Sources of Comfort

Takes place during s6, Seeing Red. Written for the BtVS 144 ep challenge by DarlingVioletta.

Author’s Notes: Takes place during s6, Seeing Red. Written for the BtVS 144 ep challenge by DarlingVioletta.

Trying to accept that Connor may be lost to him, Angel goes to the one person that has been his source of comfort and strength in the past, only to find something unexpected. Perhaps kicking ass really is comfort food.

Please excuse my interpretation of “The Price”; I didn’t see the ep so all I’ve got to go on is the transcript which doesn’t exactly describe emotions. *g*

Also, I chose to leave Angel as Spike sire (as was the case in “School Hard” and “In the Dark”).

Thanks to www.buffyworld.com for the various transcripts! Ep quotes for “Seeing Red” and “The Price” are from there.

Rating: Adult; explicit sex

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

Pairing: B/A. Mentions of B/S.

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

Originally posted: Jul 29, 2004

“Don’t know why I bought this for him.  A whim, I guess… Thought he’d like to look at it. The snow. Doesn’t ever snow in Southern California.”

Angel stared at the snow globe in his hand as the delicate strains of Brahms Lullaby continued to play.

“Did, once.”

Angel looked up at the sound of Cordelia’s voice. His gaze drifted over the brunette seer then to the others in the room. Only then he noticed that they were all watching him with pity in their eyes. It was at their continued insistence that he was now packing up Connor’s things.  He stood, uncomfortable with the scrutiny.

“Hey, y’know… we shouldn’t be wasting our time fixing up my place when we’ve got work to do.”  Angel said quietly as he walked to the door, the snow globe still clutched in his hand. Did they honestly believe that he’d forget his son just because his baby things were packed away and set aside?

“What work?” Gunn asked skeptically, his glance flitting to the others before returning to the tall vampire. The depressed atmosphere in the hotel began to wear on all of them; they were sorry that Connor was gone but it was time to accept the loss and move on – they had all agreed.  All of them except, perhaps, Angel who hadn’t been part of their earlier discussion on the subject.

“Our jobs. The business. We’re neglecting our cases.” Angel replied, suppressing his irritation.

“Um, Angel?” Fred tentatively ventured, “We don’t have any cases. We haven’t had a call in over a week.”

“Really?” His shoulders slumping slightly with disappointment, the owner and founder of Angel Investigations paused. “Well, somebody ought to be downstairs. In case a walk-in should… walk in.”

Turning, he continued out the door. He was tired of trying to get over it for their sake, he just wanted to be alone with his pain. His voice carrying behind him, he continued softly, “Cause we get those.  Sometimes.”

They all stared at the open doorway where he had disappeared.


Standing alone in an empty room at the far end of the hotel, Angel sat the snow globe on the windowsill and watched the white swirls of snow settle to the bottom.

It had snowed once in southern California. He knew that without being reminded. Even though she had been the one to mention it, he doubted if Cordelia understood the significance of that day to his life.

Tipping the glass globe again, the white flurries of snow swirled around in the glass dome once more.  He stared trance-like at it as his mind drifted back to that day.

“Am I a thing worth saving, huh? Am I a righteous man? The world wants me gone!”

“What about me? I love you so much… And I tried to make you go away… I killed you and it didn’t help.  And I hate it! I hate that it’s *so* hard… and that you can hurt me *so* much. I know everything that you did, because you did it to me. Oh, God! I wish that I wished you dead. I don’t. I can’t.”

“Buffy, please. Just this once… let me be strong.”

“Strong is fighting! It’s hard, and it’s painful, and it’s every day. It’s what we have to do. And we can do it together.”

Flashes of wide, tear-filled hazel-green eyes haunted him still. There was seldom a day that went by without her vision disturbing his dreams or flitting through his memory during his waking hours.

Buffy.

His preoccupation and worry for his missing son hadn’t diminished the ache of loss of her from his life – rather it only made her absence seem that much more acute.

She had drawn him out of his ninety odd years of miserable existence after only a single glance; a glance in which he had seen her heart and had, in return, given her his own unbeating one.

She had been the one to convince him that he could make a difference, that he could be more than the self-indulgent boy he’d been as Liam, more than the vicious demon he’d proved to be as Angelus.

