Angel tried to assure himself that he had made the correct preference by over not going to Willow and Oz's to see Buffy off, after all if there was something that she needed or wanted to talk about with him then she knew where he lived. Part of him had hoped that she would have sought him out after the so-called farewell party was over, even if it was only to say goodbye and good riddance; but so far there was no Buffy - blond or otherwise. Angel had more or less given up hope of Buffy coming when he heard a delicate knock upon this front door, answering it he found somebody that he had not anticipated. Faith was standing there in the doorway looking tentative and to some extent terrified.
"Hi," she said apprehensively, looking at him as if she expected to see something in the depths of his soulful eyes that would help her to speak.
"Faith," Angel replied skeptical about her motives for being there. "What are you doing here?"
Faith tapped her foot against the concrete floor of the hallway and wondered the exact same thing herself. Sure Buffy had told her Angel was all hers and that she didn't want him, but Faith was fairly certain deep down that Angel wanted Buffy and not her. Should she stay friends or go for broke?
"She's gone, hasn't she?" Angel asked her out of nowhere.
Faith nodded, "Yeah. She was heading home last time I saw her."
Angel all of a sudden opened his door wider and backed away from the threshold. "Want to come in?"
Faith entered the apartment tentatively and was instantaneously assaulted by the memories of her and Angel together and then - without warning - by Angel himself. Returning his kiss enthusiastically, Faith used her agile body to maneuver him towards his bedroom and his king-sized bed. Starting to fall back onto the bed, Faith flipped Angel over mid-fall onto his back and straddled him, using her hands she pinned his hands above his head. Staring down into his eyes, she paused. In them there was no feeling, no tenderness, nothing that she would normally assume with Angel. Heaving a sigh Faith got off of him and sat down on the bed next to where he was still laying.
"What's wrong?" he asked unmoving from his position.
"I can't believe I am about to say this, but..." Faith started shaking her head the whole time in disbelief.
Angel propped himself up on one elbow and looked at her, "But?"
"No? You never say no."
Faith returned the look, "This time I'm making an exception."
"If this about Buffy, she's gone."
"She might not be in Sunnydale in the flesh, but psychologically she's right here in this bedroom with us," Faith answered bitterly. "You love her and want to be with her. Suddenly she's no longer around and I'm back in..."
"It's not like that."
"Cut the crap, Angel-cakes," Faith told him using the host's hated nickname for him. "I won't be second best; I won't hang around hoping you'll decide that you want me and most of all I won't let you fuck me to convince yourself that it was a good thing that she left again."
Angel wanted desperately to deny Faith's accusations, but couldn't. They were all accurate, he was basically trying to use Faith to make the hurt go away and thinking back he may have inadvertently done it to every other girl he had dated since Buffy.
"So what now?" he asked her wearily.
"You go get her," Faith replied simply.
Angel sat up and shook his head with a barely restrained violence, "I can't. She doesn't want me."
Thinking back on her and Buffy's mini-conversation in the car, Faith smiled bitterly. "Something tells me that you are *so* wrong about that."
"It's too late."
Faith stood up and held out her hand, "Jeez, you weren't this pessimistic when you were a soulful vampire. Now come on, we need to get you packed an on a plane."
Angel let Faith help him up, "It won't do any good."
"You won't know until you try."
Angel watched as she began to pack for him and asked quietly, "Why are you helping me head into the arms of another woman?"
"Because when you love someone you want them to be happy and you wouldn't be with me," Faith told him. "Besides, this way I'm free to terrorize the male population of Sunnydale."
Angel started to help her pack some of his things into an overnight bag and before he knew it, Faith had bundled him into his car and was driving him to the airport and one step closer to Buffy.
"So what, brat?" Buffy replied.
She was lying on her brand new grey leather couch, trying to concentrate on the movie playing on the television; but Dawn just wouldn't let up with the questions. It was their regular weekly shopping, pizza and movie fest, they had done it at least once a week since they first moved to Washington - barring any time Buffy was away on assignment.
"So what happened in Sunnydale?" Dawn asked for the fiftieth time since she had arrived a few hours earlier. "And before you try to change the subject again just remember who you're talking too. I am not about to let up until I know everything - non-classified - that happened."
"Fine," Buffy said as she flipped off the television set. "Nothing happened."
"Sure, that's why you've been in a terminally bad mood since you got home. Tell little sister what's wrong?"
Buffy shook her head, "You don't want to hear or know it all, trust me on this."
"I'm twenty-two Buff, I can handle whatever you tell me," Dawn retorted rolling her eyes.
"I saw mom."
Dawn's pretty face clouded over with rage, "What the bitch isn't dead yet?"
"Don't Dawnie me, Buffy. Does she know all you sacrificed? Does she?"
"It was never a sacrifice, Dawnie. You're my sister and I wanted you to be the normal one in the family," Buffy told her.
Dawn got up and hugged Buffy, "I know."
"Anyway," Buffy continued. "We talked things through and decided to start talking and see where it goes. Maybe one time when she calls you might show up?"
"Maybe? But only because *you* asked," Dawn informed her. "Anything else good happen?"
