Chapter 20

"Free?"

"It isn't what you want?"

"Well...yes."

"I hope you won't deny me of my parental rights. I want to be part of my child's life."

"You would be. I promise."

"Good...I have one last request." Angel's voice broke into her tortured thoughts. "Would you mind waiting until tomorrow to leave?"

"Sure, no problem."

"Unless you want to stay longer?" Angel drawled casually.

It was Buffy's turn to leap to her feet. "My God, you have some nerve," she yelled at him. "I can't get away from you fast enough." Brushing past him, she ran from the room.

Faith had come to pick her up. Buffy glanced back at the mansion for the last time, when Angel came running to the gate. What now? She wondered. They had already said goodbye with a handshake.

"Buffy," Angel said. "I can't let you go..."

Buffy stared up at him. "Buffy." He repeated her name, their eyes met and the expression in Angel's made her heart leap with hope.

"Yes?" she prompted hesitantly.

"I can't let you go..." He paused, and she knew the exact moment he changed his mind. He slowly stepped back.

"Without saying..." His deep voice was cynical as he went on, "Thank you for everything, and good luck."

"My pleasure," she managed to respond awkwardly. "Good bye."

"What was all that about?" Faith asked a few minutes later as the car sped towards LA.

"Nothing." Buffy dismissed Angel with a word, and prayed she could dismiss him from her heart and mind as easily. But she had not counted on the tenacity of Faith.

"I don't believe you." Buffy tried to ignore Faith, but it was hard. Half an hour later, Faith renewed her attack. "You know Angel is a one woman man."

Buffy's green eyes sparkled humorously. "You're joking! I hate to tell you this, but Angel has had more women than you know of." Buffy said with edge of cynicism in her voice.

"I don't know about that, but he has only ever loved one," Faith responded seriously. "And that is you, Buffy."

"You couldn't be more wrong!" Buffy exclaimed.

"I'm right. Angel loves you," Faith assured her. "Whatever he's done, forget it. Or you'll regret it for the rest of your life."

"It's not that easy. He got his grandmother's nurse pregnant while he claimed to love me."

"If you are talking about Darla, let me tell you...she made a complete fool of herself. She actually tried to convince him she was having his baby. How on earth she thought she would get away with it I can't imagine. But she stuck to her story for months."

Buffy, who had been listening but not really believing until then, suddenly gave Faith all her attention.

"She finally gave up when Angel insisted on a DNA test. She married the father of her child...which was Lindsey."

Buffy tried to take it all in. She had been wrong about Darla.

"Angel is a very wealthy man. There will always be women chasing him, but he is also very much in love with you."

"Faith...can you please turn back. I have a man to reclaim."

Faith grinned openly to her friend and drove back to Sunnydale.

His breath smelt faintly of whisky, and as her gaze met his for a few seconds she saw his heart in his eyes. His true feelings lay bare, and his dark gaze burnt with love and a touching vulnerability that warmed her to her soul.

"I believe you wouldn't intentionally hurt me," she said in an unsteady voice. "But..." She hesitated, about to ask the most important question of her life. "Do you still love me?" She waited, holding her breath, her eyes fixed on his face.

"God, Buffy! I love you. I worship and adore you. I always have, and I always will." His deep voice shook with emotion. "What are you trying to do to me? Do you want me to beg? Plead?"

The anguish in his tone touched her heart. "No," she murmured, raising her hand to cover his where it held her chin. "I want to stay with you because I love you."

Caught up in his own emotions, for a moment he didn't seem to hear her. "Because I will beg. Twice I have let you walk away, but..." He stopped then. A skeptical expression lit his features. "You said you'll stay..."

"Yes. I love you. In fact I don't seem capable of living without you. Those months apart were pure agony. I almost called you every single day."

For a moment they simply stared at each other. Then with a low groan, Angel wrapped his arms around her and eased her down onto the bed. His dark head descended and Buffy's lips parted for his kiss. But then he stopped again.