When he had returned from hell, mentally and physically shattered, she had been the one to comfort him. Thoughts of her had kept him sane during the years of torture; visions of her sustained him, preventing him from giving up when the agonies inflicted on him would have destroyed a lesser man.  What little humanity he could claim now, he owed to her.  She had been the one that had restored him, made him whole again.

“Angel? Sh… It’s all right, baby.  I’m here.” She crooned softly, stroking his hair. Her voice penetrated his tortured dreams and the trembling of his limbs slowly subsided. His eyes drifted open slowly to find her there, sitting on his bed with a worried expression on her face. Without a word, she lay down beside him and drew his head down to her breast. She soothed him with her soft caresses as he inhaled deeply of her rich vanilla fragrance.  He savored the warmth of her body pressed so closely to his, the sound of her voice as she talked to him, drawing him back to her and away from the painful memories.

Over the next few weeks, she was always there. She talked to him of simple everyday things or she read to him, the sound of her voice enough to soothe him. More often than not, she insisted he lie beside her or she would tug his head to her lap. She would run her fingers through his hair, his face, over his shoulders and down his arms as she talked and he would close his eyes, finding a measure of solace in those moments.

As his mind and body healed and grew stronger, their touches became less frequent; what had once been a simple soothing caress became a lingering touch filled with longing and desire. They both knew it would only lead to territory that was now forbidden, so little by little they began to keep their distance.

Gradually the memories and dreams of his time in hell had receded to the deepest recesses of his mind; due in large part, no doubt, to Buffy. She had been his source of comfort and his strength. She had convinced him to live in this world and to fight when he needed that reminder.  Hell, she had even risked her own life to save his unlife – offering her blood when it was the only curative for the poison overtaking his system then forcing him to take it when he refused.

With his need for her growing stronger every day, his self-control seeming tenuous at times, he had seen no other choice but to leave her. To stay seemed selfish and unfair; her life was already full of demons and darkness – she deserved more… she deserved better.

Angel sighed softly and turned away from the now still snow globe. His heart ached with the loss of his son and his mate. As always, he regretted having left her. With the weight of despair crushing his spirit, more than ever he wanted her comfort, her strength. Right now he wanted nothing more than to lay his head in her lap and find some respite from the searing pain caused by the loss of his only son.

You need her.

The thought hung suspended in his mind. It was true, he reluctantly admitted to himself as if acknowledging a closely harbored secret for the first time.

Together you were powerful.  Alone, you are dead.

Also true, that he couldn’t deny. Neither of them had done particularly well these last few years. He’d spiraled down to a point so low he’d tried to lose his soul; she had died only to be yanked back from heaven by her unthinking and often selfish friends. He knew she had been having a hard time coping with her life now; that was one reason why he hadn’t told her about Connor’s disappearance even when his first instinct had been to call her.

Although, he had told her about Connor not long after he had been born.

Crossing the room, Angel sat heavily on the bed.

They had met at the spot he had come to think of as ‘theirs’, the one place that they had met one other time just after her resurrection. He had told her everything, sparing no sordid detail.  Initially, she’d been angry and confused, which turned to disappointment and hurt. As she was often wont to do when she was upset, she lashed out wanting to hurt him in return. And hurt him, she had. She had told him that what he did didn’t matter anymore anyway, that she had some else in her life that wanted her. That would stay with her. That would have sex with her, just has he had with Darla. That was what he wanted for her wasn’t it?

He flinched when she hurled the name at him.  At the time he had known her words were a lie – the faint scent wasn’t enough for close or intimate contact – but he didn’t doubt that her words became the truth shortly after she had left.  He even wondered if it had been his words that had driven her to take that step.

But Spike?!

Of all of the choices she could have made, it stung bitterly that she had chosen his demon childe. But then, what had he expected? He had left her alone. She had the right to choose someone else, to move on.

He had wanted better for her – at least that’s what he told himself, that’s what he had convinced himself logically that he believed. In his heart of course, he wanted no one else for her, he wanted her all to himself. But what he wanted wasn’t fair to her. It was selfish of him when he could offer her so little.

Only love.

The simple words ricocheted through his head. He was abruptly struck with the enormity of his feelings.  Losing Connor reinforced the fragile and the transient nature of life.  His very existence could end tomorrow and she might not know how important she was to him, even if he couldn’t be there with her.  Suddenly it mattered very much to him that she know how much he cared, how much he still loved her.

