Title: And the Feeling Returns

Author: Carrie aka Buffychick

Summary: After a phone call from her father sends Buffy to LA, light is shed on the theory that she came back "wrong."

Rating: PG-13

Archiving: Sure, but ask me first please!

Spoilers: Everything up to and including Season 6 for BtVS and Season 3 for AtS.

Feedback: Would make my life shimmer.

Website for more fanfic and other fun stuff: http://www.angelfire.com/mo3/fanfic/SMGMain.html


Bags were packed and set by the door before lunch that afternoon, just to keep things organized, though neither the Scoobies nor the LA gang seemed eager to say goodbyes. It was decided that a big celebratory meal was in order, and Dawn's grin at the sight of her family all together again, happy and laughing with each other, was infectious, Angel found. As he surveyed the scene, Giles and Wesley arguing over the best way to make a traditional English cobbler, Cordelia insisting that they head down to the basement and search out Joyce's "company plates," to which Anya heartily agreed. The two women clammered down the stairs together and Angel couldn't help but chuckle at the paled expression of Xander as he watched is fiancé and his former-girlfriend heading off together. Gunn and Fred had gone to the store that morning with Dawn and Hank, who was graciously paying for the feast, and the combined efforts of three junk-food junkies had been too much for Hank. The result of the shopping spree had been more groceries than Buffy had seen in her kitchen in a long time, and not a vegetable to be found.

Currently Gunn and Fred were at the counter setting up an assembly line for the lavish sandwiches they had planned, slicing thick pieces of ham and turkey, organizing cheese trays and condiments while Willow and Tara worked on the relish tray and the salad, their heads together as they laughed over something private. Dawn and Hank were chopping up fruit for a fruit salad, half of which seemed to make its way into Dawn's mouth, while Connor was tucked once again into his punkin seat, observing the scene with happy eyes as he chewed merrily on a pacifier.

"Quite a scene, isn't it?" Buffy murmured, startling him out of his reverie.

"It's interesting," he agreed with a smile.

"I thought while chaos ensued you and I could…?" she cocked her head towards the front of the house.

He cast an eye over the rambunctious crowd, realized they wouldn't even know he and Buffy were missing, and ducked out along with her. They headed to the living room where the sounds from the kitchen were muted if not dulled completely, and each took a seat on the couch, Buffy curling her legs up underneath her.

"What's up?" he asked her, settling back and angling his body slightly towards hers.

"I figured we should…you know…clear the air before you leave today," she began, suddenly nervous.

"We should," he agreed, watching with some amusement as she fiddled with her fingers.

Neither of them spoke, a minute passed, then another as they looked everywhere but at each other.

Eventually Buffy grinned and shook her head. "We're such a mess."

He couldn't hold back his own smile. "We really are. But it's a good mess, I think."

"For the most part." Taking a deep breath, she plunged ahead. "Okay…I just wanted you to know that last night…it meant a lot to me, Angel. I could have done without the screaming and yelling parts," she smiled wryly, "but I think we cleared some stuff up…stuff we've been holding on to for a really long time. And that's good. I don't want us to still have anger or…whatever…with each other."

"I don't either," he told her, sagely. "I guess I didn't realize I was still holding on to some of that…and I never dreamed you were either. I figured you didn't think anything about it anymore, actually."

Her eyes widened. "Are you kidding? Angel, it's not like you were just some random guy I hooked up with. You're…you. Angel. You were…are…a big part of my life. Even if you're in LA and we don't talk for months, you're still just as important to me as you ever were. Just in different ways now. I meant what I said last night…I care for you, Angel. I—I love you. I always will."

Now he knew his heart fluttered and he could hear her blood pump just a little faster as she waited for his reaction. "Buffy," he murmured, ending her suspense, "Nothing will ever change how I feel about you. I love you, too. And I always will. I would never lie about that, not to you, not to anyone."

"But…" she prompted.

"I've got but-face?" he asked, eliciting a grin from her.

She arched an eyebrow at him that rivaled the look Cordelia usually bestowed upon him. "In a big way."

He blew out a breath. "I'm sorry for how I treated you last night. For taking things out on you like that. It wasn't fair and you didn't deserve it."

She cocked her head to the side, watching him carefully. "But you were honest. The Spike thing bothers you…lot of that going around," she added dryly, "and you let me know how you feel about it. That's okay, Angel. I'm sorry I hurt you. I never meant to."

He shook his head. "No, Buffy…you live your own life now…and as much as I may hate, loathe and despise the decisions you make…okay, one decision you made," he smiled gently, "it's your life. You don't come to Los Angeles and judge me…"

"But I did!" she cried, jumping to her feet and beginning to pace. "You told me about Darla, and I wigged. Almost got hit by a bus, as I recall. And totally ruined my hair in that rain." She smiled. "We can still hurt each other Angel, because we care about each other. That's not a bad thing."

