Wolfram and Hart were still searching for a replacement for Lilah when Angel figured out exactly who was behind everything. He cursed himself for not figuring it out sooner and that he wasn't the one able to rip her throat out, just as Drusilla had done.
Drusilla herself had once again disappeared and as long as she didn't show up in Los Angeles or Sunnydale again, her un-life was safe.
They finally tracked a bruised and broken Spike down to a small crypt in a town a few miles from Sunnydale. He had dragged himself there and collapsed, unable to feed therefore unable to heal. Unsure of who had exactly caused him the pain in the first place, Angel had silently thanked them and set about inflicting his own kind of pain before dragging him outside and chaining him to the wall ready to meet the sunrise.
They had a small evening funeral for Dawn, covering her grave and surrounding area with brightly coloured flowers.
Angel had stood and held Buffy's hand throughout the whole ceremony and they had returned to Los Angeles that evening.
Buffy lay sprawled across her bed with a book in her hand. The curtains were wide open and sunlight lit the whole room up and warmed her skin.
The phone suddenly rang, making her jump and she rolled over and picked it up.
"Hello Buffy," Giles' voice greeted, "How are things?"
"Fine, we do Tai Chi a lot and yoga. Keeps things sane, ya know." She paused. "Angel has this friend who I think is half demon, but anyway…he has been teaching me all this stuff, like to be at peace with yourself. I told Angel he should do it as well, but I think he thinks Yoga is too girly." Giles smiled at her rambling, maybe things would turn out okay.
"And have you been seeing that counsellor I suggested?" he enquired gently.
"I've been a couple of times," she finally said after a pause.
"Miss Betts is well acquainted with all things supernatural, you really can tell her anything," Giles reminded her.
"Yeah, I know," she sighed, "She keeps asking questions though, like about my childhood. It's so cliché," Buffy leaned forward on her bed, and touched her toes as she spoke, stretching out her muscles. She was due to meet Angel in the training room in a few minutes, for her first real spar.
"That's her job Buffy," Giles said, with an amused roll of
"Well I am supposed to be going over tomorrow some time. How's things in Sunnydale?" she asked, changing the subject.
Giles frowned. "When was the last time you called them?"
"Oh I rang Will the other day, but she had to go so we didn't speak for long."
The Watcher's heart went out to the sadness in her voice; he would love to just shake them and make them see sense. It wasn't her fault what happened. 'Nor was it Angel's before,' a voice at the back of his mind reminded. Slipping off his glasses he began to rub them vigorously, things were just so complicated.
"I am sure there was a good reason and she will call you in no time at all," Giles said after a pause; he didn't want to lie to her, but some hope was better than no hope he supposed. Maybe he could call Willow and have a word with her.
"Yeah," Buffy murmured. "Well now I have got to go; Angel will be waiting for me.
"Goodbye Buffy," he said, "and be careful."
"Bye Giles," she replied and hung up with a click. She got up off the bed and stretched again, before pulling a sweater on and hurrying out the room. She took the stairs two at a time and made her way into the basement where the training room was.
Angel stood over by his punch bag, his back to Buffy. He was shirtless and had obviously just finished an energetic workout if the small beads of sweat gleaning on his rippling muscles was anything to go by. She swallowed hard. He turned as Buffy scuffed her foot in the doorway and smiled at her.
"Fred said she would like to come and watch us spar, if that's okay?" he asked.
She nodded, although inwardly she didn't want Fred to watch them. It was the first time she had done anything like this in awhile, after having concentrated on calming methods, designed to bring peace, if only for an hour or so. Buffy didn't really want an audience on her first time. Although the blonde had been living at the Hyperion for just over a month now, she had kept herself to herself, not really wanted to socialise and hadn't really got to know Gunn, Fred and Lorne who she saw from time to time, she just made polite small talk before finding some excuse to leave.
Cordelia hadn't changed much; just her catty comments were more carefully disguised and when Angel or one of the others were near by, she suddenly became concerned about how Buffy was feeling. Angel seemed to be really close to her, so she refrained from saying anything back.
Buffy had mixed feelings over Angel being close to her. She was happy for him, really. He had found a family, a place where he belonged, but to Cordelia? The Cordelia Chase who made Sunnydale High an even worse place to be. Although she had been told Cordelia had "changed," she still wasn't quite so sure.
Angel had walked over to a large cupboard and seemed to be debating whether to use a weapon or not. His fingers brushed over an ornate silver sword before he turned to Buffy who had just taken her jumper off revealing a black tank top.
He cleared his throat. "I haven't sparred without weapons for a long time," he explained, "but I don't mind. I have some sparring poles I used with Cordelia around somewhere."
Buffy gave him a sceptical look, "Weapon-less is fine."
The door opened and Fred stepped through. "Don't mind me," she smiled, sitting down on the top step.
It started off slowly at first, Angel threw the first punch, Buffy blocked it, Buffy swung one at him, Angel knocked her back. It got quicker and quicker. Kick, duck, swing, jump, punch, duck over and over. Fred lost them in a blur of motion, they were so quick. One minute they would be at the bottom of the stairs and the next on the other side of the room before the brunette could even blink.
