The Bargain;

 Chapter 1 - Recollections

Rating: PG. (NC17 coming up; hey, I can't help it… <g> )

Disclaimer: Still own nothing.

Author's Notes: B/A. Some references to B/R.

For Pamela, whose thoughtful words are an encouragement to write and because she has a incredible sense of humor and tons of patience…

This is season 4ish, although I borrowed Jenoff from a later season ep of Angel.

Feedback: Always! Please feed the writer… gia@everysixseconds.com

Distribution: Secrets of the Slayer; Starrkitty's archive; Fumbling Towards Ecstasy; And soon to be on Your Eyes and here! Every Six Seconds; anywhere else, just let me know.


*** Chapter 1 - Recollections ***
It all started innocently enough. Buffy and Riley were in the Sunnydale coffee shop, Buffy reading her psychology text and Riley a novel for English Lit. They had only been seeing each other for a few weeks, most of which consisted of hanging out together studying. Buffy did find out about the Initiative about a week ago, the same time that Riley found out she was the slayer. They were dealing with the awkwardness of that disclosure, but were still trying to make a go of their relationship.

When the woman wandered in from the street, Buffy was so involved in her reading that she hardly noticed her. It wasn't until she heard Riley ask "Is there a problem, ma'am?" that she looked up. Those few words triggered a memory long buried in Buffy's mind. With a sudden flash she was back in that dark alley near the Bronze…

Truth is, I thought you'd be taller, or bigger muscles
and all that. You're pretty spry, though.

What do you want?

The same thing you do.

Okay. What do I want?

To kill them. To kill them all.

Sorry, that's incorrect. But you do get this lovely watch
and a year's supply of Turtle Wax.
What I want is to be left alone!

Do you really think that's an option anymore?
You're standing at the Mouth of Hell. And it's about to open.

Don't turn your back on this. You've got to be ready.

Just as suddenly Buffy was back in the coffee shop, Riley waving a hand in front of her face. "Buffy. Buffy? You okay?"

"Huh? Oh. Yeah. Fine." Buffy shook her head, trying to shake off the memory. Where did that come from? So clear, so sudden?

"Uh, what was that about? That lady?"

"She had a flat tire. I helped her change it. Are you sure you're okay?" Riley was genuinely concerned, Buffy seemed so disoriented.

"I'm fine. I should go. I'll see you later, okay?" Buffy gathered her things and left the coffee shop, absently kissing Riley goodbye.

The memory flashback of the first time she had met him had been so real that Buffy thought she could still smell the clean scent that had been Angel. She sighed heavily, missing him. Sure, she had seen him less than a week ago after Thanksgiving. But that had been only for a few minutes and it had been awkward and painful. It was only natural she tried to tell herself, that from time to time there would be certain things that would remind her of him, of their time together. And she'd just need to deal. Still, something about this felt prophetic. Was some new evil coming?

***
Over the next week Buffy had several more of the strange flashbacks. They came suddenly and without warning, and were so real that Buffy felt as if she was reliving each moment that she had spent with Angel.

The dreams at night were worse in a way. They were filled with images of things she would never know again, would never have. Last night's dream had been a reminder of her first time, when they had made love in his apartment. Each kiss, each touch, each soft sigh was reenacted with vivid clarity in her dream.

Tonight Buffy was dreaming about passionate embraces on the beach in the sunlight followed by uncontrollable urges as they made love on a kitchen table, in a strange room that Buffy did not remember having ever been in. Moaning and thrashing in her sleep, the dream continued. They made love on the table until the table broke, then they made love on the floor. Angel carried her to the bedroom and they made love there again and again, sharing food and kisses. Angel's heart beat as Buffy lapped ice cream off his chest. The next part of the dream was Angel telling her it was all over…

Buffy came awake with a start, tears streaming down her face and the words "It's not enough time" screaming over and over in her head.

Willow switched on the light and looked at the clock. It was just after 4:00 am. "Another dream?"

Buffy blinked and looked around the room, feeling once again as if she had just returned from another time. All the other visions had been recollections of real things that had happened, real memories, except for this last one. This last one was odd. She knew that she and Angel had never made love with such abandon. That was something that they had never been allowed to do…

Rubbing her eyes as if the clear away the remnants of the dream, Buffy looked at Willow. "Something is happening, Will, something with Angel. I don't know what's going on, but I think something is wrong. I keep having these visions or dreams about him, how we met, things we did. They're so clear, so real."

"You have to tell Giles." Willow was genuinely concerned. Buffy appeared so distraught.

Neither girl slept much the rest of that night. Buffy rose early to shower and dress. She agreed with Willow that she needed to tell Giles about the visions and dreams. With her mind made up now she wanted to get there as quickly as possible and figure out just what was going on.

***
Two days later…

"All right, what have we got?" Riley came down the stairs into the Initiative's holding area, approaching Forrest and Graham who stood facing one of the cells. "And it better be good. I had to break a date for this."

"Sorry man, I know you had a date with Buffy, but I thought you should hear this." Forrest gestured to the demon in the cell in front of them. "This demon dude here says that he and his *master* are in town in search of a 'vampire with a soul'. Ever hear that one?"

"Since when do demons have souls?" Graham was skeptical, his years of experience with the Initiative leading him to believe otherwise. "Besides, why even bother with him?"

Riley took the file and other paper work from Forrest and examined the notes along with the test results so far on the demon. "Looks like he volunteered that piece of news even before testing. What does he want?"

"Don't know. He didn't say. He did say that he wanted to talk to someone in charge." Forrest signaled to the armed guards behind them to step forward. "So I'm thinking, why don't you ask him?"

Riley looked from Forrest to Graham, then shrugged. "Ok. I will." Using his card key he opened the door to the demon's cell and stepped in side, carefully drawing his weapon just in case.

The demon watched Riley carefully, before nodding his head as if in greeting. "Are you the leader?"

"Maybe." Riley was cautious.

The demon studied him for a few minutes before shrugging in resignation. He then seemed to search his pockets. "Do you have a cigarette?"

"No." Riley scoffed. "Now why don't you tell me what you told the others? And what exactly it is that you want for that bit of information."

"I'm prepared to offer you a trade. Let me go and I will give you the vampire with a soul." The demon known among the others as the "Repo-man" was used to tough negotiations and tight spots. He'd use whatever method at his disposal to save his own hide.

"Why would I want that?"

"Because you study demons. You study vampires. And there is only one vampire with a soul. And if that weren't enough, he has a mortal lover. That should be worth something I should think. Invaluable to your studies." The demon studied his fingernails casually, almost assured of his success. He could smell their interest, their greed.

Riley's curiosity was definitely peaked. Professor Walsh would need to make the final call, but this was certainly interesting. "Let me think about it." Riley gestured to Forrest who opened the cell door.


***
Buffy never meant to make the deserted mansion a regular stop. In fact, for the first few weeks after Angel had left she purposely avoided it finding the memories too raw and painful. Slowly though, she found her way back. At first it was just walks down Crawford street with furtive glances in that direction. Then the day finally came when she actually ventured inside, and finding, much to her surprise, a strange sense of belonging and comfort. There was something reassuring about being among the few things that Angel had left behind that soothed her when she felt anxious or worried. Like now.

She'd been having the disturbing visions and dreams for almost a month now, and still had no idea why. Giles dismissed it as not a portent of new evil, but rather something a little more personal. He suggested politely as only he could, that perhaps Buffy was missing Angel and having conflicting feelings about her involvement with Riley. Buffy thought it was possible, but didn't admit to anything. Now she was sitting quietly on Angel's old bed, mulling over Giles's words.

The beams from several flashlights alerted her that she was not alone. Moving quietly through the darkened house, Buffy made her way to the living room.

"Riley?!" Surprise evident in her voice, Buffy glanced around to see Riley and a few of his commando buddies in full gear. She hadn't seen him since he'd broken their date last week, both of them busy with other things.

