She knew about it almost the same time it happened. That was just the way things were with apocalypses, or near apocalypses – at least for those in the know about such things. One could happen anywhere in the world, and she’d sense it, somehow. Her initial alarm and panic had turned quickly to hurt that he hadn’t called, particularly given the circumstances. Gradually, the hurt had turned to anger; anger that he hadn’t bothered to call, anger that his pride demanded that he face this thing on his own with only the help of a few friends close at hand, and anger at her own helplessness to do anything other than wait.
Now, little more than three months later, she was simply numb. She knew Wes hadn’t survived. Along with Giles, she had attended the somber memorial that was held for him in June at the lovely St. Agatha’s Church in Portsmouth. She had heard, too, about Gunn’s death. But of Angel, Spike, and Illyria there had been no word, nothing at all to give her any indication of their fate.
When Dawn handed her the letter, she had not been prepared for the impact that it would have on her. To see it on this warm summer day took her back to Christmas and to their bittersweet farewell in the Los Angeles airport almost nine months ago, their last time together in a lifetime of moments all too brief.
She felt it all again – the love, the sadness, the tremulous hope, and the fear that holding such hope would prove fruitless, along with the potent wash of memories.
She stared at the envelope, studying each graceful curve and bold line of her address, recognizing the elegant, flowing script. Her hand trembled slightly as she held the slightly smudged, worn paper, the memory of him coming to her so strongly that she felt as though he had reached out and touched her.
Forcing a smile, Buffy turned and walked into her bedroom, suddenly needing to be away from her sister’s curious gaze. She leaned heavily on the closed door, closing her eyes and sucking in a deep breath of air. She was deeply grateful that he was alive. Rumors of his defeat at Wolfram & Hart’s hands had never been substantiated, though recently it had been confirmed that the LA branch of W&H had been shut down. He had been victorious in that endeavor at least, and she was pleased for him.
As she read the letter, her eyes welled with tears. She hadn’t thought that anything could hurt so badly after all they had been through, but she was wrong. A sharp, piercing pain ripped through her, even as she tried to remind herself that theirs had never been a sensible relationship. She had always known in the back of her mind that they might never get their lifetime together, that a few stolen moments here and there might be all they would ever have. He could die and she might never seem him again. She had prepared herself for that many times over, especially during these last few months. She had not, however, prepared herself for his desertion.
She read the letter again then carefully refolded it, put it back in the envelope, and tucked it in the drawer alongside the scant few other letters he had sent her earlier this year, the last only a brief note penned sometime in March. Absently, she picked up one of the pillows off the bed and hugged it tightly to her chest as the tears began to flow unchecked.
Faith knocked on the door, but didn’t wait for an answer before she opened it. Gossip about the letter, and the identity of its sender, had spread like wildfire through the small apartment building that a few of the former Sunnydale residents now called home.
“He’s alive?” she asked, crossing the polished wood floor quickly to come to sit beside Buffy on the bed. Only recently had she become privy to the fact that her sister Slayer had continued a relationship with the ensouled vampire these last few years, though Buffy had not been forthcoming with details.
“Yes,” Buffy whispered, tears streaming down her face. “He’s alive.”
“Then he’s coming here, right?” Faith asked flatly. She, too, had grieved over the thought of Angel’s demise. He had helped her when everyone else had thought she was beyond saving, and he had convinced her that she could make a difference; she owed him a great deal – and, of course, she cared about the big lug. He was like the big brother she never had.
“No. He’s. still in LA. With Nina.” Buffy’s voice was filled with hurt.
“Nina? Who the hell is that?” Faith asked, surprised.
“I don’t know exactly. Someone he met at Wolfram & Hart.” Buffy sniffed and wiped her eyes.
Four months. He’d left her for someone else four months ago, and she hadn’t even known. No wonder the letters stopped in April – that must have been when they met. No wonder he hadn’t called about his big battle when it finally came in May. He’d probably already forgotten her by then. And it was no wonder that there had been no word from him after the battle. He had Nina, whoever that was.