He looked up at her, very serious. "It is when we use that stuff against each other."

She sat back down and they considered themselves for a moment. "Look at us, who are so wise."

"And it only took us three years of not being around each other," he drawled.

"So where does this leave us?" she asked suddenly.

His eyes shifted down to his own hands, which he realized with a jolt were nervously twiddling his fingers. He put a stop to that by sitting on them. "I really don't know, Buffy," he said finally. "I'm going back to LA."

She nodded. "I know…and I think that's a good thing. Sorta," she smiled with shrug. "But Angel…we admitted some stuff last night that I don't think we should ignore."

He took a deep, unnecessary breath. "I know. I don't think we should either." Dragging his eyes up he met hers one on one. "What do you want out of this, Buffy? We can't…date," he bit out the word with distaste.

She nodded slowly, considering. "No…I don't think that's the word for it, either. But…okay. Look. I'm just going to say all this because if I don't, I'll regret it, but if I do I'm going to have to sort of rush it, so just let me finish, okay?"

He nodded hesitantly and, satisfied, she continued. "Ok. I love you. And you said you love me. And that's something very powerful that doesn't come along too often, wouldn't you agree? Great," she rushed, not waiting for him to answer. "I think that it's stupid to ignore something like that, to almost pretend that it didn't happen or that just because we've got differences, no matter how great they might be, that it can't be anything. We had something very special once…and despite what we tell ourselves, or other people, the few times you and I are thrown together something seems to happen. My jealousy and freak-out with you and Faith…our fight at the police station, that moment in the dorm hallway…that night at the cemetery…and then last night. Even in LA, at your hotel, I felt something…just a spark, but hey, I wasn't exactly having my emotions registering on the meter at that point, so even a spark is significant, wouldn't you say?"

He knew she wouldn't wait for him to respond and instead just sat. He was right.

"And I think that if even after all these years the two of us can get so blind, stupid jealous over ex-girlfriends and grandsires and whatnot that that means something. There's obviously something still between us and personally, I don't want to ignore it this time. I've spent the better part of the last two and a half years settling for the things that people think are what I need, then moving on to the things that are the exact opposite of that, when as it turns out what I really want is what I had at the beginning."

She paused, waiting for his reaction.

"That would be you," she whispered when he didn't say anything.

He chuckled. "I got that. And…I agree with you. I wouldn't trade what you and I had…and yes…every time we're together it's obvious there's still something between us. I think it's obvious, at least in me, even when you're not around."

A pang of guilt had pulled at him as she spoke of their last few meetings since he's moved to LA, knowing that she had no idea of the days they'd spent together, consumed of nothing but each other while he'd been human. He wasn't about to tell her of the Day…that was a much longer story, and a much more painful one…and it was a burden he'd taken upon himself, something he didn't wish for her to endure when it couldn't be duplicated.

And then his thoughts turned to happier times, remembering how, with frequency, Cordelia would slap him upside the head when he'd space off, thinking of Buffy. It occurred less and less now…but only because he made sure to reserve Buffy-thoughts for more private times, in his own quarters. There were the instances, however, when he'd be out walking the streets and a memory would come barreling back at him, triggered by anything it seemed, of a time when they'd fought side by side, of a demon they'd killed, or a certain recollection of a conversation they'd had. Sometimes he'd head down to the street vendors and look over their wares (they were known to carry some quality underground weaponry) and he'd pass a booth of trinkets or bobbles and run a hand over something that he just knew Buffy would love. And after studying it, he'd put it back on the table and walk away.

And then there was shanshu…

She was still watching him expectantly, the furrow of her brow telling him that she was getting antsy, and he cleared his throat. "I'd like to see you," he said finally.

She was still watching him.

He was completely tongue-tied.

"You'd like to see me," she repeated dumbly.

He nodded, feeling much more the sixteen-year-old novice than an experienced vampire of two-hundred and forty-nine years. "Yes," he said, swallowing hard. Why was this so difficult?

"Okay…" She wasn't sure how to respond to this.

He wanted to slap himself upside the head now, wondered if perhaps he could call Cordelia in from the kitchen to give it that extra-special oomph. Taking another deep breath he turned his body to face her and covered her hands in his, waiting until her eyes moved up to meet his.

"I want to see you. Soon. I think that for now we need to continue as we are…you here, on the Hellmouth, and me in LA, and we'll talk…a lot," he conceded, "and we'll visit. And…we'll see how that goes. And then we'll take the next step when we're ready for that. Whatever that might be." He watched as the fear left her eyes and relief flooded them. "I love you, Buffy. And…we've made some pretty crappy decisions trying things on our own. Maybe…"

She gazed at him, bobbling her head just a bit. "Maybe? Angel, I'm tired of prying things out of you."

