Summary: Angel is human. Angst ensues. There'll be a happy ending, but not till the next story. Sorry ;)
Spoilers: Through S7/S4.
Rating: PG-13, to be uber-safe. This is entirely not explicit.
Disclaimer: "How" is by Lisa Loeb. The characters from "Buffy" and "Angel" belong to people much more creative, wealthy, and cruel than me. And Shakespeare is public domain, dammit. At least it ought to be, if it's not--the man's been dead for a long time.
Distribution: is awesome, just tell me where. These stories are archived on and my website, .
Notes: We're going to pretend that Angel's season 4 exploits granted him his Shanshu. This takes place in what would be the beginning of "Angel" season 5. Also, I know the ending seems abrupt--as I said, there'll be another story.
Feedback: Really, I really, really want feedback. Honestly, even leave me an anonymous note in my guestbook. Even if you think this sucks, tell me! And I'll try to fix it! Heh. I am desperate for acknowledgement ;) E-mail at [email protected].

I. Angel

I didn't come this far for you to make this hard for me

I don't know what I thought. If I was thinking at all.

What was I thinking, coming here?

I'm hiding in the shadows again, but those windows are glowing golden and warm and I can see her silhouette through the flimsy cotton curtains. I can hear her laughter. We never laughed enough when we were together, hardly even smiled. The girl I saw sitting on the steps had radiated sunlight, and I pulled her into the darkness.

Willow warned me--She's been to some dark places. Came back from death but never really came back to life. Slept with Spike--but I can't think about that. I won't. Willow said--She isn't ready to see you yet. She doesn't say your name.

I ring the doorbell and wait, bouncing on the balls of my feet. I shouldn't be nervous. There's nothing to be nervous about. What's the worst that could happen? She'll send me away--I can handle that. I've spent four years without her, I can handle the rest of my life. At least it's shorter now. Fifty years isn't as hard as eternity.

She'll send me away...or she won't. I've pictured it too many times: she runs into my arms and I hold her, promise I'll never leave her. Our lips meet and there is no desperation or bitterness in our kiss, only hope, only the sweetness of her breath. That fantasy always gives me glimpses of our future together: dancing at our wedding reception, reading to our children, making love while sunlight streams through the bedroom windows. We could have forty, even fifty years together, and eternity after that.

Eternity evaporates when she opens the door and I fall into her hazel eyes again.


God, I love the way she says my name. "Speak again, bright angel," I breathe, not even realizing my words. Romeo and Juliet? I smile a little--it isn't far from the truth. Star-crossed lovers, soulmates, torn apart by circumstance.

"What did you say ?" she asks, her nose crinkling. It's a classic Buffy expression. I want to kiss her, trace that confused frown with my tongue. "Um, why don't you come in?" she continues.

This new house is similar to the one on Revello Drive--living room off to the side, a spacious kitchen, a few bedrooms upstairs. There are boxes and books piled everywhere--She just moved in a week ago, she's stressed out enough, Willow told me. This house is holding far more people than it was built for--Buffy, Dawn, Willow, Xander, Giles, Faith, a man named Robin Wood, a few of the potentials. Willow says it's only temporary, that they'll split off once they've made some decisions, gotten situated.

She leads me into the living room. It's comfortable, berber carpeting and a blue L-shaped couch. She sinks into it and motions for me to do the same. "So, what's the deal?" She speaks lightly, but I can feel the strain beneath the surface. I'm making her uncomfortable. She told me--Go away, I'm not 'cookies' yet. I should go. She wants me to go. "...I really don't need an apocalypse right now, you know, we've finally gotten settled here." I realize she's been talking the whole time.

"Um. This is...I'm here for...personal reasons."

She sobers immediately. "Oh." Silence. Then--"Okay, I'll bite." She winces. "Not literally, of course, I didn't actually--never mind." I love it when she babbles.

I spent the drive to San Diego composing speeches in which I told her about the lost day and my Shanshu, professed my undying love, and begged her to take me back. In my dreams, I didn't have to beg for long. Now that I'm sitting here, those speeches seem trite. Words could never convey what I feel for this small blonde flame. Nothing I can say will make up for four years of lost time, nothing I can say will make us the people we were when I left. What if we've changed too much?

What was I thinking, waltzing back into her life? 'Hi, I'm human, will you move in with me?' I don't even know how to begin.

"The thing is...Buffy, I..." I sigh, a drawn-out exhalation. I love breathing, I love feeling the oxygen rush through my body. I love feeling my own blood pumping through my veins.

My breath didn't go unnoticed. Her eyes grow wide, and her next words are barely audible. "God, Angel, you're human."

II. Buffy

Why did you come here? You weren't invited.
You were on the outside, stay on the outside.

I just want to fall apart. I wonder if it would be wrong to just curl up in his arms and never leave. I hear my voice speaking from far away: "How did it happen?"

And him, miles away but still closer to me than me, if that's possible, and I'm sure it's not. "It's kind of a long story. There was this prophecy...thing...Shanshu. Once I fulfilled my duty, I would live to die."

"Become human." Me again. Dreamy-sounding, a little lost. "So what--"

"I know you wanted time," he rushes on, "but I wanted to tell you." He had to tell me. If he'd showed up six months later 'Hey, I've been human for a while and I figured I'd have to see you sooner or later' I would have killed him.

"Time. Right." Can I kiss you now?

When he showed up to fight the First, it made sense to kiss him, to make half-promises. Now that we're out of the life-and-death situations, it's all a hell of a lot harder.

