CHAPTER FIVE

"I can't believe Barry Manilow's not in the Rock and Roll hall of fame," Angel moaned as he and Buffy caught the museum in its later hours.

"Barry Manilow?" Laughter bubbled up past Buffy's lips.

"If you have something against Manilow, we're going to have serious problems," he warned with a gleam in his eyes.

Buffy pressed the arm she had looped around his waist tighter against him. "I like Barry. He's kinda cute for an old guy. I'm trying to picture you listening to Barry and I can't. Faith ratted you out, you know, but I didn't believe her."

"I've been to his concerts," Angel informed her enthusiastically. "He's a fantastic performer."

"You? At a pop concert." Buffy's eyes widened. "My world is askew."

"Just don't tell Spike. I'll never hear the end of it," He wagged a finger at her.

"Promise," Buffy replied solemnly. "Faith's probably beaten me to it anyway. I don't think they technically consider Barry rock and roll."

"Still, he deserves to be here," Angel said.

Buffy squeezed him again. "This was a good idea."

Angel smiled, thrilled to hear her say that. "I figured we both liked music. We had to have some musical taste in common and this would be the place to find it."

"And we did. Barry. It's a start, oh and Jewel. I'll have to lend you the cd." Buffy rested her head against his shoulder. "Giles would love this place."

"He's already been here." Angel stopped to examine a guitar display. "He brought Spike."

Buffy stared up at him as if he had grown a second head. "My Watcher and Spike came here? Where was I?"

"Patrol, I think. You missed them reminiscing. Spike was bleating on about the Ramones and Giles was regaling Connor, Xander, and Andrew about how he'd tell girls he was an original member of Pink Floyd to get la...uh." Angel broke off as Buffy's eyes slotted. "Um...get dates?"

"Yeah, right. Men! You're all the same. We could just exchange heads on all of you and it wouldn't matter," she said then giggled. "Okay, the picture of Giles' head on your body is too silly."

"Could be worse. Could be the other way around." Angel smirked.

"Stop that!" She pinched him.

"I have one more thing planned for tonight," he said, steering her toward the doors, deciding to head back into safer waters than making Buffy picture his head atop Giles' gravity-challenged body.

"Oh?"

"We're here to talk and I think you'll notice we've done very little of that outside of the music." He hesitated for a beat. "I figured that was how it would go so I made additional plans."

"A sound proof booth somewhere so we don't scare the normals?" she asked sardonically.

Angel fought the sinking feeling in his stomach. That might be better than what he actually planned. "I considered a mausoleum in Little Italy's cemetery but I think you'll find what I did arrange for is a bit more romantic but also more public."

Her eyes lit up. "You have me curious now."

"We'd better go if we're planning on making it," he said, leading her to the car.

"So, how badly did Connor harass you to get you out of the house this time?" Buffy asked once they were underway.

"Horribly. I don't know what he has planned tonight but he was most anxious to get me out of the house. I don't even want to know because it'll disturb me," Angel said honestly.

"I owe him for kicking sense into you," Buffy said, making mental notes to do just that.

Angel tried not to wince at the recriminations in that. "Just don't let him know that because he'll milk it."

"Angel, I'm the queen of milking guilty feelings. I can handle one little boy," she assured him.

"Don't be so sure. He's a little manipulator, trust me," Angel said in warning. "He's just like his mother."

"It hasn't escaped my notice," she replied.

Angel dreaded to know what that meant as he headed back into the Flats. Buffy was surprised by that as he parked the car.

"We're not going dancing," she said dubiously.

"No. That." He pointed at the large river boat. "We're going on the Goodtime II for a romantic river cruise with dancing. I might be good for a slow dance or two."

Buffy beamed. "I wasn't expecting this."

"I just hope it goes as planned," Angel admitted nervously.

"I think we're off to a good start," Buffy said and Angel felt instantly better.

They managed to get good seats near the railing of the upper deck and for a while were content with not talking and just watching the twinkling cityscape going by. Angel wrapped Buffy up in his coat against the cool night air blowing up off the Cuyahoga. The talking was tentative at first as they probed and prodded into their likes and dislikes, almost afraid to share them and bear out Angel's worst fears, that there would be no middle ground. Angel's heart soared when he found out it wasn't as bad as he feared.

