Part 11

four years later

Buffy surveyed the mess in the living room with her hands on her hips. Xander and Angel had had a 'guys night' - which essentially meant they'd watched action films, ate pizza, and drank beer. Proof of the beer and pizza part existed on the coffee table, and both end tables. They could have at least cleaned up before going to bed, she thought to herself. So she had two choices: clean it up herself, or leave it until they finally roused themselves out of bed.

With a shake of her head, she left the living room and climbed the stairs leading to the second level. At the doorway to her room, she paused and lasciviously stared at her bed. Angel lay sprawled across the mattress, shirtless, with his head tucked safely under the pillow to ward off the irritating rays of sunlight. She was tempted to go and pull the pillow away and allow the sun to wake him up. But instead, she simply stared and basked in the fact that he was in her bed.

Just as she'd wanted, they had started off rebuilding their friendship first. Despite the fact that she'd gotten money from Oz's life insurance policy, Xander still moved into the house. The idea had originally been a solution to wanting to keep her home, but the insurance money negated that issue. She'd asked Xander to move in anyway, not wanting to live in the house by herself. He agreed happily and took over what had once been her mother's room. Angel visited almost every day, and the three of them often hung out watching movies, or simply having meals together. To Buffy, it was the most comfortable way to bring Angel back into her life.

The friendship thing worked for a while, but ever so slowly and without either of them really noticing it, they passed the friendship stage. It started out simple: a trip to the movies without Xander, walks in the park, holding hands. The chemistry that had overwhelmed them years earlier returned full force. Then, almost a year after Oz's death, the emotions boiled over, leading to a memorable night for both.

"Angel!" Buffy whined, her hand reaching out to try and grab the remote control from Angel. "We are sooo not going to watch football!"

"What's wrong with football?" he wanted to know, keeping the remote out of her reach.

"If you have to ask that, then you really are a total guy," she huffed. "Come on, can I please have the remote?"

"Nope."

Buffy dove for the craved object, but Angel stuck his hand up in the air, taking it out of her reach. He laughed at the innocent pout that formed on her face. She was trying, but he wasn't giving in.

Climbing up on her knees, and leaning a hand on his shoulder, Buffy again tried to take the remote from him, but Angel quickly pulled it away. Her hand slipped off his shoulder and she crashed down onto his lap. The fall put the remote right in front of her face and she took the opportunity to yank it out of his hands. Laughing, she scurried across the couch.

Angel hurried after her, pouncing on top of Buffy. She wriggled to get away, but his weight was too much to get out from under. Giving one last effort, she twisted her body so that she was on her back instead of her stomach. When she looked up, she found herself face to face with Angel, his dark, intense eyes staring down at her.

The remote control was soon forgotten as their eyes met and held. Angel's head eased down until his lips were just above hers. He hesitated a moment, wary of her readiness. But his concern was soon forgotten as her hand latched onto his neck and pulled him the rest of the way. Their lips met in a searing kiss, not the first since their reconciliation, but containing much more heat than their earlier forays.

Passions soared as their hands roamed, the remote falling carelessly out of Buffy's left hand to the ground. Angel allowed Buffy to set the pace, not wanting to rush her. It was soon apparent to him that his hesitancy was not warranted as her hands drifted under his shirt, slowly pulling the irritating boundary over his head. He released a loud moan when her nails raked down his bare back. His hands followed her lead, snaking underneath the blue tank top she was wearing. When his fingers came into contact with her skin, the reality of what they were doing intruded.

Panting slightly as he broke the kiss, he gazed down into her lust-ridden eyes. "Buffy, maybe we should-."

"Don't," she hushed him. "I've been waiting for this since I was seventeen."

She aided him in removing her top, and together, they lost themselves in each other.

That night had certainly been one Buffy would never forget. Afterwards, Angel had apologized profusely, saying their first time, Buffy's first time, shouldn't have been on a couch, but rather in a bed. The location hadn't bothered her. It would have been perfect even if it had happened on a bed of nails. Nothing could ever tarnish the experience in her mind.

Two weeks after that night, Angel moved in, sharing her bed and her room. Their love blossomed, and they had now been married for two and a half years. It was all a dream to Buffy, an amazing, fantastical dream. After her seventeenth birthday, she'd thought her future with Angel was over. But in the blink of an eye, everything had changed.

Just over four years earlier, tragedy had forever changed her life. Oz, her brother, her best friend, had lost his life in a car accident. One moment he'd been there, teasing her as he loved to do, and the next, his van was wrapped around a telephone pole. The ache for the loss still existed in her heart. It probably always would. Nothing could ever bring her brother back, and only time could lessen the pain.

One good thing came out of Oz's death; Angel had once again become a part of her life. It was a contradictory feeling for Buffy, losing her brother, but gaining Angel. Equating the two was hard, but the fact of the matter was that her brother had died. Nothing could change that; nothing could make it any different. She could only take a small amount of comfort from the fact that out of one of the most painful times in her life, she and Angel had reconciled their differences and found peace and love with each other.

Buffy saw Angel shift on the bed, signaling he was beginning to wake up. She smiled and eased into the room and onto the bed. There was one sure way to help him rise from sleep. And she intended to do just that.

QQ

"Ugh," Xander groaned as he stumbled into the kitchen, his hair rumpled from sleep. His head was pounding from the late night he'd had. He took one look at Buffy and Angel, who were locked in a loving embrace against the counter, and groaned again. "You have a bed for that kind of stuff, ya know," he told them. "Sheesh, married over two years and still acting like newlyweds."