As soon as he walked through the door, I knew something was different. He walked heavily, with none of the predatory grace he'd always had. His skin looked almost flushed, but I passed it off as a trick of the light. But sitting next to him--watching his chest rise and fall, he used to breathe sometimes out of habit (habit after two and a half centuries?) but it was different this time. Now he swallows the air, tastes it, savors it.

He's human.
I can't...I can't even think about realizing what this could mean.
We could have everything. I could finally be with him. And maybe that would make all of this worth it. Maybe his humanity is his reward *and* mine. We both get the only things we've ever wanted--he gets to live and die a human being, and I get a lifetime with the person I love the most.

I have to stop this. It's not like he's said anything, promised me anything. He said he wanted to tell me he was human, not spend the rest of his short life with me.

He stands up. "I should go."

My mind whirls. What? "Go?'

Angel shrugs. "I just wanted to let you know. This doesn't change anything, I just...I'll see you around."

His words finally register. I jump up and grab his arm. "What do you mean, this doesn't change anything?"

He sighs, like he knows exactly what I'm going to say and exactly how he's going to argue with it. "Look, Buffy, you still have your life, and I have mine. It's been a long time since we were together, we can't know if we still--"

I won't let myself cry. I won't. "So that's it, then. You just dropped by to tell me to have a nice life, and now you're going to take your *fucking* trenchcoat and walk into the darkness again. You came all the way back here just to turn your back on me again." I can feel the tears gathering at the corners of my eyes again, and I look down so he doesn't see. "If that's all you came to do, then get out."

He looks at me helplessly. That stupid shrug again. "Buffy, I--"

"Get out!"

He looks at me, completely bewildered. I didn't think it was that hard to understand.

"Get out of my home, Angel," I say, only a little calmer. "I can't deal with this. I can't deal with you. You want to be with me but you don't want your life to be with me. You come back here and you kiss me and you pretend you still love me and then a few months later you come back human and tell me that nothing has changed and that we still can't be together?" I bite my lip. "I can't do this anymore, Angel."

He's completely silent. Fine. It's about damn time he had to shut up and listen to me.

After a long moment he looks up again, massages his forehead, looks around like maybe I've left a script for this conversation lying around somewhere. Finally he speaks, softly. "I never said I didn't want to be with you."

"Then why the speech? We can never be happy, blah blah blah. Ooh, I have an idea for a new reality TV show: 'Let's Break Buffy's Heart,' and whoever gets it into the most pieces wins a shiny new law firm. Does that sound good--"

"Buffy, I only said those things because I didn't think you still wanted to be with me!"

I can feel my jaw drop. I stand there looking at him like an idiot.

He takes a deep breath. "I didn't want to scare you away. I thought it would be...presumptuous of me to come here and declare my undying love, all right?"

"Yeah? I think it's 'presumptuous' of you to come here at all." God, I hate it when he justifies himself like that. When he's right. That was always the weirdest part of being with Angel--nothing could have been more wrong, but he was still always right. We were always right.

"So, you want me to leave." And cue Angel's confused face. It's not any less gorgeous than his regular face, which is really unfair.

"Of course I don't want you to leave!" I say. And as an afterthought: "Duh."

Now he's completely bewildered. It's not like I'm hard to understand: all I want is him. He's all I've ever wanted. His voice is calm, counseling: "Tell me what you want, Buffy." His eyes search mine with the kind of intensity I've never known in anybody else.

I spell it out. "I want to be with you, Angel. I want to wake up next to you every morning. I want to have children with you and take them on picnics. I want to marry you. I want to wash dishes with you." I blink. "Not necessarily in that order."

He looks--relieved, almost. "That sounds like a pretty good start."

And it is. I just wish that start was enough.

III. Angel

And now you want to ask me "Why?"
It's like--"How does your heart beat?" and "How do you cry?"

"But I still need some time," she said, calmly, rationally. She echoed all of my dreams back to me and then told me she needed time. Willow was right. I should never have come here. I should have respected Buffy's wishes.

I suppose it was the best response I could have hoped for, considering the circumstances.

Seven years of circumstances. Two and a half centuries of circumstances.

That pain and horror and loss trails us still, and I curse everyone who has ever hurt her, and I curse myself because no one is more guilty of that crime than me.

She's right, I know. A heartbeat doesn't erase the things we have done to each other and to ourselves. It doesn't heal the still-raw wounds that I--that Angelus--carved in her heart, nor three months in Hell, nor all of our run-ins over Faith. It doesn't fill in the empty spaces caused by those more personal losses: Connor, Joyce, Cordelia, Tara, Doyle, Anya, Spike, Jenny...I wonder how long it would take me to list all of the people we have lost. We have ten lifetimes of grief between us.

I'm sure it's easier for me, because I know one very simple truth: without Buffy, I would never have known the love of anyone else. Without me, Buffy would still have suffered more than her share, but she would have been spared a great deal of it.

So of course it would be easier for me to forgive.

She says she needs time--as though I haven't known enough women to understand what that means. I don't have much time left...and whatever time I do have, I want to spend with her. Getting to know her again.

Healing those old scars.

Buffy told me--I still love you, more than I have ever loved anyone, but you were right, you being human doesn't just change everything. We still have a lot of history to deal with before we can start again. And I want to work through all of those memories, because unless I do, we'll fall apart...and I can't let that happen, Angel. I can't lose you again.

I have to respect her wishes, so I will take one last step forward and let her deal with it however she needs to.

I seal the package, and write her name and address neatly on the front. It's seven o'clock in the morning, and I drive to the post office.

The sun is rising over the Pacific, and I think that the sea looks a little like Buffy's eyes.

It gives me some hope.

Please leave feedback! Or send it to [email protected] :) Thank you.