Chapter Nine

Rome Italy 2004 (Present Day)

"Earth to Buffy," Dawn said.

"Huh?" Buffy looked up with a start. She shook her head. Everything seemed fuzzy somehow. She glanced around. She and Dawn were sitting in a little Italian café drinking espresso. She furrowed her brow. She didn't remember coming here. "Dawn, what day is it?"

"Thursday, Buffy are you okay? Cuz if you're going mental it might be a good idea to call Willow or Giles or someone," Dawn said.

"Yeah, I'm fine. Uhm, let's go to London. I think seeing Willow and Giles might be a good idea. And Xander, I need to see Xander. You can stay with them for a little while. I need to go to Los Angeles," Buffy said.

Dawn grinned. "Does this mean you're cookies?"

"What? How did you-"Buffy started.

"Relax, I over heard you telling Willow about it on the bus after we cratered Sunnydale," Dawn said.

The two Summers girls stood up and walked back to their apartment. Buffy threw clothes in a suitcase without any recollection of what she was doing. She just knew she needed to get to Angel as soon as possible. She had to find out if he was okay.

*

Wolfram and Hart Los Angeles 2004

"Angel, are you quite alright?" Wes asked.

"Sorry, Wes, I was-I was thinking about something else," Angel said. He looked down at the legal sized notepad in front of him. He smiled faintly. He'd sketched a picture of Buffy in the sunlight, the way he'd found her on the Day that Wasn't. It had been a long time since he'd drawn her that way. Memories came rushing back to him along with things that weren't memories, things he remembered happening but he knew hadn't happened. He furrowed his brow and glanced up at Wes.

"Illyria..." he trailed off.

"Is fine. She's having a hard time dealing with the loss of her powers but I think she'll be okay. She may even end up being an asset to our team," Wes said.

Angel nodded. He remembered the weapon Wes had used to steal some of Illyria's power before it had destroyed Fred's body. He stood up. He needed some time to think about the things he remembered. "Wes, I'm going to go back to my penthouse. If anything comes up, let me know."

"Of course," Wes said.

Once in his penthouse, Angel opened the curtains and took a seat in a chair next to the necro-tempered glass window. The sunlight poured over him and he stared at the sketch of Buffy. He remembered being staked by the slayer that had come before Buffy. He also remembered watching Buffy. He remembered her crying at the feet of a marble angel. He remembered her lying in the arms of a blond boy. He remembered her taking drugs and running away from the Master. He remembered her drowning in the swimming pool in the Hyperion Hotel, all things that had never happened in this reality.

He also remembered the sketch that seemed to have passed through time. The sketch he'd made of Buffy in 1952, almost thirty years before she'd been born. He remembered how they'd communicated back and forth, through time, with that sketch. He shook his head. It didn't make sense. Illyria's time warp should have altered everything. He should be dust and Buffy-he swallowed hard and picked up the phone. He dialed the number he had for Giles in London.

*

Buffy stood before the door. She took a deep breath. It had been a year since she'd seen him. She'd changed in the last year. It was amazing how much life you could live when you weren't always worried about the next apocalypse, hell even the next night. She took another deep breath. The tingle at the base of her spine spread like flame to paper. It rushed up her spine and made her gasp. She raised her hand to knock on the door and it opened. He stood there in front of her, a beautiful broken Angel.

"Buffy,"

"Angel," she responded.

They stared at each other, into each other for a space of minutes. Finally he stepped aside and she walked in. He closed the door behind her.

"Wow, this place is...amazing. You always find the coolest places to live," Buffy said looking around.

"Thanks," His cool and composure lasted for about three seconds and then he rushed up behind her and pulled her into his body. He wrapped himself around her and sighed with relief. "You're okay,"

She nodded against his chest. "I missed you,"

They both knew she wasn't talking about the year they'd just spent apart.

"I know," he said.

"It was all wrong when you weren't there," she said.

"I'm sorry," he said.

"What happened?" She asked.

"A slayer-the one before you, India," he said.

Buffy nodded. "I knew you were....there was no other way you wouldn't be there."

"I was though," he said.

"You remember it?" she asked.

