AN: Well, this is the last chapter folks! I hope you'll all like it! It's been a lot of fun posting this fic :) I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has been sending feedback, especially those of you at --this site--, and Enchanting Place, and everyone else who sent feedback for almost every chapter. You guys are awesome! For those of you who have been asking if I have something new to post soon, I do. But probably not for a month or so. You shouldn't have to wait too terribly long, though. Enjoy the chapter!
Enjoy the chapter!
A light drizzle dampened Angel's clothes as he slowly made his way back to his apartment. He didn't even notice the rain, and if he had, he wouldn't have cared. What did it matter if he got soaked? It didn't. Nothing mattered at the moment. Buffy didn't love him. Less than twenty-four hours had passed since his visit to Sunnydale and that one thought kept echoing inside his head.
And that was exactly why he was wandering around at three in the morning. His apartment had been suffocating him. So he'd left. At first he'd thought maybe he would find a bar and get drunk, but once he was seated at the wooden counter of the first bar he'd found, the idea lost its appeal. Instead, he'd sat there for two hours nursing the same beer. He probably would have sat there for another two hours if he hadn't been kicked out because it was closing time.
Now he was inching his way back home, back to where he would be alone with his thoughts. Not an appealing prospect, but he had nowhere else to go. Sleep would be nice. He doubted it would happen, though. Every time he closed his eyes, he saw Buffy. She was forever burned into his mind.
Arriving at the front door of his building, Angel used his key to let himself in. He bypassed the elevator in favor of the stairs. The longer it took him to get back to his apartment, the better. So he trudged up the stairs one by one, his footsteps resounding loudly in the empty space. All too soon, he reached his floor. Pulling open the door, he exited and stepped into the hallway. After taking a few steps, he turned right and then abruptly stopped.
Angel stared the few feet down the hall to his door, thinking he had to be seeing things. He blinked and then blinked again, but still the sight did not change. Maybe he'd had more to drink at the bar than he remembered. Or maybe someone had spiked his beer. But Angel didn't feel drunk. If that was the case – if he wasn't drunk or imagining things – then what he was seeing was real.
Still not accepting his vision, Angel took small steps forward until he was only a foot away. He stared down at the small figure hunched against his door. Her back rested against the wood and her knees were pulled up against her chest. With her head resting on top of her knees her blonde hair brushed lightly against her calves. There was no mistaking who it was.
Why was she there? Why was she torturing him further? Hadn't they already said all that needed to be said?
Angel backed away a step, overwhelmed and unnerved by this newest development. The last thing he'd expected when he returned home was to find Buffy sitting on his doorstep. What could she possibly want? She hadn't said a word since he'd walked around the corner. Which might have something to do – he realized – with the fact that she was asleep. He'd been too shocked to notice before that her eyes were closed and her breathing deep and even. Great. Buffy was asleep right in front of his door. Now what was he supposed to do?
He couldn't get through his door with Buffy situated the way she was. Even if he could, his conscience wouldn't allow him to just leave her there sleeping. His building was pretty safe, but he wasn't about to take chances. That meant Angel needed to wake her up, see what she wanted, and then send her on her way if he wanted to get into his apartment. Or – and there was always an 'or' – he could pick her up and take her inside. He stared down at her peaceful, sleeping face. The idea of waking her up when she likely needed the sleep seemed wrong. But so did taking her inside. He was screwed either way.
Concern for Buffy won out. Getting decent sleep was important in recovery, and although she seemed to be doing well, he couldn't make himself wake her. Even if he did, he wasn't comfortable sending her away this late at night. The last thing she needed after all that had already happened was to be out on the streets at three am. All that left him with only one choice. After unlocking his door, he bent down and as gently as possible scooped Buffy up into his arms. She was so deeply asleep that she never stirred, telling Angel that he was doing the right thing by not waking her.
Quietly entering his apartment, he walked over tothe couch, thinking to himself that he was glad he'd done a little cleaning after returning from Sunnydale. He laid Buffy on the couch, propping her head on one of the throw pillows. Task done, Angel found himself just standing there staring at her. What was he supposed to do now? Let her sleep, that's what. After all, that's why he'd brought her inside.
