Angelus glanced up at the sun from his shielded vantage point and had to admit it was nice to see it again. Angelus worked with, or for, nobody, surely The Beast remembered that much about him. But Angelus' pansy-assed souled alter ego cared about teamwork, so maybe The Beast had thought Angelus had changed.

It had been fun watching Faith and The Beast go at it, but in the end Angelus knew that if he let The Beast get out of the warehouse alive the world would become utter chaos. That idea was not abhorrent to Angelus, but he was not sure there would be room for vampires and other hybrids. He wasn't ready for a death sentence, even if it did mean he'd have to live out the rest of his existence with the fucking soul.

How had Soul Boy gone without realizing that his slayer was in grave danger? He needed to be in Sunnydale not Los Angeles. Somehow, though, Soul Boy had suppressed his true feelings and convinced himself he had found another mate. There was one problem with that, he had only one and she was in trouble. Only one woman had willingly given him her blood. Only one woman had he given up being human for. He hated the thought, but if it weren't for her he wouldn't be here any longer. He thought that deserved a bit of respect and attention, but evidently it took losing the soul for that to become obvious.

"Why would he want to replace her with that bitch Cordelia?" Angelus growled at the thought of the self-involved seer who had somehow gained Soul Boy's favor. She was cute, he'd give her that, but he much preferred the blonde slayer. A woman who could give him a good fight was the ultimate turn on as far as Angelus was concerned.

"Well, that and Buffy would never have fucked your son."

When he had first been released his thoughts had been of destroying his slayer. Thoughts of bringing her to her knees, begging for mercy had kept him awake some days. That had been after one hundred years of living bound with a soul. His thoughts were running a different path this time.

He doubted he'd have much time certain Soul Boy's band of do-gooders would have his soul on standby. He needed to act now. If for no other reason than to show Soul Boy that she still needed him. Still loved him. And, he had to admit, if there was the potential for a good fuck out of the deal, why not? It baffled him why the two love birds were living apart. How easily they had both moved on, talks of forever seemingly forgotten. He could forgive her, she hadn't retained memories of their last time together. Soul Boy had, though, and had no excuse.

Once night was upon them again Angelus found a car that he could hotwire and took it, heading south out of LA. He knew the way, had begged, tried to claw his way out to make Soul Boy head in this direction. He had been too strong, able to resist him when it came to Buffy. There were other times Soul Boy was not so in control and Angelus loved the opportunity to let loose once in a while. It helped keep things in perspective. But there was no hesitation, no straying from his decision when it came to Buffy.

Angelus was taking the chance that Buffy and her friends knew as little about what was going on in LA as those in LA knew about Sunnydale. It was beyond him how they could miss it, but his slayer had her hands full in Sunnydale. But he was on his way to her now. Some might wonder why he cared, but it was pretty simple really. No one could hurt her but him. He didn't care about the others, the lot of them could get taken out and he wouldn't even blink. But her, his mate, the blond slayer that had made him feel things he'd never felt in over two centuries of existence. She was his, no one else had the right to hurt her.

He had over two hours to decide the best approach. If he gave himself away too quickly he knew without a doubt his slayer would come after him guns blazing. Well, stakes and cross bow quarrels blazing anyway. There would be no hesitation this time around.

She had moved on, or made an effort to. Rumor was she had taken up with Spike. Angelus relished the thought of winning his slayer back, yanking the rug out from under Spike yet again. With the soul he had played the part of soulless vampire once or twice, there was a time or two that it wasn't much of an act. He could handle playing the opposite way to get information. And to prove to Spike that she was still his girl.

Thinking of forever chained to a slayer was about as sadistic a thought as he could come up with, but he knew it was what she had talked to Soul Boy about. He would play on that, milk it, and enjoy getting under her skin inch by glorious inch. Then he'd let her know the soul was no longer in charge. Maybe, if he went about it the right way this time, he could arrange to be without the soul forever.

He abandoned the stolen vehicle a few blocks from Buffy's house. No sense arousing her suspicions from the get-go. Driving around in a car that wasn't his was not Soul Boy's style. He talked to himself, practicing up on his Soul Boy persona the short walk to Buffy's house.

He ascended the steps leading to Buffy's house, trying to remember when the last time he'd been here was. He couldn't remember. He hadn't come here after Buffy's mom died. They'd met at the cemetery. It seemed appropriate to meet there, but Angelus now wondered if his slayer had been ashamed to be seen with him in front of her friends. That gave him pause. Maybe she had come to think of their time together as the freak show he had called it. Then why take up with Spike if that were the case? Spike didn't even have a soul, it was just a chip that kept him heeling.

It wasn't anyone he recognized that answered the door, which made him take a step back. He was at the right house he knew that. He'd find his way to this house blindfolded. Had she moved since her mom's death? No, he didn't think so.

"I'm looking for Buffy," he said to the young girl. He'd always liked the taste of girls. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, pushing back thoughts of making a meal out of her. For now.

"She's," the girl looked behind her and then back at Angelus. "I'm not sure where she is."

