DISCLAIMER: The Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel characters are the property of Mutant Enemy, Joss Whedon, Lazy Dave, Kuzui, and Fox Studios. The story contents are the creation and property of Djinn and are copyright (c) 2010 by Djinn. This story is Rated PG-13.

 Something Worth Living For

by Djinn

 

 

When Angel was a vampire, he thought seeing the sun would be a beautiful thing, thought that it would make him feel warm and safe, like it had in Pylea.  But now that he's human, the sun is too bright and he's squinting as he walks down the street, trying to find his way without vampire hearing.  He can't hear heartbeats anymore--except his own.  That, too, was supposed to be comforting, his heart going rump-a-pum-pum like the little drummer boy, but it's beating so hard and so fast that he wishes it would just stop.

 

Not stop forever, but stop for a moment.  While he catches his breath.  Breath...so strange.  In and out, something he didn't need to do for so long.  His body does it for him, inhale and exhale.  He breathes hard when he runs; he coughs when he swallows water too fast and some of it goes down the wrong pipe.

 

Water--he is intimately reminded of how much of his body is water.  He pees, all the time it feels like.  Drink water because he's thirsty, pee it out a while later.  And he sweats.  Like now, with the sun growing hotter as the day goes on, beating on him.  Where his collar meets his neck, he's sweating.  Under his arms, his forehead, his feet in his shoes, all sweaty.

 

Being human is so...immediate.  Also a little bit messy.

 

So this is it.  The prize at the end of the rainbow.  The reward for fighting the good fight.  Shanshu and then some.   So what the hell is he supposed to do now?

 

What is his purpose now that his destiny is complete?

 

He walks, eyes pressed mostly shut in a too bright world.  He walks and hopes there's a reason he picked this road, this direction, this day.

 

---------------

 

Buffy leans back and tries to ignore Giles as he watches her in that way he has, the way that assesses her.  She's still in one piece, still among the living, still wisecracking--or she was until a few minutes ago.  Suddenly, she's tired, and he's tired, and they've fought too many damn demons today for any words to be necessary.

 

He hands her a glass of whiskey--she's learned to drink it, has never learned to love it, though--and she curls into his couch and watches him throw back his drink.


"What now?" she asks softly.

 

"Sleep.  Eat.  Fight more."  He's a lot more terse than he was back in Sunnydale.  Back when she was still young and he wasn't as old.

 

Back when there was a reason to hope, a reason to fight.

 

She closes her eyes and sips at the booze.  She can't let Giles see that she's feeling this way.  He knows how tired she is, but he mustn't know that she might like to just let go and sink.

 

Her phone rings; the ringtone is Willow's.  She lets it go to voicemail.  If it's trouble, Willow will call Giles.  Old habits die hard.

 

"Buffy?"  Giles' tone says it all.

 

"I'm just tired.  I don't have the energy tonight."

 

He stands and lays his hand on her shoulder then says, "I'm turning in."

 

She looks up at him, murmurs, "I'll let myself out." 


She sits in the quiet of his apartment, drinking her whiskey, wondering why she still fights.

 

-------------------

 

The dark's scary.  Angel used to live in this night, used to be safe only when the sun was down, but now he's nervous, and he glances behind him to make sure nothing is following him.

 

As a vampire, he would have known if something was following him, would have smelled/heard/sensed it.  Now--now he's like a baby again.  Defenseless.

 

Well, maybe not that bad.  But weak.  Definitely not the warrior he was.

 

"What have we here?"  The voice is nasal, the smell that of the grave.  Even as a human, Angel can smell the corpse-like stench of a recently risen vamp.

 

"Not now, buddy," he says, and he clutches the sharp piece of wood he found, that he's been holding tightly to ever since the sun set.

 

"I said, what have we--"

 

He goes up in a poof of dust, and Angel is still standing there wondering if he would have had the strength to hit the heart--had he been allowed to take the shot.

 

"Okay, that must seem weird, but you'll be fine and--"


Her voice.  Her voice.