Sitting motionless and listening to the silence of his heart, he savored the deep and abiding love he still held for his mate.  Buffy was the one woman who had encompassed his past, his present and someday, if he were ever so blessed, his future.

Abruptly, he stood and strode to the door.

Within minutes, the GTX was purring along the freeway at speeds over a hundred miles an hour, heading toward Sunnydale.


There was an usual stillness in the night air as it surrounded him, enveloping him in darkness.  He strode forward purposefully, his coat billowing out behind him.  His steps made no sound on the concrete sidewalk as he moved, silent and stealthy along the dark street.

He slowed as he neared his destination, blending into the shadows.  He stopped at the edge of the walk and stood motionless, his gaze traveling in slow assessment over the familiar house, stopping briefly at each window before scrutinizing the dark shadows and shrubs along the sides.

It was exactly as he remembered.  Nothing had changed.  Every detail that had been committed to memory had been precise, accurate.

His glance swept to the large tree on his left. That tree had been his vantage point to simply watch her long before it became his access point to reach her on those nights when he crept into her room.

Unbidden, a memory of her rose with startling clarity in his mind: her hazel green eyes slumberous with passion as she gazed up at him, her lips swollen with his kisses, her golden skin bared to him.  With a soft growl, he savored the memory for a brief moment before shoving it away with the mental reminder that some things had not changed.

Calming, he inhaled deeply. His nostrils flared and his eyes narrowed speculatively at her window.

Vanilla.

That faint hint that always clung to her skin, subtle to others but acute to his preternaturally enhances senses.  It emanated from her when her skin warmed, enveloping him in the sweet, rich fragrance.  Holding her in his arms or simply lying beside her, he had basked in that scent often.  Often, but not often enough.  He could have held her forever and it still might not be enough.

To him, it was the scent of comfort and solace; it was the scent of passion and of love and of pleasure unsurpassed.  It reminded him of her.  All reasons why he kept vanilla scented candles in his room, but never lit them; why he bought vanilla soap, but kept it in the bottom drawer unused.

Tonight there was another scent of hers that lingered in the air. One that he knew all too well.

Blood.

It was faint, indicating only a small wound, but it was there just the same.  She was close. And she was hurt.  Something primitive within him stirred.  His gaze sharpened as a shadow crossed her window. Something else tugged at him, giving him a bad feeling deep in his gut.

With the grace of a predator, he stole up the tree and went through the window into the house.

He knew the minute he dropped silently into the room from the window that something was wrong. Rage and resentment, pain and a trace of fear – all of them he could sense radiating from her.

His reasons for coming were suddenly pushed aside with his concern for her.

“Buffy?”

She whirled around from the closet where she had been standing, staring unseeing at her clothes while trying to come to grips with what had happened less than an hour ago. Her heart leapt uncontrollably at the sight of him even as she habitually attempted to rein in her feelings.

How did he appear from nowhere like that?  Usually she could feel him, but tonight her senses were topsy-turvy. And what was he doing here, tonight, of all nights?

“Angel?” She questioned softly, his name pronounced with that same breathless sound of wonder that always tugged at his heart.

He pushed away from the window and stepped toward her, an expression of concern on his face.

“What are you doing here?” She blurted, her eyes lighting up even as the words escaped her lips. Regardless of her attempts to temper her emotions, she couldn’t hide the rush of pleasure she felt at seeing him again.

“I came to see you.” Angel replied softly, taking another step into the room. His gaze scrutinized her carefully, his keen eyesight missing nothing in the dim light: the torn robe, the bruise on her thigh, the faint scratches. and that other too familiar scent.

“Oh.” She pressed her lips together and self-consciously smoothed her hair.

“What did he do, Buffy?” He demanded softly, the muscles in his jaw clenching. He took another step toward her.

Buffy turned, gripping her torn robe tightly as she sank down on the bed. She couldn’t lie to him as much as wanted to. Not to him. Never to him. He had an uncanny knack for seeing right through her. She only had to look in those dark knowing eyes and the untruthful words would freeze on her lips. No matter that it had been months since she’d seen him, months since they had last talked.

She looked tired and pale, a sad expression in her luminous green eyes as she finally looked up at him. There was no need to clarify who the ‘he’ was that he referred to. She could tell that he knew.