Resigned, Angel went into his bedroom and grabbed a blanket. Back in the living room, he tucked it around her body before plopping himself down on one of the nearby chairs. He'd just wait until she woke up, see what she wanted, and that would be end of it. In the meantime, he would torture himself some more by watching her sleep.
The panicked scream jerked Angel awake instantly. Disorientation hit first. He blinked against the bright rays of sun shining in his eyes, and winced at the soreness in his neck. Where was he? He shifted, realizing quickly that he wasn't in his bed. He was in a chair in his living room, where must have fallen asleep after bringing her into his apartment. And Buffy was on his couch.
Angel leapt out of the chair, suddenly remembering the scream that had pulled him from sleep. His eyes darted around the room, searching for some source of danger, but he could see nothing. A small whimper came from the couch and Angel lurched forward, concerned that Buffy was hurting from her injuries. She was still sound asleep, though.
On closer look, not so sound. As Angel watched, Buffy's head thrashed left and right. Her hands twitched and her feet began to kick. Another whimper escaped past her lips.
It didn't take Angel long to figure out that Buffy was having a nightmare. He could make a pretty good guess what about. Being kidnapped and tortured would give anyone nightmares. The question was, what should he do about it? He thought he remembered reading somewhere that waking a person out of a nightmare wasn't always good. Or maybe it was that you were supposed to wake them. He couldn't remember. Either way, he couldn't stand seeing Buffy thrashing around like she was.
Kneeling next to the couch, Angel gently laid his hand on her cheek. "Buffy," he spoke just above a whisper.
Buffy's eyes snapped open instantly. Her breath caught in her throat as she found herself staring into Angel's dark brown eyes. She blinked, confusion clouding her mind. For a moment, she thought she was dreaming of Angel. Why else would he be right there in front of her? As her drowsiness faded away, she remembered returning to Los Angeles and coming to Angel's apartment. Her eyes flicked around the room. How had she gotten inside?
"I brought you inside when I got home," Angel explained, seeing the perplexed look on Buffy's face. "You were dead to the world so I put you on the couch. You've been asleep for hours. I didn't want to wake you, but you started moving around and whimpering."
"It was just a...dream," Buffy replied evasively, suddenly feeling decidedly uncomfortable with the situation and Angel.
When she'd resolved to come to Los Angeles to talk to Angel she hadn't expected to fall asleep on his doorstep and then wake up on his couch. Truthfully, she didn't know what she'd expected. All she knew was that after what he'd said to her in Sunnydale, she had to talk to him again. His parting words to her had set her world adrift. The very last thing she'd thought he would say to her was a proclamation of love. Part of her still wondered if she had dreamed it all up. But she had to know. She needed to know if he meant it.
"A nightmare?" he prodded, telling himself he was being stupid for asking. He didn't need any of this. He should just find out why she'd come to his apartment and then tell her to leave. It was the only way he'd be able to remain sane.
Buffy shrugged, not particularly wanting to talk about it, but she answered anyway. "Yeah."
"About what happened?" When she nodded, he continued despite telling himself to shut up. "Have you had many?"
Again, Buffy shrugged. "Just a couple. Nothing major." At least she wasn't lying. The dreams had been sporadic, and mostly consisted of darkness and a taunting voice. They would fade over time, Buffy knew. She'd had nightmares before, especially after her mother died.
"Maybe you should, umm, talk to someone. About the nightmares," Angel said haltingly. Why was he sitting here talking to Buffy about dreams when he didn't want to be around her period?
"I'll be fine," she answered and pushed herself up to a seated position on the couch.
The move brought her body closer and Angel promptly stood up and walked over to the windows a few feet away. He definitely needed some space. Maybe then his mind would clear and he'd be able to get Buffy out of his apartment and out of his life. He couldn't stand being this near to her.
Silence reigned in the room. Buffy sat on the couch staring at Angel's back. She got the distinct feeling that Angel didn't want her there. At the moment, his posture seemed to be screaming his displeasure at the situation. Her heart clutched at the thought. Was it too late?
"Angel?" she whispered.
