Disclaimer: I don't own Buffy the Vampire Slayer or any of the characters mentioned in the cannon.
A/N: A huge thank you goes out to everyone who took the time to review last chapter. I'm glad that you are all enjoying this fic so much. I hope that you all enjoy this chapter :)
Angel sighed, his expression drawn with exhaustion and a growing sense of desperation as Buffy still lay sleeping; seeming to be completely unaware of his presence, his words falling on deaf or disbelieving ears. "Buffy, please," He begged shamelessly. "I don't know what it is that you are dreaming of… but I promise that I'll do everything I can to make it happen… just please wake up. You're needed… I need you." He told her as he brought her hand up from the bed and kissed the back of it; his thumb stroking over the soft skin of the back of her hand. His breath caught in his throat hopefully as Buffy frowned and her head tossed on the pillow. His hope was short lived though as just as swiftly as she had grown restless, Buffy settled back down into sleep. Angel's heartfelt words not getting through to her, liked he'd hoped. "Buffy," He murmured sadly. "What can I do… do you even know that your life is in danger… that in a day and a half you could die if you don't wake from your dream?" He asked her sadly. "Were you truly sad enough to not want to go on living?"
Angel shook his head, unwilling to believe it of her. "No, of course not. You're too strong for that, Buffy." He gave her sleeping form a small smile and her hand a comforting squeeze.
'Oh, please are you trying to make me barf?' Angelus grumbled in his head. 'How is that in anyway going to help make her open her little peepers?'He asked with more than a little aggravation in his tone.
Angel scowled, but otherwise ignored his demon; concentrating on getting Buffy to wake up was far more important than bantering with his demon. "Buffy you are so strong," Angel began and Angelus snorted. "I know that you… we can beat this."
'Tick-tock, you're running out of time and this is the best that you can come up with?' Angelus growled angrily. 'If it is, you'd best let me out so that I can wake my girl.' He demanded.
'Shut up!' Angel growled back impatiently. 'I am not letting you out!'
'Tick-tock.' Was Angelus' reply; the only reply he made in response, but all the same it made a cold shiver run through Angel. The demons response amplifying the fact that Buffy's time among the living was swiftly running out… far too swiftly!
Angel swallowed thickly trying to shake the feeling of impending doom that Angelus had strengthened inside of him and become completely focused again. "I can't… you have no idea…" Angel took a breath and tried again. "I love you." He managed to say, his voice wavering with the depth of emotion he was feeling. "I love you a-and I'm so-so sorry that I let you down… Buffy," He almost whimpered her name as he once again drew no signs of waking from her. Lowering his head down towards the mattress, he rested his forehead against her hand; feeling its welcoming warmth there and tears that had been pricking against the backs of his eyes began to flow down his cheeks and his shoulders began to shake as he cried silently into the soft clean sheets that Joyce had laid down so lovingly for her daughter.
Behind him, quietly the door opened and Joyce nervously stuck her head in to peek into the darkened room; Angel having not turned on the light after shutting the curtains to prevent the sun from shining into the room. She swallowed at the sight of Angel slumped over Buffy's bed, his shoulders shaking with supressed sobs. Hovering in the doorway for a long moment hesitant to disturb Angel, but also needing to be close to her daughter for a little while… gathering her courage as shaky it was Joyce opened the door wider and stepped into the room. "So… there's been no change then?" She asked her voice quivering slightly at the sight of her daughter still sleeping… unmoving aside from the steady rising and falling of her chest under the blankets.
Angel having been too distracted by his own sorrow and desolation at not having had any success in saving the woman he loved, hadn't noticed Joyce entering the room almost jumped out of his chair and turned towards the voice. "Oh, Mrs. Summers." He greeted as he calmed himself down and wiped at his cheeks, hoping that the woman hadn't noticed the tears, but tears where a hard thing to hide… especially when fresh ones were still slipping from his eyes.
"I-I didn't mean to startle you." Joyce murmured apologetically as she shifted on her feet uncomfortably. "I-I just wanted to…"
Angel didn't need the eldest Summers woman to finish to know where she was going. "Oh, of course," He immediately stood up from his chair and stepped away from it; silently offering her the chair by her daughters bedside. Joyce gave a small nod of thanks as she moved towards the vacated chair. "I'll uh, just duck out for a little while." Angel murmured, as much as he didn't want to waste any more time, Joyce deserved time with her daughter… just encase he… didn't succeed. He didn't plan on letting that happen; the idea of failing was unthinkable… but there was always that chance that he would for some reason fail.