"Maybe it's time to just do what we want instead of what might be right. Doing what we do…we put ourselves in harms way every day. And our rewards are few and far between…and," he leaned in and cupped her beautiful face in his giant hands, "you are the only reward I could ask for. The only one I've ever wanted." He punctuated his words with soft kisses to her lips and the rested his forehead against hers, closing his eyes and just breathing in her scent.

Tears sprang to Buffy's eyes. "I can't believe I'm hearing this. I can't believe you're saying this."

"Why not?" he chuckled.

"I never thought you'd just give in and let us be…us. You always want to be so reasonable…and this just isn't."

"Nothing about you and I has ever made sense…and yet."

"And yet…" she agreed before leaning up and kissing him fully on the mouth. "There's one more thing I want you to know about, Angel…I don't care about the perfect happiness thing. We'll find a way around that. No, don't!" she stopped him before he could interrupt. "We'll find a way. A spell, a binding, maybe. Something. I mean…it's not sex that triggers it…judging from the Darla escapade. It's…"

"You," he finished.

"So we'll try? We'll try something before we just give up?"

"Can you do that?" he asked, not sure he wanted the answer. "That's a lot for you to give up."

She almost laughed. "It's worth it, Angel. Completely." Then…"I'm not going to want to let you go back to Los Angeles," she admitted.

He was so happy at the moment he was getting nervous that this alone might give his alter-ego a reason to escape. "I know. A large part of me doesn't want to go back."

"Which parts?" she breathed, light-headed from being so close to him.

He grinned devilishly. "This part," he told her, pressing his lips to hers. "And this part." His hands delved into her hair, massaged her scalp. "And this one…"

"Buffy! Angel! Lunch!" Dawn's voice boomed as her tennis-shoe clad feet stomped down the hall and skidded to a halt at the sight of them on the couch. "Oh…oh. Sorry. Jeez! Can't you two get a room?"

"Someday, maybe…" Buffy murmured under her breath and Angel laughed out loud, rising from the couch and pulling her along with him, one arm slung over her shoulders as they headed down the hall.

They entered the assault to their senses formerly known as the Summers kitchen to find a magnificent spread of food arranged, what Xander and Gunn weren't currently piling on their plates, anyway, and the smiling faces of their friends…and family, Buffy noted, catching her father's eye, greeting them.

"Buffy…Dad says he sticking around a few days," Dawn said cheerfully. "He said you guys talked this morning and he wants to stay."

Her older sister nodded. "I know…I think it's a great idea. He can see what we're really like…when I don't have all you vagrants on my doorstep and things can get back to normal around here."

"So…patrol tonight then?" Xander asked, looking up from the Shaggy-sized sandwich he was creating.

Buffy considered. "Sure. I could go for some Chosen-One violence."

"Well, I may not be a chosen one, but this half-demon is looking forward to going back to LA," Cordelia piped up as she spooned jello-salad onto her plate.

"I guess it'll be up to the street-thug to drop off the three-hundred year-old queen to a local shelter," Gunn chimed in.

"And then the witches can work on cleaning up the ex-vengeance demon's shop," Anya added. "I'm sure there's a spell or something that can take care of that. Like that cute little mouse did in the cartoon."

Willow and Tara exchanged a glance over a bowl of fruit salad and subtly shook their heads at Buffy.

"Yes well…I assure you, the ex-Watcher in me would really like to get back to my books and look up more on this Teplir dimension," Wesley mused aloud. "The species itself is fascinating if you think about it. They thrive on souls…I wonder what they use to harness them. Perhaps it might be useful for you to know, Angel," he pointed out. "We should check around in LA…perhaps find that Simtoc demon we ran into a few weeks back…the one who dealt in other-worldy phenomenon."

"As long as the rouge-demon hunter in you isn't planning on making an appearance," Cordelia commented slyly, "but yeah…I guess I never considered that if the Teplir had a way to restore your soul…maybe there's a way to bind it or something. Lord knows we could all rest easier with that psycho on a tighter leash." She aimed her pointed comment in the direction of Buffy and Angel, who shrugged it away easily and headed for the buffet.

Giles chewed on the stem of his glasses thoughtfully. "I'll look into it with the Watcher's Council. Perhaps their libraries will have something on that dimension. They had the information I needed on the restoration."

"So if the witches aren't too busy cleaning up the demon's shop," Willow sniffed, "maybe we can help with the research. "You know, since it'll probably be a spell that could bind his soul."

"The Slayer says enough shop talk, more eating," Buffy broke in.

Angel nabbed her around the waist and planted a kiss on top of her head. "The vampire with a soul agrees," he murmured.

Hank tried to follow the conversation as best he could, throwing frequent glances of "huh?" at his daughters.

The Key sat back and just grinned.