A/N: Again I am really sorry that it took this long to get this chapter finished, but my life has been a little hectic lately, I haven't had much free time to write. I know that's not a big comfort, but I finally got the chapter finished. And I'd like to thank all my readers, you have been so nice and patient. And thank you very much for the reviews, they keep the muse happy. But on with the story...
Since Buffy was stuck at the gallery, showing some rich cow the paintings, Angel had agreed to go have drinks with the guys. Doyle was dreaming about pre-bachelor party and he knew that if he canceled one more night out with his friends, he was never going to hear the end of it.
Wesley came to the booth, setting four beer bottles to the table before sitting down. "So you decided to give Buffy a night off and see your friends for a change", Gunn laughed and took a drink from his beer. Angel glared at him, he knew this was going to happen.
"Don't know why, since you guys are such assholes", he shot back.
"He does have a point. If I had a girl like Buffy in my bed, I wouldn't want to see you idiots", Doyle joined in with a laugh and raised his beer as a toast. All the guys except Angel joined his fun. Angel turned his glower to the Irishman.
"She will never be in your bed, Doyle", he stated darkly, only causing his friends to laugh harder.
Gunn cleared his voice, still chuckling before trying to turn more serious. "Speaking of beds. I saw Darla last night. Damn, she was looking damn good", he stated, then quickly added as he saw the looks his friends were giving him, "For a crazy bitch that is."
Doyle looked heavenwards, then took a quick drink from his beer and joined the conversation. "'Saw her too. That woman is on the prowl, she's touring the clubs like a cat in heat. Guess she's looking for a replacement for you since you traded your leather pants for an engagement ring."
"And I care why? Even when we were hanging out we were never exclusive", Angel stated with a raised eyebrow.
"Yeah, but she was always a jealous possessive bitch and I doubt that has changed just because you're not interested. I would be careful if I were you, just because she's going through the male population of L.A doesn't mean that she has forgot about you. She will not like to be the second best", Doyle warned, but Angel just rolled his eyes at the dramatics of his friend.
"Don't be so melodramatic", he drawled and took a drink from his beer. Doyle opened his mouth to answer, but Gunn elbowed him drawing his attention to the blond that just walked into the bar.
"And here comes trouble", he muttered as he watched the blond in a skin-tight black dress saunter across the room. Thankfully she walked past them, only sparing Angel a calculating look before making her way to the bar. Immediately she was the center of attention and a heard of guys surrounded her, offering to buy her drinks. Gunn watched as the blond shamelessly flirted with the men, he kept glancing at Angel, but he showed no signs of jealousy or caring in any way, his full attention was on his cellphone and not once did he look at Darla.
Doyle gave Gunn a conspiratory grin and craned his neck to see what Angel was doing with his phone. His grin widened. "Texting Buffy already", he announced and shared a laugh with Wesley. Gunn shook his head in disappointment, Angel hadn't even looked at the beautiful available women in the bar and now he was sending text messages to Buffy. It wasn't that he didn't like Buffy because he did, but Angel was his idol and he didn't want to lose him to a woman.
"You're a good boy now, Angel? Gonna be a daddy and play house with Buffy and leave all the hot chicks for me?" Gunn questioned with a grin, he hated that his friend was settling down, but having a better shot with the ladies that usually would have been circling around Angel was a plus.
"Hey! He's not your only competition", Doyle protested signing at himself with the beer bottle.
"You are like a bunch of women", Angel groaned with a shake of his head.
"Hey! I resent that!" Doyle cried out, but Angel ignored him as his phone started ringing. The others watched with wonderment as a small smile tugged at his lips and he just left the table so he could talk without shouting.
Fifteen minutes later he was returning back to the table when he heard the conversation his friends were having. "You know it's gonna end badly, Angel's never been the family guy type", Gunn stated.
"It's Buffy I feel sorry for. She's such a nice girl", Wesley joined in.
"Lay off, will ya. He hasn't hurt the girl yet, and as whipped as he is I doubt he intentionally would", Doyle interrupted them.