"When did you start liking books? You always hated them," he said, excited to find more in common.

"Not true. I liked them when you read them to me," she protested, snuggling against him. "College. I had this really good lit professor and I was sad to have to quit his class to take care of Dawn." She took his big hand in hers. "Since when do you like hockey?"

"Since before you were born. I took you skating, remember? You didn't think I was into figure skating, did you?" He smirked at her.

"Ooo, there's a scary image. No, I figured you did it for fun, which looking back, just seems odd. So hockey?"

"I tried to learn to play it. I didn't do so bad." He wondered if Connor would want to learn hockey but that just led him to mental images of a death match on ice wit Connor and Faith against him and Buffy.

"I've never been to a hockey game but I could try it if you want," Buffy said. "And maybe give the ballet another try or the art gallery. You like painting and all that."

"But do you?" he asked.

Buffy mulled that for a moment. "Mom was really into it of course and now Dawn is so I can certainly try it."

"Cleveland has a great art museum," Angel said. "And I suppose I could try to learn to dance...but only if the lessons are very very private and you don't expect too much. Other women have tried to teach me to dance in the past and it was ugly."

"Cordy?" she asked cautiously.

Angel shook his head. "No, I was talking about Darla. I did learn to waltz. I could do that. It's not so hard once you get the box step down but it took forever."

Buffy squeezed his hand. "Can I ask you something, Angel?"

"That's what tonight's about, no limits."

Her eyes went opaque with emotion. "Did you love Darla?"

Angel sighed, looking out over the river. For several long moments he didn't answer. "I don't know. I told her no. I've told myself that but it's not really true. I felt something for her. I was with her off and on for a few centuries. You don't even want to know about the fights we had, makes yours and mine look like nothing. When Wolfram and Hart brought her back as a human and she was dying, I offered up my life for hers but they couldn't give her her life so they gave us that life in another form."

"Connor," Buffy whispered, entwining her fingers with his.

Angel bobbed his head. "I don't think my son knows that. He's the one good thing we ever did together. Did we love each other? Maybe. But it was the same twisted love that Spike and Dru had, nothing good ever came of it until Connor. Something good should come of love."

"And you think something good can come of our love?" she asked, her eyes also gazing out over the waters.

He caught her chin, tipping her head up. "A lot of good already has. We've saved each other, our friends, this world. That was the thing I already knew we still had in common, the hard fight to keep everyone safe. As annoying as he can be, I think you've become a friend to Connor, if for no other reason than he is my son. That means more to me than you can know. My son's never had real friends and you're giving him something normal and I know it means a lot to him."

"Believe me, I get that. The Watchers would have loved that I had no friends and I lost so many when I became the Slayer," Buffy swallowed hard. "You know, I wanted more than the fighting in common with you, too, Angel and those dates...I was just as afraid that we no longer had anything in common, nothing to talk about. Spike and I, when we talked while you were still in a coma, and there wasn't much in common left there either. Who was Illyria, Angel? I got the idea he loved her."

"Fred, I think he loved Fred. She was the girl we rescued in Pylea when you..." he bit that off. "When you died. That's why I wasn't here for you. Illyria was a demon that was summoned into Fred's body. It killed her and then the battle killed Illyria, which might just be for the best. I don't think we could have ever really turned her to our side. But Spike cared very deeply for her in spite of himself."

"I know he's very sad." Buffy studied Angel's face. "Does it make you upset that I'm concerned about Spike?"

Angel shook his head and answered without even needing to think, "I've accepted you and he have a connection of sorts and this isn't the first time I've had to share a woman with Spike...but let's not go into the strange sex life of evil vampires." He shot her a rueful look, wishing his tongue hadn't run away with him.

"Yeah, save that for another night. You can tell me and Connor all at once. He was questioning Giles about the details of you, Darla, Dru and Spike all living together and if that meant you were all sleeping together." Buffy made a face. "Don't know why he'd want to know."

"Oh hell!" Angel twisted on the seat, looking her square in the face. "Did he ask Spike? I can only imagine what he'd tell Connor!"