His body stiffened at the pleading word. He didn't answer right away. What could he possible say? Finally, he forced out the foremost question on his mind. "Why are you here, Buffy?"
"There...there's something I-I need to tell you," she replied, stumbling over the words. "But first...I...I want to...to ask you something."
At her hesitant, tense request, Angel turned to face Buffy once again. He couldn't image what she wanted to ask him, let alone tell him. He wasn't sure he wanted to find out. After she'd sent him away in Sunnydale, he thought he couldn't possibly hurt anymore, but having her right there, only a few feet away, made the pain so much worse. He was so tempted to tell her that he didn't care what she had to say and that he wanted her to leave, but he couldn't make the words come out.
"What?" he asked, resigned to having to deal with whatever was on her mind.
"Did...did..." The words wouldn't come out. Buffy chewed on her lower lip and told herself to just say it. "Did...did you mean what you said...right before you...you left?"
Angel didn't have to ask what she was referring to. He knew. Those words were permanently seared into his brain. He still wasn't sure why he'd said them before leaving. They'd just forced their way out. Just one more knock to his ego. And now here was Buffy, wanting to know if he'd meant them. Why? So she could apologize for not loving him back? So she could tell him she only thought of him as a friend?
He considered telling her no, that he'd lied. What would it hurt? But he had said those ever-important words, and he'd meant them. Backing away now didn't seem right.
"Yes," he answered simply.
Tears burned in Buffy's eyes. She dipped her head to hide them, all the while feeling a competing sense of relief over his answer, and guilt over the way she'd acted. How could she have misread the situation so completely? Never had she imagined that Angel returned her feelings. Because she hadn't, she'd pushed him away. And almost lost him. Was it too late to make things right? She prayed they still had a chance.
"I...I thought...," Buffy choked back a sob, overwhelmed by his admission, and likely suffering from fluctuating hormones. She sucked in air, trying to calm herself. "I thought that-that you barely considered me a friend. That's why I...I..."
"You what?" At the prompt, Buffy lifted her head and the tears in her eyes tore at something in him.
"That's...that's why I kept avoiding...talking..about us. I-I thought you would tell me we were only friends. Barely friends," she explained just above a whisper.
"But that's what you said...," Angel trailed off as the gist of the conversation suddenly began to make sense to him. He scrubbed a hand over his face at the exasperating reality. They'd both been making assumptions about what the other one felt, and in the process they'd deceived and pushed each other away. It was like a damn soap opera.
Walking over to the couch, Angel sat down next to Buffy and took hold of one of her hands. "I admit that when you first opened your apartment door that night of the break-in, you were the very last person I wanted to see. But we put the past behind us. I understand what happened in Sunnydale, and even if I didn't, we're both different people now. I got to know the real you, and I fell in love with you." Throughout his whole speech, his thumb caressed Buffy's hand lightly, and his eyes held hers.
"Oh, Angel. I love you, too," she said softly, sniffling back her tears. Angel loved her!
Angel wrapped his arms around Buffy and pulled her close. Every tense muscle in his body loosened and a sense of peace spread through him. "You don't know what it means to hear you say that."
"I'm sorry about the way I acted in Sunnydale," she sniffled, rubbing her cheek against Angel's chest. It felt so good to be held by him. "I just didn't think I could handle hearing you tell me we were only friends."
"So you said it to me first," he filled in the rest, leaning his head down to touch his cheek to the top of Buffy's head. God, they'd both been such idiots, and in the process almost lost each other. Buffy nodded at his assumption and Angel sighed. "We were both pretty stupid."
"Yeah." She echoed his sigh. "I never thought you'd be able to love me."
"How could I not?" he asked, though he wasn't requesting an answer. "You're kind and caring, amazingly talented. You've got an inner strength that amazes me. You're brave and beautiful. It'd be impossible for me not to love you."
His sweet words made her tears fall again. Only in her wildest dreams had she thought Angel would feel that way about her. She'd resigned herself to the fact that they would never be together. Now, a whole new world was opening up to her. One with Angel at her side. That knowledge only made her tears fall faster.
"Hey." Angel reached up and used his thumb to lightly brush the moisture away. "What's the matter?"
