…OR IS THIS THE DREAM THAT NEVER GOES AWAY?

Prologue

Angel walked slowly away from Buffy's house, deep in thought. Tearing himself away was getting harder, sooner or later; they would end up….

"Angel?"

"Miss Calendar?"

"I'm glad I found you, Angel, we need to talk."

"Sure, what's up?"

"This is going to be hard to hear, but bear with me. It's about your curse."

"What do you know about that?"

"Until a couple of hours ago, not much. I had a phone call from my uncle…"

"And what does he know?"

"There's something you need to know about me. I'm a descendant of the gypsies that cursed you; I was sent to see what's going on in your life because one of our seers says your pain is less than it was."

"Go on." Angel prompted his voice low and dangerous.

"The curse isn't permanent. It was meant to make you suffer, if you stop suffering and know true happiness then the curse will be broken and your soul will be taken from you."

"And I'll go back to what I was before."

"Angelus." She agreed. "It's Buffy isn't it?"

"What?"

"It's Buffy that's making you happy."

"I love her."

"Yeah, she fits the profile."

"What?"

"You know you have a type, right?"

"What…?"

"Young, virginal, special in some way, loved by her family and friends….is this ringing any bells?"

"You think I'd hurt her?"

"Angelus will."

"I'm not him."

"Once you've deflowered Buffy, you will be. What happens then?"

"Angelus will torture her by hurting everyone she cares about, then he'll kill her."

"Will he turn her?"

"No. He'll hate her too much for that."

"Because you love her."

"Yes."

"Do you, though?"

"What?"

"She's a type. Your type and, because of that, Angelus' type. If you really loved her…"

"I'd what?" Angel asked, "Leave her?"

"Well, yes. What future can the two of you have together? That's if you even still want her, once you've bedded her."

Angel turned away, angry but he recognized that what she was saying was true. Before Darla sired him, he'd been all about the chase. He'd love to find some innocent - preferably someone lowly, who couldn't complain - and take what he or she had to offer, before discarding the unfortunate plaything. He spent the rest of his time getting drunk with friends or paying the few skilled whores that were available to him. Sometimes he craved experience over innocence.

After Darla, the thrill of the kill was added and best of all, the hurt. More than anything, he loved to torment. He loved to find an individual and drive them to despair by taking everything from them, in the worst way he could think of. Much as he would like to deny it, he and Angelus were two sides of the same coin. If he stayed with Buffy, she was doomed.

A squeal from Miss Calendar broke his reverie. He looked around to find Drusilla in the process of breaking Jenny Calendar's neck.

"Bad teacher to upset my daddy." She said, letting the body fall.

"Dru, what have I done?"

"Made me, daddy." She replied, running her velvet gloved hand lovingly down the side of his face.

"I should stake you." He said, looking into her eyes and seeing no hint of fear.

"But you won't."

"No, I won't." He made a snap decision. "I'm leaving for L.A., want to come?"

"Oooh, pony rides and candyfloss, I promise I'll be a good girl." Drusilla squealed with delight, clapping her hands.

"What about Spike?"

"I can't be 'is mummy anymore." She pouted, her mood souring, instantly. "Now 'e's seen the sunshine and soon 'e'll be flyin' in the breeze. Li'l motes of dust, sparklin' in the sunlight."

* * * * *

Contents of a letter from Angel to Buffy, delivered a few days before her seventeenth birthday.

My Dear Buffy,

I'm so sorry to have to do this to you but I'm leaving Sunnydale. I know that you love me and that this will hurt you but I think that it's better for you, in the long run, if I go now. If I don't, we'll end up doing something that we'll both regret. You're only a child and I really am old enough to know better. The powers recruited me to help you, not to seduce you and I don't think that you need my help, anymore. You have friends, they are your strength, you don't need me.

I'm sorry to have to tell you that Drusilla killed Miss Calendar. To keep Dru out of further mischief, I'm taking her with me. She told me that Spike's dead, so that's two problems out of your way.

I'm sure that someday you'll meet a nice, normal boy, who will make you happy. You have my best wishes for the future.

Angel.

Willow read the crumpled, tearstained letter in silence.

"Oh, Buffy." She said, at last, "I'm so sorry."

"He's a patronizing bastard." Buffy spat.

"Really? Aren't you upset?" Willow asked, looking at the tearstains again.

"I was to start with, spent the weekend eating loads of ice cream and crying but now, I'm just really angry. How dare he just sneak off like this? For my own good? He couldn't even tell me face to face. And this thing about the powers, sending him to help me? That's just another way of saying he was stalking me. And the worst part, the very worst, is this thing with Drusilla. He knows that she killed Miss Calendar, so he must have seen it happen. He could have come and told us, broke it to us gently. But no, he lets us all find out the hard way, Snider announcing it to the school. Poor Giles finding out, that way, that she was gone. And…and has he staked Drusilla? No, he took her away with him, probably so I wouldn't kill her. Which means he still has feelings for her."

"I hate to say I told you so…"

"Shut up, Xander." Both girls said, in unison.

* * * * *

"What do you mean, she's gone?" Spike, helpless in his wheel chair, was still a daunting sight to the hapless minion who had drawn the short straw and was now delivering the bad news.

"She's taken Miss Edith and she was seen talking to Angel."

"That bloody ponce!" Spike roared in rage. "What has 'e got, that she could possibly want?" His voice dropped to a whisper. "I gave 'er everything, got 'er better, made 'er strong. If it weren't for that bloody slayer, Angel would have died during the ritual.

"The slayer. It's all 'er fault. I want you lot to watch 'er, the slayer. I want to know every move she makes, and while you're at it, spread the word, no one and I mean no one, kills the slayer but me. I won't be in this chair forever. When I'm strong, we are going to fight, then I'm going to make 'er suffer, and only when she asks really nicely, I'm going to kill her. Is that understood?"

"Yes Master."

"Good. Now, get me someone to eat."