Typical male, Faith thought with a snort, though she was honestly surprised to be thinking that about Angel. Prior to that moment, she would have bet her life that the vampire would never abandon Buffy for someone else. Duty perhaps, or some misguided, but noble, belief that he was doing what was best for her, yes. Someone else, never. “Are you sure?” she questioned with a frown. “Maybe you misunderstood what he said.”
“I don’t think so. “I’ve been seeing someone. Her name is Nina.” is pretty hard to misinterpret,” Buffy said morosely.
“Maybe he just slipped up. You know, a mistake. We all do from time to time, as you know,” Faith countered with a pointed look. “He’s only human – or not,” she amended at Buffy’s look. “But maybe that’s even more of a reason, the ole’ vamp libido. Hey, I’m sorry. But you guys have been apart a long time. It was probably just a physical gratification thing, and it meant nothing to him.”
“Maybe,” Buffy muttered with a shrug. “But it sounds like he’s still seeing her now. That makes it more than just a… slip up… or a physical gratification thing.”
“So what are you going to do?”
Buffy sighed, her eyes glistening with fresh tears. “Let him go, I guess.”
The voices in the apartment were growing louder as several of the SITs and Andrew had gathered with Dawn in the living room, all bubbling with curiosity about the latest gossip. Had the infamous vampire really survived the battle? And Spike – was he alive, had Buffy heard? Had Buffy really been involved with both vampires once? What had happened in Los Angeles? Had there really been a flying dragon?
“Tell you what, B. Why don’t I get rid of the nosy bunch out there,” Faith offered, dropping the subject. “And then tonight you and I can go out and kick some demon ass. Nothing beats slaying to work out some emotional angst.”
Buffy reread Angel’s letter one last time after Faith and the others left, desperately wanting to believe his simple words of love, but finding the sad reality of his commitment to duty closer to the truth. She had been incredibly naïve about him, about the possibility of a future for them, and about love being something that conquered all.
Even though she doubted that he was expecting it, after a while, she sat down and wrote a reply. He would always be in her heart, a part of her, and she couldn’t completely just sever her life from his even if she wanted to. She wrote to him about the beauty of the city she now called home, about Giles considering reforming the Watcher’s Council, and about the SITs. She told him of her love and concern for him, in phrases similar to his, then went on to describe her life and slaying in Rome. It’s less challenging than life on the hell mouth, she said, and peaceful by comparison, no doubt, to a life at Wolfram & Hart. She closed by wishing him peace and happiness, a sad acceptance that this was the truly the end for them pervading her mind.
I think of you everyday, and still wear the Claddagh ring that you gave me, she had written, and now that she reread the letter she wondered if she should have left that out. He might not appreciate the reminder of their past commitments to each other or of her continuing affections now that he was involved with someone else.
I want to sincerely thank you for everything, she added in a postscript, her tone more formal. He had, after all, been the financial benefactor that had helped them all get back on their feet after the destruction of Sunnydale.
As a final impulse, she added: I am deeply grateful for all that you have brought to my life.
She signed it, My love to you always, Buffy, then sealed it and dropped it in the post on her way out to meet Faith.
And then she got on with her life, because that was the only thing that she knew how to do.
The first month or so after the battle, Angel, Spike and Illyria had held up in the Hyperion simply too battered and physically exhausted to do little more than survive.
In July, the trio met with Cedric Bensen, the new liaison for the Senior Partners at Wolfram & Hart, to discuss some sort of resolution. After all, Angel was still President and CEO of the Los Angeles branch of Wolfram & Hart, a position that the Board of Directors could have filled with their chosen replacement in the case of Angel’s demise. Instead, they were stuck with a potentially messy legal entanglement, and they disliked loose ends and messy legal entanglements. The negotiations dragged on for weeks, as Angel was unyielding on several points initially laid out in the term sheet.