"Oh, no… stay." Joyce said, surprising Angel thoroughly; having always gotten the impression that she didn't like him. Joyce sat down in the chair and took Buffy's hand in her own, her wrist feeling the dampness of Angel's shed tears, but for now she was unwilling to move. "There was actually something I wanted to say to you…" She admitted.
Angel frowned in concern the words reminding him of an afternoon that had almost been a year ago now, when Joyce came knocking unexpectedly at his front door. Joyce sighed as she gazed at her daughter; the happy smile curling up her lips causing the guilt that she was feeling to grow deeper. She hadn't seen her daughter smile like that in a long, long time and to make it worse she hadn't even noticed that her daughter's smiles had lost their shine. "I-I feel that… I owe you an apology, Angel." She finally forced herself to say, her hand tightening around Buffy's as she felt her heart constricting uncomfortably in her chest at the words she now felt the need to say… even though she felt that it was too little too late right now. Angel's guarded expression turned confused; not having expected anything like that to come out of Joyce's mouth. "You have to understand that I thought that I was doing the right thing for, Buffy. That she'd be better off without you…"
Buffy lay in the bed she shared with her dream Angel; a frown darkening her brow… normally she did her best to ignore the disembodied voices that she could hear; normally it was Angel's, but she couldn't help, but feel curious when she suddenly heard her mother's voice for the first time. But what she was hearing wasn't what she had been expecting… she hadn't even realized that her mother had gone to talk to Angel… let alone about her relationship with him. From what she was hearing… it sounded like her mother's little chat with Angel had coincided very conveniently with his deciding to leave her! All it had taken was one little chat with her mother and Angel had decided to leave her…
Buffy took a deep breath trying to calm down her racing heart as tears pricked her eyes… if that was all it had taken… how much could he have really cared for her if at all if he had been so easily persuaded to leave her…
Joyce looked down in surprise as Buffy suddenly yanked her hand from her own, her words dying on her lips as she stared down at Buffy hopeful that she had woken up at long last. Only for a moment to see tears slipping out from behind her closed eyelids, before her daughter turned her back on her; a decidedly unhappy hunch to her shoulders, and the sheets moved for a small moment as Buffy tucked her knees up to her chest as if closing in on herself. Joyce felt the rejection like a slap and tears welled up in her own eyes; she reached out as if to touch her daughter wanting forgiveness, but couldn't quiet bring herself to do it for fear of a second rejection from the only daughter she had. Getting up off the chair Joyce almost fled from the bedroom.
Angel didn't even spare Joyce a glance, his entire attention focused on Buffy; a sense of exhilaration filling him. 'She could hear him!' He thought eagerly; she could hear what was being said… so all he had to do was figure out what Buffy needed to hear from him to get her to wake up. 'Isn't that what you've been trying to do all along?' Angelus asked mockingly as he tugged at the restraints that bound him beneath the soul; hoping that there would be at least enough give to allow him to slip free for even a few short moments… just long enough to make one single attempt… all he'd need was one he was certain, but as always the bonds held strong and he wouldn't be able to get out unless Angel allowed him to… something that the broody bastard wasn't likely to do.
To the demons annoyance Angel ignored him; more determined than ever to see Buffy open her eyes now that he had proof that she could hear… that she could be reached. Angel moved back towards the bed, ignoring the chair he had been sitting on before as he sat on the edge of her bed, his hand coming to rest on her shoulder. "Buffy, I'm sorry that you had to find out like that…" He murmured softly. "But you have to know that we both care about you deeply. I didn't want to leave you, but thought that it would be best for you. You know that. Buffy, you have to wake up." He told her.
"Still working hard, Chia latte?" Clarissa observed mockingly as she stepped into the room and Angel felt himself tense, having once again been surprised by someone entering Buffy's room and annoyed at the interruption; how did anyone expect him to get anywhere with all these interruptions breaking his line of thought!
Angel let out a breath slowly, to keep himself from snapping like he dearly wanted to, before he turned his head slightly to be able to see the Dreamweaver from the corner of his eye. "What do you want now?" He snarled out, his gaze following Clarissa's progress across the room as the demoness moved closer to the bed; the other side to him.
