DISCLAIMER: Joss created them. The WB, Mutant Enemy, Sand Dollar Productions and who knows who else actually own them. I'm using them the way Joss intended, as per his statement that BtVS was meant to be a show about which fanfic would be written. If that doesn't prevent lawsuits, I don't know what will. No infringement intended.

RATING: NC-17 towards the end.

SPOILERS: At least through the first crossover, Harsh Light of Day and In the Dark, with a brief reference to I Will Remember You. This was written in one sitting back in November of 1999, and sent to the now defunct impure-l list. I've been meaning to polish it a bit for posting, but haven't had time before now, sad to say. At the time this was written, nothing had happened between Buffy and Riley, although it was pretty well known that he was going to be her new love interest. In the original story, I took the view that they would not become intimate. I was considering leaving that aspect alone, and just pointing out that this veers off from the Buffyverse after the first crossover, but decided that I would rather take the POV that Buffy and Angel can be reunited despite what has happened with Riley, than the POV that they can only be together if nothing happened with him. So, I rewrote some portions of the story to accommodate that aspect of things.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: This was originally dedicated to Lex, in honor of her Revisionist History for season three, because it was revisionist history regarding Parker, before there was any need to revise Riley.

A Tale of Light and Darkness


Margot Le Faye

"I still think you should have warned her first," Willow said as she opened the door preparatory to leaving the apartment she technically shared with her best friend. Willow's name was on the lease and she crashed here when she needed to be close to the university for research, but as a practical matter she was living with her lover at the other end of Sunnydale. This was why she had been the logical choice to let him in when matters had been explained to her. Willow wasn't sure that what Angel wanted to do was the best way to handle things, but she figured that after everything he'd gone through, he was entitled to play matters out as he thought best. "I understand why you want to do it this way, though," she told him now. "Good luck."

"Thanks," he said, as she pulled the door quietly closed. Angel took off his black leather jacket, draping it over the back of a chair. He might be here a while. Too restless to sit down, he prowled through the apartment looked at his surroundings intently. This was Buffy's home, the place she had made for herself when she finished her undergraduate work and left home. It was what he would have expected of her. From the invitingly large sofa with it's earth-toned cover in a washable fabric to the hand-woven wall hangings she'd gotten from her mother's art gallery, the loft apartment was stylish yet comfortable, practical yet chic. His Buffy had always known how to combine both effortlessly. He sighed. Except of course, that she wasn't his Buffy anymore, and hadn't been for a long time. Not since he had set her free to find happiness with someone else all those years ago.

A happiness that her dedication to her studies and her Slayer's duties had apparently kept her from finding. Angel's eyes were drawn to the frame hanging in a place of honor over the fireplace in which a Willow had kindled a moderate fire before she left. Something swelled in his long-dead heart as he read the words awarding Buffy her undergraduate degree in history magna cum laude, with highest honors. He was so proud of her. He had always known she'd underestimated herself. Buffy was as bright as she was beautiful. He only hoped that now that she was nearing the completion of her master's thesis, she would make time for the other things life held for her.

Liar!, he reproached himself bitterly. If she does what you really want her to do, she'll never have everything that life could hold for her. He almost thought better of it, almost turned around and walked back out the door, to his car, and back to LA. But it was already too late.

"Will, you here?" Buffy called cheerfully as she opened the door and tossed her satchel onto the end table by the entrance. "I didn't think you were…." Her words trailed off as she came further into the apartment and saw just who was standing in front of her fireplace. "Angel," she whispered.

"Hello, Buffy," he said softly. He had carried her image in his heart for six long years. Over time, detail had sharpened, not faded, but he had been afraid that when he saw her, the image and the reality would not quite mesh. She couldn't possibly be as beautiful as he remembered her being, after all. Nor was she.

The woman before him was far more beautiful than the girl who had taken his heart.

She had grown up, fulfilling the promise of beauty that had been obvious even when she had been fifteen, and not quite free of baby-fat and adolescent awkwardness. There was nothing fat or awkward about her now. Not that she was too thin. Slender, yes, but with the rounded, sleek slenderness that comes from sensible eating and a lot of exercise, not the fashionable scrawniness that came with doing violence to one's health. And her hair wasn't quite as blond as it had been. She had gone with a red-toned brown that was much closer to her natural color--which might even be her natural color--against which her eyes looked gloriously green and lucent, set off perfectly by the green silk of the sheath dress she was wearing. And she moved, when she finally walked slowly toward him, with all the natural grace and assurance that years of hunting the dead had taught her.