"Yeah, but how long do you think he's gonna stay as a one-woman-guy? With all the hotties throwing themselves at him, sooner or later he's gonna crack."
Angel had heard enough, pretending to just come back he walked to the table and sat down. He noticed his friends looking at each other guiltily, trying to figure out if he had heard them, but as there was no indication of him having heard the conversation, they continued normally. "Man, you're whipped", Gunn stated shaking his head, not being able to conceal the disappointment in his voice.
"I am not whipped", Angel ground out in annoyance.
"You don't even have your own apartment anymore, you moved in with her, you gave her a engagement ring and you can't go even one night out without talking to her on the phone", Gunn listed his reasons.
"I have my own apartment!"
"When's the last time you even went there?" Gunn asked pointedly, receiving a hard glare from Angel, but no verbal answer because it was true that he hadn't been at his apartment for a good while.
"Stop harassing him, you're giving the boy cold feet and we have to start fighting for the same women again", Doyle chastised Gunn and Wesley laughed against his beer bottle, thankful he hadn't taken a drink yet.
"I would not call it fighting, more like losing the most desirable women to the future family man here."
Doyle sent a mock glare at his way, he wasn't really offended since he was a realist and knew that he and Gunn stood no chance against Angel when women were involved. "Who asked you anyway", he shot at the Brit, but didn't manage to keep the grin from forming to his lips, revealing that he wasn't serious.
Angel kept glowering at his friends, taking long drinks from his beer to keep himself from responding. Unfortunately he was almost finished with the bottle and he was feeling the need to get a refill. "Anyone else want another beer?" he asked shortly.
"I'm feeling more like having a Scotch", Doyle answered.
"Why am I not surprised", Wesley laughed and even Angel grinned in agreement. "I'll have another beer", he added as he glanced at the nearly empty glass in his hand.
"Okay. I'll get you another beer", Angel said to Gunn since he hadn't placed an order yet. He nudged at the man's side so he'd move over so he could get out of the table, but suddenly Gunn stopped, his eyes drawing to Darla who walked past their table with a man following her. She glanced at Angel, giving him a look that gave no room for interpretation of her intentions and motives.
"Wow, she caught one quick", Gunn stated, tilting his head to the side as he watched the guy get impatient and start fondling the blond.
"Well, she never had trouble with reeling them in", Angel said with a shrug and gave his friend another kick to make him complete the task Darla had interrupted.
Buffy sighed deeply as she walked through the door and put on the lights. The house was empty. She took off her jacket, draping it over the back of a chair and continued her journey to the kitchen. She took a chicken salad out of the fridge and only then noticed the note on its door. 'Went to get some stuff from the apartment. Don't wait up. - Angel'.
She sighed in disappointment, it was strange to be home alone and it looked like she had to do her best to fall asleep without him next to her. Having lost her appetite she put the salad back to the fridge and made her way upstairs. After preparing herself to bed she looked at the clock with a frown, she knew it would be difficult to fall asleep without Angel in bed with her. With a groan she decided that she didn't need the sleep since she had a free day tomorrow. She grabbed the phone from the nightstand and dialed Angel's number. She sat down to the edge of the bed, toying with the hem of her nightie as she waited for him to pick up.
"Hello", a sugary female voice answered from the other end.
For a moment Buffy was so confused that she couldn't get a word out of her mouth. "Uhm... Is... is Angel there?" she finally managed to ask.
"No, there's no Angel here", the woman answered and hung up. Buffy's frown deepened and she dialed the number again with more care to make sure she had the right number. "That's weird", she said to herself when she couldn't get through to the same number. She set the phone down to the nightstand and leaned against the pillows at the end of the bed. She glanced at the clock, her frown deepening. She knew that now she was not going to get any sleep before Angel came back, but she did her best not to let the phone call bother her. To keep her mind off of Angel and to keep herself from calling till he answered, she picked up a book and tried to read.