Clarissa's lips curled up into a wide smile that was smug and condescending at the same time. "I'm a demon." She murmured cockily as she reached out to touch Buffy's peacefully sleeping face. Only for Angel to grasp her wrist in a powerful grip that was painful even for a demoness; their eyes met for a long moment in a silent battle of wills, before Clarissa gave him a mock knowing look.
Her purplish eyes shining with sparks of amusement as she pulled back her hand, Angel releasing his punishing grip as she did so. "I'm revelling. Something I'm sure you know all about."
"Get out!" Angel demanded, his voice quiet but no less menacing then if he had growled it out.
"Still trying so hard," Clarissa murmured, ignoring Angel's demand quiet happily. Not feeling at all intimidated by the old vampire; despite the intense glare he was giving her and the protective/defensive position he had shifted into. It was a glare that would have sent any smart being running as fast as they could in the opposite direction, but she wasn't worried at all. "I thought that you would have given up by now. I mean that's what you do isn't it? Run away with your tail between your legs. I know it, you know it and most importantly your little lady knows it." She smirked as she looked over Angel to Buffy whose soul was getting closer and closer to being hers with every passing moment. "So, you may as well just give up."
Angel beared his teeth at Clarissa, no longer in any mood to even pretend at politeness. "There is no way. Buffy is not dying today." He all but snarled.
Clarissa shrugged nonchalantly. "Sure, maybe not today, but tomorrow for sure," She said confidently, causing Angel to growl out his disagreement. "There's no point getting angry at me. It's you who've dug your own grave over and over again." She taunted. Clarissa took a step closer to him; bending in towards him, a mocking smirk curling up her lips. "She knows everything now, Angel. Joyce's guilt helped with that." Angel's frowned changed and his expression showed the first glimmer of worry behind the anger that blanketed his expression. "And you know, for a mortal The Slayer is an extraordinary being. Their memories are hard to tamper with… even for beings that consider themselves all powerful." Clarissa's smile widened, enjoying the growing look of worry on Angel's face as he met her purplish eyes. "And she'll never forget." Clarissa laughed joyously at the sudden look of horrified understanding that took over from the angry look that had dominated his face just a moment before. "Ah, I think your beginning to understand just how hopeless your chances really are."
Clarissa gave a last laugh before to Angel's surprise she began to slowly disappear; the spell that Giles and the others had used to trap her inside the house having worn off. "Just give up, Chia Latte, it's the only thing you are good at." Her disembodied voice urged him; the laughter still in her voice. Angel swallowed thickly as he turned wide brown eyes down at Buffy who was still sleeping, her back to him. He reached out to her with a shaky hand; he touched her hair, running his hand over it. "You remembered?" He asked, his voice choking in his throat. "Why… why didn't you tell me?" Angel stared down at her, his hand still in her hair as the answer came to him almost as if she had answered him. "Because it had to be me, I had to want to make it work." Bending over her, he kissed her cheek, tears beginning to fall down his cheeks once again as it really fully hit him just how hopeless he was… he'd be lucky if she'd ever believed in him again…
Joyce held her head in her hands as she massaged her temples in an attempt to ease the headache that was pounding against her temples. She hadn't been able to sleep last night or the night before, but after she had finally worked up the courage to apologise to Angel and attempt to give her blessing where not too long ago she had condemned him; she had only succeeded in making her headache worse… the image of her daughter rejecting her still painfully fresh in her mind and made the pounding in her head pound harder. It was boarding on a migraine! She looked up dismally at the sound of a tea cup being put down on the coffee table in front of her. "Oh, Giles… thank you… but… I really don't think that I could handle anymore tea." She mumbled as she forced herself to sit up straight; having had too much tea over the past couple of days to want to have any more now. She attempted to give him a smile, not wanting to seem ungrateful for all that he had done for her since this whole horrible business had started.
Giles pushed his glasses up his nose slightly as he cleared his throat a little uncomfortably as he wondered what else he could do. "O-oh, yes… of course." He muttered uncomfortably as he picked up the tea cup that he had only just set down. Giles had only just straightened up when a knock sounded at the door. "Oh, I'll g…"
"No, I'll go." Joyce cut him off as she stood from the couch; glad for the momentary distraction; a sickening fear curling in her belly at the prospect that her daughter may never forgive her for a deed done a year past. Joyce made her way towards her front door; Giles watched her for a moment before he sighed, wishing that he didn't feel quite so helpless. Giles stepped out of the living room; his gaze went to the staircase and said a silent swift prayer that Angel would soon wake Buffy he doubted that he or Joyce could really take much more of this helpless waiting and wondering if Buffy was going to wake or die. Forcing himself to move on into the kitchen so that he could empty the tea cup he had only just made, into the sink.