"How bad could it be? I think Spike mentioned of you only being good for something called a dry bob. I didn't get it but Giles was amused." Buffy made a face.

Angel's brow furrowed. "I'll leave explaining that for another day, too."

"I just assumed it meant you're impotent." Buffy shrugged. "What worse could he tell Connor?"

Angel raised an eyebrow. "Think for a second."

"What?" Buffy's mouth dropped. "Oh! Ewww, you mean he and you were...okay I never ever want to know. That's a question that can stay unasked."

"Thank you." Angel rolled his eyes. "Dry bob...he's so going to fit in an ashtray."

"Play nice," Buffy said smiling. "They're playing a slow song. Want to go below deck?"

Angel held out a hand and led her down to the dance floor below. They danced the slow dances until the ship came into port. Angel didn't bother with the scenic route home. He aimed the car and went rocket-like back to the complex. Buffy didn't have to ask him up to her room. He assumed if he dithered, she would clunk him one and carry him there. Both of them pulled up short as Buffy opened her bedroom door to find Faith rummaging through her dresser. The dark haired slayer looked at them sheepishly.

"Uh, sorry B. I was just looking for some scarves," Faith said, one silk scarf in hand.

"Why?" Buffy snapped.

"I have the whip but I'm just not a scarf person," Faith said, eyeing Angel uneasily.

"Oh lord, no," Angel muttered.

Buffy's eyes took over her face. "Put the scarf on the dresser and take two steps back!"

"But I need them." Faith twisted the scarf in her hands, her lower lip sticking out.

"Go pester Giles. He has plenty of ties. Some are even silk. He'll never know they're gone," Buffy said.

Faith's face brightened but she didn't let go of the scarf. "Great idea. Thanks, B." She bounced out of the room, scarf in hand then bellowed down the hall. "Hey Willow, you might want to warm up that orb of Thessula just in case!"

Buffy made an embarrassed noise, slamming the door shut. She turned to Angel totally red-faced. "I could just hide under the bed."

"Okay but that'll make things trickier," Angel replied with a smirk.

She rolled her eyes at him. "She took my scarf."

"To tie up my son no doubt. I think I'm the one who should be a little...uhh..." Angel shuddered.

"Wigged?" Buffy asked.

"Exactly." He pressed a finger to her lips, cocking his head.

"What?"

"Faith's left. Good."

"How's that good?" she mumbled around his finger.

"Because if they were up here on the same floor as us..." Angel trailed off, giving her a meaningful look.

"Oh." Buffy smiled. "Problem solved. Faith owes me a new scarf, you a new son."

"And hopefully no one owes anyone a new orb of Thessula," he said, taking her in his arms.

"You're sure it won't be necessary." She kissed him.

"Sure," Angel said, letting just enough doubt creep in. That should be a good deterrent to perfect happiness.

"That's all I needed to hear," she said, drawing him to the bed.

Angel intended to show her that near-perfection was a gem in its own right.

EPILOGUE

Angel got up lazily from his cot. He had spent the night with Buffy until the dawn threatened to wash the bed with early morning light, forcing him to reluctantly take to the basement. He had stretched his well-sated body out on the cot and slept the sleep of the dead. Something had awoken him and it wasn't his growly belly but that was certainly making itself known.

"Do you have any idea how disconcerting it is to hear a vampire's stomach growl?"

Angel craned his neck to give his son the dim eye as he headed for the mini-fridge. Angel fished out a blood package and tossed it in the microwave. "I see Faith untied you."

"What makes you think she tied me up in the first place?" Connor beamed as he hopped back up onto his usual spot on the old pool table.

Angel went over to him, his nostrils flaring. "I did see the scarves."

"And that automatically meant we were up to something?"

"There was mention of whips." Angel made a face. "Though you're thoroughly well-showered so it's hard to say what you were doing."

"Yeah speaking of showers, you need one so take a few steps back if you don't mind." Connor pushed him back. "Corrupting decent young women, you should be ashamed."

"You might think that but I'm not." Angel turned back to the microwave, hearing it ding. He opened the tubing to the blood and sucked on it like a straw.

"That's even more disturbing than the growling belly." Connor shuddered. "Bet you have no idea what time it even is."