"Buffy? What are you doing here?" Riley was not as surprised to see Buffy, knowing that she was the Slayer she tended to show up in locations where there might be vampires or demons in Sunnydale.

"Uh. Patrol. Thought I heard something so I came in to check it out." Buffy didn't want to admit that what she really had been doing was sitting in Angel's old bedroom imagining that he'd walk through the door any minute, that'd he'd tell her he was wrong about leaving her…

Pulling her quickly to the side, Riley whispered. "You didn't stake a vampire here did you?"

"No. Not yet anyway. Why?" Buffy noticed that two of the men with Riley's troops weren't men at all, but demons. "Who are they and what are they doing here?"

"That's Jenoff and one of his boys. They're helping us track a vampire. One with a soul." Buffy's attention was now riveted on Riley. "Have you seen anything?"

"No." Buffy's eyes were wide with alarm. Was Angel here? What did the Initiative know about him? What did the two demons know about him?

"Good." Riley signaled his men to look around. "Rumor has it that there's only one of these so we want him alive."

"Oh." Buffy swallowed hard, trying to control her increasing panic. "So, uh, what else do you know about this-,er, vampire? A name. What he looks like. Anything?"

"Not much. His name's Angelus. He's supposed to be here in Sunnydale because his mortal lover lives here. That's about it. " Riley listened for a few minutes on his radio as Forrest and Graham reported back that the place appeared to be deserted. "Jenoff and his man have supposedly been using some kind of mystical crystals to ID his location. They thought he'd be here tonight. But I should have known it was a bluff."

"Ok. Well, haven't seen him. Or anything. I mean any vampires. Good luck with that then. Gotta run." Buffy practically ran out of the mansion, stopping only briefly to attempt to see if she could sense Angel nearby. Failing to pick up the slightest sign, she sprinted to Giles house. Riley frowned at Buffy's peculiar behavior, but shook his head and returned to the job at hand.

Buffy failed to notice the attention that the two demons paid to her. Little did the Initiative know, the crystals that they were using were intended to draw out the woman, to help them find her, not the vampire. Jenoff needed the woman as bait. What else would he use to get the vampire to barter his soul?


***
"Giles, you have to call him and tell him. Make sure that he doesn't come to Sunnydale." Buffy had been pacing back and forth in the living room ever since she had arrived half an hour earlier. "Whatever they're doing with those crystal things to try to find him must be causing my visions, my dreams. They HAVE to be connected somehow."

"Buffy." Giles was only half-awake, have been dragged out of bed by a nearly frantic Buffy beating on his door. "Why don't you just call him?" Giles filled the teakettle an put it on the stove. He knew there was something more to this than Buffy was telling him.

"Because- because I'm sure that he doesn't want to hear from me. It'd just be weird. Your ex can't just call you in the middle of the night and warn you about her possible boyfriend and psych TA, his commando buddies and their demon friends wanting to hunt you down as a research project." Buffy stopped her pacing for a minute to look at Giles.

"Oh, right. I see. Yes, that kind of news *is* best delivered by a relative stranger."

"Giles." Buffy admonished while shooting him a withering look. "And you're not a stranger. Oh. The demons. That's how the Initiative found out about Angel. Jerkoff." Buffy frowned, that didn't sound right. "Jedikoff. Something like that."

"Jenoff, perhaps?" Giles was familiar with the infamous soul-sucker.

"Yes! That's it! Come one, Gi-llleess." Buffy pleaded, using her best wide eyed pleading look. "Pleeeaase. Just call him."

"Buffy, why don't you tell me the real reason that you want me to call Angel instead of you. I would have thought you would have been glad of the excuse to talk to him." Giles poured the hot water into the teapot.

"Be-because he has someone else now. He's seeing some woman. Kate or something." Buffy finally stopped pacing and flopped down on the couch. At his inquiring look, Buffy continued. "Cordelia told Harmony, Harmony told Anya, Anya told Willow… You get the idea."

Giles's expression betrayed none of his surprise. Of all the reasons that Buffy might have come up with he would not have expected that one. He knew that Buffy had been hurt deeply when Angel left, but he thought he had understood the reasons why. Which also led him to believe that it would be a long while before Angel got involved with anyone else. Giles debated briefly before he picked up the phone and dialed.

Buffy listened attentively as Giles relayed the news, careful to not make the slightest sound as if Angel might be able to tell that she was nearby. When Giles glanced at her saying "Buffy? Well, she's-" Buffy stepped outside in the courtyard, not wanting to hear anything that Giles might tell Angel about her. She hated it when Angel was patronizing, pretending that he cared. And she didn't need to hear the platitudes that Giles would use in response to the questions.


***
Riley met with Professor Walsh when they returned to the Initiative headquarters after their failed mission.

"Nothing. We didn't find the vampire or the woman. I'm thinking that we should haul in Jenoff and his man, enough of this bullshit." Riley sat down, frustrated and skeptical.

"Of the other 7 vampires that we have in custody, 6 of them admitted under questioning of hearing about or knowing of an Angelus. Nothing much is known of the woman, or they won't talk. But, I'm not ready to give up just yet. Think of the importance this could be to our research." Walsh studied Riley calmly before returning her attention to the papers in front of her.

"Yes, ma'am." Riley knew it would be a significant discovery, but given the lack of anything concrete so far he still doubted that the demons were telling the truth.

"And, Agent Finn, assign a team for some additional surveillance on our demons. They must not be allowed to escape, regardless of the agreement they may think that we have made with them."

Riley nodded, knowing full well that they intended to double-cross Jenoff and his men. Forrest and Graham, along with a few of the other men, joined them just in time to hear that last of Professor Walsh's statement.

"I don't need to tell you that we also need to capture the woman. We need to understand what sort of person would consort so intimately with a vampire. Or why the vampire wouldn't kill her either during or after coitus." Professor Walsh glanced up at the men, her expression stern.

"We'll hit the streets again. Continue to see if we can find any more information." Riley stood.

"So, is a vampire with a soul different than a vampire without one?" Forrest finally asked the question that had been running through several of their minds.

"Well gentlemen, we'll have to catch this one and find out, won't we?" Professor Walsh turned back to her charts. "Now get going."


***
"Slayer." The demon stepped out of the shadows as Buffy neared the abandoned warehouse. It had been two days since Buffy had encountered Riley and the Initiative at the mansion. Two days since Giles had called Angel and told him not to come to Sunnydale.

"Demon." Drawing her weapon, Buffy prepared to fight. Then she recognized the demon from the other night at the mansion. He had been with Riley's troops. "What do you want?"

"I have news that may interest you." The demon casually lit a cigarette as he waited for Buffy to approach.

"You smoke?" Buffy gave the beast an impatient look.

"Bad habit. I've tried to quit a dozen times… Even tried the patch. Doesn't work."

"No. I would guess not through, uh, scales. So, are we just making chit-chat or do you have a point?" Buffy edged closer but kept her weapon handy.

"Angelus. We have him locked up." Blowing out a puff of smoke, the demon watched her closely.

"You're lying." Buffy's mind raced. Would Angel have come to Sunnydale after all? Were they able to lure him here somehow? Did those crystals or whatever they were using really work? Giles assured her that Angel told him he would not come to Sunnydale.

"He's injured. He probably won't last more than a few days."

"Why would you tell me this? What do you want?" Despite her emotions screaming for her to run to Angel as fast as she could, Buffy cautioned herself.

"You're his lover. He asked for you. And I owe him a favor." Lighting another cigarette, merely shrugging his shoulders at Buffy's look of disgust, "Besides I don't want to turn him over to the commandos. The things they do to demons, it's - inhumane."

"Where is he?" She'd always put Angel first, risking her life for his many times. This was no different. If he were in danger, she would help.

"Locked up in an old army bunker outside of town. I can take you there." The demon crushed out his cigarette, making a note of the fact that she didn't deny that she was his lover. Jenoff's magic had been accurate in finding her.