Joyce opened the door and attempted to give Willow and Tara a small smile as she gazed at them. "Oh, hi Willow, Tara." She greeted as she stepped back to allow them in.
"We brought coffee… there mocha's." Willow said as she took in Joyce's saddened face and swallowed thickly. She had been hoping that Angel would have woken Buffy by now.
Joyce felt the hot prick of tears at the backs of her eyes and her lower lip trembled. "Mocha's Buffy's favourite." She gasped out her voice shaky.
Willow and Tara offered Joyce sympathetic smiles. "I know," Willow said reassuringly as she picked up one of the take away cups from the card-broad tray that the coffee place had provided. "We bought one for Buffy as well… just in case she had; you know." She trailed off a little awkwardly.
"Oh, you're very kind, Willow. I'm sure Buffy will appreciate it when she-when she…" Joyce trailed off unable to finish off the sentence as tears obstructed her throat making it almost impossible to talk.
Tara placed a hand on Willow's shoulder. "Perhaps we shouldn't have come." She murmured softly.
Willow shook her head determinedly. "No, we're Buffy's friends."
Giles took Joyce in his arms; having left the kitchen at the sound of familiar voices. His gaze landed on Willow and Tara who were both looking at Joyce with sympathy and slight guilt. "Don't you have classes today?" Giles asked, feeling uncomfortable now that he had Joyce once again crying into his chest.
"We do, we just wanted to drop by and see how things were going… so there's no change?" Willow asked and almost immediately Giles shook his head. "I know that you both care about Buffy, but you shouldn't really skip classes. Not when you can't do anything to help here."
Willow's shoulders slumped slightly, before she straightened them. "I wanted to be here… just in case… I couldn't really sleep at all last night." She admitted and Giles gaze softened.
"Well, I suppose there are less worthy reasons to skip class." He mumbled.
Willow looked around what she could see of the Summers home and frowned. "Hey, where's Clarissa? Shouldn't she be lurking around trying to make us all miserable?" She asked.
"I believe she went up to torment, Angel." Giles replied with a small frown, wondering how the ensouled vampire was handling the Dreamweaver's presence.
Willow gave Tara's hand a squeeze for courage, before she pulled away from her girlfriend. "I'm going to go up and uh, give Buffy's coffee to Angel, you know, for when she wakes up." She murmured in explanation as she made her way towards the stairs.
Angel sat up and quickly wiped at his eyes and cheeks as he heard someone coming up the stairs towards Buffy's room; not wanting to be caught crying once again. Turning towards the door just before it opened to reveal Willow in the doorway looking a little nervous as she scanned the room for the demoness that Giles had told her was in here; only to find that the only demon in the room was the vampire that was staring at her with curious eyes; eyes that looked strangely bloodshot. "Uh, sorry to interrupt," Willow apologised as she stepped into the room. "Giles said that that Dreamweaver was in here?" She murmured questioningly.
Angel swallowed as he collected his thoughts, his throat feeling dry and thick. "Uh, the binding spell wore off and she popped out." He explained.
"Oh," Willow muttered with a frown; she hadn't realized that there was a time limit on the binding.
"I wouldn't worry though. I'm pretty sure that she'll be back. She's having too much fun with me to stay away for too long."
Willow nodded and a slightly strained silence fell upon them until the red head remembered the actual reason she had wanted to come up here. "I uh, brought Buffy a mocha. Her favourite… I thought. She might like it when she wakes up." She explained as she walked towards where Angel was seated. Placing the still hot take away cup on the nightstand, she turned back to Angel and hesitated a moment as she stared at him. "You'll be able to do it, Angel. Buffy loves you. She'll wake up for you. We all know it." She encouraged as she wrung her hands in front of her a little nervously. She patted a hand awkwardly on his shoulder and moved on; heading back towards the door.