"I do so. It's..." Angel glanced at the microwave. His dark eyes widened. "Five o'clock...wow! That late?"

"A hard night of breaking the laws of nature will do that to you." Connor's grin went positively wolfish.

Angel rolled his eyes. "I wouldn't talk about breaking the laws of nature if I were you."

Connor crossed his arms across his chest. "You're awfully nosy about what I was doing last night."

Angel wagged a finger at him. "You're my son. I'm supposed to be concerned when I see a girl heading your way with tie-downs."

"So? You're fishing for a description." Connor smirked.

Angel looked at him, wondering if he was just baiting him or if Connor was serious. "I think I'll pass."

"I mean I could show you pictures. They're on Faith's camera...I hope that's Faith's camera." Connor's face clouded. "I hope that's not Andrew's digital."

Angel almost choked on his blood. "I'm going to believe you're just kidding with me to see if you can get a rise out of me. Never tell me different. And I feel too good for baiting me to work."

Connor's eyes widened.

"Not that good," Angel added hastily. "No need to go screaming off for Willow."

Connor pulled a long face. "One of these days someone's going to tell me how this whole soul thing works but not today because you're stinky."

Angel curled his lip at him. "You can go upstairs, you know, and quit pestering me."

"Got plans for tonight so I have to get it all in now," Connor said brightly.

"Lucky me."

"Hey at least those condoms I gave you didn't just waste away in your wallet. There's nothing more depressing than condoms that have gone past their expiration date," Connor said, wagging his head.

Angel choked again. "I'm not ready for this conversation. Leave it at they were handy." And embarrassing since he had never actually worn one before. Thank God Buffy had made a game of putting it on. Not that he couldn't figure it out. It just wasn't what he had been expecting somehow.

"Good. Glad you worked it out." Connor hopped off the pool table. "Gotta go. Unlike you, I don't like letting my dates wait forever."

"You're going out like that?" Angel scowled, waving a hand at Connor's T-shirt and baggy pants.

"We're going to the movies so yeah." Connor headed up the stairs. He leaned over the railing. "I think Faith wants to make those pictures from last night into her Christmas cards."

Angel coughed blood out his nose. He was still sputtering when Buffy bounded down the stairs, looking happier than he could remember seeing her. Her face fell seeing him.

"Did Connor hit you?" She gestured to the gore on his face as she ran over to him.

Angel got up and got some napkins to clean up with. "No, just..."

"He made you laugh blood out your nose?" Buffy made a face. "Ewww."

He wiped his face. "Why did I ever think having kids would be a good thing?"

"Because you're a hopeless romantic." She hugged him from behind, resting her cheek against his back. "And I love you for it."

He twisted in her arms so he could hug her back. "Thank you." He kissed her forehead. "Though right now I'd sell him to passing gypsies."

Buffy's brow beetled. "Do gypsies just pass along anymore?"

"Not so much but I'm confident I know at least one tribe that would want him." Angel set aside his dinner.

"What? You want cursed again?" She grinned.

Angel laughed. "That's about what would happen if I foisted Connor off on them."

"As if you'd ever let him go." Buffy kissed the hollow of his neck then handed him back his dinner. "Drink up. We've got things to do."

"Oh?" He tried hard to keep the smarmy smile off his face but he knew he failed.

"Not that." Buffy blushed. "Okay maybe later but we've sadly got patrolling to do. Though we do have a few hours before it gets dark."

"I think I know how we can spend them."

A scream erupted upstairs followed by Dawn's mortified. "I didn't need to see that!"

"Dare I even go up there?" Buffy sighed.

"Only if you want to go blind. Just assume my son, Xander, Spike or Andrew is doing something no one in their right mind wants to see," Angel said as the sounds of someone being chased reached their ears.

"I'd better go settle it." She squeezed his hand. "Don't worry, I'll be right back once they're all dead."

"Fine by me. That'll spare me Faith and Connor's bondage Christmas pictures," Angel said.

Buffy's jaw dropped. "Do I even want to know?"

"Not really."

She shook her head and raced upstairs. The sounds of the melee grew accompanied by squeals of excitement. Angel collapsed back down on his cot with his dinner and listened to the sounds of fun. There was nowhere else he would want to be.