She was the most glorious sight he had ever seen and he knew in his breaking heart that he should never have come to her, because if he had to leave her again, it would kill him as surely as sunlight might once have done.

"What's wrong?" she said, taking a deep breath, as if to brace herself. "A demon? Prophecy? In six years you've never needed my help, so whatever it is, it must be big."

"Nothing's wrong. I…" he stopped, unsure where to go from here.

"Nothing's wrong?" she said, puzzled. She stopped a few feet away. "Then why are you here?"

"I…had to see you," he started. Tell her why! But he couldn't quite manage the words. Every speech he had rehearsed on the long drive up here seemed utterly inadequate to the event.

"You…had to see me?" Something crept into her tone of voice. He wasn't sure what it was at first, but as she went on, her emotions became brutally clear. "You managed well enough for six years. You left me. You said you couldn't stand to say goodbye so you were just going to leave without a word, even after…God! For six years, I've had to live on hints from Cordy and whatever information Giles has let slip, without a phone call or even a letter. And now, now you had to see me?" Her eyes were bright with anger and unshed tears. It hurt him to know that what he had done had hurt her. Even though he had done it because it was best for her.

"If you don't think that every moment of those six years for me wasn't a season in hell," he said to her now, "if you don't know how desperately I wanted to see you, hear you, touch you every waking second of my unlife, then you never did understand what I felt for you."

Buffy closed her eyes, and he could tell she was forcing back the tears.

"I thought I knew," she said at last, opening her eyes. "But you left me. And then I didn't know what to think…except that you didn't love me enough to stay."

"I love you so much, I couldn't stay," he said tiredly, running a hand through his hair. "It would only have been a matter of time before it all became too much. Don't you remember? You were talking about setting up a drawer for yourself in my home, about getting mirrors. You had already fallen asleep in my arms once. How long before it happened again? How long before we did more than sleep?" She turned away from him, acknowledging the truth of his words.

"I couldn't stay, Buffy. I couldn't let it happen again. And I couldn't let you lead a half-life just because I couldn’t give you a full one. I had to let you go, so you could find happiness with someone else."

She gave a short bark of laughter at that, and turned back to him.

"Witness my success," she said wryly. "You may have noticed that I'm not with anyone. Willow has the spare room, when she's here. There's no one else in my life. There hasn't been for a long, long time."

"After things didn't work out with Riley, you dedicated yourself to your studies," he agreed. "I understand that. It's difficult to pursue a relationship when you're doing the work that will get you the grades. I know your personal life has been on a back burner since you got to college. But you're almost through with your master's degree, and Giles tells me you aren't going to pursue a doctorate yet. You have time, now, to…meet someone."

"My studies? That's what you think has been keeping me from meeting someone?" she asked dryly.

"Well, I guess the slaying thing is a problem, too."

"Right. The slaying thing." She turned away in disgust and collapsed on her sofa. Warily, Angel followed her, gingerly sitting on the other end.

"The slaying thing, you incredibly obtuse bastard, didn't have anything to do with it and neither did my studies," she said in a voice as quite as it was deadly. "I haven't found happiness because there's no one out there with whom I can find happiness."

"That isn't true!" Angel said. "You're a bright, beautiful, vibrant woman. Any man in the world would get on his knees and thank God for putting you into his life."

"Oh, yeah. Like you did," she said mockingly.

"Yes. I did," he said solemnly, his gaze locking onto her own, determined to show her the truth of his words. "I thanked God every night for putting you into my life, even though I knew I didn't deserve you. And that I could never really have you at all."

"If not you, Angel, then who?" she asked softly. "Who was I supposed to be with, if not the man I love?"

He swallowed hard. "You were supposed to move on. I thought, with Riley, that you had. I didn't like him, it's true, but you seemed happy. So, that didn't work out, and college took all your attention for a few years. Now you have time to find someone else to love, Buffy. You're a young woman. You still can." And it will kill you if she actually does, jeered the voice in his head. Tell her, you fool! Angel bit back the words. He couldn’t just spring it on her. He had to make sure that she knew all her options.

