"But I love you," choked out Buffy. It was the last thing she said to Angel, her soul mate, and her love. His face full of sorrow, he said softly, "I know." Angel closed his eyes and turned around and walked away from the one thing that made his eternal life worth living, leaving Buffy to cry silently. It shattered his heart to leave her, to hurt her, but he had no choice. They could never be together. She was the Vampire Slayer…he was a vampire. Despite the fact that he was not an ordinary cruel vampire, despite the fact that he alone among his species had a soul, their lives were too different. For years, Buffy and Angel had tried their hardest to make it work, to defy the inevitable. And for a while, they had succeeded. The wake up call came when Buffy finally gave herself completely to Angel, the incident that lead to the one moment of perfect happiness Angel had had in his entire vampire existence, the incident that lead to the loss of his soul. That one night lead to a chain of monstrous occurrences, ending in Buffy being forced to impale the one man she had ever loved. It was made all the more painful by the fact that Angel, at the moment of his stabbing, had had his soul once more. Even though Angel did return from the hell dimension Buffy had sent him to, things could never be the same. They could not succeed in being just friends, they were meant for each other and could not be apart. So Angel painfully decided to leave Sunnydale forever and move to the City of Angels, Los Angeles.
That was five years ago. Angel was still in L.A, doing his best to help the helpless in the hopes of one day finding his own redemption and saving himself. Angel had a son, though vampires physically cannot have children, but gave him up and changed reality so that his son could have a better life, one without the suffering with Angel had provided. A painful feat as in order to that, Angel made his son forget all of his previous life, including his father. Buffy had overcome a terrible evil, the worst she had ever encountered, and had succeeded in creating an amazing phenomena; she had broken the boundaries of the rules of Slayerdom. Where once it was stated that 'There would be one girl in all the world to fight the vampires and stop the swell of their evil…' Buffy had succeeded in making any and all potential slayers, real, actual slayers. Now hundreds of girls and women worldwide had slayer abilities. She and her crew helped to find these girls and train them. In the process, she had also managed to destroy Sunnydale's hell mouth (along with all of Sunnydale), thereby destroying an amazing source of evil. That was a year ago. No one was quite sure where in the world she was now. Buffy had never fully gotten over Angel, he was her soul mate and she would never, could never, stop loving him. Nonetheless, she moved on to different relationships, her most recent one being Spike, once a viscous vampire but tamed by a chip, who had managed to get himself a soul too. Angel was not the only one with a soul any more. Spike loved Buffy with all his heart but the love was not returned. Buffy had used him, trying to rid herself of her overwhelming self-loathing. Spike helped Buffy save the world, sacrificing his own life. Oddly enough, he returned to Earth as a sort of ghost a while later. He was bound to L.A. and hung around Angel and his crew, though Spike and Angel utterly despise each other. Both love Buffy. Both lost her.
Buffy was what Angel was thinking about as he ran into battle alongside his friends. A battle that seemed impossible to win. But they had narrowly won, thanks to the help of Willow at the very last moment. She had come when the battle was nearly over and had worked her powerful magic and saved them all. At least, all who were still alive at that point. Angel had sat in a deserted building a while later, tending his wounds and the wounds of his friends. It was a major battle and everyone was quite seriously injured. Angel and his group had just defeated the Black Thorn, an immensely powerful evil demon organization, and they had paid the price. They had lost people in the fight. Wesley was gone. Lorne had left L.A. Spike was a step away from being dust. Fred…well Fred's soul had disappeared months ago, leaving behind the creature that took her life, the creature that still had Fred's image: Alleria. Gun needed hospital care. Lindsay, well, Angel had ordered him dead. And Angel himself had blood all over, he couldn't put any weight on one of his legs, his face had deep gashes, his back was cut open, and he was stabbed right through the heart, which is very lucky for him as a sword through the heart would've killed any other creature except for Angel's species the vampire. Only a wooden stake through the heart, a beheading, or direct sunlight can kill them. Even so, Angel was still in immense, immense, pain. Thank God for Willow, she was one of the most powerful Wicca's known in the world so far.
Two weeks passed. Angel was pretty much healed as one of the perks to being a vampire meant super fast healing abilities. All except for the sword through his heart. The sword was out now but his chest was still very much in pain. Spike, too, was doing okay. In fact, everyone was healing right up except for Alleria. She had dove right into the battle and had come out barely alive. Willow almost saved her but Alleria herself asked her not to. She was upset by Wesley's death up to the point where she just wanted to pass. She said she fought well, and avenged Wes so her time was past.
