A PLACE IN THE WORLD

Fandom: Angel the Series/Buffy the Vampire Slayer crossover

Pairing: Angel/Buffy
Rating: T

Disclaimer: The characters don't belong to me – I'm just borrowing them!

Summary: Set after 'Not Fade Away'

The lyrics at the end are from Will Young's song 'All Time Love' and they reflect the Buffy/Angel love story.

CHAPTER 1

Trying to lift himself off the ground, Angel desperately tried to open his eyes but he couldn't find the strength. Something had fallen on him and he was trapped underneath it, lying on his stomach. He ached all over. The pain in his head roared through his skull leaving him no ability to think what to do next or about how he got there.

Angel felt darkness all around him. He could hear noises that no living creature should ever hear. Screams, growls, crashing weapons, tearing of skin, the swipe of blades, the gushing sound of blood pouring …… This is it, he thought. This is what I'm leaving behind: carnage. It was all for nothing. We're dying here and it's all for nothing ……

"He's coming around."

Angel dragged his eyes open and blinked in the glare of the light in the room. Trying to focus on where the voice came from, he squinted at the person standing before him. It couldn't be ……

"Shall I get a nurse?" Another voice from the other side of the room penetrated his head and he turned weakly towards it. The second person was not familiar and therefore unimportant at this stage. He looked back to the person on the right while trying to get his bearings. He was in a bed and judging by the equipment, he was in what looked like a hospital room. Looking for restraints, he saw there weren't any which was possibly the only good thing about this situation.

"No, not yet. We should give him some water though – it will make it easier for him to speak," replied the familiar face.

The second person went to a nearby jug and poured some water into a plastic cup. Angel drank gratefully from it. His throat was sore and felt like it was coated in dust. When he was finished, he looked back to the person who could give him some answers. "What happened?"

The reply was to the point. "We rescued you."

Angel was in no mood for cryptic answers. "I don't remember calling you," he said through gritted teeth, trying to convey some of the anger and frustration he felt at finding himself in a hospital bed with no apparent memory of getting there.

"Well, while I'm overwhelmed by your gratitude, I have some questions of my own to ask so we'll move on from the matter of me saving your life," came the reply and with that, Agent Riley Finn drew up a chair and sat in it.

As Angel lay in the hospital bed, Riley explained that he had led a team of Special Forces in the battle which was currently being labelled by troops as the 'LA Massacre.' The army had picked up signals that demons were collecting in the region and had sent a small force to investigate. By the time they arrived, demon numbers were multiplying by the day and it was evident that a war was being mounted. Riley had called in reinforcements.

This information confused Angel. He had led the revolt against the Circle of the Black Thorn from the inside. He knew that the Senior Partners would rage against him once his treachery had revealed itself but according to Riley, the demons had been collecting before this. Riley, as promised, had asked questions of his own and Angel gave him the bare details to alleviate his curiosity. He too was confused and offered a simple explanation. "Maybe it was sheer coincidence," he suggested. "Maybe Los Angeles was a bomb waiting to go off and when you double crossed the Senior Partners, they unleashed the resources they had who were then joined by the demons already looking to take over the city."

Angel mulled this over. It was possible but what were the odds? He wondered if he would ever know the true extent of what had happened in LA. Riley indicated his wife, the other person in the room, "It was actually Sam who found you." Angel turned to her and nodded briefly, "Thank you." It was all he could say because right now, he couldn't decide if Sam finding him had been a good thing.

He'd been putting off this next question for too long and the words stuck in his throat. Finally, he looked at Riley and asked, "The others? My team?" Riley's face softened slightly as he answered, "We went by records retrieved from Wolfram & Hart. We knew you would have had a team working with you and I sent some men to look for them specifically." He then took out a sheet of paper and read from it:

"Wesley Wyndam-Pryce: Not located. Charles Gunn: Located approximately 500 yards from the Hyperion Hotel. Badly injured and currently in intensive care with little chance of regaining consciousness. The God named Illyria: Not located. The demon named Spike: Not located. Harmony Kendall: Located at her apartment and being held for questioning. The demon named Lorne: Not located. Former employee, Lindsey McDonald: Not located."

Angel looked at his hands, uncharacteristically clasped together. Quietly, he said, "Pass me that paper and a pen and I'll give you the address where to find Wesley's body. He didn't make it to the hotel." Riley passed him both and Angel wrote the address down and then continued, "You'll find Lindsey's body at the bar called Grace's. Hopefully, you'll find a few demon bodies too. You won't ever find Lorne so stop looking. As for Spike, if he was killed, then you'll be looking for –"

"Dust? Yeah, we know. Unfortunately, we don't have the resources to sift through the wreckage looking for a pile of Spike-dust. There's simply no way to identify it." Riley's tone was sharp and Angel realised that there was no love lost between the soldier and the vampire. He wondered if Riley knew about Buffy's affair with Spike but decided against mentioning it. Then it hit him: Buffy.

"Buffy," he said before he could stop himself. Riley sat up a little straighter and his face grew stern again. "I spoke to Buffy myself, to tell her what happened before she rushed back here. You should know that she is seriously pissed at you for not telling her about your plan."

Angel shook his head slowly. "She was never part of the plan. I didn't want her anywhere near this."

"Why?" Riley asked. He knew that Buffy and Angel led separate lives now and dealt with their own apocalypses but going against Wolfram & Hart had been a major deal. Angel had to have known that the chance of survival was slim at best and that someone would have to clear up any mess he left behind.

Angel's words brought him back to the conversation. "I didn't want her tainted with this. Taking over Wolfram & Hart had started out as a way to destroy the evil from the inside but it became clear that we didn't have enough power. The only way was for the Senior Partners to believe that they had won me over and then take them down that way. The repercussions would be huge no matter how it turned out and Buffy is too important to the world for her to be caught up in this."

Riley agreed with the last part and he realised begrudgingly that on that issue at least, he and Angel had something in common. He spoke up, "Angel, I think you should prepare yourself for a visitor. She's on her way here now."

"How long do I have before she gets here?" Angel asked.

"Well, I called her yesterday when we brought you here and she said she'd get the next flight out. Problem is, there are no flights into LA at the moment with all this going on so she's had to come via Ontario International. Her ETA is anytime between tonight and tomorrow morning."

Angel was about to reply when he felt a searing pain in his chest. He cried out in agony, clutching his chest with his right hand while his left arm flailed about wildly. Riley tried to hold him down. "Angel! What the hell? What's happening?" Sam meanwhile had rushed out of the room calling for the doctor. Within minutes, the army doctor who had treated Angel initially ran into the room.

By this time, the sharp pain had lessened and Angel's whole body began to relax. The doctor checked that his pupils were reactive, and spoke directly to him, "Angel, can you hear me?" When Angel nodded, he continued, "Can you tell me what happened? Are you still in pain?" Just as Angel opened his mouth to reply, Riley took a sharp breath and backed away slightly. The doctor turned to Riley. "Agent Finn? What is it?"