"Find someone to love?" Buffy said musingly. "You know, I tried that, once. A guy named Parker. I met him my freshman year in college. He seemed to be everything the doctor ordered, everything you told me I should have. A nice, sensitive guy, good looking, smart, charming. A guy who could, how did you put it? 'Take me into the daylight?' Oh, and make love to me, of course," she said the last bitterly.

Angel shifted uncomfortably. "Spike told me what happened. I'm sorry he treated you that way. But all guys aren't like that."

"Spike told you? Well, since I never told him what happened, he couldn't have told you about it, after all."

"I know that you and Parker…." he struggled to get the words past the lump in his throat, "…made love," he finished.

"Not really," she said.

"All right, I know he didn't really love you, so it wasn't lovemaking, but--"

"No. I meant really not really," Buffy interrupted him. Angel stared at her uncomprehendingly. She sighed, and realized she would have to spell it out for him.

"It started out okay. We undressed each other in his dorm room, got into his bed and were kissing and making out like anything. He was a good kisser. Guess 'cause he had lots of practice. So, things seemed to be going okay…but…they didn't."

"They didn't what?" Angel asked, confused. Buffy took a deep breath.

"I had felt his erection through his pants when we were kissing and making out. And when we first got into bed, he seemed fine. But when, um, push came to, ah, shove? There wasn't anything to…shove." It took Angel a moment for her meaning to sink in.

"He couldn't…?"

"He, um, wasn't 'up' to the task. He was very sweet. We figured he had just had too much to drink, no biggie, try again another night. And he was enough of a gentlemen to, ah…take care of certain matters.'

"Take care of…what matters?" Angel couldn't stop himself from asking. She threw him an annoyed look.

"He went down on me, okay?" she said bluntly. "I tried to return the favor, and got absolutely nowhere. Can I tell you how awful I felt after that? Especially afterward, when he didn't want to come anywhere near me? I couldn't even turn on a guy enough to make him want to have meaningless sex with me. How pathetic was that? God! I was so embarrassed, I couldn't even tell Willow. I just said it had been nice…which, being that he was pretty good with his tongue, it was…and let her assume the rest. Spike assumed it too, I guess. But I didn't know he'd told you about it."

Angel was trying to drown out the little voice in his head that was raucously singing a Gaelic warrior's victory song. He told himself that it was a good thing that he hadn't gotten around to telling her the real reason for his visit. Maybe he shouldn't tell her, now. Because if she had so little experience to go on, she couldn't possibly make an informed decision. His internal voice stopped singing long enough to give him a loud, enthusiastic Bronx cheer, then resumed its victory dance, throwing in a Hawaiian war chant for good measure.

Misunderstanding his silence, Buffy went on.

"I met Riley about the same time. He was a lot more sincere, older, on the level. And it turned out he knew a thing or two about vampires and Slayers. So, if anyone would have been the ideal match for me, he would. We dated for a while. And it was…nice. I even thought I was in love for a while."

"You thought you were in love?" Angel fought to keep his voice neutral.

"Oh, yes. We did the whole hormonal thing. Our first time was after a fight against some demons. And I never really thought about it then, but later I realized, that was all it was, the hormonal thing. We'd fight some demons and we'd boff like bunnies. But we rarely talked, and when we did…I couldn't really relate to the things he was about. He was from a small town where everything seemed simple and all the moral issues were black and white. He wasn't prepared for all the grayness I brought into his world. Eventually, I realized I was in like with Riley. And maybe a bit in lust with him. But after we had gone out for a while, and it seemed that the next logical step in our relationship was commitment…I realized that I couldn't commit to him. Lust and liking just weren't enough for me. In the end, it left me feeling…empty."

"And after that, you just concentrated on your school work and your Slaying," Angel said. "It was a mistake, Buffy. You should have dated other guys. Just because things went wrong with Parker and you didn't love Riley doesn't mean you couldn't have found happiness with someone else."

"Have I mentioned that you are not only an incredibly obtuse bastard, but an incredibly arrogant, obtuse bastard?" Buffy said sweetly.