"Nothing." She smiled at him. "They're just happy tears. And relieved tears."
"Yeah. I almost lost you, Angel." Buffy lifted a hand and touched his cheek. "I chased you away and almost lost you."
"But you didn't," he reassured her, leaning into her hand. "Everything's all right now. We found each other. Whatever happened before is over. We've got a whole future ahead of us."
Angel turned his head and kissed Buffy's palm. Inside, his heart felt light and yet full of love. All the hurt and pain that had weighed him down since leaving Sunnydale had evaporated. He had Buffy in his arms. Right where she belonged. He shuddered to think of what might have happened if he hadn't uttered those three little words before leaving her. But he had and they'd changed everything. He'd be forever grateful for that.
The sense of contentment Buffy felt only lasted a moment. There was something she'd yet to tell Angel. Something she had to tell him. Now. It could possibly change everything. How would he react? It scared her down to her bones thinking of how Angel might react. Despite that fear, she knew she had no choice. The baby growing inside her wasn't going to go away. Not that she wanted it to. She wanted her baby. Angel's baby. She just didn't know if he would feel the same way, or if he'd be angry with her. Not only because she was pregnant, but because she hadn't yet told him. Well, no time like the present.
She pulled out of Angel's arms and faced him, her face serious. "There...there's something I need to tell you."
Seeing the look on her face, Angel grew worried. "What is it? Is something wrong? Are your injuries not healing right?"
"No. It's nothing like that. Well, not really. I, um..." Buffy blew out a breath. This was so incredibly hard. "First, I want you to know that I planned on telling you no matter what. I wasn't trying to hide it. I just...I needed some time to accept it. Everything was so crazy and I was freaked out."
Her vague words only made Angel worry more. "Whatever it is, you can tell me. It'll be okay."
"I hope you're right," she mumbled. She straightened her shoulders and looked directly at Angel. Might as well just say it. "I'm pregnant."
Angel heard the words. They bounced around his head in a thundering echo. Pregnant? He blinked. Opened his mouth. Blinked again. Pregnant? Buffy'd just said...he'd heard...pregnant? His mouth opened again, words on the tip of his tongue, but no sound came out. His jaw snapped closed and open once more before he finally was able to speak.
"Yes," Buffy nodded her head, not sure what to think of Angel's completely shell-shocked look. She pressed on, hoping he would understand. "We...we didn't use protection that morning in my...my kitchen, and I, um, I wasn't on the pill. When the doctor took blood when I was in the hospital, she found out I was just over a week pregnant."
"But...but that was over two weeks ago!" Angel replied sharply, his eyes narrowing as the realization came that Buffy had known for that long and hadn't told him. Buffy was pregnant. And she hadn't told him. He moved to get off the couch but Buffy grabbed his hand.
"Please, Angel. Just give me a minute to explain. I know you're probably upset that I didn't tell you right away, but please just listen." She was grateful that he complied by not moving away from her. So she held on to his hand and took a deep breath.
"I swear I wasn't trying to keep it from you, Angel. It was just such a shock. And everything was so messed up from everything with Willow, and things between us were...unsettled. When the doctor told me, I just kind of freaked out. It was the last thing I expected to happen. And the whole time I...I kept thinking about how much I loved you and...and how I thought you didn't love me." Blinking back the tears forming in her eyes as she remembered sitting in the hospital after the doctor had dropped her bombshell, Buffy lowered her head. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you as soon as I knew. I just needed some time to let it sink in and accept it."
"That's what changed that morning at the hospital," he muttered more to himself than to Buffy. "When I left, you were fine, but when I came back you would barely talk to me and wouldn't look me in the eye."
Nodding her head, Buffy gave a weak smile. "The doctor had run a second blood test to check the results and she told me while you were gone." She shrugged helplessly. "I just...freaked. I'd never have hidden it from you, Angel. Even if we hadn't...worked things out."
Angel blew out a heavy breath, his mind whirling. Buffy was pregnant with his child. The news was finally starting to settle in his brain. And the anger was fading. He put himself in Buffy's shoes and tried to think of how he would react. He'd probably have freaked out too. Things had definitely been tense during that time with the kidnapping and all. He really couldn't blame her for needing some time.