On August 18, the agreement was finally signed. The Los Angeles branch of Wolfram & Hart was officially declared defunct and Angel, Spike, and Illyria, as well as a dozen or so others that Angel specifically named, were free of any and all obligations related to the law firm. Even the ‘special’ contracts for those named had been unearthed and voided, a first in W&H history. Cedric, in summarizing the negotiations for the Senior Partners, wrote that Angel was the most brutal fellow and toughest negotiator that he had ever met. Was there really no possibility of keeping him on staff?
The question was met with disdain. For now, the Senior Partners wanted to hear nothing more of the vampire and that was that.
“I’m leaving LA,” Angel announced one night in late September to Spike and Illyria, wiping the blood from his sword off on the now-dead demon that lay prostrate at his feet. They had taken to patrolling the streets and back alleys as a way to stave off the boredom and restlessness that they all had begun to feel now that they were healthy and whole again.
“I’m due for a change in scenery myself. Never intended to stay here in Los Angeles as long as I did anyway, as you well know,” Spike replied with a bit of a smirk. “And I’m sure Blue here would be open to seeing a bit more of the world.”
Illyria glanced over her shoulder, her blue eyes wide. “We would leave this place? Where would we go?”
“I don’t think,,. you don’t have to go with me,.” Angel answered as he dropped from the street into the sewer access.
“I know, but I think it’s time. Never liked LA much anyway,” Spike stated matter-of-factly, waiting as first Illyria, then he followed Angel into the dank tunnel. “And yeah, where were you thinking of going?”
“I’m not sure,” Angel slowly replied, his life of late without purpose, direction or joy. He had thought that he would feel more vindicated at the absolution of the LA Wolfram & Hart holdings, but instead the victory felt almost empty. He had won this battle, but he knew the war was far from over; the Senior Partners were simply taking time to regroup.
“Taking dog girl along, are we?” Spike asked as he struck a match against the wall to light his cigarette. Angel’s cool detachment around the woman was so discernible, he wondered if the dark vampire actually ever said more than a few words to her, even in bed.
“No,” Angel said with a grimace. He’d seen Nina a few times in the last month or so, still disturbed by the rumors earlier that year about Buffy and The Immortal, brooding over the possibility that she had found someone else, and guilty, too, of his desertion of her, and the ploy that he had felt necessary in order to convince the Senior Partners that he had been evil. And with Nina eager for his attention, it had been almost too easy to fall into a casual relationship with her. It didn’t assuage his guilt for using her as he had; rather it made it worse, as well as convinced him more that he was unworthy of any relationship with Buffy.
“She will not be happy if you leave,” Illyria commented flatly. She had seen the blonde woman at the Hyperion several times and knew of her interest in Angel, even though the two women interacted very little.
“Understatement, that,” Spike added with a wry smile as he took a drag on his cigarette.
“I told her last time I saw her that I was leaving. That I wouldn’t see her again.”
“Ah, that would explain the shouts and hysterics of the other day then,” Spike noted bluntly, blowing a puff of smoke in the air. He had known as much even before he asked his question, but then he always liked needling the older vampire. They walked in silence for another block or so before Spike spoke again. With a sidelong glance at Angel, he asked, “So, we’re finally going to Rome then.”
Angel didn’t say anything for a long moment. When he finally turned to glance at the blonde vampire, his expression was shuttered. “I don’t know if she would want to see me. I wrote her and told her the truth. about everything.”
At Angel’s disgruntled look and reluctant nod, Spike gave a low whistle. “That was either incredibly brave or incredibly stupid.” He paused briefly as if considering before amending his statement, “I’ll have to go with stupid.”
Angel cast an annoyed glance at Spike but remained silent as they continue on their way back to the hotel.