Shaking his head, Riley stared at Angel, trying to process what he had just felt. Still holding Angel's wrist from when was trying to hold him down, he'd suddenly known what had caused Angel's pain. Angel had a pulse.

CHAPTER TWO

Outside Angel's room, the doctor was in whispered talks with Major Ellis, Riley's direct superior.

"It's just not possible," the doctor insisted, "A vampire cannot have a heartbeat. What happened here is most unprecedented and I suggest you locate whatever magic is at work and eradicate it immediately."

Ellis was quiet for a moment before replying, "Does he show any other signs of alteration? Does he still have his vampire strength? Is sunlight still a problem for him?"

The doctor looked at his notes, "I've done all of the tests I can think of. Currently his heart rate is what you would expect of a healthy 26 year old. Blood pressure is normal. He has an appetite and all his organs are functioning appropriately. I subjected his hand to direct sunlight and there was no reaction whatsoever – no burning, irritation, nothing. From a strength point of view, he is still remarkably powerful so it appears that this is the one element from his former vampiric state that has remained." Ellis nodded for him to continue.

"I asked him to try and change into a vampire and he said he could not. We have to assume he's telling the truth of course. Any other advantages he had from being a vampire such as being able to smell human blood from some distance, being able to track demons and so on could also remain but he has been unable to test this yet. I maintain that this has to be magic induced and is certainly nothing I could perform myself or anything I've ever seen before."

Ellis turned to an officer standing a few feet away, "Agent Brooks, ensure that his room is guarded 24/7. The occupant is not to leave that room without an order from me. Do you understand?" The officer nodded once. "Yes sir."

The Major then walked back down the corridor, thinking about what to do with this new information.

Angel sat on the edge of the bed while Riley sat in a chair in the corner of the room. After the tests, they had brought Angel back and left him with Riley as his only company. Riley spoke up, "I can't believe it. You're actually human. Do you think it's a reward or something for taking on Wolfram & Hart?"

Angel frowned, "I don't know." He then got up and headed for the door.

Riley jumped up from his seat, "Hey, you can't leave. Major's orders."

Angel turned back to him and said, "Are you going to stop me?"

Riley stood up square to him, "You're human now Angel. Gunshot wounds are going to be a serious problem for you now."

Angel smiled and shook his head. He suddenly grabbed Riley and pushed him hard against the wall. Through gritted teeth, he spoke forcefully, "Gunshots are only going to be a problem for me when you guys are quick enough to catch me. Which seeing as I still have my vampire speed, isn't going to be anytime soon. Now, you are going to let me leave here in one piece because if you try to kill me, Buffy's going to be more pissed at you than she ever will at me. When Buffy gets here, you are going to tell her nothing about me turning human and that since the battle is over, she can go on back to the Immortal and her apartment in Rome. You got that?"

Riley nodded reluctantly and Angel let him go, stepping away from him. Riley asked, "I don't understand. Why don't you want Buffy to know you're human? This is all you ever wanted, isn't it?"

Angel sighed and looked at the floor as he contemplated how to answer Riley's question. Finally, he said, "Trust me, turning human isn't that easy. I have no place in the human world. I have no name, no job and more importantly, I have nothing to offer Buffy. She and I can't even begin to hope for a life together unless I have something to bring to the table. Plus, I don't even know if that's what she wants anymore."

Riley wasn't sure that Buffy would agree with that but Angel obviously had his reasons for not telling her that he had become human. He asked Angel what he should tell her when she arrived.

"Tell her she's too late. The battle is over. Tell her to go home." Angel said sadly. "Now, are you going to get rid of this soldier or am I?"

Riley reluctantly stepped outside and ordered the soldier to find the doctor as there appeared to be 'irregularities' with the patient. Once he had run off, Riley motioned for Angel to come out. "This is a make-shift hospital, Angel, and it isn't supposed to be here if you know what I mean. Take care as you leave the building, there will be more soldiers around." Angel nodded and started to walk down the corridor.

Riley called after him, "What are you going to do, Angel? I mean right now, where the hell are you going to go?"

Angel looked back at Riley with a steely gaze, "I'm going to find my son."

Angel managed to slip past four more soldiers on his exit from the building previously used for corporate storage, now masquerading as a hospital. He had been tempted to find Gunn but he knew he had to leave before Riley's superiors realised he had given them the slip. He was certain that Gunn was being looked after and that there was nothing more he could do for him for now.

As Angel headed towards the Hyperion Hotel, he readied himself for a gruesome sight. He was not to be disappointed. The hotel was barely standing and the buildings around it had fared no better in the battle. Judging by the remains, the army had been both trigger and bomb happy. He could smell burnt flesh both human and demon and he tried to keep his eyes away from the carcasses that had yet to be cleared.

The battle area had been cordoned off and was guarded. Silently, Angel made his way around the side of what was left of the Hyperion, keeping an eye on the soldiers. Luckily, he had maintained stealth in the transition to human being. He still couldn't quite believe what had happened to him and walking in daylight was still a novelty for him but right now he had other things to focus on. He hadn't lied to Riley - he was going to find his son - but his gut instinct told him that he was okay and right now, there was a possibility that Illyria or Spike might not be.

Finally, he arrived at the side of the hotel where he had last seen them. After the initial charge towards the oncoming demons, he had lost track of them and if Gunn had been found some 500 yards away, he really had no idea where to start looking for the other two. Angel quickly realised that he would gain nothing from searching the hotel remains. The army had been particularly thorough here. It had been swept clean of all bodies and rubble was all that remained. As Angel carefully made his way back to the other side of the battle field, he passed a small building which appeared to have survived the carnage. He paused to decide in which direction to head next and as he did so, the door of the building flung open and he was grabbed by something and pulled inside. The door slammed shut.

"What took you so bloody long?" yelled Spike as Angel whirled around.

Angel gaped at him, "Spike? You're okay?"

Spike glared back, "Well, yeah. If you can call being cooped up here for two days trying to elude America's finest! Ol' Hostile 17 here was beginning to wonder if his number was up!"

Angel was confused, "What's Hostile 17?"

Spike rolled his eyes dramatically, "Never mind. So, what's the plan? Have you got a car waiting or what? And what happened to Gunn and the blue bird?"

Angel replied, "Gunn was badly injured. I'm not sure if he'll make it. I haven't found Illyria yet."

Spike took this information in and then spoke again, "Well, what about Lorne and tattoo boy – did they make it?" Angel, remembering that only he and Lorne knew about Lindsey's fate, shook his head, "I don't know, Spike, and right now, our main concern is how to get you out of here."

Spike frowned as he looked at Angel, "Yeah, OK." Then realising an important detail, he suddenly pointed at Angel, "Oi! Hang on a minute! It's the middle of the day! Why aren't you wearing a blanket over your head?" Without waiting for Angel to reply, Spike raged on, "You got the bloody Shanshu prophecy didn't you? Just my luck!"