"It's okay, I'm not angry." He squeezed her hand to show her he understood. "I was just shocked. Stunned." Angel leaned back against the couch and on a sigh said, "wow. A baby."
"Yeah. Our baby," Buffy answered, sniffling as the reality – and hormones – hit her again. "We're going to have a baby."
Though the word had sounded a bit awe-struck, Buffy was nervous. Did Angel want to be a father? Did he want to have children with her? She bit her lip and peered at him through her lashes. "Are...are you okay with that?"
The timid question snapped Angel's mind out of the haze it had fallen into. He'd drifted off into visions of a sweet little girl with blonde hair and hazel eyes, just like her mother. But he shook those images off and refocused on Buffy, whowas watching him and gnawing on her lower lip. The action and the worried look on her face made him realize he hadn't given Buffy any idea how he felt about the fact that she was pregnant with his baby.
A baby! His baby. Angel still had trouble with the whole concept. He'd never really given much thought to having a family, being a parent. But now...with Buffy...the idea made his heart clench. He wanted that with her. He wanted it all. A future. A family. Everything. A blinding smile grew on his face. He and Buffy were going to have a baby!
"Of course I'm okay with it!" he exclaimed and pulled Buffy into his arms. "God, Buffy," he breathed out in an amazed sigh into her hair.
"I know," she echoed his wonderment.
Angel pulled back slightly and looked into Buffy's eyes, the eyes of his past, present and future. All the hurt and pain that had preceded was a distant memory. At the moment, he could barely remember it. The only thing he could think about was Buffy, their future, their baby. He felt as if he were flying through a sun drenched sky. With Buffy at his side.
He raised his hands and cupped her cheeks, never taking his eyes from hers. "I love you, and I love our baby."
"I love you, too," she replied, tears trailing down her cheeks. "And I can't wait to have your baby."
Their lips met in a tender kiss, but after a few seconds, Angel broke the embrace and gazed at Buffy once again. His thumbs traced across her cheeks, reveling in the soft, smooth skin. Inside his chest, his heart felt like it was going to burst with all the love and happiness he was feeling. Life couldn't get much better. Except for one thing...
"Will you marry me, Buffy?"
"Oh, Angel!" Buffy cried and threw her arms around him. "Of course I'll marry you!"
With her acceptance, Angel's lips once again found Buffy's. The gesture started off sweet and gentle, but heat blossomed within seconds. Angel's hands slid down Buffy's back to her hips, pulling her closer. Weeks of pent-up passion boiled to the surface, demanding release, demanding a physical consummation of their union. But Angel hesitated, worrying about Buffy and her health.
"Maybe we shouldn't-"
Buffy placed a finger on his lips. "It's okay," she whispered, reassuring him. "Make love to me."
He could never deny her anything. But he didn't mind. He wanted to give her the world. So he slowly lowered her down on the couch, sealing his body to hers. Love flowed between them, over them, around them. Angel thought he'd never felt a moment so perfect.
one month later
Buffy stood in front of the mirror in her bedroom at Giles and Jenny's house, staring at her reflection. Behind her, Jenny, Faith, Dawn, Cordelia and Fred bickered over something or other. She wasn't paying them much attention. Her mind and eyes were fixed on the sight of her body clad in the simple white dress.
It was really happening. She was really marrying Angel today. Her hand dropped to her still relatively flat stomach. And she was having Angel's baby. It all seemed surreal. Two months ago, she would have thought this all impossible. But everything had changed in such a short time. Changed for the better, but at times she still had difficulty believing it all.
Years ago, her life had been a mess and she'd been on a path to self-destruction. She'd done everything possible to ruin her life and push people away. Her actions had made her lose Angel, but then, she'd never really had him then. What they'd had back then was nothing like what they had now. Sometimes she still wondered how he'd been able to forgive her for what she'd done so long ago. But he had and now they were getting married. How had she gotten so unbelievably lucky?
Jenny stepped up behind Buffy and put her hands on Buffy's shoulders. "You look beautiful," she said softly. "Your Mom would be so proud of you."