Angel watched her walk away the smell of the still mostly warm mocha latte filling his nose. Willow didn't look back as she walked through the door and made her way quickly down the hall where he could sense the others in the house as they congregated in the living room. He turned his gaze from the door to focus his full attention on Buffy once again; fresh determination setting in as he gazed at Buffy's sleeping form once again. Angel took a deep breath as he took a better grip on Buffy's small hand; his expression deadly serious as he stared at the back of her head as she still lay with her back to him; the firm rejection clear just as it had been when she had suddenly rolled over as her mother had apologised… he took another deep breath as he gathered his thoughts. He knew what he needed to say now; all he had to do was figure out how to put it into words. Unfortunately when it came to his feelings he always seemed to have a little trouble communicating them properly.
Angelus snorted. 'That's for damned sure! When this doesn't work, you better let me out for a go!' He demanded restlessly.
Angel looked up at the curtain covering the window and knew that half of the day had already gone by. 'Deal.' He agreed out of desperation, the last thing he wanted was to let his demon loose, but he was running out of time and as time was running out he found that the idea of losing Buffy far more repellent than letting Angelus out for a few hours.
Angel tuned out his demons almost giddy response to the possibility of getting out and he just knew that now he was hoping that he would fail; despite not wanting Buffy to die. "Buffy," Angel began for what he hoped would be his last and successful attempt at waking her from her preternaturally induced sleep. "I know that I have made few… a lot of mistakes. Mistakes that have hurt you and have made you believe that I stopped caring. But I've never stopped caring about you." Angel tightened his hold on her hand, wishing that she would turn around; acknowledge that he was there, but for now she remained still. "From the moment I first laid eyes on you it's been you, Buffy."
Buffy placed a hand to her forehead as she once again heard Angel's disembodied voice haunted her once again; distracting her from the conversation she was having with her friends. Friends who didn't have clear faces as they all sat together in one of their living rooms; Buffy glanced over at Angel who was sitting beside her on the couch talking to their friends. 'Please, just leave me alone.' Buffy thought a little desperately, but her silent prayer went unanswered as his disembodied voice continued to assault her ears, making it impossible for her to enjoy her friends company; enjoy the fact that her friends were their friends… and that they were all getting along so well. Getting up off the couch in a sudden movement that drew everyone's gaze. "Buffy, what's wrong?" Her dream Angel asked a concerned look on his face.
"Uh, yeah. I just need to use the bathroom." She excused herself before she hurried away from her friends and into the bathroom.
Buffy closed the door to the bathroom firmly shut behind her and she took a deep breath, wishing that Angel's voice would leave her alone. Leave her alone to just enjoy this dream life where she was finally experiencing happiness, but he seemed determined to spoil it for her!
"I know that you're happy in there Buffy and that you probably don't want to leave it." Angel continued and hope began to swell in his chest once again as Buffy turned onto her back a restless frown darkening her brow. "But you are a fighter! You don't give up just because things are hard or painful! You stand up with your head held high and fight." Buffy tossed her head and a small whimper escaped her and Angel leaned in closer to her. "Giving up isn't in your nature, Buffy. You and I both know it, just like we both know that you can never be completely happy in a world that you know isn't real."
Buffy wiped at her eyes as tears fell from them as she sat on the bathroom floor, Angel's voice continuing to speak to her, continuing to urge her to leave this place behind to join him… and this time round she couldn't help believing what he was saying. He wasn't just asking her to come home, he was telling her things that she knew deep down in herself. 'She'd never be completely happy in a place that wasn't real… but damn it all she wished that she could be!' Knowing that though didn't make her all that eager to leave… what did she have in the world that she had left behind? Damned close to nothing but pain!
"I'm not going to promise you anything, Buffy. Because you and I both know that promises aren't my strong suit and I've broken too many of them for you to believe any promise I'd make you now, but I swear I'll get your trust back I don't care how long it takes me." He swore a small smile curling up his lips as he saw Buffy's body shift restlessly and for a moment she attempted to roll back over onto her side only to settle back down onto her back making him believe that she might just be interested in what he saying. "I need you to wake up, baby. I need to know that I haven't messed things up for us forever. I know I don't deserve it, but I want one last chance to show you that I do love you…"
At that moment there was a flash and an infuriated scream filled the room drawing Angel's gaze from the love of his life to Clarissa who stood looking at them a fury in her sparkling purple eyes. "You! Just what do you think you're doing!" She snarled as she gnashed her teeth at him. Feeling her power over The Slayer dwindling. "Why couldn't you just leave things as they were? She is never going to trust you again!" Clarissa raged just as the door to Buffy's bedroom flew open to reveal Giles, Willow, Tara and Joyce all of them having been drawn by the infuriated scream of the demoness.