Angel walked into his apartment and put the keys back to his pocket. Briefly he wondered why did he insist on keeping the apartment since he rarely even went there. Every place was spotless, thanks to his housekeeper, but it didn't look like someone actually lived in there. He was about to go to his office when he noticed a red jacket draped over a chair's arm. He picked it up, instantly stating that it wasn't Buffy's. He looked around to see any more signs of the intruder, but when there were none, he went to check the other rooms.
He opened his bedroom door and the sight that waited him made him stop. There was Darla, laying on his bed in nothing but the skimpiest set of underwear he had ever seen. "Darla", he ground out her name through his teeth. She sat up with a seductive, self-satisfied smile. "What are you doing here?"
"Waiting for you. I told you I wanted to give you a proper welcoming. I've been away for a while and I've missed you."
"Leave", Angel commanded and grabbed her dress from the chair, throwing it at her. The dress hit her on the face and dropped down to the bed in front of her.
"You don't mean that", she said as she grudgingly got out of the bed and shrugged on the dress without closing the buttons so it just hung on her like a long cardigan. She walked over to Angel, putting a seductive swing to her hips. "I know you miss me as much as I missed you", she said and glued herself against his side, her hand resting on his stomach.
"Why did you come back from Europe? Why now?" Angel questioned and took a step back, dislodging her hand from his body.
"I missed you, of course", Darla cooed with sugary voice that didn't fool him, he knew her too well.
"Don't lie to me, Darla", he said in a frustrated sigh, the tone of his voice made Darla realize that she wasn't going to accomplish anything if she didn't change tactics.
"I met your mother in Nice, she was very worried about you and suggested I'd come and see you", she answered truthfully. He scoffed and turned to the bottle of whiskey that stood on the desk.
"My mother has never been worried about me", he said more to himself than to her. Darla smirked and quickly shrugged the dress off her shoulders, letting it pool to the ground next to her feet. She crossed the distance between them, gluing herself against his back as she snaked her hand around him and ran it up his chest. "Darla, quit it", Angel said and took a swig from the bottle.
"But you don't want me to", Darla answered, her hands getting more bold.
Angel set the bottle down and turned around. "I'm engaged now", he stated trying to pry her busy hands off his body.
"So what, I don't care", she answered flippantly and placed a soft kiss to his neck.
"Well, I do", he said sternly and took a step back.
At first Darla stared at him with angry surprise, but then she started to laugh. "You're gonna marry the fat cheerleader? Oh please, Angelus. I know you better than that. You're not the marrying type and sooner or later you're back in my bed and I'd prefer it to be sooner. Like now", she said and wound her arms around his neck, pressing her body against his. Her hand slid down his hard body to the front of his pants, cupping the part of his anatomy that hadn't been affected by Nina, but now was responding to Darla's actions. "Yes, I can just feel how you love her", she said sarcastically.
Angel let out an angry growl and grabbed her wrist with a vice grip before pushing her back. She stumbled and almost fell to the floor, but the bed kept that from happening. She spun around, facing him with a cold stare. It was obvious her pride had been hurt. She straightened her back and lifted her chin, giving an impression she was looking down on the taller man in front of her.
"You're pathetic. You're not even a man anymore, the little cheerleader has your balls", Darla said with contempt, running her gaze over his lean form with fake disinterest. When Angel's eyes darkened further with anger, she wanted to smile outside like she was smiling inside, men's egos were always a sure way to get to them.
"So I'm not a man?" he asked tightly and yanked her closer to him, causing her to stumble against him. Her breath caught in her throat and the brutal strength of him was making her feel weak, ready to be taken. She couldn't keep the smile off her face anymore.
Angel looked down at the blond in front of him, the smile on her face was cool and conniving, nothing like the ones he had seen on Buffy's sweet face. "If I am not a man, then why are you following me around like a cat in heat?" he asked and pushed her away, but like a boomerang she bounced back into his arms.