"What! Buffy, I--"

"You think that just because I'm not with someone, I didn't try? Let me tell you, I tried plenty. I dated a dozen different men from three different continents. Guys my own age. Guys a few years older. And one incredibly sexy, brilliant, charismatic man who guest-lectured on archeology in my senior year. He's now seeing my mother, despite the fact that she is the same age as his oldest son, who doesn't approve of what his father is doing and who would have a heart attack if he had known about me. They're on a dig in Turkey, this year. Mom's been writing glowing letters about the artifacts they've uncovered, some of which the government will let her take out of the country, some of which they will only let her have reproduced."

"So your mother…" Angel couldn't quite manage the words. "Um. It doesn't bother her that you…that she…?"

"Oh, for pity's sake, Angel!" Buffy snapped standing up and striding back to the fireplace. "I didn't sleep with him, so my mother and I don't have issues. I didn't sleep with any of them. Haven't you listened to what I've been saying?" She turned to face him, her back to the mantle. "After Riley, I learned that I can't sleep with someone I don't love," she said quietly. "And I can't love more than one person at a time."

The voice inside his head shut up at her admission. Everything inside him went still and quiet. He badly wanted it to be true, but he couldn't believe he could be that lucky. She must mean someone else. He stood, walking toward her.

"You can't still be in love with me," he said gravely. "Not after all these years."

"I see," she said after a moment. "You don't love me anymore."

"What?" Angel said in amazement. "How can you even think that?"

"Well, what else can I think you meant by that remark?" she retorted angrily. "If I can't possibly be in love with you after all these years, it must be because you couldn't possibly be in love with me after all these years. What the hell did you mean, if not that? Stop playing games, Angel. This is too hard. Seeing you again… I can't do this. Please. Tell me why you are here and then go."

"All right. That's probably best. It's…do you remember Whistler?"

"Whistler? Short offensive demon, looks like a bookie from the Bronx, on an eternal mission of preserving the balance between Good and Evil?"

"That's him."

"What about him?"

"He, uh, paid me a visit. I don't know if you know this, but he's the one who first showed you to me, the night you were called. He's the one who found me in New York, and got me back on track, fighting evil. He's part of a larger group. The…Powers That Be sent me Doyle, at first, when I moved to LA. Doyle told me that the balance sheet wasn't exactly in my column, back then."

"Their grasp of math doesn't impress me," Buffy said. "I think after helping to stop the rise of Balthazar, the re-opening of the Hellmouth, and the Mayor's Ascension, thereby helping to save at least every single citizen of Sunnydale on two occasions and helping to save the entire world on another, that the balance would have to definitely tip in your favor. I mean, how many people could Angelus eat in 140 years, anyway?"

"A lot," he told her solemnly, "and it wasn't just about eating them. You have no idea the things I've done…" His voice trailed off as old memories crept closer.

"So you always told me," Buffy said bracingly, calling him back to the present. "But I was always more interested in the things you did with your soul than in the crimes committed by your demon. So, what did Whistler have to say that made you come to see me after all these years?"

"That they balance."

She waited for him to go on. When he didn't, she prodded him.

"Pardon me if I'm missing something here, but…huh?"

"Whistler said that…in the past six years…I had…made up for things." He swallowed, looking at her, not sure how to tell her what he had to tell her.

"Oh," she said taking that in. She smiled at him. "So, you have the redemption you always wanted. I'm glad. I thought you earned it a long time ago, but I'm glad that you have it now. I guess… that's why you came to see me? Because you knew I'd want to hear this from you?" She had given him an opening. He should take it and leave, let her live the life she deserved without him weighing her down and holding her back. He opened his mouth to agree with her…and said the unthinkable.

"No. I thought that after everything we once were to each other, I should tell you in person that...I'm human again."

There was a long silence. Buffy had frozen at his words, her eyes going wide in shock.

"What?" she whispered. "I thought you said… you can't have…Please, what did you say?" Slow tears leaked from her green eyes. He wanted to kiss them away, but forced himself to remain where he was.

"They had a spell…to exorcise the demon…and another to hold my soul in place and reanimate the flesh."

"You're…alive?" she said, walking the few steps that separated them reaching to touch him, her hand going to his face. "You're warm!" The words were spoken in an awed hush. She gently stroked her hand over his face, as if she couldn't quite believe what was happening.

"They still want me to fight evil," he told her, "so they arranged things…I don't know how. I have the strength I had as a vampire. Actually, all the abilities I had, it isn't like last time."