Angel paid them no mind however as he turned back to Buffy, Clarissa's anger giving him an urgent hope that he was very close to succeeding meaning that he was on the right track, he just had to keep talking! "Come on, Buffy. Just one last chance, is that really too much to ask for a chance of happiness for the both of us. Because I know that nothing would make me happier then to have a life with you. You've taught me so much Buffy in the short amount of time that I've known you and I wish that there was a better way for me to repay you for that…"
"No!" Clarissa snarled and moved to take a step towards the bed only to have Giles, Willow and Tara come to stand in her way; determined expressions on their faces whilst Joyce feeling helpless stood in the doorway still quivering her eyes going from the demoness who was threatening her daughter's life to Angel and Buffy, wanting desperately for Angel to succeed now before the Dreamweaver could cause any more harm to her daughter. "Oh, and just what do you think that you could do to me? A washed up old Watcher who's been fired?"
"And two kick ass witches!" Willow proclaimed with more confidence then she felt; Tara's presence boosting her confidence in her abilities. Clarissa snarled, but paused her purple eyes flashing angrily as she glared from one to the other not wanting to be bound again as much as she enjoyed tormenting people she loved her powers far more and more than ever she wondered how Anyanka could stand being mortal! It was so constricting!
"But all I can do is give you my body, my soul and my heart. I know it's not much, but their all yours as they've always been. Just wake up and let me prove it to you." Angel urged; willing to give up anything just to have her back.
"Perhaps you should keep your soul." Buffy murmured quietly; her voice slightly hoarse from lack of use, before she slowly blinked her eyes open. It didn't matter how soft her voice had been it still caught everyone's attention and every gaze turned to her in delight; all except for Clarissa who was glaring at her in annoyance, not at all pleased to be losing The Slayer's soul especially after being so close to having it in her possession.
Buffy met Angel's gaze as she continued to lie still for a moment, getting her bearings after being so long asleep her body felt lethargic and a little weak. She didn't hold Angel's happy warm gaze for long, not overly sure what to believe now that she had woken up from the pleasantness of her dream, or what to expect. She sat up and immediately felt Angel's hand at her back as if to help prop her up.
Clarissa crossed her arms over her chest. "You'll regret waking up. I promise you that!" Clarissa snarled; giving everyone in the room a withering look that promised her vengeful wrath, before she disappeared as quickly as she had returned unwilling to stick around whilst the mortals crowed over her defeat!
Buffy ran a hand over her hair. "So, that was the demon, huh." She asked as she tossed the blankets off of her and got to her feet. Her movement seemed to break the stillness that had taken over her room the moment she had suddenly spoken after so long. Her eyes widened as Willow and her mother dashed over to her and the next thing she knew she was enveloped in a tangle of arms and she felt the wetness of tears as her mother stared sobbing once again and nonsensical sounds left her mother's mouth as she tried to talk through her sobs. Buffy wrapped her arms around her mother and Willow as best she could.
"You had us really worried, Buffy." Willow said tearfully.
"I'm sorry." Buffy apologised self-consciously. "I didn't mean to worry anyone."
"What did you think would happen when you wouldn't wake up?" Willow demanded accusingly and Buffy's shoulders slumped already wishing that she was still asleep; visiting the friends she'd shared with Angel. Willow gave herself a shake and gave Buffy a smile. "Forget it, I'm just glad that you're back and ok."
Buffy returned Willow's smile gratefully, her happy dream life was still a little too fresh in her mind for her to want to get into it. Especially when she had no idea what to expect now that she was awake and back in the world where she had been so… unhappy. Buffy's gaze moved past Willow's to land on Giles who was standing where he had been before looking at her with a grateful look on his face… and was dabbing at what suspiciously looked like tears from his eyes. She gave him a smile and felt tears prick at her own eyes as he turned towards the window and dabbed more determinedly at his eyes; in the most discreet way he could when the tears were leaking so quickly from his eyes. Buffy's gaze was drawn to Angel from where he stood watching her from beside her bed; a warm look in his eyes that she hadn't seen in real life for far too long… but she wasn't sure whether she believed it or not. She knew what Angel had said… she remembered everything… but she didn't know what she could believe!