Buffy aimed her cross bow at the demon and gestured for him to move. "Lead the way."

It was silent when they reached the old army bunker, a dim light inside one building the only sign of life. As they reached the door, the demon paused. "He's hurt pretty bad. It's not a pleasant sight. Maybe you don't want to go in."

"Just move out of the way if you're squeamish." Buffy's internal alarms were going off at full alert. If Angel was here, he wasn't un-dead. She couldn't sense him. But she had to know…

The demon pulled open the door and stepped back, waving his hand toward the opening.

With an irritated look, Buffy pushed past him and headed down the stairs. As the door slammed shut behind her, Buffy knew that she should have turned the Angel alarm off long enough to hear the other one. The one screaming that she had just walked into a trap.

After trying futilely to open the heavy steel door, Buffy examined the room she was trapped in. Obviously there was no Angel or even any sign that he had been there. Clearly she was expected to stay awhile. There was a small fridge stocked with food, a water cooler, a cot and several books. Off to one side of the room there was a small room with a toilet and sink. A shower had been installed rather haphazardly on the outer wall, with only an opaque shower curtain offering minimum privacy. Well, at least there was a shower, Buffy thought rather ironically. There rest of the room was relatively clean, but sparse. There were no windows or any other doors. Sighing heavily, Buffy slid her weapons under the small cot then sat down to wait.


***
Willow found the first videotape in an envelope taped to their dorm door later that afternoon. Having spent the night with Oz, she didn't realize that Buffy hadn't been back to their dorm yet. She looked at the envelope curiously. There was no writing of any kind. Years of living on the hellmouth had made Willow cautious however, so instead of opening the envelope she dropped it into her bag and headed to Giles's.

The images on the tape were grainy, but there was no doubt that it was Buffy. She was sitting on a small cot in a spare room.

"There was no note? No writing at all?" Giles turned over the envelope, looking for any clue as to who might have trapped Buffy. Clearly they wanted something or they would not have sent the tape.

"Nothing. And I didn't open it until I got here, so there's no chance that it fell out. Who would do this Giles? And why wouldn't they leave a note or something to tell us what they want?" Willow was trying to stay calm but her voice was high-pitched, betraying her upset.

"I don't know. But I'm sure we'll find out." Giles too was alarmed. Rewinding the tape, he watched it carefully looking for any clues as to the building's identity.


***
Xander was at Giles's when Willow arrived the next day with Oz and the next tape. The Scooby gang had combed the area yesterday and last night, but so far had turned up nothing useful to identify Buffy's whereabouts.

This time when Willow opened the envelope, there was a post note stuck on the tape. The post note had a single word written on it. That word was "Angelus."

"Is Dead-Boy evil again and playing some kind of game?" Xander was on edge, upset that they had not been able to find Buffy.

"No." Giles turned on the tape player. Another tape of Buffy, edited with various shots of her obviously bored in the small room. Reading, sleeping, jogging in place - anything to keep from going stir crazy. There was no sign of anyone else in the videos that might give away her captors.

A few minutes into the video and there was a knock on the door. Riley stood there, clearly worried. "Have you seen Buffy? I've been calling her for two days and she hasn't returned my calls-"

Giles exchanged glances with the others then invited Riley in. They all wanted Buffy back safely - maybe Riley and the Initiative could help since they had yet to find anything useful.

Giles told Riley that Buffy had been missing since the day before and that someone had sent them these tapes. Giles rewound the tape and turned it on for Riley to see.

When Xander attempted to mention Angelus again, Giles quickly pulled him into the kitchen ostensibly for help with refreshments for the group. Until they knew what or who they were dealing with, Giles would honor Buffy's wishes and not tell Riley and the Initiative about Angel.


***
Using the sophisticated equipment available from the Initiative, Riley managed to tap into the signal of the video camera trained on Buffy within a few hours. He set up a laptop in Giles's living room with the live feed, so they could keep an eye on her 24 x 7. Surely the fiend keeping her imprisoned would show himself.

In the meantime, Riley and team would track the signal to find the coordinates. He was confident that they would be able to find her within a matter of hours.

Later that night, Riley called with good news. They had found the location where Buffy was being held and were on the way there now.

Using high-powered night vision binoculars, Riley studied the outside of the building where Buffy was being kept. They'd seen several demons wandering around the premises, two clearly guarding the door. Another building nearby appeared to be a bunkhouse of sorts for the demons, several of them coming and going from there. They demons were all of the same type and appeared to be very tall and muscular. It was difficult to tell in the dark, but they appeared to have a thick pinkish skin and large, claw like hands.

To Riley's surprise, Jenoff exited the nearby building followed closely by two of the demons. He was filled with fury that Jenoff was clearly involved, especially given the deal that they had made with him. Without another thought, Riley signaled his men to move in.

At the first sign of the Initiative troops, several of the demons blocked the door to the building where Buffy was, while the others displayed their weapons, obviously prepared to fight. Jenoff casually strolled to the front of the small group and waited. Riley hesitated only a moment, then approached him.

"Where's Buffy?" Riley's anger was evident in his tone.

"She's safe. For now." Jenoff casually adjusted his sleeves. "But my Akadian friends here have orders to kill her first, should you choose to try to kill me or take her. If they fail, the bomb that I planted in the building will have to serve as a backup plan. You might want to consider that, Agent Finn."

Riley surveyed the large and rather forbidding looking demons behind Jenoff and surrounding the front door. If Jenoff was telling the truth, they didn't stand a chance of reaching Buffy before the demons did.

"And if I kill you first?" Riley demanded, all the while still surveying the demons, and the surrounding area, attempting to gather any information that would help them.

"Then she still dies." Jenoff glanced over his shoulder to the building where Buffy was being kept.

"What do you want then?"

"What I came here for. Then I'll release the woman." Jenoff turned and strode off, two of his men following. The rest of the Akadians blocked Riley's path.

The cryptic answer didn't make sense to Riley, he didn't know what Buffy had to do with Jenoff's plan but he knew he didn't like it. One way or another, he'd find a way to get her out of there unharmed. And he'd make sure that Jenoff paid. Riley signaled his men to withdraw.


***
Giles, Willow, Xander and Oz sat anxiously around the computer monitor, watching and waiting for Riley and his men to open the door and release Buffy. They had been there since Riley's call that he had located her.

They were taken by surprise when a strange looking demon, followed by four even larger and more menacing demons entered the room rather than Riley and his troops. Without hesitation, the smaller demon shot Buffy with a stun gun knocking her to the floor, the cross bow she was holding discharged but the arrow missed any possible target and bounced off the wall. All four observers in Giles's living room gasped in stunned surprise.

While she was dazed, one of the demons swept Buffy's weapons out from under the small cot and took them away, while two of the other demons hefted Buffy up by the arms. They could not hear the words that were exchanged, but they could tell that Buffy was clearly still disorientated from the shock, her struggles ineffective against the large demons.


***
Buffy had come to her feet grabbing her crossbow immediately when the door had opened. This was the first time anyone had come into the room since she had been locked in. Without warning, the smaller demon hit her with a stun gun, knocking the air out of her as she collapsed on the ground. Breathing heavily, she struggled to stand just as two of the large demons kicked away the weapon, then grasped her by the arms and hauled her to her feet.

"I'm growing impatient. Where is Angelus?" Jenoff approached, asking the question to Buffy.

"Who?" Buffy feigned ignorance. "What do you want with me?"

"I think I need to give him additional incentive to come. And, I want to show your heroic initiative boys that they cannot fuck with me." Jenoff gestured to the demons holding Buffy as he removed the small leather whip from his belt. The demon that had left the room with her weapons now returned with a video camera. He stepped in close, zooming in on Buffy's face clearly hoping to capture the extent of her fear, her pain.

Buffy's eyes widened and her struggles increased as the two demons turned her around. All her efforts were in vain however, as she could not free herself from them or the harsh crack of the whip as it struck her back. Jenoff hit her until the lash broke through her clothing and the first sign of blood appeared. He then walked slowly out of the room as the two demons holding Buffy's arms dropped her face down on the small cot. The demon with the video camera made sure to capture a shot of her tear-streaked face before he shut it off and followed the others out.