“You should go.” The words came surprisingly from Illyria, who stopped to look directly at Angel. “You should not continue to live a lie.” It was one of the things that she had learned from Wesley before he died, and she had taken the words to heart, at least as much as she was able. His death flashed through her mind along with Fred’s memories, and for a brief instant she felt the pain of his loss. “You wish to be with someone else, and she is mortal. Therefore, your time with her is already limited.”
“As much as I hate to say it, I’d have to agree,” Spike offered with a lift of his brows.
Angel scoffed faintly as he glanced at the blonde vampire. “I can’t believe you’d agree, particularly on this subject and not after our trip to Rome earlier this year.”
“I can’t either, so don’t be expecting it to happen again,” Spike retorted with a wry grin. He’d known about Buffy and Angel’s secret meetings and ongoing relationship for quite some time, thanks to his vampiric senses, though it wasn’t something that either vampire ever mentioned, much less discussed. Given the circumstances their lives, Spike could understand why they had tried to keep it hidden. “We could be on our way within a few days, if you want. There’s got to be a freighter leaving LA in a week or so, two tops. Though it’s too bad we don’t still have the jet. Damn convenient that.”
Angel was silent for a moment, his fingers flexing on the sword he still gripped in his hand, his mind whirling with a host of uncertainties. Buffy may have forgotten all about him and moved on by now. The rumors about her relationship with The Immortal might be true. Even if they weren’t, she might not want to see him, given his faithlessness. After several minutes of deliberation, he made up his mind. Buffy was better off without him; he’d known that since the very beginning. He had hurt her time and again, of that there was no question. Now he had an opportunity to make things right. By staying out of her life, he could give her the chance at the normal life she deserved.
“Not Rome,” he finally replied. “Maybe Argentina, it’s been a long time since I’ve been there.”
Spike sighed. “Your mistake, mate.” Tossing the butt of his cigarette to the ground, he walked away. Illyria contemplated Angel silently for a moment before she too turned and walked away.
Arrangements were made, and within a week, the trio would embark on their journey on the freighter, Reederei F. Laeisz. After about 10 days at sea, they’d reach Buenos Aires, and then decide where to go from there.
Angel was packing when Spike walked into the room waving an envelope and saying in a sing-song voice that someone got a letter from Rome. It had apparently been delivered to the now abandoned offices of W&H, where it had been sitting for quite some time. Luckily for him, Spike said cheerfully as he withheld the letter from Angel’s grasp, he had decided to make one last farewell pass through the building; a reminder, if you will, of what they had accomplished. And, okay, he admitted at Angel’s skeptical look, he was checking to see if there was anything of value left behind. After finally handing the ivory envelope over, he dropped into a casual sprawl on the sofa and watched Angel pointedly, clearly indicating that he planned to stay until the letter was read.
Apprehensively, the dark haired vampire opened the envelope and began to read. Though the words were carefully phrased, he knew from her words that she still loved him, despite everything. He was at once comforted and oddly hopeful. He realized in that moment, reading what she had written, that his life without Buffy was merely existing. She filled his heart and warmed his very soul; her love had changed him. How had he managed to convince himself that he could live without her?
Placing the letter in his pocket against his heart, he strode toward the phone only to stop short. He couldn’t possibly explain the past months over the phone.
“It was good news, I take it?” Spike called from across the room, watching his grand sire with a somewhat bemused expression.
Angel glanced back over his shoulder. “How long will it take to get to Rome?”
The next 40 days were interminably long. Unable to sleep more than a few hours each day, Angel often paced restlessly around the small hold in the ship, driving Spike and Illyria nearly insane. When they reached Hamburg, the port of call for the freighter, they stayed only long enough to procure a car and fresh blood, before heading for Italy.
When they finally reached Rome, it was late November. They rented rooms at the Splendide Royal, near the city center. Angel showered and changed, then changed again, then chastised himself for feeling like an adolescent about to go on his first date. Still, he made a third attempt to tame the unruly mass of his hair, and exchanged his shirt one last time, exchanging the heavy black silk for a fine grey cotton one in hopes that it would make him appear less somber and dark. Donning his black leather jacket, he headed out toward Buffy’s apartment.