“He tried to… ” Buffy looked away, her voice dropping. For reasons she didn’t quite understand, she felt ashamed even though none of it had been her fault.  Perhaps she was ashamed of the entire affair with Spike – if an abusive, destructive relationship could be called such a thing. Her gaze returning to his, she hesitated, unable to bring herself to say the words. Instead, she repeated what she had told Xander only a short while ago, “But he didn’t… I stopped him.”

His hands curling in to fists, Angel’s eyes blazed angrily. “That son of a bitch!”  He wanted to hit something hard and often, preferably Spike.

“Angel… it’s not really your business, you know that.” She said quietly, still uncertain why he was here but admittedly not altogether unhappy to see him. “I was seeing him. For awhile.” She glanced away, her lips twisting in a bitter smile.

He watched her, his expression unreadable, his eyes glittering angrily.

“It was… not the smartest thing I’ve done, but there were reasons. Reasons that I can’t recall just this minute, but reasons. Reasons that might make sense at some point.  Sometime.  Later.” She trailed off before returning her gaze to his face. If she hadn’t known about Darla, her next words would have been less pointed. “But I’m sure you, of all people, understand how that can happen.”

“Yes.” He answered after a moment, somewhat chagrined. Her confirmation of her relationship with Spike stung; he had expected it of course, but that didn’t lessen his feelings of jealousy and outrage.  Spike would suffer for what he tried to do, no question about that. “But that doesn’t excuse what he tried to do.”

“No. No, it doesn’t,” she replied with the slightest bit of anger in her voice. Anger directed at Spike, although that wasn’t completely clear. She shook away her thoughts and tried to turn the conversation to something less fraught with emotion. “Why are you here?”

“I wanted to see you.” He murmured softly. He couldn’t burden her with his problems when she obviously had her own to deal with.

She studied him for a moment, her eyes sweeping over his tall, dark form. He was still more beautiful than any other man she had every met. Her stomach still fluttered with nervous butterflies when he was around and her skin seemed to develop a heightened sensitivity, almost tingling. Her pulse elevated just slightly, giving her a feeling of anticipation. The feelings were unexpected given her current emotional turmoil, but then his nearness has always been able to affect her powerfully.

“Uh-huh. I don’t hear from you for months and suddenly you show up here and say it’s because you want to see me. I’m sure you’ll understand if I say that seems a little flimsy, even for you.” Buffy said tiredly, curling her feet under her and leaning back against the headboard of the bed. “What’s up?”

“Nothing.” Angel lied, still tense and angry. He paced slowly across the room, stopping to look at the framed pictures along her shelf.

Buffy sighed softly, watching him. She knew him. He wouldn’t have come to Sunnydale if it wasn’t important. “But you have something face.” She patted the spot on the bed next to her. “I still recognize it.  Sit.”

Angel turned around, wondering at the impulse that had brought him here. What had seemed so important, so urgent earlier, now seemed like a selfish yearning on his part.

“I- shouldn’t have come-” His hand in his pockets, he rocked slightly on his feet. He turned toward the window as if to leave.

“I missed you.”

The words were so soft he almost didn’t hear them.  He stopped abruptly, his gaze swinging around to her face.

“Please.” She gestured again to the spot next to her. She suddenly felt very tired and alone and she wanted him to stay with her for a little while. She could pretend that she had him back in her life, if only for a moment. Maybe she could forget – for a while – what had happened earlier today.

“Connor’s gone,” he said quietly. “Wes… they thought I was going to… hurt him. They gave him to- he’s gone.  Holtz took him to another dimension. I don’t think I’ll ever get him back.”

“Oh, Angel,” Buffy whispered, holding her arms out to him. It made her heart ache to know that he had a son with someone other than her, but she understood immediately the enormity of his despair. As she had many times in the past, she only wanted to comfort him.

Crossing the room in a few quick strides, he sat on the bed and pulled her into his arms. Lifting her on to his lap he hugged her close. Gradually the heat of her body seeped through her robe, warming him. He’d almost forgotten how it felt to hold her in his arms.

They sat together quietly, simply content with each others nearness.

“Tell me about him,” Buffy said quietly, wanting the images and words and dreams Angel had for his son. She laid her head on his shoulder, her face tucked in the curve of his neck.