***
When Jenoff began to beat Buffy, Willow fled the room in tears and Xander looked away, unable to watch. Oz stared off in stunned disbelief, while Giles simply gaped at the screen, angrier than he had been in years.

When Riley arrived at Giles's house a few hours later, he was met with four somber faces. He was upset himself at their inability to retrieve her, but had no idea what had happened to her after they had left. He was upset and furious when he found out, vowing to exact an even harsher revenge on Jenoff before this was over.

Several of his men were still on watch - but were hidden so as not to alert or anger Jenoff. Perhaps they would see or hear something that would be of help.

Until they had a better plan, all they could do now was wait.

***
Willow swallowed nervously and glanced at Oz before pulling the taped enveloped off their dorm door. She had stayed with him last night, uncomfortable with the idea of staying alone in the room where the demons had been leaving the tapes. Granted, they never came inside or even made a sound, but the vicious behavior they demonstrated yesterday was frightening.

When they arrived at Giles's, Willow dropped the tape distastefully on the table with the others. They all knew what was on it and no one wanted to see it again.

Riley had been beside himself last night after Xander had told him what had happened. He was furious that he had ever trusted Jenoff and his men, yet felt impotent to do anything else to help. Professor Walsh expressed forbid any further attempts to free Buffy. She was angry that Riley had taken the men without her permission in the first place. He now sat with the others at Giles's, trying to figure out what to do next.

Turning, Riley watched Buffy on the screen. She was sleeping quietly on her stomach having moved very little since last night.

"If we only knew what they wanted, then we could give it to them and they could let her go." Anya, ever the plain speaker, munched on grapes and glanced at the computer screen.

Giles, having finally put it together, looked at Riley, "They want Angelus, do they not? And the Initiative was hoping to help them track him."

"Yes. But what does that have to do with Buffy?" Riley glanced around the room, noting that now attentive stares of everyone in the room.

"I'm the last person that I would have ever thought I would say this, but I'm thinking that we should call Dead Boy." Xander looked at Giles, then at Riley and Willow. "If they want him, they can have him - as long as we can get Buffy out of there."

Riley glanced at Xander in confusion. "Dead Boy? Who is that and how can that help?"

Giles sighed, knowing that Buffy had not wanted to reveal the complexities of her past to Riley - at least not yet when they hadn't known each other that long. Before Giles could find a tactful way to explain, Anya blurted. "Buffy's ex."

"Huh?" Riley still had not put all the pieces together.

"Angelus is Buffy's ex. Well, technically Angel. He only goes by Angelus when he's evil, I think. Anyway, he dumped her and moved to LA. That is, after he fed off her." Anya finished her grapes and stood, "Any one want more?"

"Buffy dated a vampire? And he fed off her?" Riley was thrown, the news almost beyond comprehension.

"Yes. But he's a good vampire. He had a soul." Willow defended Buffy, knowing too well that Buffy would not have wanted Riley to hear the news this way. "And it was only to save his life…" Buffy had never elaborated on what happened that day, so they all believed that Angel had forced himself on her to save his own life.

"So, now that that's clear, who's calling Dead Boy?" Xander clapped his hands, feeling that they now had a plan.

"Xander. It's not that simple. Buffy didn't want Angel to come here. I, in fact, called him just the other night at her request." Giles was still sorting through the options as Riley looked up in surprise. Apparently Buffy tried to warn her ex when she found out they were searching for him.

From his research on Jenoff in the last few days, Giles knew that the demon could not just take a soul - it had to be sold or bartered. Now that Giles knew that these were the same demons that were after Angel, he knew why they wanted Buffy. The only thing wrong with their plan was that they apparently did not know that Angel had left Buffy and moved on to LA.

"Yeah? Well, I'm sure that she didn't want to be beaten either. If you don't call him, then I will."

"Well, there's no guarantee that he'll come. I understand he's involved with someone else now." Giles gave voice to the disturbing thought that had been running through his mind. Even though Angel had asked about Buffy in their conversation the other night, his tone had been sufficiently moderated as to give no indication of his feelings. Not to mention the possible consequences if he did come to Sunnydale - if Angel were to lose his soul the results could be catastrophic.

Willow's voice broke the silence. She would wait no longer while the others debated. "Angel? It's Willow." She glanced at Giles, half expecting him to ask why she knew the phone number of Angel Investigations. "I'm good. Listen-" Willow looked at the others. "Buffy's in trouble and we need your help. I know Giles asked you not to come the other day but…" … "You can? Well, Buffy-" … "Oh. Um, yeah, she's been kidnapped by some demons." … "Uh-huh. Ok then, see you tonight."

When she hung up the phone, Willow smiled. It was a tentative smile, but it was the first real smile she had shown since Buffy had disappeared. "He's coming."


***
Spike had just stepped out of Willies when the black car pulled up and parked across the street. His grandsire, the great poof, was driving a convertible. How bloody stupid could a vampire be? Out of curiosity, Spike ducked in the shadows and watched. He recognized Angel and Cordelia, but the blond sliding across the front seat to sit next to Angel was new. As was the dark haired man - ah yes - demon, now going into the fast-food restaurant with Cordy.

"Well, well. What do we have here…" Spike muttered to himself, noting once again the proximity of the blond pressed to Angel's side. Clearly he'd found himself a new fancy piece in LA - although Spike himself thought the blond slayer was a much better choice. As he watched, Angel looked down attentively, listening until the blond drew his head down to hers for a kiss.

Spike grinned evilly. He'd bet that the little slayer didn't know about Angel's new girl. But, he'd bet anything that she'd care. That it'd make her eyes water and her heart ache. All the more reason to make sure and spread the word…

Cordy and Doyle coming out of the restaurant drew his attention, so he didn't see Angel push the blond away. Whistling a little tune as he headed back inside, Spike grinned. With such good gossip to spread, he was suddenly in a very good mood. If only he could be there to see it when the news got back to Buffy…


***
The word spread fast to Jenoff. Gossip about Angelus and his slayer always made for good fodder - and certainly the news that the slayer had been replaced was destined to spread like wildfire. Demons that had formerly been afraid to face the slayer for any added fear of Angelus's wrath, were now reconsidering.

Furious, Jenoff made his way to the building where Buffy was being held.

Buffy came to her feet gingerly, her back healing but still tender from the beating she had received yesterday. She backed toward the wall as Jenoff approached.

"So. You are not Angelus's lover." Jenoff studied her.

"I never said I was. Your man assumed. And you know what you get when you assume? You make an ass-" The Akadian demon on Jenoff's right slapped her hard, cutting off her words.

Buffy licked at her bloody lip, but stared back at the two of them defiantly.

"Don't push me, girl. Why did you come here when you thought Angelus had been injured?" Jenoff studied her curiously.

"Maybe I misunderstood." Moving quickly, Buffy delivered a quick punch to Jenoff before being slammed hard against the wall by the Akadian. She managed to land a few good kicks, but the demon was strong. When Jenoff drew his stun gun, Buffy backed off, unwilling to receive another shock.

"Would you sell me your soul to save his life?" Jenoff began to assess his options. He could kill the girl of course, but her soul was pure, rich and beautiful. He could almost feel it. And he was greedy - he wanted it.

"You don't have him and you won't get him."

Stroking his cheek thoughtfully, Jenoff stared. Well, she didn't say no. He needed some time to figure out his next step. Without another word, he left the room, the Akadian following close behind him.


***
Angel was down to his last nerve when they finally arrived at Giles's. Kate had arrived just as they were preparing to leave LA, then insisting on coming with them. Cordelia had bitched the entire drive to Sunnydale about all things Sunnydale related, then insisted they stop for food before she could possibly go any farther. During the brief stop, Kate had the nerve to come on to him, completely oblivious to the fact that he was tense and worried, anxious to find out about Buffy. Only Doyle seemed to understand Angel's apprehension.