As he crossed the Via Vittorio Veneto, he again doubted his sanity. Her letter had been dated over two months ago, and they had been separated for almost a year. She could still be with The Immortal now… or someone else. If she were, he certainly couldn’t blame her; it would be just retaliation after his abandonment of her and his confession about his involvement with Nina.
Less than half an hour later, the man who had fearlessly led his team into a completely unmatched battle against the Senior Partners, stood nervously outside his girlfriend’s door and attempted to work up the courage to knock. Without warning, the door swung open, and he came face to face with the woman that he had come a great distance to see.
Buffy gasped and stumbled back in surprise. She wasn’t expecting anyone to be standing at her door, much less the dark figure waiting there now.
“Angel?” she breathed incredulously. Seconds later she was in his arms, and they were kissing and hugging with a desperate joy.
“I can’t believe you’re here,” she whispered, clinging to his shoulders tightly. She had given up completely on the idea that she would see him again. A sense of unguarded happiness pervaded her senses, temporarily displacing any thoughts of hurt or anger that may have been lingering.
“Nothing could keep me away,” he returned, smiling down at her. Here, with her in his arms, the months of doubt and guilt and indecision that had, in fact, kept him away, were forgotten.
A small crowd had begun to gather around them in the hallway, the SITs staring curiously, Dawn grinning happily, and Andrew looking guilty and ill-tempered. Faith was out, or she would have been there as well – no doubt with a few choice words for Angel, beginning by chastising him for his negligence in letting them know that he was alive.
With some reluctance, Buffy made the necessary introductions, curiously noting Andrew’s peevish expression, before sending them all away and inviting Angel into her apartment. She gave Dawn a pointed look, and the young brunette excused herself to go to Amelia’s down the hall.
After the door closed, Buffy and Angel stood in silence for a long moment simply staring into each other’s eyes, hands held tight.
“Tell me everything,” she said finally, drawing back from him in order to clear her mind. “How was the battle? Why didn’t you call? Where have you been? Why did you decide to come? I didn’t expect to see you again.”
He smiled at her rambling questions, reminded of how much he had missed it and missed her. “I love you. I’d come for you no matter where you were. How could you doubt that?”
“Your letter,” she said softly. “And Nina.”
“I had to take care of some things in LA. It just took a lot longer than I had hoped… And Nina. I’m sorry.” How could he adequately explain away his guilt? “If I had thought that there had been another way. it would have never happened.”
“The battle with Wolfram & Hart. it’s over then?” Her voice was flat. She wasn’t sure if she could just accept his apology or his excuse. It had been hard enough to accept his one night of sex with Eve thanks to the magic of Lorne’s suggestions, but after no small number of tears and a few dozen demons slain to work off the pain, she had. But Nina. that was something else entirely. It was more than one night; forgiveness required more consideration.
“It is for me, for now. I’ll tell you everything about that – later. I don’t want to think about Wolfram & Hart, or the Senior Partners, or anything about that last battle right now,” he replied. “Tell me about you. And The Immortal.” He could tell that she was angry and hurt, though he had expected as much. What he had not expected was his inability to control his jealousy.
Her eyes widened. “The Immortal?”
“Yes, The Immortal.” His voice was whisper soft as he read guilt into her reaction.
“How did you know?” she asked. She had the grace to look disconcerted.
“Andrew?” She echoed, her eyebrows lifting in surprise.
“I was here in May on an errand. We – Spike and I – came by to see you. Andrew said you were out with The Immortal. We went to a club that the two of were supposed to be at, the bartender there knew you. She said that you and The Immortal were lovers. Since we missed you there, we came back here to see you, and Andrew made it a point of saying that you had moved on.”