He talked to her about Connor at great length and with uncustomary – for him – detail because he wanted her to know his son that he loved so dearly. With a faint smile, he told her about his fears and doubts when he first held the tiny infant in his hands, about Connor’s first bath, his first bottle. He described the tiny fingers and toes and his baby blue eyes as he hugged her closer, his eyes filling with tears. He told her about his hopes and his dreams for his son, the child he had long given up dreams of ever having. When he finished, Buffy wiped at her eyes.

“I’m so sorry, Angel. Is there something I can do?” She touched his cheek softly with her fingers, her eyes holding his. She sniffed slightly and pressed her forehead to his.

Without another thought, he lowered his lips to hers tentatively, touching them lingeringly once, twice.

An appreciative murmur escaping her lips, Buffy sank into him, her soft curves pressing against him. It had been too long since he had touched her. She lost herself in his kiss, his lips firm against hers. Her arms crept up to his shoulders to twine around his neck. She angled her head, inviting him closer.

He deepened the kiss as she moved closer his embrace. Tightening his arms around her, he pulled her into him. The alluring scent of vanilla filled his senses and he was nearly lost.

He moved cautiously, ready to retreat at any sign from her to stop. The last thing she needed tonight was another mauling suitor. Instead, she pulled him closer with strong arms. She returned his kisses not only willingly, but with a ready eagerness the spun his senses.

Their kisses were sweet and slow and languid, each seeking comfort in the other. Her small pink tongue ran along his teeth, exploring and tasting before dueling with his. He buried his fingers in her hair, pulling it free from the pins that held it on her head to run his fingers through the silken mass with gentle strokes.  It had been too long since he had held her in his arms. Feelings long hidden and intentionally denied surfaced with a flashing intensity of emotion.

His control fast eroding, Angel abruptly broke off the kiss and lifted her from his lap before leaving the bed and stalking to the window. Touching her, holding her, kissing her – it pushed him to an almost unbearable limit. He gazed out the window into the night, his hands clenched at his sides.

He heard her come up behind him but he wasn’t sure if he was yet completely in command of his body and so he didn’t dare move.

When she touched him on the hip lightly, he closed his eyes, steeling himself against the hunger twisting in the pit of his stomach, forcing his attention away from her luscious scent and soft warm figure standing so close to him.

“Make me forget Angel.” She whispered softly. It was selfish of her to ask him, she knew that, but in the wake of their shared kisses, she craved the reminder of how it felt to be held with love and tenderness. She wanted his touch, his kiss.

“I can’t.” He replied, his voice thick and sharp.

“Please.”

“Buffy, the curse-”

“You don’t have to make love to me.”

He took in her words, warily assessing them as if for a hidden meaning. Slowly he turned around.

“Just hold me. Kiss me. Make me forget that he ever touched me.” Her words came to a whispery end and she took a deep breath. “We won’t.”

He hesitated. He had the strength to resist her, but her words tugged at his heart. They also touched on a sense of masculine possessiveness that he had always felt for her. More than anything, he wanted to wipe away any memory of any man who had ever touched her.

“We can’t… we have to be careful.” He warned, still standing apart from her his urges held tautly in check.

“I know.” She whispered. She let out the soft breath she had been holding, waiting for his answer.

Her robe opened slightly as her arms lifted to circle his neck, drawing his head down to hers. As their lips met, his hand slipped beneath her robe to rest on the smooth skin of her waist. Her could feel the slight increased beat of her heart at the first cool touch of his hand. Her skin grew warmer beneath his palm and his arm slipped around her back to ease her closer.

Watching her carefully, his lips drifted across her cheek to her ear. He nibbled gently on her earlobe before his lips slid down to the pulse beating erratically at the base of her throat. He laved at her neck with slow wet licks as he hand moved upward to cup her breast.

Buffy shuddered as his long fingers stroked her, kneading and squeezing the curved mound gently. Her nipple hardened in his palm and she arched slightly, pressing against him.

When she took his hand in hers to lead him to the bed, Angel suddenly wondered if this was such a good idea. Was he capable of controlling his urges in the face of such temptation? Still, he followed her down to the bed and lay beside her, incapable of making any other choice. He shrugged out of his coat and let it drop to the floor behind him.

His eyes met hers briefly before he reverently eased her robe open, revealing her bare breasts to his gaze. He lightly touched the taut tip of her nipple with the brushing sweep of a fingertip before he bent down to run his tongue over it with the lightest of touches.