The mention of her Mother brought tears to Buffy's eyes. "Thank you. I wish she could be here today."
"She's here, you just can't see her," Jenny replied. "And I bet she's smiling and happy for you."
Buffy reached up and squeezed Jenny's hand, thinking of not only how lucky she was to have Angel, but to also have Jenny and her Uncle Giles. They'd always been there for her, supporting her and helping her pull her life together. Buffy didn't know where she would have ended up without them.
Coming to stand next to Buffy, Cordelia put her hands on her hips. "No crying! I just did your make-up!"
"Sheesh, Cordy," Faith muttered, glaring at Cordelia. "She's supposed to cry on her wedding day."
Cordy put her hands on her hips and returned Faith's glare. "Who says?"
Butting in between the two, Dawn scowled at both of them. "Oh will you two shut up!"
Buffy couldn't help it. She burst out laughing. Just another day with her nutty friends.
Giving Buffy a once over, Cordy rolled her eyes. "Well, at least she's not crying." Faith snorted.
A knock came on the door and Giles poked his head in. "It's time, Buffy. Are you ready?"
Buffy pressed a hand to the flutters in her stomach that had nothing to do with her pregnancy. She didn't know why she was so nervous. She couldn't wait to be married to Angel. But she supposed nerves were natural. So she gave Giles a nod and picked up her bouquet of flowers off the dressers.
"Ready as I'll ever be," she said with a smile.
The group filed out of the room and down the stairs. The wedding was taking place in the back yard of the Giles house, so they congregated at the back door. Jenny exited and walked down the aisle to take her seat in the first row. Soon, the music began and Buffy watched as first Cordelia, Fred, and Dawn marched down the aisle to their places near the minister. Once they were in position, Faith followed as Buffy's maid of honor – a title she held at Dawn's insistence. And then it was time.
Giles took Buffy's arm and smiled down at her whimsically. He leaned down and kissed her cheek. "I wish you all the happiness in the world, Buffy."
Buffy smiled at him and squeezed his arm, too choked up for words. They stepped up to the door and then through. Fresh spring air floated around her, birds chirped in the trees, the sun glowed brightly over the guests who stood at Buffy's appearance, but she saw or heard none of it. The moment she'd walked through the door, her eyes had sought and found Angel's.
Her heart and nerves settled at the sight of him, standing tall in his tuxedo next to the minister. He smiled at her and her breath backed up in her lungs. He looked so handsome. And he was all hers. Soon they would be husband and wife. His eyes reflected the same knowledge.
The trip down the aisle passed in a blur. She'd been too busy staring at Angel, but suddenly she was there and Giles was placing her arm within Angel's and giving them his blessing before taking his seat next to Jenny. As the minister began to speak, Buffy felt tears gathering in her eyes again. Tears of happiness. Tears of joy. She didn't stop them from falling.
Angel placed his free hand over the one Buffy had resting on his arm. He knew the minister was speaking, but the actual words were almost unimportant. Only the sentiment was. He knew his friends and family were nearby, but his attention was solely on Buffy. She looked stunning in the simple white silk dress. His eyes drifted to her stomach. He couldn't wait until she started to show. He couldn't wait until they were a family.
The minister cleared his throat, making Angel jerk his eyes way from his bride. A knowing smile played over the man's face and he repeated what he'd previously said.
They'd chosen a simple ceremony and it passed quickly. Angel grinned when the minister pronounced them husband and wife and told him to kiss the bride. Finally! he thought, turning to Buffy.
Leaning into each other, their lips met in what was supposed to be a chaste kiss, though it was anything but. Before either of them knew it, their arms were wrapped around each other, their tongues meeting in an intimate joining. It was Spike's cat-call that finally made them break apart unrepentantly.
"I love you," Buffy whispered with a teary smile.
"I love you," Angel returned, and swooped in for another kiss. He broke away, dropped into a crouch and pressed a kiss to Buffy's stomach. "And I love you, too."
Nearly jumping up, Angel pulled Buffy off her feet and into his arms. He swung her around in a circle, holding her close. The night he and Buffy had reconciled, he'd thought nothing could ever feel so perfect. He'd been wrong. Today was the most perfect day of his life.