Angel was getting annoyed, "No, I didn't get the Shanshu because I signed it away! I don't know what happened but now I'm human which makes this situation good for me but not for you so can we please start concentrating on a plan to get you out of here before GI Joe arrives on the scene?"

Spike gave an exaggerated sigh and nodded reluctantly, "Well, where did you park the car?"

"I haven't got a car," replied Angel awkwardly.

Spike threw his hands up in the air as he started to pace about the room, "He hasn't got a car. Brilliant. Tell me something, if you came here looking for us, how did you expect us to make a swift getaway? Got another flying dragon up your sleeve, have you?" he asked sarcastically.

Angel had to admit that Spike had a point. He hadn't been thinking at all, he'd just headed here in some vain attempt to salvage something from this mess. He tried to rescue the situation, "Okay, we'll stay here until it's dark and then take off. We have to get a change of clothes too because right now we both look too much like we nearly died in a battle."

Spike sat down wearily in a nearby chair. The building had obviously been an office for a small business and its workers were unable to return to work while the army quarantined the area. "So," said Spike, "if I've been stuck here for two days, where the hell have you been?"

Angel went on to explain how Sam and Riley had rescued him and that he'd only come around this morning followed by the human transformation. "And you say you signed away the prophecy? So how did you get your heartbeat back? Guess the Powers That Be decided to reward you anyway," sulked Spike.

"I honestly don't know, Spike and I really can't think about it now. You and I need to get out of here before the army or anyone left from Wolfram & Hart finds us. And for all we know, Illryia could be out there somewhere. We need to regroup and figure out what we're going to do."

"Do? Do about what? We – sorry, you - don't run an evil law firm anymore, we don't have any connections, we don't have any allies and our enemies, after taking a bit of a knock back, are planning their comeback as we speak. As for Illyria, if you haven't found her by now mate, you're not going to. She's done the sensible thing and legged it."

Angel looked at Spike questioningly, "Well, what do you suggest we do?"

Spike sighed, "Honestly? I think our best bet would be to leave town for a while. Go our separate ways and let the dust settle. With the army here, there's no room to manoeuvre and we are, shall we say, short on numbers to say the least."

Angel nodded. Spike was right. There was nothing they could do right now. Disappearing was the only option.

CHAPTER THREE

"Where is he?" demanded Buffy.

Riley tried to placate her, "He's gone, Buffy. He left yesterday lunchtime."

With LAX unable to accept further flights due to the army's instructions, Buffy had landed at Ontario International instead. Catching the bus into Los Angeles had meant that she'd arrived much later than Riley had expected which had given him time to explain to the Major that Angel had given him the slip and that a very angry slayer was on her way there. Both pieces of information had not gone down well. When Buffy finally arrived, Riley had taken her to an interview room to try and let her down gently.

"Buffy, we had no right to keep him here. He had just been through a major battle and lost most, if not all of his team. It's understandable that he'd want to be alone right now."

Buffy looked at him incredulously, "What are you? His best pal now?" Her anger quickly left her as she looked at his hurt expression, "I'm sorry. I just can't think straight." Buffy's shoulders sagged as she sat back in her chair. She asked, "His team …. are they all gone? I mean, do you have a list …. A body count?"

Riley knew she wanted to know about Spike and while it irked him that she'd fallen for that creep, he pulled out the same list he had read from to Angel, "From the team of people involved only Charles Gunn and Harmony Kendall have been found alive. Mr Gunn is in intensive care although surprisingly, the medical staff seem to have been able to stop the internal bleeding so there's a small chance he may make it. Miss Kendall has been questioned but she has provided very little information of any importance."

Buffy could wait no longer, "And Spike?"

Riley continued, "Neither Spike nor the God named Illyria have been found although Angel confirmed that they were both at the battle scene. The demon Lorne has disappeared and we are not pursuing his whereabouts. The body of Wesley Wyndam-Pryce has been located and is currently in the morgue."

Buffy gasped, "Wesley didn't make it? Oh God." Buffy leant across the table putting her head in her hands. She and Wesley had never seen eye to eye but he appeared to have made a life with Angel and the other team members and his loss was another tie to her childhood gone. From a time when passing trig was the only other important thing beside killing demons and being with Angel, of course.

Buffy sighed, "Anyone else? Willow mentioned a girl named Fred? Has she been found?"

Rile looked through his notes and spoke carefully, "The girl named Fred died six weeks ago. She was taken over by Illyria. Apparently, according to records, she looked very much the same. The same body but a different being on the inside."

Buffy looked up at Riley, "That's a familiar story."

Riley looked away as he remembered Faith switching bodies with Buffy. It wasn't something he cared to think about. Reading from his notes again, he continued, "There was another team member, Lindsey McDonald. Records state that he was an old Wolfram & Hart employee and it appears that heswitched sides andteamed up with Angel for the final battle. Angel told us where to find his body but we couldn't find him. I didn't get the chance to tell Angel because he'd already left by the time I received the information."

"So he may still be alive?" asked Buffy.

Riley nodded, "Maybe. Maybe Angel's information was wrong, I don't know." Riley leaned forward and took Buffy's hand, "Buffy, I know this is hard. You wanted to be able to help and coming here was probably what seemed logical at the time but the battle is over. Angel has gone. I'm sure that once he works things out, he'll come back and get in touch."

Buffy squeezed Riley's hand gratefully, "I know. You're right. I just thought there would be more than this. More than just a list of people missing in action. More than …." she trailed off, not knowing what more she could say.

To distract her, Riley asked, "Would you like to see this Charles Gunn? I don't know if you've ever met him but if he recovers, maybe he can give you some of the answers you're looking for."

Buffy agreed and as Riley watched her being escorted to their makeshift ICU, he sighed guiltily. He hated lying to her but something told him that revealing Angel's human condition wasn't the right thing to do at this moment.

"What?" Spike roared, "Buffy is here in LA and you only just decided to tell me this now?"

They had moved from the small office as soon as the sun had gone down and were now holed up in Spike's apartment which he had acquired from Lindsey. Angel flinched as Spike rounded on him, "Look, if I'd told you she was here earlier, you'd have gone straight over to their base to see her and I wasn't sure if they'd let you go."

Spike laughed spitefully, "Oh yeah, you were really worried about me! Do me a favour! You just didn't want me near her – worried that she might be more concerned about me than you?"

Angel turned away in disgust and made it clear he would not dignify that question with an answer. Staying at this apartment was going to have to be a short term solution. Too long with Spike and there would be a pile of dust here sooner rather than later.

Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. Angel and Spike looked at each other in alarm. They'd been found. Carefully standing either side of the doorway, Spike opened up the door slowly to find Lindsey standing before him.

"Bloody hell, you made it out alive then!" Spike stood back allowing Lindsey to enter the apartment. Angel circled round and stood before him, "Lindsey," he said quietly.