Buffy gasped softly as the delicate contact swept through her body in a jolting wave of pleasure. At the delicate suckling of his lips on the hardened peak, her eyes drifted closed and her hands came up to his head.

“You feel so good.” She sighed softly, a low throaty sound, her fingers sinking into the spiked locks of his hair to hold him close.

Angel smiled at the small sound and continued his nibbles and sucks on the taut peak tips, moving lazily from one to the other.

After several moments in mental debate, he parted her robe further and his hand moved slowly down along the taut firm flesh of her stomach to the golden curls between her legs. He hesitated only a moment before he captured her swollen clitoris with his fingers, rubbing slow circles around the sensitive nub. She was so hot against his hand, soaking wet, and after a few minutes, impatiently arching into his hand. The temptation to sink into her rode him hard, but with firm determination he kept the urge at bay.

He slipped a finger inside her, cautiously, again watching her face for her the smallest sign of reluctance or fear. He touched her everywhere, his fingers stroking and massaging her lush folds until she was teetering on the feverish brink of ecstasy.

“I want you.” She murmured softly, opening her eyes, which were now deep luminous green and filled with need. Her mind clouded with ravenous desire, the dangers of their passion pushed to the far recesses of her mind, she reached for him with greedy clutching fingers. Her hand brushed the evidence of his arousal and she reached impatiently for the zipper on his pants.

Angel jerked back, a small hiss escaping his lips. With every shred of will he possessed, he resisted the urge to simply take her in his arms and bury himself inside her so deeply that he would lose himself. For that one fleeting moment, he didn’t care about the dangers to his soul.

Realizing what she had done, Buffy dropped back to the bed with a smothered sob. She hadn’t meant to push things so far.

Closing his eyes, Angel counted backward from a hundred to reestablish the tight leash on his control. When he reached seventy, he opened his eyes to see Buffy watching him with a repentant expression and tear filled eyes.

“I’m sorry. I-”

“Sh. It’s all right.” He soothed gently, kissing her temple. No matter how hard this was, he was fast finding it better than the alternative of not having any part of her at all.

He kissed her gently, soothing her fears with soft whispers. He could feel her body tremble with unfulfilled desire.

“You’re so beautiful. Tell me that you still love me.”  He shouldn’t have demanded it of her, not now, not ever, but he wanted to know. He had to know.

“God help me, I do.” She whispered in reply, her eyes meeting his as her arms twined around his neck. “I never stopped.”

Her admission was a soothing balm to his aching heart. After a few minutes of consideration and several soft kisses, he moved lower in the bed. He wanted to please her. He wanted to give her something to remember. His lips trailed a path along her abdomen down to the dark golden curls between her legs.

She tugged at his arm to stop him, but he smiled faintly and resisted, continuing to work his way down her body. Gently he kissed the supple silky skin of her thigh, his tongue tracing a slow luscious path upward until his mouth gazed her damp pouty flesh. Parting the sleek folds with his fingers, he licked her as she quivered beneath his touch.

His tongue slid inside her, penetrating the throbbing sweetness and she whined softly, lifting her hips. He devoured her with the greed of a starving man as she writhed under his mouth and hands.

A small, suffocated sound escaped her lips as the first blissful orgasm washed over her in gratifying release. He took great care to please her, lapping at her flesh with flawless expertise until she was again mewling softly. Taking the taut nub of her clit between his lips, he sucked hungrily as another climax rippled through her.

He moved to lie next to her as she drowsed on the bed, content to hold her in his arms despite the ache of want for her still coursing through his body. He pulled her robe back together, wrapping her warmly. After tonight, he knew he was looking at a month or more of cold showers, in addition to hours of self gratification.

Buffy snuggled closer, content. Opening her eyes, she blinked and gave him a small half-smile.

Angel glanced at the clock and sighed. “I have to go.”

“I wish you didn’t.” She pouted slightly, dropping her eyes. It was always the same for them.

“Hey, someday I’ll be able to stay with you.” He kissed her brow lightly, stroking her hair.

“That may be too late.” Buffy said, her voice filled with sadness, as she watched him roll from the bed and retrieve his coat.

Angel shrugged into his coat and stepped back to the bed. Cupping her face in his hand, he traced her delicate cheekbone with his thumb.

“Just because I’m not here with you, it doesn’t mean I don’t love you. Nothing will change that.”