 

There is a reason he came this way; there is a reason he finally ventured out today.

 

"Angel?"

 

"Buffy."  He holds out the stake, sees her confusion at the way he's moving.  He knows he's slower, that she can tell something is different.  "I was ready for him."


Because of course that's just what you want to say to the woman you love, that you've never stopped loving no matter who else came along.  The woman you hope to God is still in love with you.  You tell her you were ready to take down some vamp she's already killed.

 

She moves closer.  "Angel, what's happened?"

 

She doesn't remember, of course.  Can't possibly remember the time he was human and she was his lover.  When they stayed in bed all morning and ate food and made love and laughed and cried and talked and touched.

 

She can't remember, and he tries to push the hurt away, because he knows it's not fair to blame her.  They took the memories from her; it never happened for her.


Still, he wishes she could remember what they lost.  What maybe, just maybe, they could rediscover.

 

"I'm human."


She studies him, and he notices the lines under her eyes.  Life's been hard for her in the years since he's seen her.  Fighting all the time will age you, especially when you're alone.


And he knows in his gut, in a sense that belongs to Angel the lover, not Angel the vampire, or Angel the human, that this woman, this girl, this slayer is alone.

 

She is not with anyone.  She is not in love with someone else.  She's not cookie dough.


She's done.


And she's here.  And he's here.  They're here together, when together can really mean that.

 

"I'm human," he says again, and he smiles, and his smile grows as he sees her process this idea, as he watches her face light up, and her eyes turn from something dull and hopeless into the bright things he remembers.

 

She is beautiful, this slayer he adores.  She is everything he has ever wanted.

 

And finally, finally, she is his.

 

"I've missed you," he says as she closes the distance and kisses him.

 

------------------

 

She supposes they are lucky they made it to her apartment alive, that some vamp didn't jump them.  They never let go of each other, never stopped kissing.  Her Angel is here, is human, is alive, and has missed her.

 

Her Angel is finally her Angel.

 

She locks the door, and they don't talk as they rip off each other's clothes, as they fall into her bed and make love, and she worries for a second about the curse, that maybe he'll revert if he's happy, but he's laughing, and she decides she'll worry about the curse later.

 

And he doesn't turn back into a vampire.  Angelus is nowhere in sight.  Not the first time she makes him perfectly happy.


And not the next.


She quits worrying about it by the third time.

 

"Angel," is all she can say.  "Angel" and "Angel" and "Angel."  She breathes his name over his chest, into his ear, onto his neck.  She is smiling so much that muscles in her cheek twinge at the unexpected workout.

 

It's been so long since she was happy.  It's been so very long.

 

"I've missed you," she says to him, and he nods and pulls her back to him, and after they both get to be happy again, they fall asleep in each other's arms.

 

She wakes to find the sun bathing him, his skin warm and human, not burning up in the light that would have killed him before.  He stirs and smiles, and she realizes his eyes are beautiful in the sunshine, his hair shines with red highlights she's never noticed, and he has freckles on his nose.

 

"I love you," she says as he pulls her down to him.

 

"I love you, too."

 

There is nothing more to say until they both realize they are starving.

 

--------------

 

Angel almost forgets to eat as he watches Buffy.  She is laughing at something he said, and she throws back her head, and her eyes are dancing, and she looks young again, his girl, his lovely, vibrant girl.  He smiles as she teases him, and he digs into his pancakes because they taste good, and because maple syrup is a revelation. 

 

He sips at his orange juice and nearly spits it out.  The revelation ends when maple syrup and orange juice mix.

 

She laughs at his face, and he reaches for her hand and holds it, smiling like an idiot as the orange juice fights the maple syrup all the way to his stomach.


Stomachs are wonderful; food sliding down his gullet is wonderful.  Sitting here with the woman he loves, near a window with bright sunshine streaming in, eating food that will soon be in his stomach is wonderful.