Buffy and Angel broke apart, unrepentant grins on their faces. "Someone's grumpy this morning," Buffy whispered to Angel, holding back a laugh at the scowl Xander sent their way.

Yanking open the refrigerator, Xander pulled out the container of orange juice and poured himself a glass. He gulped down two aspirin before plopping down at the kitchen table. "I'm getting too old for these beer and pizza nights."

"Xander, you're only twenty-seven," Angel pointed out, gaping at his friend.

"Must we point out that I'm getting close to thirty?" Xander grumbled indignantly.

"Speaking of pizza and beer," Buffy interrupted. "I believe the two of you have a living room to clean up."

The two in question had the courtesy to look sheepish at the reminder. They'd been too tired the night before to clean up before going to sleep. "We will," Angel promised.

"I almost forgot," Xander chirped suddenly. "Willow called yesterday."

"Oh? How is she?" Buffy asked, her voice friendly but lacking the warmth it had once had for her long-time friend. She and Willow had talked a few months after Oz's death. Willow had apologized for her venomous words, laying blame on her grief and anger. The request for forgiveness had been sincere, and Buffy took it at face value. However, the damage to their friendship had already been done. Trust had been lost, and so far, had not been completely regained. They still talked, and visited whenever Willow returned home, but the ease and comfort with each other just wasn't there.

"She's good," Xander answered, grabbing a bagel out of the bag on the table. "She said she might be coming down in two weeks."

"Cool," Buffy said a bit unenthusiastically.

Angel placed a supporting hand on her back. He knew Buffy still had trouble facing Willow. The memory of her friend's accusatory words was still there. She was trying, he knew she was, but some things were just hard to completely put behind you.

Deciding to change the subject, Angel faced Xander. "Come on, we better go clean up the living room."

QQ

Later that day, Buffy stood in the hallway on the second floor of the house, staring warily at the one door she rarely had the heart to open: the door to her brother's room. Shortly after Oz's death, she'd closed the door, and opened it only a few times since. Too many memories resided inside the room, along with all of Oz's possessions. It was the one thing she hadn't been able to tackle: packing up his room. Something about it seemed wrong, like she would be shutting him away in cardboard boxes. She knew that wasn't true. No matter whether his belongings were in boxes or still in his room, Oz would always be in her heart. Which was why she was standing in the hallway, trying to make herself approach the door.

Taking a deep breath, she took several steps forward until she was right in front of the closed door. Her hand trembled when she reached out to grasp the knob. She almost yanked her hand back as she started to twist the metal. Closing her eyes, Buffy steeled her nerve and opened the door, stepping inside before she opened them again.

Memories assaulted from every corner when she lifted her eyelids. Argyle, Oz's beloved golden retriever, trotted into the room after her, jumping up to sit on the bed that was still unmade, as it had usually been, with its dark blue comforter crumpled at the bottom of the mattress. On the walls, posters of musicians and bands, Zeppelin, Clapton, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, and several others, were scattered around, images of what he'd called 'real music'. In one corner of the room sat a beanbag chair, a pile of guitar magazines next to it. She remembered all the times she would come into his room and flop onto the squishy chair and listen while he practiced his guitar. He had never minded when she did that, and even once had tried to show her how to play.

A single tear gathered in her lashes, holding for a moment before falling onto her cheek. She brushed it away, feeling the moisture spread on her fingers. An arm wrapped around her waist from behind. Tilting her head, Buffy gazed up at Angel, soothed by his understanding eyes.

"We don't have to do this," he said softly as he tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.

"I know," she replied with a heavy sigh. "But it's time. It's been four years. And we're going to need the extra space soon."

Angel smiled, a sad but anticipatory expression, as his right hand snaked further around her waist, coming to rest on the small bump at her abdomen. His fingers stroked the skin under which their unborn child rested. Even three months after finding out they were going to have a child, he was still amazed and awed.

"Xander said he would find an apartment somewhere, then we could take his room and turn your room into a nursery," Angel reminded her.

"I don't want Xander to move out," Buffy stated definitively. She enjoyed having Xander living at the house. He was part of her family now, along with Angel and the baby they would soon have. "We can't keep Oz's room locked up forever. And turning it into a nursery seems right."

"Okay, if that's what you want to do." He was still unsure of it. The room was one of the last physical remnants of her brother, but he trusted Buffy's decision.

"It is," she reassured, her heart heavy.

Angel pulled her closer, wrapping her in the embrace of his arms. They stood silently just inside Oz's room, remembering a man who had been a loving brother, and a true friend. Buffy wished he was still with them, that he would be able to meet his first niece or nephew, but she knew that he was somewhere watching over her. Wherever he was, she hoped he was happy, and that he was proud of what she'd done with her life. After his death, she'd been sure she would die herself. But she'd survived; she hadn't broken completely. She was strong, and she wasn't alone. She had Angel, the perfect husband, Xander, more family than friend, and soon she would have a child. Her life was good now, and she was happy, but Oz would always remain in her heart.

QQ

THE END!!

Request:

main char: Buffy, Angel
Genre: Angst but ending up happy or at least hopeful.
Human or Supernatural: Either is fine
Rating: anything but PWP or slash.
Romantic paring: B/A and maybe Dawn/Spike
restricted romantic pairing: Buffy/? or Angel/?
requests: a golden retriever, a storm (doesn't matter what kind) and a power outage
restictions: no mentions of B/S or A/C no Connor