“It doesn’t seem that way, Angel.” Buffy sighed, holding his hand to her face for a brief second before releasing him and coming to her feet. She tied the belt on her tattered robe. “Apart is apart. We don’t have a long distance relationship. We don’t even have a relationship.”

“I know. I’m sorry.”  Angel stared down into her face thoughtfully before giving into the impulse and pulling her into his arms. “I still have nothing to offer you.”

“Just you. I just need you.” She buried her face against the soft silk shirt covering his chest.

He kissed the top of her head. “We can try to make it work.”

Her head jerked up to look at him. She had expected his customary silence, so his words surprised her. “What did you say?”

Angel glanced away and cleared his throat. He felt as if he was suddenly wading into unknown waters, but he knew that he didn’t want to continue things as they were. He wanted to find a way to see her, to be with her. “If you want to, that is, we can try the long distance thing. ”

He stared down into her face. “It won’t be easy. I can’t leave LA right now. And there’s still the curse…”

Undaunted, Buffy hugged him tightly. “I know. Nothing worth having ever comes easy. But we can try.”

“Yes. We can try.” He agreed. He suddenly felt better than he had in weeks.

—-

After Angel disappeared out the window, Buffy reluctantly dressed to go downstairs and find out what the others had found on Warren.

She started out the door when suddenly she turned and went back into her room. With small smile, she retrieved a black velvet jewel box from her dresser. Opening it, she took out the silver cross and slipped it around her neck. It was the cross Angel had given her when she had first met him. Wearing it made her feel loved and protected.

Touching it as she glanced in the mirror, she smiled again. He had reassured her again of his love before he left and promised that things would be different, that they would find a way to make things work.

And they would. It was enough. For now.

—-

In Spike’s crypt.

“It’s the chip! Steel and wires and silicon.” Spike raged, still kicking at pieces of broken furniture from his earlier tirade. “It won’t let me be a monster. And I can’t be a man. I’m nothing.”

His eyes wide at the anger radiating from the pale vampire, Clem replied, “Hey. Come on now, Mr. Negative. You never know what’s just around the corner. Things change.”

“Yeah, they do.” Spike muttered, a bitter sarcastic laugh escaping his lips.

Clem watched helplessly, uncertain as to what exactly had transpired earlier to set the vampire off.

“If you make them.” The blonde vampire muttered with a nasty grin on his face.

Stopping short, Spike whirled around and glanced at the door to the crypt.  Seconds later it crashed open with a sudden slam, breaking from the hinges at the force of the blow that had opened the door.

“You got that right.” Angel growled from the doorway, his voice softly vicious. His large form was utterly still. His eyes, now more gold than brown, held an unrelenting chill.

“Well, well. Look who’s here. Had you told me you were coming, I’d have cleaned up the place a bit.” Spike muttered sarcastically, glancing over at the broken furniture. “Oh wait. No, I wouldn’t have.”

With a feral smile on his face, Angel advanced through the door.

Spike tensed and shifted his stance slightly, his blue eyes without a trace of guilt or remorse. He didn’t have to ask why the older vampire was there – instinctively he knew. How he got there so soon and whether Buffy had called him, that was another question entirely. But he knew that Angel knew what had happened tonight, and he also knew that Angel had seen her. From the unmistakable scent clinging to the big poof, he also knew that Nancy boy had obviously done more than just see her.  A thought which ate at him, angering him more. How could she willingly give more to Angel, the man who had left her, than to him?

But the question remained, how much more?  Was he facing Angel or Angelus?

More times than he could recall, Spike had suffered through his sire’s various forms of torturous punishment for some infraction that Angelus would dream up just to amuse himself or Darla.  The title ‘Scourge of Europe’ had been well earned and well deserved; as was the fear that Angelus had instilled in vampires and demons alike. Of course, over time Spike had begun to crave the pain and would deliberately annoy Angelus to bring it on himself.

He studied his sire speculatively, searching for a clue. The mocking gleam was missing as was the expression of pure hedonistic joy that normally accompanied Angelus’ brutal acts. Angel then. The poof must have kept his soul. Spike felt his confidence rise.

Angel shoved part of a broken table out of his way, his eyes never leaving Spike’s face. Slowly he circled the smaller vampire.

“Get out.” Angel barked out in Clem’s direction. He didn’t care one way or the other if the demon obeyed.  It was more out of habit than anything that he even said anything at all.