"Because I know you can be the man you used to be. My dear boy, trying so hard to be something you're not", she cooed, running her hand up his chest to the back of his neck. Angel stared down at her blood red lips, he couldn't deny that she was beautiful, that they had a long history together, but still the thought of Buffy was lingering in his mind. She was too good for him, maybe everyone was right, maybe he would end up hurting her badly because he was not a family man, because he could not say faithful to a woman. This was a test for him. And that was why he didn't resist when Darla's lips pressed against his. But he didn't respond to it either, the act felt wrong, the lips were wrong and the person was wrong, it was not his Buffy and realizing that it was Buffy that he wanted, he was about to grab Darla by the arms and push her away when a hysterical laughter reached his ears. Quickly he turned to the door from where the sound was coming from and his eyes widened in alarm as he found Buffy standing there, holding on to the door frame as she watched them with tears running down her cheeks. She covered her mouth with her hand, drowning the hopeless sound.
"Buffy", he managed to say, her name coming out as a frightened whisper as he felt his heart thundering in his chest, fearing that this would make him lose her. He made distance between him and Darla who was smirking triumphantly, not making a move to cover herself. But when he took a step towards Buffy, reaching out to her, she backpedaled like he was something horrible. She looked at him with eyes that made his heart break and she just shook her head and turned around, quickly fleeing the room.
"Buffy!" he yelled and ran after her, he couldn't let her go without explaining. He had been in shock and speechless before, but seeing her walking out had quickly sobered him. "Buffy! I love you!" he yelled desperately, after so long of hesitating now the words came out easily.
Buffy stopped and turned to look at him, her expression mixed with anger and misery. "Oh that is rich. You don't love me, it's been made very clear. The wedding is off, I don't want to see you again!"
Angel's heart stopped when he saw her reach for her finger and try to pull the engagement ring off. "Buffy", he protested in near panic, but she didn't seem to hear him as she was battling with the ring that would not move because her fingers had swollen.
"Damn it!" she cursed and spun around, quickly walking away.
"Buffy!" he yelled and continued to follow her, but she wouldn't even turn to look at him.
"No, don't! I don't want to hear your excuses", she said, he could hear the tears in her voice. He knew he could outrun her, but even though he didn't want to and it broke his heart, he stopped and let her go. Once the door slammed close, he heard Darla's footsteps behind him and felt her arms snake around him. In disgust he grabbed her wrist and shook it off his body. He spun around, staring at her with cold eyes, he couldn't believe that he lost Buffy because of her.
"Get out", he ground out through his teeth, barely keeping his anger in check.
"You don't mean that", she said and tried to wrap her arms around his shoulders, but he grabbed her by the arms and roughly pushed her against the nearest wall. "You're hurting me", she said, then a sly smile rose to her lips and she added, "But I don't mind."
"I'm gonna say this just once: Get out. I don't want to see you again, I want you out of my life. And if I see you anywhere near me or Buffy again, I will give you pain that you won't like", he said darkly and roughly pulled her off the wall and pushed her towards the door. In a swift move he grabbed the jacket draped over a chair and threw it at her. Darla's eyes were shooting daggers at him, but she was smart enough to know that now was not the time to get into a fight with him.
"Soon you will come crawling back to me, you and I both know it," she swore as her final words and walked out of the door without even putting on the jacket.
Angel curled his fingers into a tight fist, he tried to calm himself, but it didn't work and he spun around and threw a vase from the coffee table to the wall. But he didn't see the shards flying around because the engagement ring in his finger caught his eye and once again he felt the constricting feeling in his chest. A moment later he turned around and grabbed the phone, quickly dialing Buffy's number.
"Fai-ith... He... I saw..." she sobbed into the phone. "The bitch!" was the first and only clear word she said during the whole one-sided conversation. "I... I broke... with An-ghel", she continued through her tears, but voicing what had happened only made her cry harder.
"I'm on my way", Faith said not really knowing what had happened, but realizing it was bad and had something to do with Angel.
Buffy hung up the phone and fell to the pillows on the couch. The phone started ringing, but she couldn't find the strength to answer it. But when it went to the voice mail and she heard Angel's voice, she went completely still and her sobs quieted. Despite being angry and heartbroken because of him, she held her breath to hear what he was saying and she couldn't help but yearn for him to be there to hold her in his arms, telling her that everything was going to be okay. She listened to him begging her to pick up the phone, swearing that nothing had happened between him and Darla and that he was truly sorry for what little did happen, that he loved her and didn't want to lose her. Tears were running down her cheeks, but she didn't let out a sound or make a move to answer the phone.