"Do you think you could look for her?" He wasn't willing to risk finding out she'd revoked her invitation somewhere along the way since he left Sunnydale.

"Who are you?"

His gaze dropped briefly to the pulse point in her neck. So tempting. He had to force himself to look away. Fresh blood. There was a houseful of it. He could smell them. Lots of them.

"Angel." It pained him to say that name. He'd much rather soak in a vat of holy water than stake claim to the pathetic existence that was Soul Boy, but if it'd get him in the door he'd do it.

"Uh, just a sec."

"Okay," he said, turning away from the door. He walked down the steps and sat on the top one, regarding the street. God it was dull here. There was absolutely nothing going on. How could she stand it? Maybe offering to take him with her to LA, Chicago, New York, or something would be incentive to let him remain this way. Even better, Europe. There was so much he could show her. He knew it would take a lot for his slayer to let him roam free without his soul.

He heard her talking within the house through the closed door. She sounded frazzled, frantic really. Instead of thriving on the idea he rebelled at it. Soul Boy had left her assuming it would be easier, had he left only to make her face her biggest battles alone. She'd already died once. Wasn't that proof enough she was living on borrowed time?

The door opened and he sensed her pause in crossing the threshold that would bring her to him. He picked up on her excitement, happy even and he hated that he didn't mind he brought those things to the surface.

"Angel."

The stunned and disbelieving yet hopeful tone made him turn to face her. She looked haggard, tired, as if she was hanging by a string threatening to break at any moment.

"You look like shit." He had to bite his tongue, remind himself he was here as Soul Boy not Angelus.

"Tell me how you really feel."

She offered him a slight smile, though, so she hadn't been too insulted. She tousled her hair, which did little to improve her look. It did make him think of ways he could alleviate her stress, though. Her blond hair fanning out over the expanse of his skin, a pillow, or draping over her lithe body while she rode him to the stars and back.

"I can't believe you're really here."

"I heard you were in trouble."

"How'd you hear that?"

He shrugged. "Word gets around."

"I thought you had your hands full in LA."

"The problem's been fixed." He stood then, it was apparent she wasn't going to rush and sit down beside him. "I couldn't let you down twice."

"Really?" She sounded so happy that he had come for her. He watched with rapt attention as she pulled her hair back. He had to squelch the roar that he wanted to emit when he saw the scar. His mark. They were mated. He wondered who knew it was there. Had Spike seen it?

"Really."

"How did you get here?"

"I took the bus. Things were kind of crazy up in LA, it was the best way to get out."

"Oh. Do you want to come in? You don't have to stay out here. I've just told the girls no one's allowed to invite anyone in unless I've seen them. We've got baddies crawling out of the woodwork. Baddies that can't touch things. Baddies that can look like other people. Generally, people who've died, but staying dead must not be a requirement because it can be me."

"That bad, huh?"

"Remember the First?"

"The First?"

"Yeah, you know the First Evil? Accompanied by a bunch of Bringers. They claimed to be responsible for sending you back, wanting you to lose your soul in me."

He remembered very well. The idea of sex with his slayer a second time had not been abhorrent to Soul Boy, soul-losing possibilities or not. Angelus had been right there with the First, encouraging Soul Boy on. He had been strong, despite his doubts, and had been able to abstain. And soon after had made his decision to turn his back on the love of his life, leaving her alone to fend for herself after promising her forever.

"Right, I remember."

"Well, it's back and badder than ever."

"How so?"

"Let's just say, its time with you wasn't even a prologue."

"I wish I'd come sooner." He was seething at having to be so sappy, but what frightened him was the fact that he actually meant part of it. How dare they go after Buffy?

"I understand you were busy."

"Right," he said, closing the distance between them. He touched her arm with his hand, grazing it with the backs of his fingers. "I'm never too busy for you, Buffy."

She tried to step back, away from him, out from his touch but he took hold of her arms with both of his hands and drew her toward him.

"Angel," she whispered as he captured her lips with his. Four years of pent up frustration, rage from being kept trapped with Soul Boy flooded from his lips to hers. There was nothing gentle, nothing hesitant or even considerate about his kiss. He would devour her if he could. She tasted so sweet, temptingly so. He could forget most anything for another minute of kissing her.

It took her a minute to respond but when she did it was full speed ahead. There was no holding back from his slayer. She had missed him as much as he had evidently. That was good, he would use that to his advantage. Stress could do wonderful things, like make her forget that being with him could bring on the next apocalypse. Of course, she was already battling one so maybe she wouldn't see the harm. The world was going to end, might as well let off some steam on the way out.

No, his slayer would never think like that. She'd never give up, not until she was dead. She'd proven that more than once. It was one reason he knew the first time he lost his soul they were doomed. She would never give up the good fight. She would never turn a blind eye and let him kill good citizens of Sunnydale.

"Oh great, Angel's here. Like we don't have enough distractions, we need Dead Boy here to make with the kissing our slayer."

He let out a low growl, heard evidently by his slayer who let out a small gasp at the primal sound emitting from him. She clutched the front of his jacket as if trying to shield herself from Xander's cutting words.