"She misses you, you know," Willow said gently, as she helped Angel change his bandages. The cut was nearly gone. Angel looked up quickly. There was no doubt in his mind who Willow was referring to. This was really the first time Willow was able to talk to Angel; the whole fight was slowly easing away now.
"She does?" Angel asked.
"Of course…" Willow smiled.
"Well she's dating that guy. Spike and I saw her dancing with him. And Andrew confirmed it. Even though I was supposed to wait for her to bake, which it looks like she has. Cookie dough my ass." Angel scoffed.
"She's single right now," Will said, casting him an odd look at the whole cookie dough thing. "And you know she never stopped loving you."
Angel looked down, "We made a decision to move on."
"But things are different now," Willow said. "She's not the slayer any more. She's just one slayer among many."
"But I'm still a vampire. And she still is a slayer. She's still busy. She has a life to live," Angel said softly.
"Which she would die to live with you," Willow insisted.
Angel closed his eyes painfully. He remembered that time, years ago, when Buffy nearly did die to be with him. He was human after a demon's blood mixed with his own and Buffy and him had automatically taken advantage of that fact. But then the same demon attacked and without his demonic strength, he couldn't defeat it himself and Buffy had endangered herself to save him. Angel realized that if he remained human, Buffy would be forced to continue endangering herself and the world by having to save him. He was a liability. He discovered that if things kept happening like they were, Buffy would die saving him. So he went to the oracles and changed the past, sacrificing his dream, all the human pleasures, and his relationship with Buffy, to save her. No one remembered that day except him. He alone carried that burden of what could've been. He knew the moment the circumstances were right, Buffy would fly into his arms. At least, she would've a few years ago.
"I know," he said, getting up.
"Besides, didn't you just save the world again? I know that prophesy about you regaining your humanity after saving the world-" Willow started.
Angel swallowed hard and clenched his fists, "I signed away that fate."
"What!" Willow exclaimed.
"I signed away any chance of that prophecy occurring," Angel said, each word torture. "I had to in order to save the world in the first place. Besides, I've saved it so many times and unless you haven't noticed, I'm still a vampire." It hurt so much more because Buffy wasn't the only slayer any more. If she were, it wouldn't matter if he was human or not. If he was human and she was still the one slayer, he would endanger her life. If they were together in those circumstances, Buffy, along with the world, would suffer great peril. But she wasn't any more and any chance he'd be human again were slim to none. He closed his eyes and sighed.
"Single, is she?" Spike spoke up. He was sitting not too far away.
"Yeah and fully unaware that you're alive," Will said, "Why didn't you call or something?"
"'Cause she doesn't want me too. All I do is complicate her life." Spike said.
"She'd want to know you're okay. Remember how she nearly died herself to be with you to the last?" Will said.
"Does she miss me?" he asked.
"She talks about how much you've changed and how she's upset that things turned out like that…" Will said.
Spike grinned. "Hear that, Broody? Buffy misses me too."
"She may miss you but she loves me," Angel said snappishly.
"Loved," Spike said.
"Loves," Willow said quietly.
"And even if she loved me it's still way more than what you've got. She was with me because she cared about me. She was with you because she didn't care about herself. Buffy never loved you," Angel blurted. Spike's eyes darkened and he said nothing, only leaving the room. Angel sighed. He hadn't meant to be so harsh but it was Spike's own fault by acting as if he honestly thought his relationship with Buffy even held a candle to Angel and Buffy's. It was the truth.
"You didn't have to be so blunt," Willow said softly, watching Spike leave.
"You've seen what he's like! Even after getting a soul he's still the same old Spike. He helped the First kill off slayerettes," Angel said. "He wasn't any help in Sunnydale except for the whole necklace thing, which, I might add, I brought and which I was planning to wear. And ever since he came to Wolfram Hart he's made life hell for all of us. And I've heard about what he did to Buffy. It's nothing he doesn't deserve."
"You know perfectly well that the First has powerful persuasion skills! It got to you too! And he died to save us all!" Willow countered.
"When the First tried to get me to kill Buffy I decided that I'd rather kill myself," Angel said evenly, "Unlike dear William. And I've saved the world way more times than Spike!"
"You've had hundreds of years to deal with the guilt of your murders and to develop your conscience. Spike had a few weeks." She said.
"Yeah. I spent a freakin' century wandering around the world crazily, starving myself, hating myself, almost to the brink of death before I finally became what I am now, and Spike spent a few weeks rambling around a school basement and suddenly he's peachy keen!" Angel said, his voice low, "You wanna explain that one?" Willow fell silent and finished up with the bandage.