There is not much that isn't wonderful, and this is so unexpected he has to swallow extra hard to get past the lump that appears in his throat.

 

"I'm so happy," Buffy says, and she looks it, she practically glows. 

 

He grins.  "I plan to make you happier."

 

"Really?  And how do you plan to do that?"  She is grinning, too.  A suggestive and utterly sexy grin.

 

"I plan to keep you in bed until--"

 

Until what?  Until the sun goes down and she has to go out and slay?  Until...


"What?"  She leans forward, following his expression perfectly as he goes from happy to worried in record time.

 

"You still slay."

 

"I am the slayer, ergo..."  She gives him a crooked half-smile.

 

"I'm not...I'm not super powered."

 

"No, you're human."  She frowns, lines on her forehead showing up that remind him they've lost so much time.  "And you're done fighting, isn't that what you said?  Turning human meant you were done?"

 

It means no more is expected of him, so he supposes it means he's done, but it obviously doesn't mean she's done, and he hates that.

 

She looks down, her smile rueful.  "Angel, I am what I am.  I fight.  You don't have to."

 

"I can't just sit home..."  He takes a deep breath. 

 

"Then don't."  She studies him.  "Giles fights.  Xander fights.  Even Andrew fights.  I think you can, too.  If you don't mind working for your victories."

 

She doesn't remember how bad at this he is when he's not a vampire.  She can't possibly remember.

 

Wait...Andrew fights?

 

"You can give me tips," he says.

 

"Sure."  She has gone back to her pancakes, the lines smoothing as she smiles at him. 

 

She's not worried.  She's not worried about him.

 

"We'll fight together," he says, trying the idea on for size.

 

"You'll probably fight just a little bit behind me."  She winks at him.  "I won't hold it against you."

 

And he sees that she won't.  And for one moment, he rebels at the thought.

 

Then he feels her hand on his, sees her brilliant smile.

 

"One day at a time," he says, and he thinks maybe he can do this.  He remembers teaching Cordy to fight.  Remembers how Wesley went from a bumbling idiot to someone who could be counted on.

 

A dead someone who could be counted on. 


But still, a bad ass for a time.

 

"What are you thinking about?"  She is laughing at him, at the expression on his face probably.

 

"The past.  Our future."


It's the right answer.

 

They order more bacon and sit drinking coffee for hours.

 

-----------------

 

Buffy takes Angel's hand as she knocks on Giles' door.  Giles opens it and stares at Angel, surprise and very little welcome on his face.

 

"He's human," she says, which is a major duh statement because it's a very sunny day and Angel's not going up in smoke as he waits in the sunlight.

 

"Oh.  Well.  My."

 

"Articulate as ever.  Can we come in?"


For a moment, a shadow passes Giles' face.  She can follow his logic and steps across the threshold just to show him she can.  "Human, Giles.  Fully human.  Don't need an invite, but it would be the polite thing..."

 

"Of course.  Come in."  He moves aside.  "Angel, I heard you were..."


She glances at him.  He heard what?  He never told her jack about what he heard.

 

"That is...uh."

 

Angel nods.  "It's pretty strange.  The prophecy."


"Ah, the Shanshu, of course.  I admit, I'd somewhat discounted that.  And I know Spike thought--"  He stops talking probably because both she and Angel are glaring at him.

 

"Spike was wrong," Angel says and there is anger and bitterness and just a touch of betrayal in his voice.


"Well, quite, since here you stand, living and breathing.  But I wonder: could the prophecy have worked on both of you?"

 

"Spike's in Ecuador.  And he's still a vampire, or was the last time he called...which was yesterday."  Buffy tries not to flinch from the twin looks she is getting.  "He and I talk every now and then, and yesterday morning was one of the nows.  Get over it."  She would like to put a piece of furniture between herself and two of the founding members of the "I hate Spike" club.

 

If Xander were here, they'd have quorum.  Then again, the "I hate Angel" club might also be in session, so probably best that Xander isn't here.