They're gazes only met for a moment as in that moment his phone began ringing loudly. Angel reluctantly broke their locked gaze; the vulnerability and uncertainty in their hazel depths hurting him deeply, but he deserved it… he'd hurt her far more over the years… digging his phone out of pocket he looked at the caller ID hoping that he would be able to ignore it, but it was doubtful. The only people who had his mobile number were his team at AI. Seeing Cordelia's name, he sighed and turned his gaze back up to Buffy, hoping that he could convey his intentions through his eyes. "I have to take this." He said apologetically, before he turned and walked towards Buffy's bedroom door; pulling out the phone's antae as he went. Buffy turned her gaze away from him, trying to fight back the devastation that was hitting her hard. She should have known that nothing was going to change between them. He had a life in Los Angeles… a life that didn't include her… a life he didn't want her included in!
At that moment Buffy's stomach grumbled loudly, and Joyce's sobs turned to hiccupping laughs as she pulled back from her daughter. "I'll go prepare some food… Ooh I also need to go shopping." She declared as she wiped at her eyes. "We need to celebrate!"
Willow nodded her agreement. "I'll call Xander a little later and invite him over. He'll want to hear the news."
Giles cleared his throat. "I'll uh, help with the food." He offered as he followed Joyce towards the door. "Would you like me to prepare a pot of tea?" He asked Joyce as they walked out the door headed for the kitchen.
Willow turned her gaze from the door once Giles shut it behind him. "I uh, bought you a mocha latte… but it's probably cold by now." She told Buffy as she gestured towards the take away coffee mug that had remained untouched since she had set it down on the nightstand.
"Well, the thought is what counts." Buffy murmured tonelessly as she sat down with an ungraceful flop onto the bed she had spent the last couple of days in.
Willow gave Buffy a concerned look and sat down beside her on the edge of the bed. "Did you want to talk about it?" She asked out of concern as well as undeniable curiousness at just what Buffy's perfectly happy life had been like.
Buffy shook her head as she looked at her fingers as they plucked uselessly at a loose thread of the blanket. "Maybe one day, but not today." She muttered, much to Willow's disappointment.
Angel frowned as he listened to Cordelia's voice; doing his best to bite back the rising annoyance the brunette was inspiring in him. "Do you mean to tell me," He began as he massaged his eyes gently with two fingers. "That this was the only reason that you were calling me?"
"Well, excuse me, Mr. Broody-Pants for being worried about you." Cordelia grouched. "You've been gone for a couple of days and it doesn't take a genius to know that you plus Buffy equals all kinds of badness!" Angel rubbed at his eyes harder, in no mood to be listening to this, not with Buffy in her room believing that he was going to hurt her again. "So, what exactly is going on in old Sunnyhell, the way Giles was acting you'd think something huge was going on down there?" Angel heard the sound of a chair almost falling over as Cordelia suddenly jumped to her feet. "You aren't staying to help fight some kind of icky apocalypse, are you?! Cause whatever it is I'm sure Buffy can handle it."
"You can relax, there was no apocalypse and the crisis has been averted," He assured Cordelia. 'For now.' He tacked on in his mind, almost certain that they hadn't seen the last of Clarissa… not by a long shot. He very much doubted that the Dreamweaver would be satisfied until she'd managed to sooth her wounded pride.
"Great!" Cordelia exclaimed brightly, making Angel pull the phone away from his ear for a moment to lessen the decibels of her voice. "That means you can apologise like you intended to do in the first place, if you haven't already and come on back." She rattled off quickly.
"Cordelia, I don't know when I'll be back. I've got a few things to work out here. I'll talk to you when I can." He said into the phone, before quickly hanging up, before Cordelia could get in another word and headed back towards Buffy's bedroom.
Cordelia frowned at the phone in her hand, before letting out a huff as she to hung up. "Ooh, I'm gonna be out of a job for sure this time! Damn that Angel and that Buffy too! Can't at least one of them think about me for a change! What the hell am I supposed to do without this job! Fighting demons doesn't exactly look good on a resume!" She grouched as she crossed her arms over her chest a deep scowl darkening her brow.