“And did you believe him – Andrew – about all of that?” she questioned mildly, crossing her arms over her chest. Now that she thought about it, it would explain Andrew’s expression earlier upon seeing the dark vampire at her door. He never liked Angel, instead idolizing Spike and telling her that he was the one she should be with. And, of course, Andrew had caused trouble before earlier in the year during the trip to LA to pick up Dana by lying to Angel and telling him that she no longer trusted him. At least in that particular instance, they had managed to clear things up with a phone call.
He hesitated a moment before he answered. “Yes.”
“Is that why you slept with Nina then? A retaliation fuck?” she questioned heatedly, her temper rising.
He didn’t have an answer for her. Instead, he jammed his hands in his pockets and studied the pattern on the carpet on the floor. He had been resentful and jealous when he returned from Rome. If he were honest with himself, he would have to admit that it had played into his decision. Believing that Buffy had slept with someone else made it easier to justify his involvement with Nina, something he considered necessary in convincing the Senior Partners that he had gone to the dark side.
“I hate to break the news to you, but Andrew isn’t an authority on my life, sexual or otherwise. All Andrew knows is that The Immortal was a friend of mine.”
Angel snorted softly at the ridiculous notion, knowing the man in question as he did. “The Immortal doesn’t have friends, Sweetheart, especially beautiful female friends. But if you’re just friends, then he won’t mind if I don’t let him fuck you again.”
Buffy eyes blazed angrily for a moment. “I’m not one of your minions, or one of your employees, or even one of your fawning females that you can order around.”
“Then tell me that The Immortal was just a platonic acquaintance.” His voice was laced with sarcasm, his expression foreboding.
She looked away, running her hand over her hair. She knew it would come to this eventually, but she hadn’t realized how hard it would be. Many times over she had rehearsed in her head what she would say, but now, faced with the eventuality, the words seemed to have disappeared.
Taking a deep breath, she looked back at him. “I… um… oh god, this is harder than I ever imagined. It was only once. I never meant for it to happen at all, even then, but it did.”
His head came up, his jaw clamped shut and her stared at her with dark, intense eyes.
“I’d only had a word or two from you in months. There was that whole trust thing with Andrew, and then that ugly mess with Giles not helping with Illyria. and then one of the few times we were actually able to talk, it was because you called to confess what happened with Eve. Not exactly the best of circumstances, you have to admit,” she offered with a contrite shrug of her shoulders.
“And The Immortal… he was.” she paused struggling for words to describe the complexity of the man in question. “He… he was gorgeous and worldly and so attentive. We went out a few times. dancing, dinner, and it was fun. He talked about knowing you. I guess because I missed you, I wanted to hear his stories; I wanted to hear about you – even as Angelus. One night things went a little father than I thought they would… and I… I had sex with him. I. it happened only once. I wouldn’t see him again after that. I think in some ways it was just a game to him, that he was interested in me because he knew about you and about us.”
She took a deep breath, struggling to put her emotions in some semblance of order.
“So, I can’t exactly throw stones about Nina. but it still hurts, you know. Once, I could have understood, or somehow rationalized. Once. But you went to her after. you didn’t even call me to let me know that you were alive. Instead you went to her.”
Silence hung between them for a long moment.
“I’m sorry, Buffy, if that helps. Very sorry,” Angel said quietly. Their separate lives had been difficult, this last year particularly so. “I understand. about The Immortal. It doesn’t mean I like it, but I can understand it.” He smiled faintly, apologetically.
“I’m sorry, too,” Buffy murmured softly. She would take it back if she could, but she didn’t say so due to a lingering resentment of Nina.
“I should have called you. Hell, I should have come to you long before now. But I… I wasn’t thinking too clearly after everything that happened. I hating using Nina – she didn’t deserve it. But even more, I hated hurting you. The more that I knew that I hurt you, the less I thought I deserved you.”
“And so you were going to just leave me?” Buffy asked with a lift of her brows. “Oh, because we know that doesn’t hurt.” The sarcasm was prevalent in her tone.