 

"Are you hungry?   Can I offer you anything?"  Giles has remembered his manners finally.

 

"No, we ate once we woke up."  Angel blushes, deeply.  It's charming and funny, and Buffy moves closer to him, since she knows Giles won't be happy about this.

 

He meets her eyes.  She doesn't look away.  What they have--she's never considered him a lover, even if they have had sex.  They've turned to each other when they needed something to hold on to, when they needed to drown pain and exhaustion, when there didn't seem to be a reason to go on and reaching out was the only thing left.

 

They never talk about it.  They never analyze it.  He says he's going to bed and she either joins him or she doesn't.

 

Usually she doesn't.

 

Now...now she won't for sure.  And she sees this knowledge written on his face, and she knows Angel is watching them, and he's too smart not to get it.

 

He doesn't say anything, just moves a little closer to her, like he can't help himself, has to lay claim.

 

"He's back.  Angel's back."  She can hear the hope in her voice, the apology to Giles in her voice. 

 

And Giles smiles at her, his eyes a little sad, but he reaches out and touches her cheek.  "I'm so happy for you, Buffy." 


And he almost sounds like he means it.  She knows he means to give her his approval, even if it hurts him.

 

"Welcome back, Angel."  He claps Angel on the shoulder.  Really, really hard.

 

She hears Angel let out a "woof," and he tries to return the favor, but Giles is already moving to the kitchen. 

 

"Well, this calls for a drink, don't you think?"

 

"We like whiskey," she tells Angel, even though she doesn't like it, but she's thinks it's important to have something left with Giles that is theirs.

 

"I like whiskey."  He frowns.  "Actually, I used to like it way, way too much.  You have any pop, Giles?  Or water's good."

 

Giles brings him a pop, hands her a whiskey and clinks her glass with his, then clinks Angel's glass.  "To returning friends."

 

She knows Angel isn't his friend, blesses him for trying.

 

"To those who never left," Angel says, and his smile is an apology and a thank you, and she feels something inside her melt.

 

He's back.  Angel's back.  This will be awkward for a while, but it'll work out.

 

--------------------

 

Angel watches Buffy and Giles as they fight off some vamps.  He's behind them, doing his part, and paying for it with every punch, every kick.  He stakes one for their half dozen.


When did Giles become super librarian?  This is just embarrassing.

 

The next day, when Buffy and Giles are doing research, Angel wanders around town, checking out the gyms.  He sees one with the kind of men he's looking for.   Not the 'roid rangers--the body builders who couldn't fight if their sleekly oiled lives depended on it--but tough, mixed martial arts type guys.  They look like they could kill someone with a look.


That's what he wants.

 

"You need something?" the owner asks, his tone surly, clearly not interested in the answer as Angel walks up.

 

This is a test, Angel realizes.  This is probably the moment ninety percent of the potential customers ask for a brochure, then flee.

 

"I want to learn how to fight."  Not that he doesn't know how to fight now, but he learned everything when he was a lot stronger and a lot faster and pretty much invulnerable.  He needs to learn to fight as a human.


He needs to start over.

 

"I've had some training.  Mostly sloppy probably.  I want to do it right this time."

 

The owner nods, calls out to two guys sparring on a mat, "Dan, Henry, let's see what the new guy's got."

 

The two step back and Angel tries to not swallow hard.  They don't look tough; they look lethal.

 

"I'm out of shape," he says as he strips off his shirt--he doesn't have that many shirts, and he doesn't want to explain to Buffy why it's got blood on it when it didn't this morning.  His pants are black, loose enough to move in, those he won't worry about blood showing.

 

"You don't look outta shape," Dan or Henry says as the other one backs off.

 

"Looks can be deceiving."  Like some mild-mannered Englishman sleeping with your woman--what the hell was that all about?  Even if Buffy wasn't Angel's woman when it happened.  Isn't Giles supposed to be like a father to her?