Clem’s glance flitted from Spike to Angel then back again. He scurried out the door without a backward glance.

Driven by anger that had no outlet since Connor’s abduction, by rage at the treatment of his mate and a need for vengeance, Angel meant to see that Spike paid for his trespass.

“What? You think you can just come back here now and play the big white knight or something?” Spike snapped bitterly, his chin lifting slightly. “She’s been mine for months now, so sod off.”

“Don’t push it, Spikey.” Angel ground out, his voice lethally soft and in a tone so suspiciously like that of his demon that it once again gave Spike pause. “She was never yours and you know it.”

“That so?  She sure felt like mine when I was poundin’ her hot little ass.” Spike replied cockily, staring at the taller man. Despite the pugnacious expression and the cocky belligerence, uncertainty flickered in his eyes.  Angelus in a rage had been vicious and brutal beast; of course, the soul tempered that.  Confidently, he continued in a taunting voice, “Or was she not mine when she was begging for a little more of yours truly here? She’s certainly not yours seeing as you left her and all.”

Angel lunged forward, his fist smashing the blonde vampire in the mouth so viciously that his front teeth shattered.

“Nothing you can say excuses what you did.” The tall vampire bit out angrily.

Spitting out teeth and blood, Spike laughed. “Course, I do see now why you were so damned obsessed with her, Angelus. That Slayer stamina and flexibility combined with that tight little cu-”

Angel struck the blonde vampire with a lashing straight arm punch to the jaw that snapped his head back and sent him reeling backward into the wall behind him.

Pushing away from the wall, Spike swung and struck the taller vampire in the chin; Angel only shook his head as if flicking off a fly and slammed another blow to Spike’s gut.

The walls of the crypt shook and crumbled with the hard slams of their bodies, the furniture broke as their fight took them across the room and back again. Despite Spike’s well-honed skills, Angel was stronger, better skilled and more determined.

Grabbing Spike by the neck, Angel lifted him and shoved him hard against the wall in a rampaging fury.

Spike, his eyes nearly swollen shut now, struggled with desperate resistance. His frantic efforts left bloody scratches on Angel’s hands and arms but were futile at obtaining his release.

Angel’s hand closed tightly around his throat, nearly crushing the younger vampire’s unused windpipe.

Teeth and fangs bared, golden eyes flashing, Angel stared at Spike with a pitiless gaze, “You shouldn’t have tried to rape her.”

“What. Does. It. Matter. To. You.” Spike rasped out almost imperceptibly even as he struggled against the taller vampire’s grip. He swung a weak left hook but missed, Angel dodging the blow easily.

His fingers sank further into Spikes’ throat, threatening to rip it out. “She matters to me.”

“Ha!” The blonde vampire spat insolently, his bloody spittle spraying Angel in the face. He choked out the words in hoarse rasping sounds. “You left… her… you goddamn… bloody… wanker.  That… says… how much… she matters.”

“You should have learned a long time ago not to fuck with me, Spike.” As if disgusted, Angel suddenly released his grip. He watched as Spike crumpled to the floor. Or the woman I love.

Angel spat on the vampire as he lay on the ground. “I thought I taught you better than that.” His gaze swept the crypt in search of a weapon, a stake. Blood dripped on his shirt and he wiped at it absently, as if aware of the cut on his cheek for the first time.

At his feet, Spike moaned slightly.

Angel scrutinized his childe, Spike’s pale face mottled and swollen, his teeth shattered. As much as he wanted too, he wouldn’t stake him, not today. That would be too easy. He certainly deserved it, but it would be more of a punishment for the vampire to live as he was: neutered, neither man nor monster.

“Get up.” Angel kicked Spike in the back.

Spike rolled to his hands and knees. He coughed and choked, then spat out another mouthful of broken teeth and blood.

“If I hear that you’ve done anything else to hurt Buffy again, you’ll wish I had killed you.” Angel growled, wiping the blood from his face on one of Spike’s shirts. He wadded it up and tossed it aside.

Angelus had always been the master of torture; Spike knew that without at doubt. If Angel were to tap into even one tenth of Angelus’ expertise there.., He wasn’t going to push his luck.  Not now.

Weaving unsteadily, Spike rose to his feet.

Angel followed Spike’s motorcycle out of town, watching until the taillights were no longer visible before turning the GTX toward LA.

Buffy had been right.

Kicking ass really was comfort food.

The End.