Their fifth anniversary had been spent fighting an apocalypse. A demon had gotten it into his head from the paranoia over Y2K to attempt to take over the world's financial markets by infiltrating the agencies that controlled the money flow. The Federal Bank of the United States, the European Central Bank and other agencies around the globe had been targeted both in person and over the computer.
All of the Scoobies, with the help of the Watcher's Council who had operatives around the globe, had helped in some fashion or another. Willow's hacking abilities had come in very handy, as did her magic. She and Tara combined had been a force to be reckoned with. As it turned out Kristen also had extensive computer knowledge and had helped. Angel, Spike, Anya who had returned to her vengeance demon status after Xander jilted her at the altar, her vengeance demon friend, Halfrek, and even Cordelia had been a necessity as the demon, Kisuberi, had detectors the opposite of those Wolfram & Hart had set up. Kisuberi's detectors went off when humans came onto the premises of his operation. Xander's knowledge of the construction industry, building materials and so forth had aided them in planning where the weaknesses were in Kisuberi's place of operation. Giles and Wesley did what watcher's do, research and passed the learned information on. Gunn was there for sheer muscle and Fred worked with Kristen.
As it turned out, while Buffy had not come back from the grave wrong, apparently Kisuberi's detectors did not know what to make of her. The group had been counting on Kisuberi becoming aware of Buffy's presence in his compound right away. Fortunately for the Scoobies, but unfortunately for Kisuberi, Buffy gained the upperhand with the element of surprise because his human detectors did not go off. The battle had been long and hard, it took every ounce of muscle between Buffy, Angel, Spike, Anya, Halfrek, Gunn and Cordelia combined to finally defeat him. Only Willow, Tara, Kristen and Fred had come out of the confrontation unscathed, which was exactly the way Buffy had wanted it.
Angel was healing nicely. Having aided in the defeat of Kisuberi and saving the world from being rendered destitute by the demon's plans he fulfilled the prophecy and gained his Shanshu. As of the first of January the year of our lord two thousand seven, Angel O'Bryne was now human. So, he would no longer have the benefit of vampire healing, but apparently the Powers That Be had not stripped him of those healing abilities immediately because a normal human would have been in the hospital for days with the damage Angel sustained. The heavy damage was healed and Buffy could tell as each day passed that the smaller, less critical wounds were now to the point of healing with normal human speed.
The Powers That Be apparently had a perverse sense of humor, either that or Wesley and Giles had completely missed the part of the Shanshu prophecy that indicated a new vampire would be chosen to have his soul returned to him. Spike had been their chosen vampire for this gift, saying that Spike had been working for his soul for years now whether he knew it or not. He was rarely seen or heard from at the moment, staying in his part of the mansion, coming out only to get the fresh blood supply someone brought for him. He would probably starve if no one thought to pick up blood for him.
Angel had claimed that Spike would have to deal with the restoration of his soul just as Angel had, with time and lots of amends making. Now that Angel was feeling better and mobile once again, Angel hoped that he could offer Spike some help in dealing with the guilt that went with the soul being returned.
He and Buffy had talked at length about it, because Buffy wanted to know how she could help Spike and she wanted to know what to tell Kristen as she was not sure whether to leave Spike alone or keep pressing him to let her in. Buffy suspected he would never open up to Kristen, he might not push her away but he would never open up and confide in her. Buffy had no idea what their relationship was five years later, Spike had admitted to her once in a state of drunkenness that he still loved Buffy. She was grateful Angel had not been there to overhear the admission. Spike would have to move on in his own time and in his own way. Buffy suspected that Kristen and Spike had been intimate by now, she could not imagine someone who was obviously so sensitive and such a sexual being abstaining for too long.
"Hey," she said as Angel came out of the bathroom, a towel draped over his shoulder. "Staring at yourself in the mirror again, baby?"
"Yeah, after two hundred fifty years it's strange. I've seen photographs, but it's not the same as looking at my own reflection."
"I can imagine."
"Who was on the phone?" he asked.
"It was Dawn. She called to see how you were doing."
"I wish she'd stop worrying about me. If she does badly this semester because of me I'll never forgive myself." Dawn was finishing up her third year at Berkley. She was studying to become an artist. Not that anyone criticized her dreams of becoming an artist, but everyone had been happy to hear that she was obtaining her teaching certificate as well as her bachelor's degree so she would be able to teach art if nothing else.
"She'll be fine, Angel. She just left to go back on Monday, remember? She's just worried. It's sweet. Being surrounded by the Slayer and two vampires for years, I thinks she's forgotten what it's like to actually see someone have to recover."
Angel grimaced. "Great."
"Oh stop," she said as she sat on one of the chairs at the table. "Are you ready for our walk?" she asked, more than a little excited to be taking a walk during the day with Angel. She checked her voice mail and email on a daily basis, but to those seeking her consultations on demonology she had been on vacation since before their battle with Kisuberi. She dealt with emergencies and had made sure to check messages before coming in here today. The rest of the day was going to be spent with Angel. She hoped that now that he was human he would join her with the consulting, he certainly had the knowledge and the way with people to do it.