 

"I'm Dan," the man says.  "I'm gonna kick your ass, but then I'm gonna teach you how to kick mine."  He smiles.  It's not a nice look.  "If you can tough it out here and last awhile, and that's never a given."

 

"Okay.  My name's Angel."

 

Dan has him on his back in two seconds.  Dan hits him more times in the next two minutes than Angel thinks possible.  For a moment, the thinks this is hopeless.

 

Then he imagines Giles taking off his glasses, polishing them with that damned handkerchief, and saying, "She's really quite good, Angel.  How strange that we've shared her."

 

He meets Dan's punch this time, uses the man's momentum against him.  Dan doesn't go down, but his punch doesn't connect, and he ends up on the far side of the mat.


"Well, looks like we might have a fighter here after all."  Dan looks over at the owner.  "I can work with this."  He is smiling in what has to be delight. 

 

Dan's proud of him?

 

Angel grins, can feel himself standing taller.


Librarians of the world beware.

 

----------------------

 

Buffy hands Giles a crystal and watches as he works the spell Willow sent them.  Once he finishes, she says, "Angel's training, at Maurice's."

 

"He has gotten better."

 

"Yeah.  He's pretty determined.  Keeps saying it won't be like last time--I'm not really sure what that means."

 

"I'm sure I don't know."  Giles sounds more distracted than peeved.  He hasn't said a word about the arrangement they had, or how it ended the moment Angel came back.

 

She'd ask him if they're okay, only she doesn't have to.  They are.  Giles loves her in so many ways, has been her partner for so long in so many things--sex was just one of them.  Walking away from that does not mean walking away from everything else they have.

 

Although she's smart enough to know that what he cedes to Angel he'd probably stake Spike over.  His benevolence does have limits.

 

"You're happy?"  His voice is low, very casual, as if he hasn't just asked such a big question.

 

"Do I not look happy?"

 

"You look much the same."  He grins wryly at her.  "When Angel's in the room, then yes, you do tend to glow a little."

 

"Is being glowy a bad?"

 

He sighs, meets her eyes.  His are very gentle.  "You being happy is never a bad thing, Buffy.  I care for you too much to deny you that.  And frankly, I worry less when you're happy."

 

"I know."  She worries less, too.

 

He puts down what he's working on.  "I know that what we had...it wasn't about being happy.  It was about survival."


She can almost hear the "For you" unsaid in this words.  Does he love her?  In a way beyond all the other ways he's loved her over the years?

 

Then he smiles, and his smile is real, and his eyes are soft.  "This is good. This is right.  This is a...reward that you deserve beyond anyone I know.  Be happy, Buffy.  Be happy for as long as you can.  So few of us get that."

 

She thinks of Jenny.  He's had women since, but she doesn't think he's ever allowed himself to love them.  Jenny was his once in a lifetime.

 

And Buffy's once in a lifetime killed her.

 

Awkward does not begin to cover this.

 

Giles takes a deep breath, then hands her a book.  "Ready for research?"  His eyes are untroubled, his smile easy.

 

He's either fine with this or a better actor than she ever suspected.

 

------------------

 

Angel waves at Maurice as he comes in the gym.

 

"Angel, come here a sec."

 

He walks over to the counter.

 

"Listen, Henry's moving back to Jersey.  You need a job or anything?  I could use another instructor, and Dan's got nothing but good to say about you."

 

"Seriously?  You'd give me a job?"

 

"I just said that, didn't I?"

 

"My own locker and everything."

 

"You have a locker now."

 

"But you'd give me a staff locker?"  He smiles.  It's been so long since anything felt like his.

 

"They look just like the regular ones."

 

"Maurice, do not rain on my parade.  I'd be honored to teach here."

 

"Kid, sometimes I think you're from another century."  Maurice reaches into a drawer, hands him a stack of papers.  "Fill these out and we'll get you on the rolls."

 

As Angel walks away, Maurice said, "Angel?"

 

He turns.

 

"I didn't think you'd make it.  I had you marked as a soft, spoiled rich brat."