He looked away.
“Angel.” she began more softly. “We’ve talked about this before, and you know I hate it when you say that. If you love me as much as you say you do, then don’t I deserve that?”
Angel didn’t answer for a moment, thinking over her words and the many conversations in the past that they had had on this topic. He returned his gaze to her face. “You deserve more than that.”
“Maybe. Maybe not.” Buffy said with a small shrug. It was an old argument; they might never agree, and she was too emotionally fragile right now to start it up again. Even more importantly perhaps, she didn’t want to start it up again now. “So, where do we go from here?”
“I was actually just thinking about that.” He took a step toward her. They had both made mistakes, but now they had an opportunity to start anew. He wasn’t about to let that slip through his fingers without a fight.
“And I was thinking your bedroom. I can show you how sorry I am, and we can make up properly. Then we can make up for all the days and nights that I haven’t been able to hold you in my arms.” His smile was shameless.
“Angel.” She admonished, her lips curving up in a smile. “You think that we’ll just make love, and everything will be all right?”
“It’s a start,” he shrugged, taking another step closer and holding out his hand. “And I thought it would be better than making love on your living room floor, but I’m more than willing…”
“I have missed you,” she offered, glancing up at him seriously. “But it doesn’t solve our problems. If we’re going to do this, I want to do it right this time. No more sneaking around. I don’t want to have to hide or pretend. I want to make a life with you. If you aren’t willing to do that, then we should end it here, now. I can’t have my heart broken again.”
“Kiss me,” he murmured, stepped closer and sweeping her in his arms before she could protest. “It’s been too long, and I’ve missed you so much.”
“I’m serious, Angel,” she said, leaning back to glance up at him sternly.
“Tell me what you want me to do, and I’ll do it,” he replied seriously, recognizing the stricture in her voice. He didn’t want to argue with her.
“Stay with me, forever,” she answered.
“Done.” Lifting her with a quick sweep of powerful muscle, he carried her toward the room he knew to be her bedroom.
“Don’t say it if you don’t mean it.” She gazed up at him with longing and with wariness.
“Every problem we have, we’ll take them one at a time and solve them. We’ll make this work, I promise,” he softly affirmed. He regretted every time he had hurt her, and vowed then to do everything in his power to prevent it from happening again.
Buffy studied his expression. He was serious this time. A future for them, together, was actually possible. The epiphany struck her with such intensity that she felt a sudden jolt of happiness that made her almost giddy. “You’re serious?”
“Never more so,” he murmured with a smile. “I’m miserable without you.”
Their lips met as he set her on her feet, allowing her body to slide against his in a subtle caress. Their kisses were slow, lingering, and passionate, the months apart quickly igniting the flame of desire.
Buffy’s hands roved over his chest and shoulders, her palms trailing along the soft cotton of his shirt to the twill of his pants. Her fingers brushed the hard swell of his erection, as their lips and tongues met again in another deep, heated kiss.
When she unbuckled his belt, he grabbed her wrist and pulled her hand away. “Not so fast, love,” he whispered against her lips before sliding them against her cheek to her throat. “I’ve been waiting too long for this. I don’t want to rush.”
“But I want you,” she countered, suddenly impatient and needy.
“You have me.” Lifting his head, he smiled down at her. “And this time, I’m not leaving.”
“Those are some of my favorite words,” she said playfully, reaching for the buttons on his shirt. She scarcely dared to believe him after so many partings in their past, the idea simply too good to be true.
He shrugged out of his coat and dropped it carelessly to the floor behind him. He reached for her shirt, tugging it over her head. “I think I know some other words that you like.”
“You do, huh?” She ran her palms over his shoulders, pushing his shirt down his arms. A spiraling heat rippled through her in heated memory.