"I'm sorry," Will said.
"Nah, it's okay, I'm just cranky. I guess I should try to be civil with him. I just can't believe that Buffy is still alive after the First, I'm still alive after the Black Thorn, and we still are oceans apart." He sighed.
"Why don't you call her or something? She's on vacation right now," Will suggested.
"She didn't call me after defeating the First…" Angel said.
"Because she was busy. She's not anymore and she thinks that you've moved on. She knows about you and that woman." Will said.
"Werewolf like Oz," Angel nodded, "But we're through. Have been for a good while."
"Then call her. You two know how much you want to see each other but you're both too scared to make the first move! Honestly. It won't hurt if you two just have coffee or something," Willow said.
"Uh huh. And it didn't hurt that you and Oz just talked in your dorm room, did it?" Angel said. Willow looked down. "You understand…I know you do, that just being around her, it's enough to…" He paused. "There's nothing saying that it's going to be just coffee."
"Yeah. I understand." Willow said.
"I'm glad you're here, Will," Angel said after a beat.
"Me too," she smiled. "When have you ever called me Will?"
"Getting less broody by the minute," he grinned. "By the way, how's the Kennedy front?"
Will brightened, "We're doing really well. She's so wonderful. She makes me feel…like how Tara used to make me feel." Angel smiled softly. He knew that Tara and Willow used to be very close…it was her death that brought out dark Willow.
Willow finished up with the bandages and stood up. "Call her." She said firmly, moving on to help Gunn.
Angel stood up and put his shirt back on. He walked out of the room and saw Spike sitting on the stairs. He was looking fairly fumy.
"Bugger off," He said, not looking up.
"Look, Spike. I was harsh earlier. Buffy-. Oh hell, whatever, I was right and you should live with the truth." Angel said.
"If that was your idea of an apology…" Spike snapped his head up. "I know what she feels. But you don't need to remind me every chance you get. I don't remind you about how I got to bed her more times than you'll ever bed any woman in your life time-she's quite good, you know. Or rather you don't, seeing as though jumping her once made you get all freaky-"
Angel whipped across the hall to Spike and grabbed his throat, fangs out and ready. "Don't you ever talk about her like that!" He growled.
"Awww. Is someone a little grouchy because they can't sleep with the slayer?" Spike taunted.
Angel tightened his grip on Spike's throat and punched him hard across the face. "I thought you had more respect for her than this-" Another punch. "Guess I was wrong. Over estimated you." A strong kick in the gut.
Willow came out upon hearing the noise. "Oh my God! Stop it! Angel!" She yelled, pulling Angel off of Spike.
"Dirty bastard!" Angel cursed.
"It's right and proper for you to get jealous, mate. I would be to. You being all cursed and all while here I am, can't lose my soul, no matter how happy I get," he laughs.
Angel hit him again then walked away.
"What the hell did you say?" Willow exclaimed.
"What? It's my fault? He starts hitting me and it's my fault?" Spike said, looking offended.
"You provoked him some how, Spike," Willow rolled her eyes.
"Hey, we were having a nice conversation about Buffy when suddenly he's on me, whipping my face." Spike said, shrugging.
"Uh huh." Willow said sarcastically, walking off.
"Hey! Aren't you going to 'tend to my wounds' or something?" Spike called.
"You can wipe up a bloody nose yourself," Willow said as she disappeared behind the doors leading back into the room.
"I think I liked her better when she was scared of me," Spike scowled.
Angel was walking outside, seething. He couldn't believe that Spike would speak of Buffy like that. From what he was told, it really seemed that Spike truly loved her too. "Arrogant, perverted jackass," Angel muttered.
After a while, Gunn came out looking for him. Angel sighed and followed him back to the abandoned hotel.
Within the hour, Spike had walked up to Angel and said, "Hey, you know I didn't mean what I said. You know I love her as much as you do-"
"No. You really don't." Angel snapped.
"Okay, shut up Broody 'cause I normally don't apologize. Generally when people piss me off I retort likewise. And you piss me off more than any other creature on this planet so I might have been a tad strong." Spike said.
"People generally don't diss people they love to make someone else mad," Angel said.
"Whatever." Spike coughed.
"Talk trash about Buffy again and you'll find yourself headless," Angel said with a sharp edge in his voice.
"Mate, I won't. I just got caught up in the moment. You did get rather heated…" Spike said, grinning.
"And if you cared about her at all you would be disgusted in yourself for saying those things." Angel snapped.
"Which I am. Let's move on then, shall we?" Spike said.
"Whatever." Angel said, walking off.