 

"I used to be that.  It was a lifetime ago, though.  That other century you mentioned."  Angel grins as Maurice waves him off, then he takes the paperwork to the training tables in the back.

 

Dan comes out from the changing room.  "Taking Henry's place?"

 

"Yeah.  If you had anything to do with that, thanks."

 

"You're a natural.  And I don't say that lightly."  Dan claps him on the shoulder.  "Just don't forget who's the top instructor around here."

 

Angel laughs. "We'll see how long that lasts."

 

Dan claps him harder on the shoulder, and Angel laughs again.

 

He breathes in the smell of old wood and chalk, of mats and sweat.  Home now.  His home.  Or one of them.

 

His life is beginning to be something that he's actually living.  He likes that.  A lot.

 

-----------------

 

It's still a treat to walk with Angel in the light of day.  They're at the park, walking through gardens that should probably bore them, but she's not bored and she can tell he's not, either.  He's laughing as he tells her about the little old lady who tried to enroll at the gym, how Dan took pity on her and taught her a few self defense skills on the house.

 

"Why'd she want to join up?"

 

"Friend of hers was mugged on the way to deposit her social security check."  He shakes his head.  "It's not right."

 

"No, it's not."  But it also isn't otherworldly evil, and that's what Buffy fights.  If she sees a mugging, then hell yes, she'll stop it.  But usually little old ladies aren't depositing their checks in the cemetery at midnight.

 

"I'm thinking..."  He looks down, then meets her eyes.  "I'm thinking of organizing something.  Like...a little old ladies safe-day out."

 

She bites back a chuckle.

 

"Maurice is willing to let me try.  The day their checks come we take the van--probably have to get a special step for them 'cause it's pretty high--and take a bunch of them to the bank and grocery shopping.  Most of them don't drive anymore, so they only buy what they can carry or pull in those little carts."

 

"That sounds nice."  She takes his hand.  "That sounds right."

 

"It's not saving the world."  He shrugs.  "But it's saving part of it."

 

"It's their world.  And you probably killed a lot of little old ladies when you were Angelus..."  She sees his face and grins to show him she is teasing.  Sort of.

 

"They weren't really my victim of choice.  Didn't provide much challenge and you know how I liked that."  He shakes his head.  "That life...it seems so far away and yet, it's not."

 

"I know."  She leans into him, settles in against his chest, imagining his heart beating underneath her cheek.  So warm.  So human.  "You atoned.  You made amends.  And you were forgiven."

 

"And now I want to do more than just be forgiven.  I want to do something good."

 

"Fighting in a graveyard isn't good enough for you?"  She hears the sharpness in her tone, winces.

 

"It is. But this is good in a different way."

 

In his way--not her way, or his old way.  She gets that.

 

"Buffy, until I met you, I didn't really do this.  I just...existed when I got my soul back.  I fought if I had to, but I never sought out the good fight.  I only became a champion when I fell in love with you."

 

She smiles up at him.  If this is true, which she's not sure it is, it's a wonderful thing for him to give her.  She sometimes feels like she's left no mark on this world.  That everything she's done will disappear in the wind the same way the remnants of the vamps do.

 

Who will remember her?

 

He will.  And his little old ladies, who wouldn't be helped if he hadn't fallen in love with Buffy and started his way on the long road back from Hell.

 

It's a weird legacy.  It's probably not the one she would have chosen.


But it'll do.

 

--------------------

 

Buffy's lying on Giles' couch, a cold cloth over her eyes, and Giles is setting an icepack on her wrist while Angel watches.

 

They won the fight, but Buffy took the brunt of the damage.  She's hurt, although she's already healing.  And Giles goes through the steps of making her feel better, of taking care of her, like someone who's done this a thousand times.

 

She's sleeping, dead to the world.  Giles pours Angel some water--Dan convinced Angel that high fructose corn syrup is the stuff of the antichrist, so pop is out now--and pours himself some whiskey, and they sit down in the chairs opposite the couch and watch Buffy sleep.