"I ran into the old gang," Buffy told her, stroking Dawn's soft brown hair back behind her ear. "Well, all except Cordelia. She's in LA trying to become an actress."
"Cordy the talentless is trying to become an actress? That's scarier than any demon."
"Definitely. However everyone is just normal people."
Dawn sighed and put her head onto Buffy's lap, "That's good."
"Angel also lives in Sunnydale... he's Human now," Buffy said dropping the shocking news into the conversation as if it were an everyday occurrence.
Dawn sat up and stared at Buffy like she had just sprouted a second head. "What? Angel's vampire, they don't just turn Human."
"There was - at least according to Willow - a prophecy about him becoming Human and..." Buffy trailed off at the look on Dawn's face. "Dawnie? What's wrong?"
"I-i'm so sorry, Buffy."
Buffy shook her head, "About what?"
Dawn sat back a little away from Buffy and looked down at her lap, "You know those letters you used to write to everyone?"
"And you used to let me mail them for you while you made dinner... I sort of used to not send the ones to Angel," Dawn confessed as the tears began to flow down her pale cheeks.
Buffy wasn't surprised by the fact, she had surmised it weeks ago, but instead of saying anything, she just pulled Dawn into her arms and comforted her. "Its okay, Dawnie."
"No it's not. I shouldn't have done it."
"Why did you do it?" Buffy questioned her gently without blame.
Dawn looked into her big sister's eyes and tried to explain. "He was the only one who could take you away from me. I figured that you'd go back to Sunnydale for college to be with him and leave me. Of course I rationalized it out with the fact that he was a vampire and you couldn't ever really be together, but now he's Human and I..."
Buffy hugged her sister as close as she could, "Its okay, Dawnie. Everything is okay."
Dawn had barely left when there was the sound of a key being reinserted into the front door lock, thinking that it was most probably Dawn coming back for something she threw open the front door and got a shock. Angel was standing there with an overnight bag in hand, soaking wet from the rainfall that had began to pour down only minutes before. Buffy just stood there not knowing what to do next, all the FBI instruction in the world doesn't help you to deal with an ex-boyfriend who all of a sudden shows up out of the blue.
"What are you doing here?"
Angel shrugged uncomfortably, "Dripping."
"Gee... I never would've guessed," she replied without blinking an eye. Heaving a sigh a moment later she asked, "Do you want a towel or something?"
Buffy left him standing in the entrance way as she wandered off into the bathroom, returning a split second later with a vivid pink bath towel in hand. Predictably she found that Angel had moved himself into the living room and was staring at her assembly of family photos, which when all's said and done consisted of herself and Dawn; plus Dave and his family. She had none from her time in LA or Sunnydale.
"Here you go."
Angel turned around and grabbed the towel she offered him and began to wipe his face down with it. "Thanks. Nice picture collection."
"I like it," she answered nervously. "What are you doing here?"
Angel looked at her with a confused expression written across his handsome face, "I'm not sure anymore. All I know is that I didn't want to lose you."
"You never had me."
"I did once... a very long time ago," he said inching closer at a snail's pace so he wouldn't scare her off. "Then I lost you and I lost a huge part of myself with you. But I made a life for myself I moved on and I tried to put you in the past. I never could though and when you suddenly showed up in Sunnydale, in *my* class; all of my feelings returned and I knew that at long last whatever power is out there was giving me my heart and soul back. Then you just left again... with not even a goodbye."
"I said goodbye to the others, I thought it would be best if I stayed away from you."
"For who? For you? Were you really so desperate to see the back of me? To return to your perfect little FBI life?"
Buffy wasn't sure how he had done it, but he was standing directly in front of her, so close they were almost touching. "You have *no* right to criticize my life, Angel. You know nothing about it."
"Maybe I want to know about it, Buffy."
Buffy wanted to move away from him, to put some distance between them and give herself some time to think, but her feet just didn't want to move. "Why?"
Angel reached out with one large hand and stroked her face gently, "Because I love you."
"You can't! We don't know each other anymore... if we ever did."
Angel used his hand to tilt her head back and slowly lowered his lips into a kiss. Buffy was momentarily stunned, but eventually was swept along with the feeling. "Does it feel like we don't know each other?" he whispered hoarsely to her.
Buffy gulped, "I never said I wasn't attracted to you, Angel. But sex is a hell of a long way from love and I don't wanna settle."
It took all Angel's self-control not to simply toss Buffy to the floor after her little confession. He restrained himself for one reason and one reason only, he wanted more than one quick roll in the hay; he wanted a lifetime with her. "Buffy... If all I had wanted from you was sex, you'd be under me right now. I want so much more and I want a chance to prove my feelings."
Buffy didn't move away, but she didn't look at him either. "We can't go back," she objected weakly.
"I don't want to go back, Buffy. I want to go forward. Will you give me... us, that chance?"
Buffy finally looked into his eyes and was shocked at the depths of the emotions staring back, "I don't think I have a choice in the matter. I don't want to live without you either."
Angel kissed her before she had even the slightest chance to change her mind. Ultimately he had to let her go when it became apparent that they both needed air, but he still left his hand on her needing to feel even just the slightest touch. "So where do we go from here?"
"Anywhere we want to."