He nodded. "I watched you cry over the marble angel in the cemetery. I watched you spiral down so far. I never realized-"he stopped. He had never realized he had made such an impact on her life. He knew she had saved him but until Illyria's time warp, he hadn't realized he had saved her too. "I saw you with him," Angel said.

"He-I didn't love him, not like I love you but he took care of me. I needed him," Buffy explained.

"I know. It's okay," Angel said.

"I'm not leaving again this time and I'm not letting you leave. That little replay of This is my life without Angel in it was enough to convince me. I need you in my life and yeah maybe it's hard and maybe it hurts but without you...I'm broken," Buffy said.

Angel's response was to pull her tighter to him. He couldn't get the image of her body floating in the Hyperion Hotel Pool out of his head. There would be time later to talk about what had happened, what was going to happen but he wasn't letting her go this time. She could use all the baking, cooking analogies she wanted, he was going to be there to help. He released his hold slightly and placed his fingers under her chin. He tilted her head up and his lips brushed across hers. She smiled into his mouth and tip toed, bringing their lips closer, increasing the pressure of the kiss. He tangled his fingers in her hair and pulled her even closer. Their body met and a fire ignited. He nipped at her bottom lip and she moaned.

And there in lie all their problems, Angel pushed away from her gasping for breath he didn't need. He rested his forehead against the cool glass of the window.

"I'm still not leaving," Buffy said. "We'll deal with this. I'm not an eighteen year old girl anymore. I've had sex, I've had mature relationships and I felt more love lying in your arms knowing the reason you trembled is because you want me so much and you can't have me. No one else has ever loved me that much."

"And no one else ever will," Angel said.

"So can I stay?" She asked.

"I'm not letting you leave," Angel said. He turned and looked at her. He opened his arms and she threw herself into them.

Angel buried his nose in the crown of her head and breathed in the scent of her. She smelled the same way she always had, vanilla, sunshine and strength. She was still his sunrise in the form of a girl.

*

Buffy stood on the door step of a shabby little house in Los Angeles. She pressed the door bell and listened to it sound inside. The man who answered the door had a shaved head, several tattoos and a few scars from facial piercings that had been taken out a few years ago.

"Derek Cummings?" Buffy asked.

"Shit, you're her," the man said.

Buffy looked around her. "I'm sorry," she said in askance.

"The girl in the picture, B or maybe A," he said.

"Buffy, but what picture?" Buffy asked.

Derek stepped aside and motioned her in the house. Buffy walked into a shabby, messy living room. "Sorry 'bout the mess. I'm a bachelor," Derek apologized.

Buffy shook her head. "It's okay. It's just like I remember," she whispered. Even though she knew the apartment she remembered had been in Sunnydale. This one held the same feeling, the same look. There was even a poster of the band Black Sabbath over the couch. It was the same one she remembered hanging over Brandon's bed.

"Hold on a sec. Let me get it," Derek said as he stepped into another room. He returned a few minutes later holding a yellowed sketch. He held it out to her and Buffy's breath caught.

It was Angel's sketch. The top left hand corner said Are you still my girl? The bottom right hand corner said Always and the words I will find you. If I were blind I would see you flowed across the bottom. "Where did you get this?" She asked.

"A friend of mine, Brandon Smits, died several years ago. This was found with his stuff, "Derek explained.

Buffy gasped and covered her mouth with her hand. Tears filled her eyes. He'd been real and somehow he'd remembered her too.

"He used to talk about this girl in his dreams, a tiny blond with sad hazel eyes. He never had a name for her. He just said she was the love of his life and then he'd get kind of distant and sad looking. I tried to get him to talk about it but he wouldn't ever say much beyond that. I thought he'd made you up, honestly, until I saw you standing on my doorstep," Derek said.

Buffy shook her head. "How? When?" She asked.

"He overdosed on PCP in 1997 in an old hotel near here-"Derek started.

"The Hyperion, near the pool," she said.

Derek nodded. "Guess you heard it on the news."

"Yeah, I remember it now. Thank you and I'm sorry to bother you," Buffy said. She gestured with the picture. "Can I have this?"

"Sure, it's more yours then it is mine. So, what was the deal with you and Brandon?" Derek asked.

Buffy smiled slightly. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you,"