"Angel," Lindsey replied. Spike eyed the two of them and commented, "Well, for two people supposedly fighting on the same side, you don't seem that pleased to see each other."

"He doesn't know does he?" Lindsey asked Angel who shook his head in return.

Lindsey continued, "Come on now Angel. Tell your old buddy here how you got me to help you with killing The Sahrvin and then had me shot - by Lorne of all people! Do you even realise how humiliating that was for me?"

Spike looked at Angel with genuine surprise, "You had Lorne shoot him? Blimey, there's life in the old dog yet!" he said gleefully.

Angel scowled, "Obviously Lorne isn't a very good shot."

Lindsey shook his head and replied, "Oh he was a good shot all right. Got me five times." He unbuttoned his short to show five bullet marks on his body. "Unfortunately for you, I signed the same agreement that Lilah signed. Meaning that even in death, I still have to report in, know what I mean?"

Angel frowned at him, "But Lilah wasn't corporeal and she didn't hang around long after she'd given us the introduction to Wolfram & Hart. Plus, she hadn't double crossed them like you did."

Lindsey nodded. "True, but a contract is only as good as it's written. My contract was upgraded after I failed to kill you during my 'Doyle' phase and I got the full corporeal deal."

Angel had mixed feelings about this. Asking Lorne to kill Lindsey had been difficult and he knew that he would never see Lorne again afterwards. It was something Lorne would never have done had Angel not asked him to and seeing Lindsey standing there before him, all he wanted to do was to tell Lorne that he wasn't a murderer and that he could live his life guilt free. Angel sighed as he realised that wasn't to be. He looked at Lindsey, "So what do you want, Lindsey?"

Lindsey smiled, "I want to be able to leave LA without looking over my shoulder. The deal is that I'm tied to Wolfram & Hart and when it's up and running again, I'll have to come back. Thanks to you, it's going to be a long time before anyone comes to LA to set up another office so I want out of here. You had your chance to get rid of me, Angel and now I want to leave you, this place and everything tied to it."

Angel considered this while Spike looked on in interest. Finally, he replied, "OK."

Surprised, Lindsey said, "OK? Just like that?"

"Yeah, just like that. I haven't got the energy to deal with you, Lindsey, and I know you're going to turn up again one day so I think I'll just wait for that day."

As Lindsey walked to the door, Angel called after him, "Bon voyage, Lindsey. Don't come back."

Lindsey turned back and grinned at him before walking through the door and closing it behind him.

"You let him go rather easily didn't you?" enquired Spike.

Angel shook his head, "I'll admit that I hadn't counted on him coming back from the dead but he's kinda fun to have around. Like an old dog which just keeps coming back for more."

Angel smiled and Spike nodded slightly in understanding.

CHAPTER FOUR

Buffy had stayed in LA for two weeks. Gunn had made significant improvement and had been able to fill in the gaps with regards to Angel's life. She was greatly saddened at what she'd heard and together they had mourned the loss of those they'd loved; Cordelia, Wesley, Fred and even Angel to some extent because with every loss, he'd given up part of himself. Buffy could understand that. Losing Jenny Calendar, Joyce, Tara, Anya and many of the potential slayers in the battle against The First, she too had felt small pieces of her heart being ripped away, never to be replaced.

Buffy had also visited Cordelia's grave and laid flowers there. Flowers not only from her but with the love and affection from Xander, Willow and Giles. Although never close to Cordy, she wept freely as she knelt before the tombstone. Another memory of her youth wiped out.

It was in the same cemetery that they laid Wesley to rest. Buffy and Gunn stood quietly as the vicar said the appropriate words and afterwards they cried fresh tears for Wesley and for Fred who they could not bury with him.

As they left the cemetery for the last time, echoes of Cordy and Wesley surrounded Buffy as she turned and looked back …….

"Oh, I would kill to live in L.A. That close to that many shoes? Well, you'll be okay here. If you hang with me and mine, you'll be accepted in no time. Of course, we do have to test your coolness factor" ….

…. "Buffy, you will go to the Gleaves family crypt tonight and fetch the amulet."

"I will?"

"Are you not used to being given orders?"

"Whenever Giles sends me on a mission, he always says 'please'. And afterwards I get a cookie." ….

.…"Hey! You think I'm never lonely because I'm so cute and popular? I can be surrounded by people and be completely alone. It's not like any of them really know me. I don't even know if they like me half the time. People just want to be in a popular zone. Sometimes when I talk, everyone's so busy agreeing with me, they don't hear a word I say." ….

… "Damn it, you listen to me! This box is the key to the Mayor's Ascension. Thousands of lives depend on our getting rid of it. Now I want to help Willow as much as the rest of you, but we will find another way." ….

. "My point however is, crazy or not, it's pretty much the only plan. Besides, it's Buffy's, - and she's slay gal, - you know, little Miss Likes-to-fight. So.." ….

… "I'm not here for the council. Just tell me how I can help." …

Buffy sighed and quietly followed Gunn out of the cemetery.

On her fifteenth day in LA, Buffy suggested that Gunn come back to Cleveland with her. She had made the decision not to return to Rome and would join up with Faith and Robin instead at the other Hellmouth. Giles would be glad (he constantly rang her from England with dark portents insisting that she return to American soil in the near future) and Dawn would be happy to have some freedom in Italy to study, live her life openly and carve a future which didn't include demons.

Willow was in England with Giles but Buffy wondered if she would return to the States if she knew Buffy would be there. Willow's split from Kennedy had been fairly painless but a little distance from 'Slayer Central' would probably do her good. Xander had already returned to the States and was travelling around enjoying himself. Bar work kept him off the streets but he called in regularly and could be persuaded to return to the fold. Buffy smiled as she thought of the gang being together again. Well, the gang plus one if Gunn agreed to come with her.

"I don't know, Buffy. My life has always been here; I have friends who need my help. Maybe the vamps are lying low right now but they'll resurface eventually and when that happens, someone has to take care of them," he said.

"And that someone has to be you? Alone?" Buffy asked.

Gunn shrugged, "Maybe I won't be alone. Angel could come back and if he does, I should be here."

Buffy smiled up at his tall frame, "What, holding the fort?"

"Yeah, something like that," he replied solemnly.

And so it was on the sixteenth day that Buffy packed her suitcase to leave for Cleveland. It was also the day that Connor arrived.

Angel and Spike decided to wait a couple of weeks before leaving Los Angeles. They were unsure if there was anyone left from Wolfram & Hart to make any moves against them and if there were, the borders of the city were bound to be guarded.

They grew restless with every day and after 12 days of forced hibernation; they talked about their departure while drinking a couple of beers.

"I'm going to see Connor, explain a few things and then leave. He'll make sure that Gunn is okay – assuming he's still alive. I don't know where I'll go but I have to find out what happened to me, why I became human," Angel said quietly.