"Just what is it I interrupted, Xander?"

"Her moving on. You do this. You come to town and she's an emotional wreck for days afterward. We can't afford that now."

"Well, I'm not leaving til this is done so she won't be useless to you, Xander."

"No way, it's bad enough we have to put up with Spike. Both of them. Buffy. Did you send for him?"

"No, I didn't." The words were barely audible she had her head buried so far into his jacket he thought she might suffocate. He found himself smoothing down her hair, getting lost in the feel of it. So soft, so real, so Buffy. "But he's here."

"Get over it, One Eyed Jack, she wants me here." Okay, that was probably too out of character for Soul Boy. Temper it down a bit. His days of loving your mate are long gone. He's moved on, more than once.

"We'll see what Spike has to say about this."

"Like Spike could force me to leave. It's the Slayer's house last I checked. I think she has final say."

"I don't like it, Buffy. Wasn't he just battling his own big bad in LA? And suddenly he's here, hands all over you, offering help? He called here."

"And you didn't tell me?"

"I didn't take the call, someone mentioned it, didn't realize who he was I guess."

Angelus growled low at the knowledge that she really had moved on from her life with him in it. There were people in her life now that didn't know him, didn't know about them. Who didn't realize Spike wasn't her first vampire lover. They'd be in for a rude awakening, though, because she was about to ditch the latter for the former if Angelus had anything to say about it.

She drew away to face Xander. Angelus released her and noticed she swiped at her eyes. She'd been crying. It should have given him pleasure, except he hadn't caused the pain. It was not acceptable for anyone else to make her shed tears.

"What's he doing here?"

"I don't know. I haven't had a chance to ask him."

"Yeah, well, maybe if you were less busy kissing him you'd get some answers."

Angelus heard Spike's voice coming from somewhere inside the house. He closed the small space between Buffy and him, his hands sliding to her hips while his mouth sought his mark on her neck. She was his. She tilted her neck, almost as if she knew what he was doing and it was all he could do to keep from reclaiming her right there and then. Instead, he did what Soul Boy would do and nuzzled her neck gently, affectionately even. It wasn't hard to put on the act of loving her, he knew full well what the fuzzy feelings he had for her were. He didn't have to like it or welcome it. Having her press her fine slayer ass against him was almost worth caging himself.

"Can you get rid of him so we can be alone?" he murmured, brushing his lips against her ear.

"I," she stammered and he chuckled softly. He let his game face fall into place and ran a fang over her earlobe. "Angel," she whispered.

"What? I can't help it, it's been too long since I've seen you."

"Has it?" He couldn't miss the hopeful tone in her voice.

"Yes," he said with a low growl.

"I was beginning to think you hadn't noticed."

"Never," he said gruffly. "You're my mate, my slayer. How can you think that?"

"I haven't heard you go all possessive on me in a long time."

"Get rid of him."

"I, Angel, the house is full of people, potential slayers."

"What?" That was one way to throw a proverbial bucket of cold water over his libido. No wonder the girl who had answered the door looked so tasty.

"The First. He, It, whatever you call it, it's waging war on us. The Council is gone. There's a dozen or so potential slayers that were sent to me from their watchers."

"They sent them to the hellmouth?"

"I guess it doesn't sound like it makes much sense, but I think they thought there was power in numbers. And that I could train them. I need the help." He knew how difficult that was for her to admit. He cursed Soul Boy's stupidity. He had minions to do his work for him and he hadn't seemed to want to lift a finger to help his mate.

"What a pansy," he whispered.

"What?"

"Nothing, sorry. The watchers, not wanting to dirty their hands, that's all." It sounded feasible to him. "Why didn't they come themselves? If it's as bad as you say it is, you could use all the hands you can get."

"I think most of them are dead, Angel."

"Oh." There was nothing more to say to that. The Watcher's Council and its watchers gone. It sounded incredible. As long as he'd been a vampire there had been watchers and slayers. It wasn't a bad idea as far as plans go. Take out the potential slayers and demons and vampires would be free to walk the earth risk free for fourteen years or so. He didn't have the power or means to carry out such a plan, but it was an inspired one.

"I think we've held them off for a while. We closed off this seal."

"Seal?"

"Yeah, they were trying to open it. The First has these Uber vamp henchmen. Big, burly, basically unkillable. Stakes don't do a thing. Sunlight irritates them, but that's about the extent of it so far."

"Huh."

"Yeah, it's," he felt her tremble in his arms.

He nuzzled her neck again, grazing his mark with his fangs. "Show me the seal."

"What?"

"I want some time alone with you. Show me the seal, they'll buy that as an excuse for our going off together for a while."

"Angel, I don't know."

"What?"

"Spike."

"Who cares about Spike?" The worrying over the scar tissue with his fangs grew more persistent as he tried to keep his jealousy in check. "I'm here now."

"Did I hear my name, Slayer? Oh," he said from the doorway. There was no question how it appeared. Buffy was snuggled up against Angel and vice versa. He was sure they painted a nice little picture.