“You’re so beautiful,” he murmured, running a finger along the swell of her breasts just above the lace edges of her bra. He unclasped the front hook and eased the material back, cupping her warm breasts in his cool hands. He traced the peaks of her nipples with his thumbs, feeling them grow harder with his touch.
“You’re not too bad yourself,” Buffy whispered in response.
He tugged on her nipples, and she gasped softly, a rush of desire flaring through her senses.
Angel looked down at her, half-undressed, her green eyes half-closed and dark with lust, and he wondered how he had lived without her for so long. How he ever thought he could live without her.
“You deserve so much better,” he whispered, leaning down to kiss her.
“I deserve you,” she countered against his mouth, feeling almost light-headed and dizzy.
“I want to see you,” he fairly growled, impatient suddenly himself. He wrenched her jeans open, almost tearing them in his haste, and pushed them down her hips.
“You too,” she ordered, tugging at his pants as he kicked off his boots.
Once undressed, she took his hand and tugged him back toward the bed. Hands held tightly, their eyes locked and held.
“Welcome home,” she whispered.
“Rome, the eternal city,” he murmured, his lips brushing her earlobe. “A good place for us to start over, I think.”
“Yes.” She agreed. She was liquid, melting, the sensations so familiar with him, so natural, the ache between her legs so intense, she felt as if she might suddenly come apart.
Kissing her softly, he eased her back on the bed by degrees. Sliding between her legs, guided himself into her. Slowly, slowly, he pressed forward until the entire hard length of his cock was buried inside her. Until she gasped, her body trembling around him, welcoming him home to her.
Buffy held him close, her hands gliding over his back, down his waist to his hips. She lifted her hips and drew him in, feeling his weight above and around her as he began to move. She gripped him fiercely as the first fluttering spasms began.
Angel felt as if he were an adolescent again and out of control. It had been too long since he had been with her; and he drove deeper, harder, thrusting into her as she whimpered into his mouth and wrapped her legs so tightly around his hips that he could barely move. He rocked against her as their senses reeled, their minds feverish with lust.
“Please, Angel, please,” she begged, her mouth pressed against his throat. He poured into her then with an explosive rush, his control lost at having her again.
Nuzzling her neck, he gave in to the impulse and bit down, hard.
Buffy cried out as the shuddering, breath-held, gasping orgasm that had been threatening overtook her. It was a constrained rapture that lasted for an emblazoned eternity; that shocked their nerves and touched them to their very souls, and more than made up for the long, grievous months of deprivation.
“That was. wow,” Buffy breathed softly a short while later when she could finally think or speak.
Still lying over her, braced on his elbows, Angel smiled but didn’t move or open his eyes.
“Are you alive?” She asked playfully, dropping a kiss on his shoulder.
“I’m not sure,” he murmured, his voice muffled.
“I’m glad you came.” She laughed at the unintentional double entendre, the sound trilling out in the hushed bedroom.
“I’m going to make you happy,” he said, opening his eyes at last and leaning back slightly to look down at her. He shifted then, his erection swelling inside her and triggering new, small waves of intoxicating pleasure.
“I know,” she said twining her arms around his neck, her smile beatific. “And speaking of happy.” she squirmed beneath him, rocking her hips slowly in encouragement.
“I love you.” He eased back then drove forward.
“I love you,” she returned with heartfelt sincerity.
“That’s all that matters,” he whispered, brushing her mouth with a kiss. “We’ll figure the rest out as we go.”
They made love slowly that time, their initial impetuous lust partially assuaged. Then they made love again, this time with Buffy taking the lead as Angel lay sprawled on her bed in blissful repose. Their combined scents clung to their bodies as she straddled his hips and glided down on him in single thrust. Their sweat covered bodies slipped and slithered together, a kind of frenzy pervading their minds as their world was reduced to an undulating rhythm, to unabashed sensation, and to nothing more than each other.
That late November afternoon was a small slice of heaven; a private, sequestered, homecoming, and a new beginning.
It was a chance, finally, for deeply requited love.