It took an enormous amount of effort for Angel to be civil to the boy that he suspected was or wanted to be Buffy's boyfriend, the one that had been eyeing him suspiciously since they entered. After all the introductions were made, Angel could still sense the resentment, the tension. And he found himself responding in kind. Buffy was his. He met Riley's gaze challengingly.

Kate, uncaring about anything except Angel and the possibilities of a weekend spent here with him, attempted to sit close to Angel on the couch only to have him move, standing and leaning on the counter near the kitchen.

Giles briefed them on everything that they knew so far, Riley added the little bit of information that they Initiative had been able to find. Angel then asked to see the tapes. He watched the first two tapes, carefully studying them for any clues that the others may have missed. When he popped the third tape in, everyone except for the AI team scattered - all wanting to be anywhere else rather than see that tape.

Angel looked around curiously. Even Riley had left the room to sit in the cool courtyard outside. Angel pressed the play button on the VCR.

"Gee, I've never seen a room clear so fast." Cordy glanced around, noting that Giles was standing in the kitchen his back to them.

Kate filed her nails, glancing at the screen occasionally, Cordy hid her face in Doyle's shoulder, and Angel moved closer to the screen, unwilling to believe that what he was seeing was real. Doyle, who was closest to him, became aware of the low growl that was gradually increasing to a rumble. Suddenly Angel stopped the tape, shaking. He was enraged, his demon face apparent. He bolted for the door, feeling confined in the small room. Just outside he stopped and howled, a loud ugly cry of pain and rage. The sound carried for miles, those who heard it shuddered at the sound.

When Angel calmed, he became aware of Riley watching him. The younger man was nervously fiddling with the taser that he held in his hands.

"I don't have any argument with you. I just want Buffy out of there." Riley stood, his concern for Buffy superseding any of his duties at the Initiative - something that he would have never thought possible just a few short weeks ago.

Angel stared back, his tongue running across his fangs adding to the feral look. Finally he nodded, the rage abating somewhat. Without a word, the two men went inside.

Kate was looking at Angel with alarm, having never seen him lose control before. It disturbed her to see his demon face - such a contrast to the strikingly handsome man that she knew and wanted. She realized that Angel got very involved in his cases - sometimes too personally involved. She didn't recognize the young girl on the tape and had no idea what she might mean to Angel, other than yet another case. Clearly Giles was an old friend, or else why would Angel have come all this way. Maybe the girl was his daughter…

Finally Riley spoke. "We don't stand much of a chance against the Akadians and their order to kill her. It's impossible to get close to her before they do. There are at best count, 12 of them - but they come and go so we haven't been able to pin down the exact number that's there at any one time."

"I think it's safe to say that Jenoff knows about your involvement with Buffy-"

"And that I'll trade my soul for her." Angel interrupted Giles, his voice without doubt, without hesitation. "I'm sure that's what he wants."

Giles looked at Angel, now sure that the vampire's feelings for the slayer had not changed. Kate stared at Angel in startled surprise, her curiosity about the girl increasing exponentially. She leaned forward to get a better look at the computer monitor that had been connected to the video feed of the camera trained on the girl. She couldn't make much out - but from the earlier tapes, she knew the girl was young - 19 or 20 maybe.

"If you do that, then we can curse you again…" Willow picked up the Orb of Thessulah that sat on Giles's desk as a paperweight.

"It isn't that simple. If Jenoff takes Angel's soul, then it can't be recovered. It cannot be recalled from the ether." Giles flipped to the information in the book he picked up from the stack of them piled on the coffee table then handed the book to Willow.

"I've been studying up on the Akadians. They are warrior demons. They respect strength and leadership. They are also possessive demons, particularly regarding their mates. They would understand your desire to reclaim Buffy. If you did not have the thing that Jenoff wants, then they clearly expect you to negotiate an alternative ransom. Failing that, they would, of course, expect a challenge."

"So, what are we waiting for then? Let's get over there and challenge him." Xander bolted to his feet, wondering why they had waited if the answer was there all along. He would have challenged Jenoff himself if that was all they needed to do.

Giles ignored Xander's outburst and continued. "If you were to challenge Jenoff for Buffy and he were to refuse to fight - which, everything I've read about him leads me to believe he will - then he will be diminished in their eyes. Not only will they refuse to follow him, but they will also not feel compelled to honor any agreement they have with him." Giles continued, pacing the room slowly as he spoke. Angel had moved next to the computer monitor and was watching Buffy as she slept. Kate and Doyle were both watching Angel closely. He had returned to his human face, but the earlier rage was simmering below the surface. He traced a finger across her small figure, visible on the screen.

"Ok, but I still don't see what we're waiting for." Xander stood, exasperated. Riley watched attentively, knowing somehow that there were still complications.

"It's not that easy Xander." Giles glanced at Angel, then Xander. "Protocol demands that the challenge come from Angel, whom they perceive to be Buffy's mate, and that the challenge be issued first to Jenoff. When Jenoff declines, as I suspect he will, then the Akadians will have their strongest warrior accept the challenge. If the challenger wins, the Akadians will turn her over to him. If the Akadian warrior wins, well then, he'll likely feel that he can keep Buffy as his prize. They are a shrewd, vicious and ferocious group - you can be assured that their strongest warrior will not be easily defeated."

"Then we'll have to find another plan. We don't stand a chance." Riley sighed with disgust, disappointed that their only apparent option wasn't really a viable option.

Giles cast a glance at Angel before he picked up another book from his desk. "Just over 200 years ago it was recorded that Angelus challenged and defeated an Akadian demon. I believe, it was over-" Giles scanned the text looking for the passage that he had read.

"An insult muttered in a poker game." Angel looked sheepish, his memory of the event dimmed over the years but still there for recall. It had been a minor insult, but Angelus needed very little in those days to anger him. He had been shrewd and vicious himself in those days, yet it had been a difficult fight. Darla had been there to cheer him on, and not to mention, tend his wounds after. Angel shook away the disturbing memory.

"Back the truck up just one second here. You said 'if you did not have the thing Jenoff wants'. For this whole plan to work, it means that Dead Boy here would need to go soul-less, right? And wouldn't that be, like, making the situation way worse?" Xander had just caught on to Giles's earlier words.

"Yes, he would." Giles didn't hesitate, knowing what was at stake. Once more he looked at Angel.

"Vampires, demons, well, they are notoriously unreliable. Untrustworthy." Angel looked away, answering Giles's unasked question. "I can-can't."

"Besides, wouldn't Angelus kill Buffy rather than rescue her?" Willow, who had been quiet during the earlier exchange, now joined the conversation. She still held the Orb of Thessulah in her hand, the object taking on additional significance given their conversation.

"Besides, how would you lose it? You know, the whole perfect happiness thing?" Xander's eyes widened as he looked at Kate, "Oh, unless…"

"No." Angel shifted his stance, no hesitation in his voice as he answered Xander. "I-I, it wouldn't work."

"Angelus wouldn't kill her. Hurt her perhaps, use her, highly likely, but not kill her. Especially now that she's marked." Giles stood in front of Angel, pointedly looking him in the eye, almost daring him to argue.

Angel understood then that Giles knew that Angelus and Buffy had been sexually involved. Briefly Angel wondered how much Giles knew about their brief liaisons those few short years ago…

"Marked? What does that mean?" Kate fairly shrieked, looking between Giles and Angel and interrupting Angel's thoughts.

"Use her? What does that mean?" Xander spoke at almost the same time as Kate, their words echoing through the room in similarity.

Riley was aware the meaning of those words, but that didn't mean he liked it. He was uncomfortable with the direction the conversation had taken but he wanted Buffy safe. His only consolation was in the fact that Angel had Kate and would return to LA once this was over.

