Thanks to everyone who's been reading. This is it, the last chapter! I'd love to hear what you thought. If there's something you especially liked or disliked, let me know, it's the only way to improve.
They were right back to when he had shown up on her doorstep. Except things were different, she mused, at least from her perspective. For one thing, his blood no longer bothered her. She wasn't sure whether it was because she had gotten used to it or there was something more at play there. She walked into the guest room and carefully set the container down. "How are the hands doing?" Angel merely shrugged. "Talkative as always, I see." She carefully unwrapped the bandages and inspected the burnt skin. "Healing nicely. I'll bet you'll be fine in a day or so." That was the other thing that was different on her part. She talked to him. She had fallen out of the habit of sharing herself with people. As time had gone on, she found herself more and more isolated emotionally.
Now she found herself babbling to Angel, almost as much as she had once done in a much more innocent time. During his second day of confinement, she had ranted about one of the newbie slayers recklessly charging into a fight unprepared and how she had endangered another girl. Angel had calmly suggested that maybe the girl had acted more out of fear than foolhardiness. She had left the room silently mulling over his words. Angel was likely right, and it was good to get a second opinion from someone who completely understood. Knowing that he been listening to her made her feel warm.
She was in the kitchen, deciding what to do about breakfast. Five days had passed since Angel had saved her life. She felt his presence even before she turned around and her face lit up when she saw him. "Your hands are almost healed!" He had removed the bandages. The skin was still raw looking, but by the end of the day even that evidence of his wounds would be gone. "Here, sit, I'll heat you up some blood."
"Buffy." He sounded upset.
"What is it?"
She could see the familiar guilt in his eyes. "Angel?"
"I almost got you killed. I misinterpreted the book. I assumed that ixlthuim meant person. The word means sacrifice. That chant you said was a prayer asking God's blessing before your death."
"So?" She hurried on when she realized Angel wasn't exactly pleased with that response. "It wouldn't have changed anything. I still would have been standing inside the circle. I guess we would have been a bit more cautious, that's all." She grinned mischievously. "Maybe you would have worn asbestos gloves." Her expression sobered as she said, "I'm the slayer. Maybe I'm not usually going to be eaten and barbequed – or would that be barbequed and eaten? – but most of the time, life isn't a walk in the park. It tends to be a fight in a graveyard."
"That doesn't mean you should be put in danger because of what I do."
"I get it, Angel." She touched his arm lightly. "Do you remember when I told you to go back to L.A. when you brought me that amulet?"
"Yes," he said scowling. "You wanted Spike."
"That was part of it. I wanted Spike to know that I trusted him. I hadn't for a long time, and I wanted him to know that. But there were other reasons too. I couldn't bear having you get hurt or killed in my battle. "
"That's just…" His voice had increased in volume and then immediately gained a sheepish tone. "That's just what I do too."
"I know. We're quite a pair." A pair. She felt giddy suddenly until she looked at his face. She recognized his expression and knew what he was going to say. He had said it often enough.
"I don't want you to leave." The vehemence of her statement didn't surprise only Angel. Until she actually said it, she hadn't realized just how strongly she felt.
"I'm only going to wind up hurting you."
Her hand crept up to where he had recently bitten her. "Probably. And there'll be times that I'll hurt you. That's what happens." She smiled at him. "And then we can have great make-up sex."
"Damn it Buffy, I'm trying to be serious here. I'm not even – "
"Human? You know, I figured that out the first time you kissed me and went fangy instead of trying to cop a feel. I'm not saying things are going to be easy. I'm going to have to learn to keep my mouth shut when you get a case and you're going to have to follow my lead when it comes to slayer business. Who knows? Maybe we'll find out that we can't stand being together. But I want to know. I want to try."
She looked into his eyes and all she saw were the same fears and doubts she'd always seen. She turned her head away. She couldn't do this anymore. Her voice was amazingly steady. "I told you once that we both needed to forget. But that's never going to happen. I know that. But at least don't keep giving me more to remember. Do that much, at least."
He pulled away from her and she thought that she shouldn't care. She'd had more than enough practice with him leaving.
"How would you like your eggs?"
"Eggs?" she said weakly. She opened her eyes and turned. He was standing in the middle of her kitchen, randomly opening up cabinets.
"Omelets are my specialty."
"How would you know how to make eggs?" She tried to make sense of what she was seeing. Any second, he'd tell her he'd be leaving this evening.
He tossed off a small grin. "Late forties I was a grill cook at an all night diner." He paused, thinking it over. "It's actually kind of funny. I'll tell you over breakfast."
Even in the happy days of their early relationship, he had never willingly spoken about his past. She stood next to him and touched his cheek. The guilt and the fear and the pain were still there. But she could see his love for her shining through also.
"I have a request, if that's all right," she said as she took a step toward him
His brow furrowed. "If you have a waffle iron I could make that. I've been told my waffles are exceptionally light and fluffy."
She almost laughed at his earnestness. It had been a long tine since anyone had wanted to take care of her like this and it was nice. "I was thinking more personal. Maybe a kiss?" Her voice had gotten a bit husky.
"Oh! Oh. I think that could be arranged," as he pulled her into his arms.
For a second she felt like a weak-kneed 16 year old all over again but that immediately passed. What she really felt like was a 24 year old who had way too many regrets, but had finally come to the conclusion that some of those choices could not only could be forgiven, but could turn into something better. That was her last coherent thought for a very long time.