Buffy and Willow looked over at the door as it opened once again and Angel stepped in and immediately Willow stood up a slightly embarrassed expression on her face as she looked from the solemn looking Buffy to the quietly determined looking Angel. "I'll just uh, leave you guys alone." She murmured and headed for the door herself; offering Angel a small self-conscious smile as she walked by him. Buffy stood up from the bed and stepped towards the window; highly aware of Angel's gaze following her as she did so. Not even a moment later the sound of the door closing behind Willow echoed through the room. Buffy took a deep breath as a shiver ran up her spine as she felt Angel moving closer to her. She held her breath for a short moment, trying to build her courage for a moment before she released it slowly. "So, when are you going back to L.A?" She asked, the words threatening to stick in her throat.
Angel went to reach to touch her shoulders, but hesitated half way and lost the courage to touch her like he wanted to. "I'm not sure." Buffy's shoulders slummed and she squeezed her eyes tightly shut. 'Chin up girl. You knew that this was going to happen. Just smile and wave goodbye.' Buffy told herself firmly. "I thought that I'd stick around for a while…"
Buffy frowned slightly and slowly turned away from the window she had been looking out of. Her gaze landing on Angel's chest as she worked up the courage to look him in the face. "What do you want from me Angel? I mean you made it pretty clear that you didn't really want me around anymore… then you come back to town and say all these things…"
"Actually I was on my way here when Giles called and told me what was going on."
Buffy's look turned uncertain, not having expected to hear that from him; especially after their last meeting. "Y-You were?" She asked, her tongue flicking out over her lips a little nervously; hating just how out of place and uncertain she felt standing in front of him, when once she had felt nothing but at ease when she was with him.
"Yeah," Angel replied. "I wanted to apologise for the way I treated you in L.A." He explained, clenching his hands into fists to keep himself from reaching out to touch her once again. Something he was burning to do with her looking so vulnerable and uncertain as she was.
"Oh," Buffy mumbled as she tucked some hair behind her head. "Well, I'm sorry that you got dragged into my problems." She apologised a blush staining her cheeks.
Angel shook his head. "No, don't be. I was happy to help. In fact… I'm kinda glad it happened. Not the you almost dying part, but it made me realize something very important."
"What was that?" Buffy asked cautiously, hoping despite what past experience had taught her, that this time she would get her happy ending.
"That no matter what I want to be with you. Life is too short to waste on fear." Angel took Buffy's hands in his own. Turning her hands palm up, he kissed each of her palms softly. "And I almost wasn't there for you. I wouldn't have been able to forgive myself if you," Angel swallowed thickly hating even tasting the word in his mouth in regards to his sweet little Buffy. "Died and I wasn't here by your side."
Buffy swallowed thickly as she looked down at their joined hands; her palms tingling pleasantly where his lips had touched them ever so softly. "Angel, I…" Buffy choked out through her tear thick throat; the treacherous tears beginning to fall from her eyes and down her cheeks.
Angel scented her tears and released her hands to cup her face. "Shh, love. Don't cry." He soothed as he wiped away her tears with his thumbs. "I'll find a way to make this work, no matter what it takes." He assured her. Buffy looked up at him her eyes wide and slightly wet from the tears; Angel brushed a last one away as he leaned down and pressed his lips to hers, hoping to convey his feelings and hopes for the future in that one kiss.
After an extended moment they broke apart and Buffy flicked her tongue over her lips; savouring the taste of him. The real taste of him on her lips for the first time in too long! 'Oh, Angel.' She thought a little desperately as she felt tears of hope and uncertainty prick at the backs of her eyes once again. "You better not be lying to me." She murmured. "Or I'll kill you myself." She grumbled without any real heat behind the words.
"Sounds fair." Angel murmured without hesitation; knowing what the true meaning of her words were. This was his last stand, if he left her again… she would lose all faith in him and never again would he be allowed to walk by her side. Something he wasn't planning to let happen, no matter what he had to do to regain her faith in him; in them… and achieve his sanshu so that he could have the life with Buffy she deserved. One where he didn't have to worry about watching her grow old without him. Buffy smiled up at him for the first time in what felt like forever as she felt a sense of hope for the future for the first time since she'd left him in L.A.
A/N: Ok, well that is the final chapter of this little fic. I hope that you enjoyed the ride as much as I did. I know that I've left the ending a little open, but there is a chance for a sequel in the muses complicated grape vine of branching ideas. I hope you all enjoyed.