"Last time?" she started to question him, but her hand had slipped to his chest. "Oh, God! I can feel your heart beat!" Angel was grateful for the distraction, even with it's bittersweet reminder of the last time she had felt his hear beat.. TPTB had given him a spell to restore Buffy's memories of their lost day, but he was not about to use it unless he was sure it would not hurt her more than he already had.

"I can even morph into the semblance of the demon if I need to," he said, hoping to distract her from his slip of the tongue about his prior reversion to humanity. "Whistler said it was protective camouflage. But I don't need to drink blood. And I can go out in the sun. I will age and I will live out a mortal life time, and, I will die."

"And…the demon is gone? So…you can't lose your soul?" Her eyes were huge, her gaze fastened on his own as if he were the only thing in the world. As she had always been the only thing in the world to him. "And…children?"

"Not that I can see it matters, but yes. If I were so selfish as to--"

"Selfish?" she interrupted. He sighed.

"How could I ask any woman to bear my children after everything I've done?"

"Any…woman?" she withdrew her hand.

"I can't…you deserve so much more."

"Oh," she said nodding her head in agreement. "I see. You didn't come here to say we could be together. You just wanted to tell me this for old time's sake before you move on with your life and find yourself another woman not to have children with."

"I…no, that isn't what I mean at all!"

"It isn't?" she said tilting her head to one side and regarding him quizzically. "Then I have to say that I'm really confused because I could have sworn that was what you just said. Well, thank you for sharing. I'm happy for you. Now, will you please leave so that I can cry my eyes out and eat all the chocolate in Sunnydale in an attempt to forget that the only man I will ever love has just dumped me…again?"

Angel looked at her, perplexed. This wasn't going at all the way it should. He made another attempt to tell her what was in his heart.

"Buffy, I'm not worth your tears. I needed to tell you this, because, after everything…you deserved to know. But I can't ask you to share my life. I'm human again, but that doesn't make me any better for you than I ever was. There's still blood on my hands, Buffy. And you're still everything that is good and pure and holy in this world. You shouldn't have to be dragged down into the darkness with me, shouldn’t have to shackle yourself to someone who isn't worthy to kiss the soles of your feet."

"I see," she said, very calmly. "Very sensible." She walked away from him, heading back to the couch. Angel felt the breath leave him. He realized that, little as he deserved her, he had hoped…. Fool! His inner voice was back, with a vengeance.

"Where did I put it?" Buffy said aloud, as she checked behind the cushions. "It can't just have disappeared."

"Put what?" he asked, wondering what the hell could be so important right now. His ego was deflated. He had hoped for just a little more of a reaction from her.

"The aboriginal walking stick my mother sent from Australia, last year. It's about a thousand years old, and the wood has petrified. It's hard as stone, well actually, it is stone. So it should be perfect."

"Perfect for what?" he asked, more confused than ever. She looked at him calmly, and her voice, when it came was perfectly reasonable, as if she were talking about the weather.

"Perfect for beating you upside the head with," she explained patiently. "Perfect for smashing through that incredibly thick, obtuse skull of yours until I can let one simple idea penetrate the dense morass between your ears." Her voice was no longer calm or patient. It was rising, shaking with anger, and her eyes were sparking with green fire as she walked toward him once more. "Perfect for hammering away at your amazing stubbornness, and oh, yes mealy-mouthed selfishness until I can make it clear to you that," she had reached him now, and began to hammer her fists against his shoulders, screaming at him. Angel tried to hold on to her, to keep her from really hurting either one of them, but she was in a fury, hurling her final words at him like a flight of well-placed arrows.

"I love you, you stupid, dimwitted, wrongheaded, noble-minded, idiotic, incredibly dense, arrogant, misguided obtuse bastard!". She was sobbing openly. "Don't…you…dare," she gasped out between sobs. "Don't you…dare decide this for me! You got to do that last time and I couldn't stop you. But I will be damned if I let you get away with it again!"

