra demon began chanting an incantation in an ancient demonic language. A fissure began to form in the sky as the gates of hell began to open. The Mohra was only the first; he was sent to find the prophecized warriors, kill them and then open the gates of hell. Hell’s army would soon overrun the earth.

Ryan and Brendan, thinking only that the stupid green thing had harmed their mother, fearlessly charged around their father and began kicking the Mohra demon furiously and hitting him with their small fists. The demon swiped at them angrily, but fortunately missed landing even a single blow.

Angel yelled for his sons to get back as he dove for the fallen sword. He whirled around and rose to his feet quickly, kicking the demon from behind and sending him sprawling to the ground. With the demon now close to his size, Brendan yanked the medallion out of the Mohra’s hand with preternatural speed then turned and ran, Ryan following close behind his brother.

Buffy screamed at them to stop as the boys ran toward the gradually widening fissure. Another pain ripped through her and she stumbled, falling to her knees.

With his features shifting to that of the demon, Angel crushed the Mohra’s head beneath his foot ruthlessly, grinding the jewel from his forehead into dust.  Before the demon even began to disintegrate, the vampire shouted and ran after his sons, now perilously close to the bright opening. Demons began to impatiently squeeze out of the gap, dropping to the ground near the two boys. Over the force of the wind, Ryan was yelling, “Throw it in! Throw it in!” as loud as he could at his brother. Brendan threw the medallion as hard as he could into the opening, the boys dodging the demons that were escaping through the partially opened gates.

Immediately the fissure began to close. Demons screamed and shrieked as they were sucked back through the portal or crushed by the closing aperture. The two small boys held on to each other as they were almost sucked in by the force of the whirlwind before their father snatched them up and swept them a short distance away. With a barked instruction to stay there, Angel moved quickly back to fight his way through the escaped demons to reach his wife.  Buffy had come to her feet and, despite the pain nearly ripping her in half, helped Angel dispatch the remaining demons.

Rushing toward his wife who had once more fallen to her knees clutching her stomach, Angel was suddenly struck by what appeared to be a bolt of lightning. The jolt sent him flying several feet through the air and into the sand. As he struggled to his feet in confusion, a force of energy swept through him.  The sound of his heartbeat swelled in his ears and he gasped for breath. Another burst of lightning struck followed by a thunderclap and it suddenly began to rain.

A few minutes later, a now human Angel rushed his wife to the hospital, his two sons trailing behind him as he carried Buffy swiftly into the emergency room. Despite their fears for their mother, the boys waited stoically in the nurse’s station until Nikkos and Mona arrived after receiving Angel’s frantic call.  After the initial outburst of excited panic followed by a soothing cup of hot chocolate, they shared their story of the events at the beach, complete with a reenactment. When Mona asked how they knew about the medallion or what to do with it, the two boys shared a look and shrugged with childish assurance. Their answer was the same, “We just did.”

In a twist of ironic fate, Angel thought he was going to lose his wife and his daughter the very day he had been given his humanity.  Buffy panicked so badly at the initial realization that they were in the hospital that Angel had to hold her to the bed even as he snapped at the doctors to do something to help his obviously terrified and in pain wife. The doctors tried to stop her contractions but when her water broke, they had to deliver the baby, ready or not. Buffy’s normally superior strength waned and her pulse dropped dangerously low several times during the ordeal, as did Brianna’s, scaring Angel beyond anything he had ever known. His own new heartbeat raced in unfamiliar panic as he fearfully held on to his wife’s hand. After five very nerve-wracking, roller coaster ride hours, Brianna was gently turned and born naturally. Tiny and fragile, she fit in the cradle of her father’s palms. The doctor smilingly pronounced both mother and baby tired but healthy.

Needless to say, that had been a very big day for their family.

“Yes.” Buffy smiled and dropped the orb back in the velvet bag she retrieved from Brendan’s hand. She put the bag in Angel’s desk drawer. Her heart still fluttered like a young girl’s at the sight of her husband, not at all like a respectable mother of three.