"Angel bit her, she had a scar - marked." Cordelia bluntly stated the answer to Kate's question, her annoyance with the blond woman obvious. Cordelia didn't like Kate, didn't like Kate's clinginess to Angel and didn't like that she had invited herself along. "And Xander, well duh - sex, you dummy."

Xander angrily looked away, uncertain whether Cordelia's condescending explanation infuriated him more than the thought of Angelus using Buffy for sex. Even though he had Anya, his feelings for Buffy still ran deep. And he still disliked Angel. Intensely.

"What was your relationship with this girl, Angel?" Kate rose and strode over to stand directly in front of Angel. "Who. Is. She."

"We'll, uh, give you a moment." Giles gestured to Xander and Willow to follow him, then glanced at Riley before they left the room. If Angel were involved with Kate, then the events of the last hour would have been difficult for her so he wanted to give them some privacy.

Riley, for his own reasons, also wanted to see Kate and Angel reconciled so he too left the room. Only Cordelia and Doyle remained, having no illusions about a relationship between their boss and the LA police detective.

"Buffy is- Well, she was-" Angel sighed, unsure how to explain his relationship with Buffy under any circumstances, and most particularly now. When he irrationally wanted nothing more than to claim her again.

"Buffy was his girlfriend. They had sex on her seventeenth birthday, but he went bad because there's this whole perfect happiness clause thing. He tried to suck the world into hell, but Buffy stopped him and sent him there instead, but not before Willow re-cursed him. Let's see, oh yeah, then Angel came back from hell. He and Buffy got back together - but they could never, you know, get pelvic again. Finally they broke up, but then he fed off her to save his life. Then Angel moved to LA. I think that about covers it. Satisfied?" Her patience at an end, Cordelia once again took matters in her own hands and filled in the details. She might not like Buffy, but she knew that they needed to get moving on the case. Besides, Cordelia hated Sunnydale and wanted nothing more than to return to LA, quickly.

"You had sex with her when she was seventeen, Angel? *Seventeen* for god sakes. She was just a child. Even hear of statutory rape?" Kate was unable to comprehend all of what Cordelia had said, choosing instead to focus on a rather insignificant detail.

"You wouldn't understand." Angel fairly growled, not wanting to explain himself or his relationship with Buffy to Kate.

"I'm not so sure about that. Young, beautiful girls have a way of getting what they want, and she wanted you. That's not so hard to understand. I know how she must have felt. I would, however, have expected you to know better." Kate turned away, believing that her words would make an impact. She was wrong.

As soon as Kate turned away, Angel's thoughts were back on Buffy. Could he get Buffy out of there without losing his soul? Dim memories of the fight with the Akadian demon years ago surfaced in his subconscious… It had been a brutal fight.

"And what does he mean that Angelus would 'use her' but not kill her? Are you planning on having sex with this girl again? Haven't you done enough to her already?" Kate stomped over to Angel, staring up into his face furiously.

Angel looked at her briefly before he glanced at the computer monitor again. Buffy was stirring. Slowly she sat up and stretched, flinching slightly at her still healing back. In the next moment he wondered if he'd survive the loss of his soul again.

"Kate, you don't understand, but it doesn't matter." Angel's next words were a shout. "Giles! Get the others."

When Giles and the rest of the Scooby gang returned to the living room, Angel finally stopped his pacing. "Here's how it's going to go down…" Angel glanced at the screen once again before he turned back to the others. A plan was crystallizing in his mind…

Chapter 2 - Angelus

 

 

After the plan had been laid out, Willow and Oz left for the magic shop to get a few necessary supplies. Everyone else used the rest of the afternoon as an opportunity to get some sleep - or at least try to. They all knew it was going to be a long night since they intended to put their plan into action as soon as it was dark.

Angel had closed his eyes for a while, but had not slept. He had been watching the window attentively for the last hour. As soon as the sun began to set, he stood and pulled on his coat. It was time to go. He glanced once at Willow, who nodded in reply. She had everything she needed and would begin the ritual as soon as she got word.

Cordelia bit back any additional objections. It would not do any good anyway since she'd voiced them all earlier and they fell on deaf ears. Angel's mind was made up, there was no changing it now. Doyle hugged her as he followed Angel, Riley and Xander out the door. "It's a good plan, princess. It'll work. We'll all be back before you know it."

"Doyle, you idiot. Don't say things like that, you'll jinx the whole thing!" Cordelia muttered to the door he closed behind him. Frowning, she flopped on the couch and crossed her arms. She had a bad feeling about this…

***
When they came within sight of the old army bunker, Angel gave Riley and Doyle terse, succinct instructions regarding Buffy and himself, should anything go wrong. He even handed Riley a stake, trusting the younger man to use it should the plan somehow fail.

Then he turned and walked into the camp alone. They knew through Riley's men that were watching the camp that Jenoff had left a short while earlier, something that was critical to the success of their plan. Angel needed time alone with Buffy first, if he were in fact, going to lose his soul again. As he neared the building where Buffy was being held, the first doubt crossed Angel's mind. It wasn't whether he'd defeat the Akadian demon - or one like him - now standing in front of him and blocking his path. Rather, he wondered if Buffy would reject him. He could certainly understand if she did - there were many perfectly valid reasons, not to mention her own unpleasant memories of Angelus, for her not to want him, to not to simply allow him to waltz back into her life and make love to her. Even to save her life.

After a few tense moments of negotiation, the Akadian demon relented and opened the door for Angel. Finally. He was going to get to see her in person.

***
Buffy came to her feet at the sound of the door opening, watching warily as someone descended the steps. She hoped the tingling feeling in her stomach was wrong, that she was not sensing him. The sound of the door being closed and locked again echoed through the small room. Obviously she wasn't leaving just yet, they were just locking him in with her.

"What are you doing here?" When he came fully into view, she was surprised and somewhat dismayed. All her efforts to protect him now appeared to be for naught.

"Saving you?" Angel walked slowly toward her, his eyes scrutinizing her for any signs of injury. A brief fury flared in his eyes as he recalled that they had whipped her.

"Saving me? Saving me?! You just walked into the trap that those idiots up there set for *you* and all you can say is that you're saving me. Unbelievable." Buffy looked away from him in frustration, her fingers clenching into her palms. Really what she wanted was to run to him and hug him, maybe run her hands over him and… No, that wasn't possible. There was no 'them' anymore. He had someone new and she was trying to move on.

"So then, what's your plan?" Buffy turned back to face him, stepping forward with a new resolve. Since he was here now, they would have to get through this together and then go their separate ways again. "And why didn't you listen to Giles when he asked you not to come to Sunnydale?"

"It's pretty simple really." Angel walked toward her, his eyes taking on an assessing look as he thought of the next few hours. Despite the circumstances and the consequences, the idea that he could make love to her again easily took precedence in his mind. It was a gift. A gift with a high price, but a gift none-the-less. One that he'd be foolish to not take full advantage of. "We make love. Then I challenge the demons upstairs, after which we leave. There's other stuff that follows that of course, but at a high level, that's the plan." He ignored her last question. How foolish of her to think he wouldn't come if she needed him.

"Uh, back up a minute. What did you just say?" Buffy was stunned. She took a step back from him and held up her hand as if to stop him.

"We leave?" Angel stepped forward.

Buffy cleared her throat. "Farther back."

"I challenged the demons-" Angel's voice was level, but he felt his own sense of nervousness knowing where the conversation was going.

"Farther."

"We make love." Looking at her directly, Angel said the words softly, huskily.

"And just why are we going to do that?" Buffy spun around in the small room, needing some time to slow the racing of her heart that had begun at his words. "There's the curse… And you, you left me… There's your new girlfriend. Oh god, and there's Riley… Lots of complications. Too many-"

"Losing my soul is the only way I can get us out of here." Angel replied gravely, too aware of all of the issues and complications that existed between them. She needn't elaborate any further.