He was still talking when Faith walked in. "Hey, B", she said quietly, but still managed to startle Buffy. The blonde spun around, fresh tears rising to her eyes as she saw her friend.
"It's over", she whispered, her voice full of misery. "And I can't get the ring off my finger", she added and Faith's eyes went down to her hands. Faith frowned as she took in the oil and butter on Buffy's fingers.
"What happened?" she asked tentatively, the tone of voice she used was completely against her character, but she felt like it was needed in this situation.
"My fingers are too swollen!" Buffy exclaimed, pretending she didn't get the real question. The first thing she had done once she got home was to try to get the ring slip off with butter, then vegetable oil, but neither trick had worked. Angel's ring refusing to leave her finger had only caused her to sit to the floor crying and call Faith once she had gathered herself off the kitchen floor.
"That's not what I meant", Faith stated.
Buffy looked down to her hand, fresh tears coming to her eyes as she stared at the engagement ring. "I told you about the blonde in his office... I called Angel's apartment, he was picking up some stuff", she scoffed at the word 'stuff', "Well, a woman answered, I just thought I had the wrong number, but when it bugged me too much and I went there, I found out I had the right number alright." She shook her head and continued, "And *she* was there, in nothing but the skankiest underwear I've ever seen. And they were kissing!" Her voice broke and she had to look away. For a moment Faith didn't know what to say, I told you so didn't seem like the right thing to say.
"Want me to kill him? I could call Willow, I bet she'd help me bury him", she joked, but Buffy just shook her head. "Want me to make him an eunuch?" she asked earning a sad laugh from the heartbroken blonde.
"Tempting, but no thanks", she answered with a barely noticeable upward twist of her lips.
The phone kept on ringing. Both Buffy and Faith knew it was Angel, he had already filled her answering machine with messages and it didn't look like he was going to give up anytime soon.
"Do you want me to pull the plug?" Faith asked the sobbing girl, but she just shook her head. "How'bout tea? It might calm you a bit", she suggested, she didn't really know what to do with the crying girl since that kind of stuff was usually Willow's territory. Buffy turned to look at her and nodded her head, just slightly, but enough to let Faith know she wasn't against the idea. "Okay, I'll be right back", she said and got up from the couch, quickly making her way to the kitchen.
She wasn't gone for long, but when she returned to the living room, the couch was empty. "B? Buffy?" she called out looking around her. But when there was nothing else than the sound of Angel's voice in the answering machine, she went to look for the blond.
At last she found her in the bathroom, rubbing soap into her ring finger with desperation. "B?" she said quietly. Buffy's head turned in a startled movement and she stared at her friend with wide eyes.
"It won't come off", she said with a broken voice and again tried to twist the diamond ring off her finger. But it didn't move and with a disappointed whimper she sat down to the edge of the toilet lid, still halfheartedly trying to remove the ring.
"I could get pliers and cut it off, that would do it", Faith suggested and instantly regretted it when Buffy looked at her like she had run over her puppy and backed up to do it again. The blond shook her head, fresh tears in her eyes as she turned to look at the ring that refused to leave her finger.
"I can't do that", she whispered. "I may not like him very much right now, but I know that I can't destroy it."
"What you gonna do? With the baby and him, I mean," Faith asked, knowing the question came too soon when a single tear ran down the blonde's cheek.
"I don't know. He's the father, but I don't know when I can face him", Buffy shook her head as if to clear it. "I feel like I can't breathe. It hurts so much", she said with a broken voice, her eyes glistering with tears.
"It will get better", Faith promised even though she was pretty sure it was a lie. Just looking at her best friend so broken up made her feel some of the pain as well, she had never experienced a broken heart because she had never been in love, but looking at the state Buffy was in she was pretty sure she didn't want to experience it.