Buffy grabbed hold of the punch bag and swung herself round into Angel. He lost his balance and they went crashing to the floor. She tried to push herself up, breathing harshly but Angel put his hand on her wrist, looking into her sea green eyes. She blushed and jumped up, "I'm really sorry," she mumbled and fled up the stairs leaving Fred confused.
"What just happened?" Fred immediately inquired.
"I don't know," Angel replied, deep in thought.
"Dinner's ready!" Lorne called loudly as he put down the stew he had been cooking…for the last five minutes. So, it was out of a few cans, but who needed to know?
"Mmm, smells good," Cordelia commented, as she walked into the room they used for eating with Angel, Gunn, Groo and Fred following close behind.
"Help yourself my little sugar muffin," he placed a mug of warm blood at Angel's seat and sat down.
"Thanks," Angel said. They all took their seats and began to eat.
"Buffy here?" Gunn asked, with a mouthful of food.
Fred shrugged, "Maybe she isn't hungry," she said, glancing at Angel.
Just then the door opened quietly and Buffy slipped in and took her seat. "Sorry I took so long, I was in the shower." She was dressed in a dark top with black jeans and had clipped the top layer of her hair up. The fair-haired Slayer seemed to have omitted all light colours from her wardrobe and generally stuck to looser fitting clothes unless she was training.
Lorne pushed over a bowl with a kind smile, "Help yourself."
She listened idly, playing with her food, while they all chatted about subjects ranging from their latest cases, the weather and the latest topics on the news.
"That guy, that wore the red shirt that clashed with his pants, he just stared at my chest throughout the case. It was really getting on my nerves, I mean there we were trying to save his life and that's all he could do!" Cordelia complained.
"Cordy, he was blind," Fred said, trying to hold back a giggle.
Cordelia stared at her for a minute, "I knew that, I was only kidding." She smiled, a huge fake grin. Everyone laughed and the conversation changed. Buffy frowned, how could anyone put up with her? Her thoughts drifted to earlier. Everything had been going fine; it felt like old times where she and Angel would spar for hours in the mansion. Then, she had fallen on him and Buffy was sure she had seen disgust flit through his deep brown eyes.
She had slept with Angelus and demanded that he fucked her. Oh god, what must he think of her?
Buffy noticed that while Angel added things to the conversation, enough to not make anyone suspicious, he wasn't really there. His eyes kept flicking to the door like he was desperate to leave. She knew the feeling.
The meal finally ended and Buffy fled up to the sanctuary that was her room.
"Buffy?" Angel said softly, stepping into her room. She sat on the window ledge, her knees tucked up under her chin, staring up at the stars. She didn't acknowledge his presence, but didn't tell him to go away either.
"Are you okay?" Words, they were never enough. They couldn't take away her pain, fear or loneliness. His mind drifted to Connor and he imagined Buffy sitting where she was now, holding his son tightly with a smile playing on her lips. He blinked and the image was gone.
"I'm hiding living here," Buffy said, "I don't have to face the families of anyone I hurt. I don't have to see Dawn's closed door and I don't have to look at anything that reminds me of Spike. I can close that door, get into bed and pull the cover over my head. But I'm not really living. I have been doing it all year and when it turns around and smacks me in the face, I run away and hide some more."
"You have to heal before you live," Angel reminded her.
"No, I think you have to live to heal," Buffy, smiling wistfully, "although it doesn't seem to work much. They say time heals, but I think all that time does is make it easier to bury it, lock it away in the place inside you that only gets opened you have something else to add to it." Her words weren't bitter, just accepting. "I think I need to go back to Sunnydale, but I don't think Sunnydale wants me."
"Buffy -" Angel started, than stopped. What could he say after all? Words of comfort usually were easy to come by to desperate people that just wanted some kind of hope.
But Buffy wasn't just anyone.
She sighed, sliding off the windowsill and sat down on the bed. "So Angel, what's going on around here? It's like this atmosphere, something obviously happened."
He looked at her for a minute, debating whether he should tell her or not, he looked into her stormy eyes and decided she deserved to know and began to tell her the tale of Darla being brought back to life, his subsequent downfall and eventually sleeping with her. Then, her returning to Los Angeles, heavily pregnant, Connor's birth, and memories he had of this baby he had created and finally, Wesley's betrayal.
Buffy didn't say anything when he had finished, but motioned for him to lay down with her. She pulled him close to her and buried her head into his chest, breathing in his scent. It felt good to tell her, release his bottled up feelings out. It also felt good to be held by someone who understood and shared his pain. He closed his eyes and for the first in months, slept without any nightmares haunting him.
When he woke up in the morning she was gone and a note was in her place.
I decided to go back and I knew if I waited until morning I would change my mind. It's something I know I have to do.
Thank you so much for letting me stay here. It meant so much to me and I don't think there was any chance of me getting back onto my feet if it hadn't have been for you.
I would love it if we could stay in contact, phone, letters, email, text. There's no excuse anymore!