"And then what?" Buffy turned back to look at him, her gaze direct. Losing his soul was not something he'd do lightly, so he must be serious. And she never doubted if she could trust him. "I can't stake you. I mean, maybe I could, I guess, but-but, even if I wanted to, I don't have anything here and-"

Angel was in front her in two quick steps and easily stopped Buffy's words with his lips, his mouth covering hers in a kiss. Back at Giles's, Willow smiled as she watched them on the computer monitor. Kate frowned and fumed, while Cordelia sighed in resigned worry and Giles made tea.

She tasted sweeter than he remembered, her lips softer, he thought as he pulled her against him. How warm she was… He'd forgotten. Moving his hand to her head, his fingers tangled in her hair holding her head gently as his lips and tongue explored the delicious regions of her mouth. He knew what they were doing now was not without risk; as a demon, Angelus would be temperamental and dangerous. He knew too, that he would not kill Buffy, at least not anytime soon, but there were other things that Angelus wanted from her. Dark, sexual things that he wasn't sure he could control. Hopefully Willow could re-curse him quickly before things went too far…

When Buffy sighed against him, sinking into him, his thoughts returned to her. She was here, and his for the taking. It was an exhilarating thought. In the next flashing second, he realized how much he missed her. She felt like homecoming and rapture and solace, all wrapped up in one tiny package.

"Angel… I still don't think… we should…" Buffy broke off their kiss, her words coming out breathy and broken.

"…wait any longer…" Angel finished her sentence in his own way, his lips covering hers once more. This time his kiss was demanding and possessive, using all the skills acquired over many years of experience to enhance the pleasurable sensations and draw her in, to help her forget any objections. When he lifted his head to change the slant of his lips, Buffy whimpered softly, missing his touch.

"Really… this is not… a good idea…" Between kisses, Buffy sighed, even as she snuggled her body closer to him, feeling the ridge of his erection pressing insistently against her stomach. Her arms came up to twine around his neck as her lips waited for the next touch of his. As was often the case when they were together, everything else in the world seemed to fall away and not matter. It was as if it were only the two of them, no Akadian demons patrolling above, no hostage scenario, no soul at stake.

"You're right, sweetheart." Angel whispered against her lips. "At least not with so many people watching." With a quick sweep, Angel shrugged off his coat and tossed it easily in the direction of the video camera that had been trained on her. It caught and hung, effectively giving them privacy. Willow smiled once more, turning her attentions to her notes on the needed curse. Kate slammed the door to the bathroom, upset at seeing Angel with that girl not to mention, kissing her so thoroughly.

Buffy looked in surprise at his actions, unaware that she had been watched all this time. She'd seen the camera but had thought it inactive. He simply shrugged in response.

"Now then, where were we?" Angel lifted her in his arms and moved to the small cot. Lowering her to the bed, he followed her down in a smooth motion, settling between her legs to lie above her.

"You're serious about this, aren't you?" Buffy looped her arms around his neck, surprised at how good it felt to be with him again, how much she had missed him. They'd been so hesitant with their displays of affection the last year that they were together, that this was like being together again for the first time. No constraints, no restrictions. It was a heady experience.

"Yes." Angel kissed her again, his hands slowly roving over her body, becoming reacquainted with her.

"What about-" Buffy gasped as his tongue traced her ear. "Kate?" One of his large hands was resting on her waist, his thumb brushing dangerously close to her breast and distracting her. Her foot rested on his calf, her thigh brushing his hip.

"There's no one else, Buffy." His voice was muffled against her neck as his lips and tongue now traced the scar on her neck. His mark. He smiled against her skin with masculine pride, just before he bit down firmly. Buffy moaned and squirmed, the feeling of his blunted teeth on her neck sending sparks straight down her body to culminate between her legs.

He undressed her gently, stopping to plant kisses on each section of skin he exposed. Buffy closed her eyes at the feel of his lips on her bare flesh, surprised at the sensation such a simple touch could create within her. Desire flared hot and powerful within her, shocking her with an intensity and swiftness that she did not recall from their years together. Maybe the time apart changed things…

His hand moved up her rib cage to cup her breast, his thumb and forefinger erotically plucking at the tight bud of her nipple. Buffy felt the ache between her legs begin to burn. She wanted more. Both of his hands were now on her breasts, cupping and palming them with exquisite, teasing slowness before returning to toy with the taut peaks. He seemed to know just how to touch her, how hard, how soft. His touch was unbelievably erotic, stirring sensations within her that had long been denied.

"You're beautiful." Angel whispered against her huskily as his head lowered to take one nipple between his lips. One hand slid down her waist to her hips, soothing and stroking. His tongue swept roughly across the rosy peak of her nipple, making her moan and arch against him like a cat. She was trying to prolong the pleasurable sensation of his mouth on her body, almost afraid that he'd change his mind at any moment. Or that this was some dream. In the back of her mind Buffy knew that their being here together, their capture was dangerous, yet she was desperate to forget, she just wanted to feel

Suddenly he returned his lips to hers, kissing her fiercely, forcing her lips apart and ravaging her mouth with his tongue. His hands worked at the buttons of his shirt, and he quickly divested himself of the garment before drawing her hard against him, anxious to feel the warmth of her breasts against his chest. When he released her mouth, Buffy pressed her lips to his throat, kissing and tasting the smooth pale flesh with the tip of her tongue. She writhed beneath him, pressing her breasts firmly against his chest and savoring the cool of him against her heated skin. Her hair brushed across his shoulder, teasing him with soft tendrils. He threaded his fingers through it, guiding her face back to his and kissing her again as he kicked off his shoes, Buffy's s hands urgently beginning to unbuckle his belt.

As Angel pushed back from her and tugged off his pants, Buffy explored his shoulders and chest with her hands, finding a new erotic power in the shudders that she sent rippling forcefully through his body. She felt a curious sense of ownership, of pleasure in being able to touch him this way, realizing how strong and well built he was, how perfect his form. And yet, there was still that reckless, spiraling want that was surging through her blood like a fever…

Buffy rose up on the small cot on her knees, as Angel stood next to her now completely nude. She caressed him with her body, rubbing her breasts against him as she slid down along the length of him. Her hands cradled the hardness of his thighs before slipping up behind him to squeeze his buttocks. Leaning forward she nuzzled his thighs, the silk of her hair teasing the erection jutting toward her as she brushed across it. Angel curled his fingers in her hair as she reached for his cock, wrapping her fingers around the base. Nothing she could remember felt so vivid, so soft and yet, so hard and pulsing. His hands tightened in her hair as she took him in her mouth. She had only done this for him once before, so it was purely instinct and the sensual fever that was racing through her that drove her. Angel gritted his teeth at the feel of her lips on him, her tongue flicking and teasing as she sucked his hard length into the back of her throat.

Suddenly she was all but flipped on her back as he grabbed her and pressed her back into the small cot. Catching her knees, he pushed her legs apart. Buffy closed her eyes and braced herself for his thrust. Instead, she felt his hands on her thighs, parting her further. His hair brushed across her thigh as he lowered his head between her legs, his hands sliding up the insides of her thighs to the wet vee between her legs. Parting her gently with his fingertips, he leaned forward. Her breath caught in her throat at the first wet swipe of his tongue across that tiny, sensitive nub of flesh between her legs. He'd done this once before as well, but it had been dark that night in his apartment and she'd been almost too nervous to enjoy it. Buffy tossed on the small bed as he continued to explore her sensitive flesh, taking her clit between his lips and circling it with his tongue before sucking it between his teeth. He continued, licking and sucking, the sensations building rapidly, deliberately until her whole body was wracked with an intense, shuddering climax. It burned through her with a sweet intensity, all thoughts receding from her mind in great, gulping waves.