The question took Faith by surprise, leaving her speechless. She opened her mouth to say something, but the words just didn't come. "Tea?" she asked, trying to change the subject because she didn't like to feel so out of place. When the tears started to flow she regretted that she hadn't lied or said some cliche line she had heard on a chick flick.
"Oh God", Buffy cried out miserably and grabbed a hold of Faith's shirt to keep herself up. She clutched the fabric in her fist as she pressed her face to her shoulder, clinging to the brunette like her life was at stake. Awkwardly Faith wrapped her arms around the crying blonde, just holding her as she cried.
Angel sat in his car in Buffy's driveway. The door was open and he had been sitting there for a good while, contemplating if he should step out and try to get Buffy to see him or just keep sitting there and give her some time to cool off. While he didn't want to try to talk to her while her emotions were still running high, he also didn't want to leave the situation still for too long, he needed to explain to her what had happened.
He shook his head and ran his fingers through his hair, an action he had repeated many times during the last few hours and now his hair was a rumbled mess, much like he himself was. He couldn't believe that he had ruined what he had with Buffy just because he had listened to his friends and Darla's opinions, just because he wanted to prove to himself and to others that he wasn't pussy-whipped. Now he desperately wanted to take back everything that had happened in his apartment. Finally he had told a woman he loved her and meant it, but she didn't believe him. Why didn't I say it before? He questioned, again shaking his head. He had known how he felt about Buffy, but the words just didn't come out and now it was too late. Was it too late? The thought felt like a fist around his heart, slowly squeezing the life out of it. He couldn't believe that it was too late, he couldn't believe that it was over and he was determined to get Buffy back and do everything he could to gain her trust back.
With new determination Angel stepped out of the car and walked to the door. Automatically he took his key from his pocket, but seeing it in his hand gave him a moments pause. He didn't feel like he was allowed to use it anymore, so he put it back to his pocket and rang the doorbell. Anxiously he waited, hoping that Buffy would open the door and let him in to explain. After what felt like an eternity the door opened and to his surprise it was a very pissed off looking Faith that opened the door. He knew he shouldn't have been surprised, but he was.
"I don't think you have any business being here", Faith hissed. She tried to keep her voice down because Buffy had just fallen asleep from the exhaustion and she didn't want her to wake up and find Angel at her doorstep.
"I need to talk to Buffy. I need to explain..." he started, but was interrupted by Faith.
"I think that it's a little too late for that. I knew you were just like every other guy, but B said no you're not, 'Angel's different'. She had faith in you and that's why now she's all broken up. I'd really like to make you an eunuch, but B wouldn't like that. So take a hike before I don't care anymore."
Faith tried to slam the door to his face, but Angel stopped the door from closing and stormed in despite the brunette's tries to stop him. "I need to explain it to her. It wasn't what it looked like", he said walking into the living room where he found Buffy asleep on the couch. The sight of her made him stop. Even in her sleep she looked heartbroken, her eyes were puffy and red and it was clear that she had been crying. It was like punch to the gut that he was the cause of that. But the sight of the engagement ring still in her finger made him sigh from relief. He longed to hold her, to pull her into his arms and kiss her awake, to tell her what had really happened and beg for her forgiveness. But he didn't move, she looked exhausted and he didn't want to wake her.
"I think you better go", Faith said sternly. Angel turned to look at her, she was standing there with her arms folded in front of her looking like she wanted to carry out the subtle threat she had given him the first time they met.
He turned his gaze back to the sleeping blonde. He kneeled to the floor next to the couch and gently moved a strand of hair off her face. She sighed in her sleep, but didn't wake up. Slowly he moved his hand to rest on her round stomach, for a moment just feeling the movements of his child before getting up from the floor and once again facing Faith.
"I'll be back", he swore, starting to move towards the door. When he left the house he swore to himself that he would do everything he could to get Buffy back. It wasn't about his grandfather and his money anymore, it was about his family and he wasn't about to lose his chance of having that.
To be continued...
AN: Okay, this is spoilerish, but I just have to point out that when I'm in charge of a fic, Buffy and Angel will end up together, they got enough misery on the show. So don't lynch me cause this is not the end.