 

It's not uncomfortable, this silence between them.  But it's full of things that could be tense and bad.  It's like a jar full of evil spirits, sealed tight for now, but sitting on a rickety ledge in an earthquake-prone area.

 

"Do you hate me?" Angel asks, swiping the jar off the shelf, saving Mother Nature the trouble.

 

"Little bit."

 

It can stop here.  Angel looks over at Giles, who is watching him with no apparent emotion.

 

"I know you love her."

 

Giles sips slowly, as if using the time to marshal his thoughts.  "I always have."

 

"You haven't always loved her like this."  At least, Angel doesn't think he has.  Has he?  Has Giles always wanted her?

 

"No, of course not.  She was a child when I met her."

 

Which is, of course, very strong condemnation of what Angel did with her since she was one when he met her, too.  Even if no slayer is really a child.  Angel sighs.  Giles is good with words; he's probably going to lose this one if he tries to take him head on.

 

"She's not a child now."  Turn it back on Giles.

 

"She's happy now.  With you back.  That's enough for me."

 

"It is, isn't it?"


Giles meets his eyes.  "I'll always miss her, but it wasn't love and you shouldn't think it was.  Not for her, anyway."  He sighs, very softly.  "She loves you.  I've always known that.  I've always accepted that."


"Thank you."

 

Giles nods, conceding defeat in his very English way.  Then the corner of his mouth turns up.  "I'm not sure Spike has ever--or will ever--accept that, though.  And she is, as we both know, still in touch with him."

 

Angel feels like he's been punched.  A harder, deeper punch than Dan could ever deliver.


Giles just watches him, his expression mild. 

 

Librarian one, former vampire zero.

 

-----------------

 

Buffy watches as Angel and his friend Dan load four little old ladies into their van and drive off.  It makes her smile, seeing this side of Angel.  He's still a man who wants to make things better, even though he doesn't have to. 

 

She didn't have to stick around after she dropped Angel off; in fact, he doesn't like her to.  She gets that.  This is his--just his.  But she wanted to see him with his little old ladies, so she drove around the block and parked far enough away that he wouldn't see her unless he got it in his mind to look for her, but she could see him.

 

Her phone rings, plays "I'm on Fire," which she knows is a blackly funny ringtone for Spike, but it makes her smile.

 

"Hey," she says.

 

"Hey, cutie."  His voice is the same as ever.  Cocky, strong--with just a touch of little boy.  "So, the rumor mill is awash with news.  Is it true?  Did the big poof steal my girl and my prophecy?"

 

"Yes.  But I don't know about the stealing part."

 

She can practically hear his eye roll from where she is parked.

 

"I suppose you're happy with him, too, aren't you?"

 

"Yes."  She tries to make the word gentle but very firm.  If Spike thinks there's even a chink in the armor of her relationship with Angel, he'll be making his way to her in no time.

 

And she's happy.  For the first time in a long time, she's happy.

 

"I'm happy, Spike."

 

There's a long silence, then he says, "That's great, love."  And his voice is soft, his tone is sincere.  He loves her enough to mean it.

 

She loves him enough to hope it doesn't hurt him too much to say it. 

 

--------------

 

Angel sits by the pool, watching Buffy splash with two little kids.  They could have kids now, he realizes, and he tries to imagine what that would be like.  He loved being a dad to Connor, loved holding him and changing him and just being with him.  He didn't have him long enough to make many mistakes, although mistakes were all he seemed to make once he came back from Quor'Toth--not that Connor was exactly easy to deal with after Holtz made him over into his image in that hell dimension.

 

Angel knew what a hell dimension could do to a man, let alone a kid.  His kid.  He'd let his kid be taken to a hell dimension.  Jeez, what was he doing even thinking about having kids again?  What kind of father let his kid be taken to a hell dimension?

 

Buffy is laughing as she comes back, she shakes some water off her fingers onto him, then flops into her lounge chair.  "Cute kids."  She glances at him.  "You okay?"