Spike nodded, "Yeah, a few answers would be good. When you ask them, can you find out why I didn't get the gig? Be interesting to know."

"Them?" Angel asked.

"Yeah, the Powers That Should or whatever they're calling themselves these days," replied Spike taking a swig from his bottle of beer. Angel thought about what Spike had said. He had no idea how to contact the Powers with the Oracles murdered and his only other link had been Cordy who was also gone. The fact remained that they were probably the only ones with the answers.

After a comfortable silence, Spike said, "I won't be going to see her. We've said all there is to say and somehow I think any chance we had of being together has passed." Angel looked at Spike and saw the genuine regret there. Despite everything he felt about Spike and Buffy being together, there was no doubt that Spike had loved her and that part of him always would. Unable to think of a worthy reply, Angel got up and headed to bed.

When Angel awoke the next morning to find Spike had left in the night, he felt no surprise. Neither of them were adept at goodbyes and the certainty that their paths would cross again reassured him as he rose from his bed. Since turning human, eating had taken on a new meaning. His taste buds were overwhelmed every day with the food he consumed and he knew it would be a long time before he would be used to this new life. Both he and Spike had bought a few clothes and toiletries with money Angel had stashed in his coat pocket, money the army had been honest enough to return to him, and he now packed what little possessions he had. He had no clear idea of his destination but felt strangely secure in the knowledge that somehow he would know.

Finally packed and ready to go, Angel sat down at the table and took out a pen and notepad. Slowly but steadily he began to write.

As Buffy stood looking at the young man before her, she felt a jolt of association she could not explain but before she could say anything, Gunn stood up from the table they had been sitting at and strode towards him, "Connor? What are you doing here?"

Connor: theson that Willow had had to explain to her after the battle with TheFirst. Connor: the child that Angel and Darla had conceived. The child that Angel had had without her.

Connor shook hands with Gunn but looked over at Buffy, "I'm here to check on you, man. And to meet Buffy," he added.

Buffy walked slowly towards him and shook his hand. His skin was smooth like Angel's and his smile had the same affection and warmth of his father's. She asked, "You know who I am?"

"I do now. It's kind of a recent revelation," he answered. Gunn, realising that the two of them had some things to discuss, cleared his throat, "Hey, listen. I'm going to get my stuff together. Getting out of this so called hospital is what I'm livin' for. Literally. Buffy, let me know when you're going to the airport and Connor, we'll catch up, OK?"

They both nodded and watched quietly as he walked across the small patio area and into the army hospital. Buffy indicated the table and chairs she and Gunn had commandeered. They sat down across from each other.

"You've seen him," she stated. It wasn't a question. She knew simply from looking at him that this wasn't a young man panicking about the whereabouts of his father. Plus, his comment about a 'recent' revelation was fairly telling.

"Yeah, I've seen him. He came to find me yesterday to make sure I was okay."

"As he should," Buffy replied stiffly, "He's your Dad after all," she added, trying not to sound petty when all she wanted to do was ask, 'Why did he want to see you and not me?'

"Angel wasn't sure if you knew about me, about how I was conceived," Connor said, looking at her uncertainly.

Buffy smiled to make him feel more at ease, "Don't worry; Willow told me the basics and Gunn answered a lot of my questions. So Angel told you about me yesterday?"

Connor nodded, smiling back at her, "Yep. Told me the whole deal. Seems you were the one he wanted to be with, not my mother. Still, that's understandable I guess," he reasoned.

Buffy wanted to remain on good terms with Angel's son so she spoke bravely, "Connor, I'm not going to lie and say Darla was a good person because she wasn't. At least she wasn't after she was turned into a vampire. There's every chance that before that, she was a wonderful person and would have been a mother to be proud of, she continued, "Knowing that he'd been with Darla... vampire, soulless Darla... well, I gotta say that hurt. So I was a little upset when I found out about you. I thought that if... maybe, somehow... Angel could have children, that I would be the one. I mean, we assumed that he couldn't because of the whole vampire thing, you know? So to finally have you, when all along he thought he'd never have kids, must have been the most precious gift of all for him."

Connor nodded, "I know. He said a lot of that when I found out where I came from and I believe him. You know, I have human parents? I'm not sure I'll ever be able to call Angel 'Dad' but I know he cares about me and I'm ready to do anything he asks of me."

Buffy smiled and nodded, "Then you are your father's son."

Connor continued, the smile gone from his face, "Which is why I can't tell you where he is or where he's going."

Buffy looked at him evenly. Connor had a steely gaze – something else he'd inherited from Angel – and she knew that she would not be able to sway him. Sighing, she spoke up, "Can you tell me anything?"

Connor nodded and then proceeded to tell her about Angel's human transformation. Buffy was equally dumbstruck and devastated. He'd turned human but did not want to see her? It wasn't possible! After all this time! And what the hell was Riley doing letting him go?

She stood up and started to pace. Tears ran down her face but she didn't notice them. Buffy turned to Connor, "Why? Why doesn't he want to see me?This isall we've ever wanted …. why?" she begged.

Connor got up from his chair and held her to him. Angel had warned him that it would be bad but he hadn't anticipated her agony at being rejected like this. Angel had been unsure that she would even want him now but it was clear to Connor that her love for Angel was still apparent.

Carefully, he guided her back to the chair she had sprung up from. She slumped in the chair, weakened by crying and forlornly she looked across the table at him.

"I'm sorry Connor. I should never have broken down like that in front of you. It's not your job to comfort me."

Connor shook his head, "No apology needed. You've had a shock. I've had a shock! One minute my biological Dad is a creature of the night, the next he's a regular Joe! My world is askew!" He was smiling now and knowing he was teasing her to cheer her up she gave him a weak smile in return.

"Connor, you said that you can't tell me where Angel's gone but that he's searching for some answers?" When Connor nodded, she continued, "But how does he know where to look? Couldn't becoming human simply be a gift that he deserved?"

Connor shrugged, "I honestly don't know. Angel said he had to know why he became human and what place he has in this world. He said he had to figure it out alone because if he stayed here with us, he would get distracted by, well, just being alive. Being a Dad and a … well, a boyfriend I guess. He really wasn't sure what you would want. He mentioned something about the Immortal?"

Buffy coloured. She had broken up with the Immortal a while back wondering what she ever saw in him in the first place. He had the strength and danger of Spike and at first she believed it was that similarity which had drawn her to him. It soon became clear, however, that she was hurtling towards a destructive phase again and she walked away from it the minute the realisation came over her.

"I'm not with the Immortal any more. Even so, I can't believe Angel would question what I'd want. He must have known that his becoming human was all I ever wanted?" The last part was a mere whisper, more to herself than to Connor and she stared at the floor, searching amongst the cracks of the concrete for answers that she feared would never come.

Connor interrupted her thoughts, "I'm sorry. Angel said it would be hard to tell you and he was right. He left me a letter for you but he said there was a chance you wouldn't want to read it after you knew about, you know, the human thing."