"Buffy, I--"

"No! Shut up!" she shouted. "Just shut up and listen! I love you. I have always loved you. I will always love you. And you are human, now. So all the reasons you had for leaving me, all those noble, pure reasons about my happiness coming first…they don't count. What I want from you…I can have now, though I once thought I never could." She drew a deep breath and went on more calmly. "I want my life to be with you, Angel. No one else. I never did. And I tried, really, I tried hard to make myself love someone else, or at least, to like them enough to make things work out. But it never did and it never could. And it never will. So. Here's the deal. That darkness you don't want to drag me down into? Guess what? I've been living with it every moment of the past six years. Without you…all I have is darkness…and my sacred duty. It was your love that was the light in my life, Angel."

"Buffy," he groaned, trying to pull her close. She resisted him, twisting out of his grasp and stalking back toward the fire place.

"Shut. Up." she gritted out. "I don't know why you can't forgive yourself for things that happened when you were in the aether and a demon was walking around in your body. And you know what? I don't really care right now. The…the bloody damned Powers That Be have forgiven you, for pity's sake, or you wouldn't be human! If you want to wallow in guilt for the rest of your mortal life, go ahead! But…don't you dare use that as an excuse to push me away. If you don't want to be with me, then just say so, damn it! If you are more comfortable being in love with the memory of a teenaged girl than with a real woman who will change, get fat and ugly when she's carrying your child and who will then age and wrinkle and get gray and someday die, then fine! Go off with your memories and we can both live out our lives in misery. But don't you ever, ever tell me that you are doing this because it's better for me. Your sins…they're part of what make you decent and caring now. I would rather have you with all the guilt weighing on your soul…than any man who's lived the life of a saint." She raised her chin proudly, green eyes flashing fire as they met his own.

"So, bottom line, Angel. Either you love me or you don't. Stay or leave. But don't lie to me about it. Don't tell me that breaking my heart is for my own good."

She was staring up at him proudly, her anger still evident. She was not the girl he had wanted so desperately to protect, not the child who had deserved more than he could give her. She was a woman who knew her own mind, and her own heart, apparently.

Thank God.

"You could never be fat and ugly," he said simply. "Even if you gained a hundred pounds in pregnancy, you would still be the most beautiful woman in the world."

She stood uncertainly, as if afraid to read too much meaning into his words.

"And?" she prompted.

"And I could never object to wrinkles or gray hair when the only thing I've wanted since the moment I first saw you was for you to live long enough to get wrinkled and gray haired."

"Go on," she said, but her voice had softened and her lips were just barely curving upward at the corners. He found his own smile answering hers, and he took a tentative step toward her

"And…if one hundred years of torment in Hell couldn't make me forget you or erase your image from my heart…if six years of separation was one long ordeal of missing you, if I couldn't stop loving you when it put my soul at risk and I had nothing to offer you but death and darkness and despair…how in the name of heaven can I stop loving you now?" He had reached her. All he had to do was open his arms. But it had to be her move. She took it.

"That's simple," she said softly, radiantly, turning her face up to his and taking that last step toward him. "Don't."

And he never did.

Instead, he took her in his arms, and he kissed her the way no one else had ever kissed her because for no one else was she the beginning and end and center of the world. And she kissed him back the way no one else, human or vampire, could ever kiss him back because for no other woman was he the whole point of existing. The first time was impatient, because they had more than six years to make up for, they had all the misery of Angelus to make up for, and the months he had spent in Hell and the months after that when they could kiss but do nothing more than kiss.

And now that they could do much more than that, they couldn't wait. Buffy didn't even try to stay standing. Her knees were weak with desire and she simply let herself crumple in his arms, pulling both of them down to the soft carpet in front of the warmth of the fire.

He tried to break the kiss so that he could undress her properly but she was too starved for the taste of his mouth on her own to let him go. So she managed to wriggle out of her clothing and to help him out of his without breaking the kiss except when they needed to breath. But they were in love and expressing their love and they found they could go an awfully long time without worrying about anything as trivial as oxygen. He did break away from her lips long enough to suggest that maybe she deserved a bed. She didn't even dignify that piece of stupidity with an answer, but pulled him down once more onto the soft rug.

And then they were naked together, flesh to flesh, and he was warm and in her arms and nothing else mattered. She opened for him and he was inside her in a single slow stroke. Both of them held perfectly still, just savoring that moment of completion when they were joined as they had been destined to be joined and they knew that there was nothing to regret, nothing to fear, nothing to deny. There was only Buffy and Angel, two halves made whole at last. She smiled up at him, and his heart was so full of joy at that moment, that his soul would have fled to the aether and been lost for good and all had there still been the slightest vestige of the curse about him. But there wasn't and would never be again.