She was still the Slayer. At twenty-six she had lived one year longer than any previous slayer had lived. Buffy had no doubt that Spike's claim that her ties to this world were what kept her alive was true any more. The Council had offered to research and see if a new Slayer could be chosen magically, which would allow Buffy to retire. She had thought about it, but had decided there was no way she could stop being the Slayer unless she died again. So, she had rejected their offer and would remain the Slayer until she died. The Council would more than likely research a magical solution anyway, because one day Buffy would be too old to continue performing her duties.
"I am," he said as he put on his shoes. "Let's go," he said draping an arm over her, as they went downstairs and out to the yard. Buffy knew there was a time he would have hated being human, he would have felt weak and that by being weak he would be weakening Buffy's effectiveness as the Slayer. But, they both knew if the Powers That Be thought he was needed to fight any more battles they would not have granted the Shanshu. And besides, it seemed that their plan all along was to grant him his Shanshu while calling up another vampire to take over his warrior duties. Seven years ago, Spike was not ready to take over those duties, which Buffy suspected was the reason the Powers That Be had allowed Angel to renounce his humanity that day years ago.
They were quiet as they walked through the grounds, which were well cared for now year around. Granted, things in January were not as plush as they were during the spring but there were still some things in bloom and the day was beautiful. Buffy would not have cared if it was pouring rain and below freezing to be honest, this was their first walk outside together in the daytime that Buffy had memory of. She never had regained complete memory of that day. Perhaps the Powers That Be had done that intentionally.
She had begun to wonder if the Powers That Be had merely taken advantage of Willow's memory spell and allowed some of the memories to come back to Buffy intentionally. Angel admitted more than once that he had no idea how much longer he would have been able to hold on if Buffy had not come to him when she did. Things had a way of happening for reasons Buffy could not explain, no one could for that matter, but Buffy no longer tried to argue with the Powers That Be.
"Buffy," Angel said, a hint of hesitation in his voice yet at the same time his grasp on her hand increased.
"Yes?" she asked, regarding him. He looked so perfect out here in the daylight, the paleness of his skin from not having seen the sun's rays in over two hundred fifty years aside.
"I need to ask you something, and please be honest with me. I'll understand if you answer this in a way I won't like, but I need to know."
"Okay," she said curious to know what was on his mind.
"I won't be able to give you children. I know when you married me you knew I could not, but that was different I was a vampire and now I'm human."
"Are you okay with that? I mean, you're twenty-six years old now," he said as if she needed to be reminded she had just had her twenty-sixth birthday that week. "You might think about children differently now."
"Nope. No children is fine with Buffy. Are you okay with it?"
"I don't have much choice in the matter, Buffy. I just wanted to make sure."
"Well, then we won't worry about it. Children are way overrated and I'm not sure I would want to try and explain our family tree to a child. Gee, honey, the reason your grandparents on your daddy's side died back in seventeen hundred fifty something is because you see your daddy spent two hundred fifty years as a vampire."
"I guess you're right."
"I was willing to deal with the fact I would have no children with you ten years ago. I do appreciate you asking, but I seem to recall my marrying you until death do us part and through good times and bad. Sound familiar?"
"Yes," he said with a nod of his head.
"Good. So, tell me, how does it feel to be walking in the sun?"
"Better than I remember it being," he said sincerely. "It's still a gift and I know that, but this time I know that it was supposed to happen and was not an accident. And I know that you're safe, that I'm not going to be a hindrance to the Slayer part of my wife."
"And Spike said I could never settle for a human," she said kissing him.
"He also said you need the monster, that's gone."
"Don't need the monster, baby, I need you. I needed you with the demon and I need you without the demon. Don't ever doubt that."
"You might just have to remind me every once in a while."
She laughed. "I'll remind you as often as you need reminding, no problem there." She stopped when they had reached the tree where their lunch was waiting for them in a picnic basket. "I even packed a bottle of wine, let's hope there will be a respite from apocalypses for at least tonight so I can enjoy a romantic picnic lunch with my husband." She knelt in front of him, placed both hands against his cheeks and kissed him deeply. "I want to watch the sunset with you."
"And then what?"
"I don't know, whatever you want to do." She lay down on the grass, placing an arm behind her head, resting her head against her forearm and drew him toward her with the other arm. "Just how certain is the no children thing?"
"I was told no children, Buffy, why?"
"Care to put it to the test?"
"You drive a hard bargain, my love, expecting me to make love to you out here with the sun shining brightly around us."
"I know, just think, we'll both get all sweaty and then have to drink the wine to cool off. Or, oh," she exclaimed and smiled wickedly before reaching for the picnic basket. She lifted the lid and gestured for him to look inside. "Did I mention in addition to the wine there's some ice cream here, too?"
"No, you did not mention that."
"You'd best get busy then, don't want it to go all melty on us."
"Because then we'd be terribly messy and in need of baths."
"Exactly, evil those things," she said as they both worked on ridding one another of their clothes.
"Love you," they whispered simultaneously as he moved on top of her, the sun beating down on them as the two humans made love.