Buffy looked up, "I would like to read the letter but …. it's private, Connor. Can you leave it with me?"

"Of course. I have to get going anyway but can we stay in touch? Angel may contact one of us and if you hear from him, I'd like to know," he replied as he stood up.

Buffy also rose and hugged him to her, "We'll definitely stay in touch. I'm glad we've finally met." She smiled up at him, thinking again how much like Angel he was – to the point, simple with his phrasing but able to convey so much with just an expression. She took out a pen and took hold of his hand. Carefully, she wrote her cell phone number on the back of his hand, "Now go and write that down before you wash your hands, OK?" she said.

Connor grinned and nodded. He then took out an envelope from his back pocket and taking the pen from her, wrote his cell phone number on the back of the envelope, "Now, you have my number too. No excuses for not calling."

"No excuses," she agreed, "Goodbye Connor," she added quietly.

"Bye," he answered and then walked away leaving her with Angel's letter.

Dear Buffy,

By now Connor will have told you the news. I have no explanation for it and with our knowledge of all that is evil out there, I have to know how it happened. Why it happened.

Becoming human is all I've ever dreamt of and if circumstances were different, I would be with you right now. But things are not the way we'd hoped. I assume that you are still with the Immortal and I no longer know what place I have in your heart. I don't know what my place is in this world and I need to find it before I can ever think of moving forward.

Buffy, please remember that despite other relationships we've both had, you are the one I dream of at night. You are the one I've loved like no other and my hope is that one day our dream of being together like two normal people will come true.

I know in my heart that the answers to my being human are out there and I will find them. I will find a way to fit into this world and make a worthwhile contribution to it.

One day I will walk up to you in the daylight and one look from you will tell me whether you still love me and want me.

One day I will come for you.

Yours always,

Angel x

CHAPTER FIVE

Angel cursed as he scoured the tenth bar that night. Vegas was a big place and searching for Lorne was not proving to be easy. After careful consideration, he had decided that Lorne was his only hope. Lorne had connections to the Powers and if he sang for him, maybe he would find the answers he desperately needed.

Of course, Lorne was not going to be pleased to see him. He had promised that he would not look for Lorne after the battle and breaking his promise left a bad taste in his mouth.

Finally, his search was over. In the corner sat the familiar green demon talking to a Ketflag demon. Crudely pink in colour, it resembled a horse in many ways despite standing on two feet. As Angel approached, Lorne looked up and although obviously surprised at seeing him, Angel did not miss the cold look Lorne gave him before asking the Ketflag to excuse them.

Lorne spoke first, "I told you not to look for me."

"And I wouldn't have. But this is important," Angel replied, "I have news – big news." Angel gave Lorne his best attempt at an enthusiastic look but it clearly wasn't working.

"You have big news! Well, that's great! Break out the Champagne folks! Angel's in town! No doubt to tell us all about another apocalypse which will wipe us all out. Fantastic," yelled Lorne as he scowled at Angel.

Angel hadn't exactly been expecting a friendly welcome but this open hostility wasn't usually Lorne's speciality. He'd underestimated how badly affected Lorne was by the recent events. Noticing that others in the bar – human and demon alike – were now watching them, Angel tried to calm Lorne down, "Look, I know you're upset and I'm sorry but I have something to tell you which might make you feel better."

Lorne looked at him suspiciously, "We can't talk here. You can come back to my apartment. And this had better be good," he added as they walked out of the bar.

One day I will come for you.

In her hotel room, Buffy went over the contents of Angel's letter over and over again. He had left and wouldn't be coming back until he had answers and had made his place in the world. Buffy sighed. She knew that it could be years before that happened and years before she saw him again.

Slowly she packed the last of her things. Saying goodbye to Riley and Sam had been brief. Unable to completely forgive Riley for letting Angel leave, she had hugged him carefully and told them to look after themselves. They had responded in a similar vein and as she left the army site, she wondered if her life would always be filled with goodbyes.

Gunn had sought out old friends from his neighbourhood and was setting up groups of demon hunters to defend LA as best he could until Angel got back. After she'd kindly turned down his offer of a lift to the airport, he'd said an affectionate goodbye to Buffy, ordering her to come back and visit soon. He had only just met her but she felt his longing to stay in touch with anyone who was connected to Angel and her only condition on visiting was that he promised to keep a close eye on Connor.

Ready at last to leave LA, she picked up the phone and dialled.

"Yeah?"

"Hey, it's me."

"B! Long time no slay and all that. You in LA with Angel?"

"Well, I'm in LA but … hey, wait a minute! How did you know I was here?" Buffy asked.

Faith sighed and Buffy could almost see her eyes roll in exasperation, "Buffy, LA went up in smoke which is something Angel would definitely have been involved in. Of course, you're gonna be there. Hey, I would have gone myself but we have a serious vampire infestation here and we couldn't leave. I rang Giles for the sitch and he said Angel was alive and you were heading over there from Italy."

"Yeah, well that's about it. Look I can't really talk for long because I've got a flight to catch but I'll tell you all about it when I get there."

Faith was puzzled, "Get where?"

"There. As in Cleveland. I'm coming to crash on your sofa. If that's OK ….?" Buffy asked, wondering if perhaps Faith wouldn't want her there.

"Woo! Buffy's coming to slum it! Great! Robin, get the spare pillows out, Buffy's coming!" she called, her voice slightly quieter as she'd obviously moved away from the receiver.

"Faith, are you being sarcastic? 'Cause if it's a problem then …?"

"Don't be silly! Get your ass over here. We need all the help we can get! Call me when you have an arrival time, OK?"

Buffy nodded automatically even though Faith couldn't see her, "Yeah, OK. See you soon."

"Yeah. Later," and she hung up.

Buffy replaced the receiver and sat down on the bed. She would call Giles and explain everything when she got to Cleveland – no point in having that conversation until she was firing on all cylinders and that certainly wasn't now.

Lorne shook his head in disbelief. Absorbing the fact that Lindsey had not in fact died and that Angel was now human was a lot to take in. Added to the news that Wesley had died, Gunn was badly injured and Illyria unaccounted for, he felt like his world was spinning. The news that Spike had survived did very little to alleviate that.

"Not the first time I've ever said this but I need a drink," groaned Lorne as he went to his fridge and took out two jugs, one containing cranberry juice, the other containing grapefruit juice. He poured himself some vodka, added the juice and after shaking the ingredients to make his Sea Breeze, he sat down again after Angel had declined a drink himself.

Angel continued where he'd left off, "So you see I need to find some answers. You're my only connection to the Powers now. If I sing for you maybe you can see why this happened to me?"

Lorne looked at him carefully, "I hate to be facetious but do I look like an information desk?! Did you really think that it would be that easy – just sing for me and ta-da! The answers would just reveal themselves?"