 

"Just thinking about Connor."

 

"When am I going to meet him?"

 

He smiles, happy that she wants to.  Although Connor already stole his girl once--is this really a good idea?  "Soon," he settles for saying.  Nice, ambiguous, could mean never.

 

"He's your son.  I want to meet him."  She sighs.  "We never talk about him.   Or Cordy."

 

He meets her eyes.  She had Riley.  She had Spike.   And she had Giles.  Who knows how many others in the years since they parted?  He had Cordy--only he never really had her.  And Nina, but if Buffy doesn't know about her, he isn't going to bring her up.  "Cordy's dead."

 

"I know.  But you loved her, right?"

 

He nods, looks away.  "She always knew you were the one, though."

 

"I didn't."  She smiles sheepishly.  "I was really jealous of her.  She was in L.A. with you, when I wasn't allowed to be."  She shakes her head.  "I was jealous of Faith, too.  And that girl Willow told me about, the one you rescued from the demon dimension."

 

"Fred."  Poor doomed Fred.  How many women did he get killed while he was fighting the good fight?  Cordy and Fred, but also Lilah and Darla, and who knows what happened to Eve--not that he cares.  And Wesley and Gunn might argue that helping Angel wasn't exactly easy on the male side of the species, either.  No humans walked away from that last battle.

 

"I'm sorry.  I didn't mean to bring all this up.  I wanted today to be nice...light."

 

He smiles, knows it's not quite a full smile.  "I was watching you with those kids.  Thinking that maybe we could, well, have some."

 

"Kids?"  She sounds surprised, as if she hasn't even considered it.

 

Why hasn't she considered it?

 

She reaches over, takes his hand.  "You'd have to be Mister Mom.  You're the stable one, with the job and all."

 

"I could do that."

 

She squeezes his hand.  "I know you could.  I'm not so sure about me."

 

"You raised Dawn when your mom died."

 

"I raised her badly and with a lot of help."

 

"She turned out okay."  Not that he's seen her since he's been back, but he's talked to her.  She sounds good, sounds happy.  "We'd do all right as parents."  He grins at her.  "We've had good role models and not-so-good ones.  We'll do what the good ones would have done and not do what the bad ones would have done."

 

"You make it sound so simple."

 

"I think maybe it is."  Except when it's not, but they could deal with that when it happens.

 

If it happens.  Buffy may never get pregnant.  He may not be able to get her pregnant.

 

"Should we be married?" he asks.

 

"If that's a proposal, it seriously needs work."  She is grinning, eyes probably sparkling behind her big, sexy sunglasses.

 

"I'm not asking, I'm just wondering.  Should we be?"  He rolls over so he can watch her.  "Do you want to be married?"

 

"Do you?"

 

"Yes.  Maybe...later.  I'm not sure."

 

She smiles and leans back.  "Well, there's your answer, then."

 

"But what do you want, Buffy?"

 

She laughs, a gentle, genuine laugh.  "I want you.  Anything else is just extra icing on the cake of Buffy happiness."

 

"I get that."  He'll have to think about this.  Marriage.  Kids.  Next time he brings it up, he'll do it right with a ring and the whole kneeling thing.

 

In the meantime, he'll just concentrate on enjoying being happy.

 

"I'm glad I'm human."  Glad he was done fighting at the same time she was ready for him to be done.

 

"I am, too."  She sighs and he knows she's drifting into what he's dubbed the Buffy Sun Doze.  Here, in the light, she can finally let down.

 

Although maybe it's more that she's here, in the light, with him that makes her feel like she's totally safe.

 

He loves that idea.  Wants to be the one to make her feel safe, after all that they've been through.

 

"I love you, Buffy."

 

She smiles, mumbles that she loves him, too.

 

He watches her for a while, then turns over, puts on more sunscreen, and lets the sun beat down on him. 

 

It's the best feeling in the world.

 

 

FIN