"You won't leave me again?" he asked hesitant, as though he was afraid to believe her completely.

"No," she whispered, lifting her arms around his neck. She wanted to feel the warmth of his mouth.

"I hope to God you mean it," he said and then added, "Because there is no way on this earth I will let you leave me a third time." Then he covered her eager mouth with his own.

"I know Darla didn't have your child." Angel looked down at her quizzically. "Faith told me all about it. But you could have told me yourself," she scolded lightly.

"Pride stopped me. I wanted you to love me unconditionally."

"I do." Buffy quickly reassured him with a quick kiss.

"Thank you. But as we're being honest I have to admit to a certain amount of guilt. I did wake up in bed with Darla in Chicago. But believe me, I don't know how. I told her to meet me there because I was concerned about my grandmother's health. I was so tired after a long day of work...I had too much to drink and crashed out. In the morning, when I saw Darla sprawled out beside me, I leapt out of bed. I swear I never touched her."

"I believe you. You never told me how did your grandmother take the news of the cancellation of our wedding?"

"She was shocked and angry," he stated.

"At me?"

"At me," he corrected her.

Buffy knew she was staring, shock and disbelief showing in her eyes.

"At you? But why? I mean; I was the one who..."

"You were the one who postponed the wedding but I was the one whose actions seemed to be responsible for that."

"Did she believe Darla?"

"My fiancée believed her..."

"I'm sorry. I shouldn't...I..."

"Shh. It's over. We're together again that's what counts."

Buffy smiled lovingly at him and mouthed 'I love you.' He smiled back and they stared into each other's eyes for a few moments.

"Why didn't you try to find me when I left?" Buffy had that question nagging in her brain.

"When I got back to LA and found you gone I was shattered," Angel muttered heavily. "I hired an investigation agency to search for you."

"You...did?" Buffy was shocked by that admission.

"Then Jenn fell ill and I was finally able to find you after four months of hell..."

Snuggling into his warm body, she pressed another kiss to his bare chest. "Let's forget about everything," she said huskily, running her hand along the curve of his waist. They had talked long enough.

Angel hauled her even closer and kissed her with hungry passion, breathing raggedly in the aftermath. "I can't wait to marry you, I just can't wait..."

Buffy hadn't wanted anyone to take her father place. She preferred to give herself away to the man she loved. When the moment came for her to step forward, she did so alone, but her step was sure and steady, and she knew she wasn't alone. Angel was waiting for her.

Buffy slowly made her way up the aisle to Angel, who looked wonderfully handsome in a black tux. Everywhere she glanced there was smiling faces. Then she was beside Angel. When she took his hand, his eyes were telling her she was the bride of his heart and soul and body.

"You look like a princess," he whispered. "Just as I always imagined."

The reception party was held in the mansion. The place was full of friends and family. Angel's grandmother looked younger, the happiness she felt made her looked so, and she was seated beside Jenny and Giles. Jenny was in a wheelchair; she'd insisted to come despite she was still very weak.

Angel gathered Buffy close to him, then bent her extravagantly over his arm in the most cavalier ravishing style, and began kissing her throat, murmuring words of love. Buffy could not help laughing. She was vaguely aware of the photographer clicking as fast as his finger would go and Wesley and Fred laughing in the background.

He kissed her with passion and love. Buffy was completely certain of that love. She knew it would remain true and stable, no matter what difficulties they had to face in the future, what obstacles had to be conquered. This was the first day of the rest of their lives, and they would make it a good life. Not only for herself and Angel, but also very especially for the family they would soon have.

"We have to go and mingle with our guests," she murmured when Angel allowed her breath enough to murmur.

"Do we have to?" he asked.

"This is the most wonderful day," Buffy informed him, gazing up at him with shining eyes of love and contentment.

"It's been the happiest day of my life." Angel framed her lovely smiling face with possessive fingers, studying her with passionate tenderness. "And if I have anything to do with it, every day you spend with me will be the same..."

A few moths later they had a baby boy.

The end

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