Angel felt stupid. He had put all his hope on Lorne and looking back now, it had been unwise to do so. Lorne could only tell him what the Powers chose to reveal to him. What if there were no answers and only more questions?

"Honestly? I don't know Lorne but I have to try something."

Lorne nodded, "Yeah, I see that. OK, I'll do it but remember Angel, you might not like what I see."

"It's a risk I'm wiling to take," replied Angel grimly. He then cleared his throat and began to sing 'Mandy' by Barry Manilow. It was the first song he'd ever sung for Lorne and he hoped that somehow it would give extra significance to the information Lorne was trying to extract from him.

Lorne studied Angel closely, trying to concentrate on what he saw and not on the fact that he was murdering a very pretty tune. Finally, the torture ended and Angel looked at him expectantly, "Well? Did you see why it happened? Are there consequences? Will it last?" The questions fell out of Angel's mouth, one after the other. He was desperate. Surely Lorne would be able to give him something?

Lorne sighed and spoke softly, "This is what I can tell you. I saw nothing. Nothing in your past and nothing in your future."

Angel sat back, shocked, "But that can't be right! There must be a reason for all this! Why would they give this gift to me? Are they saying I've earned it? Are they saying - "

Lorne interrupted him, "Angel cakes! You're giving me a headache with all this shouting! Or maybe it's the Sea Breeze. Look, you're asking the wrong questions."

Angel was puzzled. The wrong questions? Well, what were the right questions?

Lorne continued, "You should be asking me what the 'nothing' translates to."

Angel waited for him to continue, "Nothing in your future simply means that you haven't started a life yet to have a future. Nothing in your past means that the human-you has no past. You're a new being with no history. The Cliff Notes? It means you have no social security number. The old you – Angel, the vampire - no longer exists which is why I couldn't see a past. Are you with me?"

Angel digested this information, "Are you saying that the Powers have given me a new life? One I can create for myself?"

Lorne nodded, "Best as I can figure. I think they still have plans for you. I mean, they let you keep the vampire strength, speed and all that jazz so I'm guessing that fighting demons is still your bag but other than that, they've given you a brand new future."

Angel simply looked back at him silently. There was nothing more to say.

CHAPTER SIX

Buffy had been on the telephone for about an hour. Giles had wanted details of everything and it taken a long time to go over it all. Mutterings of, "most irregular" and "good Lord!" had peppered the conversation and although she knew he was eager to find the answer to Angel's human transformation, it was always going to be unlikely. In her opinion, Angel would either find the answer himself or it would remain a mystery forever.

Giles was speaking again, "Buffy? Are you still there?"

"Er, yeah. Sorry, what did you just say?"

"I said did you want to talk to Willow?"

"Yes please. Giles, I'm going to ask Willow to come to Cleveland for a few months. I think she could use a break from Kennedy and the gang and to be honest, I could do with a friend right now."

"Of course. I agree actually. Willow's split with Kennedy has left her a little melancholy even though she was the one to instigate it. A break would do her the world of good. I'll get her for you now."

Buffy heard muffled voices and then Willow came on the phone, "Hey Buffy, how are you?"

"Tired. I don't really want to go over everything again so can you ask Giles for the details?"

Willow sounded concerned when she replied, "Sure. Are you really OK? You sound sorta not yourself."

Buffy smiled. The fact that Willow could still tell when she was down even over the phone warmed her lonely heart.

"Will, how do you feel about Cleveland?"

It was 1 o'clock in the afternoon when Xander got the call. He hadn't been awake that long. Crawling into bed at 2.30am after a long shift at the club pretty much ruled out early rises.

Looking at the number registering on his cell phone, he didn't recognise it. Frowning, he answered, "Hello?"

"Hey Xander," came the soft reply.

"Buffy? Hey there, it's been a while!" he exclaimed, taking the nearest chair.

"I know. Did you hear about what happened in LA?" Buffy asked, wondering just how much he had found out.

"I saw the news on TV, called Giles, got an explanation, offered my services and was told you were flying solo. That's all I know," he replied.

Deciding not to impart the fact that Angel was now human for the time being, Buffy said, "Well, I'm in Cleveland now helping out Faith and Robin. Willow's arriving tomorrow to stay for a few months at least and I'm going to rent a house soon. Am I renting a two bedroom or three bedroom house?"

Xander let that question settle in his mind as he slowly realised what she was asking. He had to admit, travelling was great but it was a lonely life. He missed the comfort of his friends and he knew within seconds of her asking that he would go.

"Three bedroom. I'll have an ensuite bathroom, personal gym and a swimming pool too if that's okay by you," he replied, grinning from ear to ear at the prospect of seeing Buffy and Willow again.

Buffy laughed. Something she hadn't done in a long time. "Yeah, OK – when we win the lottery!"

Xander laughed with her before saying, "So Faith and Robin are still together huh? He's one hell of a brave guy."

"That he is," agreed Buffy, "Are you sure you don't mind leaving New York?"

Xander shrugged as he swapped the phone from one ear to the other, "What, leave the place that's so good they named it twice? Well, now you come to mention it Cleveland doesn't exactly have the same appeal as New York so maybe I'll have to reconsider …." He grinned to himself as he waited for Buffy's reply.

Buffy laughed again, "Forget it, you're coming! Besides, Cleveland wouldn't be the same without you," her voice softening as she spoke.

"Ain't that the truth!" he replied good naturedly, "I'll look up flights and get gone asap. See you in a few," and he hung up, already searching for his jacket to go to the nearest travel agent.

CHAPTER SEVEN

Two years later ….

"You're a chef?" Connor exclaimed as he sat opposite Angel in an LA coffee shop.

Angel nodded, "I went to night school, learned what I needed to and now I work in a restaurant and that's basically it."

"Here in LA? You've just moved here?" asked Connor who was still trying to picture Angel cooking.

"Actually, I've been here for the last two years. I didn't get in touch because it was important that I created this life without any help from you or …. anyone."

Connor looked at Angel with a mixture of surprise and hurt on his face, "You could have called at least. Buffy phones me every couple of months to see if I've heard anything and –"

Angel cut him off, "Which is why I didn't call you. I didn't want Buffy to know I was here and asking you to lie for me would have been too hard."

"What about Gunn? Does he know? And Spike? Have you seen him?" Connor asked.

"I've killed a few demons here and there but haven't run into Gunn or Spike yet. I'm not sure that Spike is even still in LA," replied Angel, lifting his cup of coffee and draining the remains of it.

Connor was curious as to why Angel had called to meet him. If he'd lived in secret for so long, why come out in the open now?

"So, what's next?" Connor asked.

"Well, I'm part of this world now. I managed to get a semi-legitimate social security number from an old contact I had and I enjoy being a chef. After living so long without food, it became sort of an obsession for me," he said, smiling. "And I also paint once in a while. Some of them have sold too."

"Cool," replied Connor who knew instinctively what was coming next.