What there was, was love, and lovemaking, passion and joy and fulfillment. He made love to her like a supplicant worshiping at an altar, like a pilgrim at prayer, as if making love to her were an act of salvation that would grant him paradise. But then, she was his paradise and his salvation and his prayer. If there were enough grace in the world to let him love Buffy Summers, then Angel knew there was enough grace in the world for him to be forgiven his sins.

Six long years of doubt and sorrow, another year of pain and grief and regret, all melted away from her with the magic healing of his touch. Her lover was deep inside her body once more, giving her pleasure she had never known, could never know, with anyone else. Only he knew the secret places inside her that craved his touch. Only he knew where to put pressure, where to taste, where to caress to make her body sing with rapture. Yes, Parker had been skilled and what he had done to her had felt really nice. And Riley had been a good man and a considerate partner. But neither had ever brought her to climax the way the first few strokes of Angel's cock inside her sheath did. Sobbing her release, she clung to him as he rained kisses over her face and throat. He moved lower, his mouth finding her breasts. As he moved gently inside her, another wave of ecstasy hit, and she arched into him, calling his name.

So wet and tight and liquid. He wasn't sure how long he could last. But as he felt her reach her second peak, he realized it didn't matter. He was home, at last, and there would be time enough to make things up to her. Angel moved again, more quickly this time. Buffy raised her legs to wrap them tightly around his waist, lifting her hips off the floor to meet his thrusts. He had been afraid of hurting her, but she showed him without words that his fears were groundless, meeting his passion and his fury, her body moving in perfect counterpoint to his. He shifted slightly, was rewarded by her high, keening cry as another orgasm shook her, making her tight, sweet sheath clench around him for the third time. He couldn't hold out any longer. Gripping her hips, he thrust harder, deeper, hitting ever more sensitive areas inside her. She barely recovered from her third orgasm when he made her come a fourth time, screaming his name. His mouth took hers and he drove himself hard, finding his own release, pouring his now vital, hot seed deep into her welcoming womb. He continued to thrust into her until her cries subsided and she went limp beneath him as satiation relaxed every muscle in her body. When his own crises had eased enough for him to regain some control of his body, he held her tight and rolled to the side, so that they were on their sides, and she was spared the worst of his weight.

"Can we move to a bed, now?" he asked between slow, nibbling kisses on her full lips.

"I guess," she conceded. "Promise you won't leave for a while?"

"Promise I won't leave, ever," he vowed solemnly.

She sighed in contentment and let him carry her to the bedroom and lay her gently down on the bed. It was a 19th century antique, a sturdy, beautifully carved mahogany four-poster that had been carefully rebuilt by a carpenter to be expanded from double to king-sized.

"That's an awfully big bed for a little thing like you," he teased.

"I had this dream," she confessed, "I thought that if I just made the bed big enough, I could at least dream that you would share it with me."

He kissed her. "I'm glad," he said simply, and settled into it beside her, drawing her once more into his arms.

It was from that bed, with the curtains opened wide on the large picture window that overlooked the nearby mountains, that, with the woman he loved held safe in his arms, Angel watched his first sunrise in 249 years.

It was from that bed, nine months later, that he caught his firstborn daughter as she slipped from the body of his beloved wife. It was in that bed that they conceived their three sons and next two daughters, in that bed that those sons and daughters took refuge when the dark got too dark and things went bump in the night. It was in that bed that they nursed each other and their children though sickness, and in that bed that Buffy and Angel made love in health. It was in that bed that they grew old together, in that bed they put visiting grandchildren to sleep, and later, visiting great-grandchildren.

And it was in that bed that their great-granddaughter found them, very, very many years later, wrapped in each other's arms.

She smiled sadly, but then, it had happened the way they had always hoped it would, with both of them together. She drew the sheet gently over the frail and unbreathing forms. "Good-bye, gramma, grandda," said Hope, the Vampire Slayer, daughter of Mercy, the Vampire Slayer, daughter of Grace, the Vampire Slayer, daughter of Buffy and Angel.

And that, my dears, is the way it really happened. Whatever Joss has to say about the matter.

The End




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