“Let’s go. On the way to the beach, I’ll tell you what your sons did.” Looping her arm through Angel’s, she glanced down affectionately but sternly at her two boys. “And we can decide how they should be punished this time.”

Angel dropped a kiss on Buffy’s hair. Although they had been married for years, he found he loved his wife more deeply now than he ever thought possible. His ardor for her had not diminished either, his human stamina on par with his former vampire resilience, as he most diligently proved on a regular basis.

“We took away their weapons last time.” Buffy mused as they made their way into the kitchen. She picked up the picnic basket she had been packing earlier. Their afternoons at the beach were one of Angel’s favorite pastimes now; he often sketched while the kids played and Buffy read. Other times, he simply basked in the sun with hedonistic pleasure.

“But Moooommmm.” Brendan and Ryan pleaded in unison, following their parents out the door.

“I hear whining. Do you hear whining?” Angel murmured, shifting his daughter to his other arm as she gurgled contently over his shoulder. He laced his fingers with Buffy’s as they turned the corner toward the beach.

“Mmm. definite whining.” Buffy leaned her head against Angel’s shoulder as they walked down the beach and into the sunset.

“Did I tell you today that I loved you?” He glanced down at his wife adoringly.

“No. But you can show me. later.” Buffy smiled in reply, her voice lowering intimately.

He smiled. He couldn’t imagine a life any better than this.


Giles’ translation of the prophecy of course turned out to be true, although the literal interpretation would never have led any of them to suspect that “the battle which would close the gates of hell” fought by the “ensouled vampire alongside the Slayer and their chosen offspring” thus earning Angel his redemption had meant their “offspring” would be children at the time. Although no one was complaining.

Brendan and Ryan had been practically inseparable since Ryan’s birth. They seemed to be magically bonded in a way that no one else understood. Throughout college they stayed close, both attending colleges on the east coast that were close enough for them to get together fairly often. Brendan went to Brown and studied history and philosophy when he wasn’t playing lacrosse and rugby, while Ryan got his law degree at NYU.

Both boys returned to LA after college, preferring the west coast and the closer proximity to their family. Brendan eventually settled into an exclusive relationship with a young woman named Claire, while Ryan seemed content to cut a wide and profligate path through the eligible young beauties of LA.

Even human, Angel retained most of his preternatural abilities, such as his enhanced senses and his strength.  He and Buffy continued to run Angel Investigations until their two sons were old enough to take over the business, which they did eagerly.

Brianna preferred her art to slaying or battling the supernatural; after attending the Sorbonne to study art, she spent two years in Ireland working as a designer for a textile company while developing an extensive portfolio – photography and sketches – based on the beauty of Ireland. She returned to Los Angeles and opened her own gallery, where she featured, in addition to her own work, many other prominent and well-known artists – including her father.

Dawn and Connor married and had two children. They still live in Sunnydale, although the Hellmouth is largely quiet.  Dawn graduated from UC Sunnydale with a degree in Marketing; she works for a start-up software company and is considered mostly inept by her coworkers but her manager has a weakness for attractive women, so her incompetence is tolerated. Connor opened a self-defense studio to encourage the population of Sunnydale to learn how to defend themselves.

Fred and Gunn decided that the demon hunting business was much too dangerous with children; they moved to Texas with their two children, Ameila and Charles Jr., and opened a restaurant.

Cordelia and Skip are still trapped in the demon dimension that they had earned, at least according to the judgment of the powers – or Nikkos, whoever you believe had more of a hand in their fate. The orb has long been tucked away in a box in a rarely used room at the Hyperion.

The Mohra’s impatience to open the gates had proved his undoing.  Had he killed the warriors as he had been instructed before opening the gates, the plan might have been successful. It would be dozens of years before another key would be found to try again. but that is a whole other story.


More Author’s Notes:

Brendan’s birth part of the story is loosely based on a true story; although she had her baby actually in Amsterdam. *g*  Brianna’s is very loosely based on an actual story that appears on

“She’s Having a Baby: And I’m Having a Breakdown” is by James Douglas Barron.

Dawn’s future is actually based on a coworker in my RL! (I kid you not!)