Angel looked at him evenly, "Is she still in Cleveland?"

Connor nodded.

"Do you have an address?" Angel asked.

Connor nodded again. Slightly amused, Angel said, "You know, there are times when you don't say much!"

Connor laughed, "I wonder where I get that from!"

Angel laughed with him as Connor took out a pen.

Buffy smiled as she heard familiar voices coming down the stairs.

"Xander! I am so late for work! You said you'd be ready on time and here we are still here, as in here and not there! Do you see what I'm saying here?" yelled Willow as she stalked into the kitchen where Buffy sat calmly crunching on some toast.

"Not really, Will," replied Xander as he followed her in, "You lost me on the 2nd set of 'heres'!" He deftly stole a piece of Buffy's toast, poured himself a small glass of juice from the jug in the fridge and sat down opposite Buffy in just a few seconds.

Willow scowled at him, "Come on! The Principal will fire me if I'm late again! Morning Buffy," she added as she dragged Xander up from his chair.

"Hey!" he protested, "All I asked for was a lift into town so I could do some shopping, I don't have to work at the bar until lunchtime."

"Lucky for you," replied Willow as they left the kitchen waving at Buffy who smiled and waved back. She heard them walk down the hallway and as they closed the front door behind them, she heard them laughing about something or other. It didn't take them long to make up.

Buffy reflected on how amazing the last two years had turned out. Willow had effortlessly found herself a job as a supply teacher at the local school and Faith had managed to convince the owner of the bar she worked in to give Xander a job too. Robin worked at the college and had persuaded the board to begin giving the students self defence classes. Buffy had studied to become a fully qualified instructor and began teaching at the college soon after.

A few months had turned into years and during that time both Dawn and Giles had been over to visit. Buffy had kept in touch with Connor, and Gunn had reassured her that he was keeping a watchful eye on him. She continued to fight vampires and any other demons that came along but with Faith and the others to help, it didn't feel like a burden. There was only one empty space in her life. A space she didn't think would ever be filled.

Still laughing about their squabble earlier, Willow and Xander walked down the path towards the car. It was a beautiful day with blue sky and not a cloud to be seen. Enjoying the fresh air and surroundings, Willow looked casually down the street. It was then that she saw him. Walking towards them, still some distance away, he wore dark jeans, a white t-shirt and a lightweight jacket, carrying a large duffel bag. She grabbed hold of Xander's arm, "Xander! Look!"

He turned, following Willow's gaze and stopped walking immediately. They gaped as for the first time they saw Angel in the daylight. Even though Buffy had told them everything, seeing Angel like this was still a shock to the system. She had also told them what Angel had said in his letter and it was then that it dawned on Willow, "He's come!" she exclaimed excitedly.

Still staring at Angel, Xander replied, "He's come? What?" Willow started jumping up and down, a big grin on her face, "In his letter! He said he would come for her!" She skipped about on the spot for a couple of seconds and then yelled, "I'm going to get Buffy!" and then promptly ran inside the house.

Xander remained in place watching Angel approach. He eyed him carefully and by now Angel was close enough to lock gazes with him. They'd never been friends but had respected the place they each had in Buffy's life. Xander gave Angel a slight nod but then turned as he heard Willow and Buffy coming outside.

Buffy was just finishing her juice when Willow burst through the front door yelling her name. Thinking something was terribly wrong she leapt up from her chair and rushed down the hall meeting Willow halfway.

"Buffy! You've got to come outside right now!" Willow cried as she took hold of her arm and started pulling her towards the front door.

Buffy laughed in surprise as judging by Willow's happy expression, it obviously wasn't a terrible emergency, "Will! What's going on?"

"You'll see!" Willow replied as she yanked open the door and pulled Buffy outside.

Following Willow's pointing finger, Buffy looked down the street.

Angel walked steadily towards the address which Connor had given him and had to admit that he'd never felt this nervous before. What if Buffy had met someone and was living a very nice life thank you very much. Connor said that Buffy hadn't mentioned anyone to him but would she tell him of all people?

Mentally shaking his head, Angel continued his walk. He had to know, one way or the other. He was ready. For the first time he could offer her a partnership which enabled him to fight along side her and walk in the light with her. He had to know and one look would tell him.

He looked up and saw Willow and Xander just as they saw him. There goes the element of surprise, he thought as he walked on. The obvious glee on Willow's face warmed his heart while the careful stare from Xander was not a huge surprise.

Then, Willow charged into the house. She's going to get Buffy. Here goes.

Buffy stared at the figure walking towards her. That familiar stride was there but gone was the black attire, replaced now with the clothes of just a regular guy.

Thoughts whirled through her head. He said he would come for me. He said he would come for me. Come for me. For me. Tears started to run down her face as she looked into his eyes.

One look, Buffy. Just give me one look. Tell me what you're thinking ….. Angel silently pleaded as his steps faltered and he stopped about a hundred yards from her.

As she gazed at him, her heart filled with all the love she had ever felt for him and she smiled. And then she was running.

Angel saw Buffy smile and returned it with one of his own. Then she was running towards him and he laughed as she launched herself at him, jumping up putting her arms around his neck and her legs around his waist. They kissed immediately, not wanting to wait another second and they continued to laugh and kiss as if they were alone and not in the middle of the street.

Willow jumped up and down on the spot, loving every minute of the spectacle in front of her. Never had she seen her best friend so happy and if anyone deserved happiness, it was Buffy. She started to run back towards the house, yelling at Xander over her shoulder, "Xander, come on! I'm calling Faith! Tonight, we're having a party!"

Xander smiled at her enthusiasm. Watching Buffy and Angel, he said under his breath, "Good things really do come to those who wait." He shook his head as he slowly made his way back to the house to help Willow with the party preparations.

Angel eventually put Buffy gently back on her feet but still held her to him. She gazed up with star struck devotion. Already knowing but wanting to hear it anyway, he asked, "So, you still my girl?"

Buffy grinned back at him.

"Always."

Lyrics from Will Young's 'All Time Love':

Sometimes you walk by the good ones
'Cos you're trying too hard, too hard to see them
And sometimes you don't find the right lines
'Cos you're trying too hard, too hard to hear them
But you know what it feels like
'Cos you're like me
And you won't give up
'Till an all time love
'Cos nothing else is good enough
I want an all time love to find me

Some days you're too set in your ways
And you forget to shut up, shut up and listen
And some days you just have to misplace
all your mistakes
Somewhere that you won't miss them
So stop lying that you're fine
'Cos you're like me
And you can't give up

'Till an all time love
'Cos nothing else is good enough
I want an all time love to find me

I don't believe that it's a failing
I don't believe that it's a fault
'Cos if everything were plain sailing
Oh tell me what would there be left to exalt

But an all time love
'Cos nothing else is good enough
I want an all time love to find me
I want an all time love
'Cos nothing else is good enough
I want an all time love to find me