She was still pleasurably drifting when she felt the hard length of him press inside and invade her, the fullness of his body penetrating deeply. She lay still at first, absorbing the feel of him over her, inside her. She basked in the size and strength and force of him as he thrust inside her with deliberate strokes. He created a new fire inside her, the friction of his body seducing her and igniting her hunger for him again. Buffy moved against him, arching her hips as her hands traced across his back. Strong arms pulled him closer as she once again felt that desperate yearning, that desire to reach the pinnacle of ecstasy with him. To find and stay in that place where the fire seemed to burst into flame and saturate her entire body with the deliciousness of it…

His climax was the catalyst for hers. The staggering force of him as he slammed inside her, pouring his seed into her body brought the searing sensations within her to a tumultuous peak. She clutched him close as she cried out, the sheer intensity creating a blinding light before receding slowly into gray as she passed out.

When he felt her shudder around him, so hot and tight, Angel thought he was going to lose his mind. And he did. He lost all touch with reality as he lost himself in her. Lost his heart to her once again, and ultimately, lost his soul.

***
Giles looked at the clock. Angel had been with Buffy for over an hour now. At any time, the next steps of the plan would spin into motion. He agreed with the strategy, believing it to be their only option but now he was having doubts. They had knowingly unleashed Angelus on the world. What if he didn't behave as expected? What if something went wrong?

Giles sighed and sipped another cup of tea, glancing at Willow and Oz. They were cuddled together on the couch, Willow dozing on Oz's shoulder as Oz read a book. Cordelia paced by the window, muttering occasionally to herself. Kate had not yet returned from the bathroom. Giles wondered briefly if he should check on her, but then she suddenly emerged. She was subdued but seemed resigned, asking Giles politely if she could have a small glass of the whiskey that sat on the counter. He smiled slightly and nodded, his thoughts returning again to Angelus and Buffy. He had no desire to invade their privacy, yet he found himself wishing he could see what was going on in that small room.

***
Buffy stirred and stretched, feeling a languor and contentedness that she hadn't felt in a very long time. She wanted nothing more than to lay here and savor the sensations, to be cocooned with them for a time, weeks or months maybe. She'd tasted the possibilities of pleasure before with Angel, but this night had been amazing. Even the thought of what they had done was stirring her arousal, warming her senses.

Slowly she opened her eyes and looked around. Angelus was sitting near her feet on the small bed staring at her.

"Hello, Buff. I have to thank you for bringing me back so, well - superbly." His eyes glittered harshly as studied her nude form.

The sweet aftermath shattered like glass. Buffy chastised herself for not being better prepared for his return. She knew what he was like, she knew to expect this, yet she was astonished at the depth of hurt that filled her at his words.

When she attempted to scramble to her feet, he stopped her, covering her body with his with a preternatural speed she rarely saw him use.

"How about a quick fuck? After all, you can't seem to keep you legs closed for me. And I have to say, I do like stuffing that hot little pussy with cock…" Angelus knew that Buffy hadn't been with anyone else. She'd been almost virginally tight, still, but even more was the absolute lack of a scent from anyone else. Hell, he doubted whether Riley had even put his hand between Buffy's legs - a thought which made him growl.

She didn't answer at first, unable to. His fingers slid up her thigh, slowly, tantalizing as they drew near to the core of her pleasure.

Buffy came to life then, twisting beneath him as she strained to throw him off. She fought hard, kicking and punching, and succeeded in bucking him off but he grabbed a fistful of her hair and yanked hard, holding her head against the bed as tears filled her eyes from the pain. "I don't think that's very smart, Buff. I could just as easily kill you as take you out of here. Now play nicely and we'll get along just fine." His tone shifted to a growl. "Spread your legs."

Unable to break the grip he had on her hair and knowing that he was her best hope for getting out, Buffy gradually relaxed, the muscles in her thighs slowly unclenching and opening. He glanced at her face. She had closed her eyes. Her breasts rose and fell with every panting breath that she took, clearly still agitated from her struggles with him. He watched her as he ran his hand over her breasts and abdomen, then down the neatly trimmed patch of dark blond hair before sliding between her legs to part the tender lips of her sex. He toyed with her, alternating between flicking and squeezing her clit, to pushing his long fingers inside her and curling them slightly to rub against her sensitive inner walls. She bit her lip, attempting to resist the pleasurable sensations he was so easily stirring. Suddenly he stopped, resting his damp fingers on her thigh. He waited, wanting her to ask for more. When she arched her back and lifted her hips in response, he smiled and eased his fingers into her wet and waiting warmth. Buffy moaned at his touch and wrapped her arms tightly around his neck. She hated him, yet she wanted him.

Angelus leaned back slightly, resisting the pressure of her hands to look down at her flushed face. "It's only fitting that you welcome me back with your hot little pussy, don't you think?" His fingers continued to stroke her leisurely, the pressure firming with each touch and making her moan. Lowering his face to her, his lips hovered above hers. "Say yes, my hot little slayer bitch." His fingers pressed harder and deeper, Buffy's nails digging into his shoulders. "Say you'll fuck me."

His hand stopped his deft movements, depriving her of their pleasure. How easily he could stir that reckless, aching want inside her. How easily it seemed, he could take her to a point where she was unaware of everything but him, the power of him, her need of him. Everything in her cried out for him, against any wishes to the contrary. After a long pause, Buffy whispered. "Yes."

"And suck my cock."

"Yess." The word came out in a hushed whisper, his fingers wreaking havoc on her senses as they resumed their manipulation of her.

"And do anything else I want."

Buffy hesitated only a moment. "Yes… Please, yes."

Angelus smiled wolfishly as he parted her folds and rubbed her clit firmly, making her writhe against him.

"Now…" Buffy whimpered.

"Soon." Angelus slid his fingers free and moved over her. With a quick movement, he glided hard and long, inside her. She was so warm and tight around him, his cock felt burned.

How could she feel so excruciatingly good, so hot and tempting, Angelus thought with pleasure as his eyes closed. Lust exploded in his brain, pure unadulterated lust, and his mouth sought hers once again. His tongue pushed between her lips with an intense, driving fury as his hips pounded hers.

How could I want him at all, much less this intensely? Buffy thought as she arched against his next spearing invasion.

When he withdrew, Buffy whimpered in protest only to catch her breath as he slammed forward once again. Holding himself hard against her, he absorbed the flashing pleasure while she panted beneath him. Filled, stretched, every nerve taut, Buffy gasped as waves of desire washed over her. When he flexed his hips and moved forward again, she cried out. Neither of them were capable of restraint, and in the grip of such fierce hunger they moved in a greedy, fevered fashion rocking the small cot until it broke, sending them crashing to the floor. Unabated, the storm of lust persisted and they continued to assuage their need, famished and frenzied.

When she began to whimper, Angelus felt as if the sound vibrated through every pulsing nerve in his body. And if the strength of her grip were any indication, he wouldn't be leaving her anytime soon. Not that he wanted to, not at all. The astonishing pleasure of fucking her was unique in his much-explored sexual universe.

Buffy was swamped by glorious sensation, on the hovering verge of orgasm when Angelus buried his face in her throat and bit down, his fangs sinking deeply into the scar already on her neck. The sharp stinging pain pushed her over the edge, bringing an explosive pleasure so shocking, so violent and intense that it rocked her very being, burning through her body with an all-consuming rapture she had never before known.

Angelus drank greedily, the rich taste of her blood adding to the ravishing sensations jolting his nerves. Long minutes later he allowed himself release, growling deep in his chest and coming hard in a wild, agonizing convulsion as blood dripped from his fangs.

When he finally withdrew from her, Buffy rolled on to her side away from him. Her eyes burned with unshed tears as she silently cursed both him and herself. The reality of what they had done created waves of guilt and recrimination. This could not have been a good idea.

Angelus stood and washed up at the small sink, glancing occasionally at Buffy as she lay still on the shambles of the bed. She was a splendid bitch, a true mate for him. His mind was rapidly running through the next few hours. The first order of business was to show Jenoff and his Akadian friends that they should never have dared to fuck with him. After that, he'd just have to take care of Captain Commando and friends. He needed to prevent them from making the call that would ruin everything, but he also wanted to make it clear to Riley that he would not tolerate anyone poaching on his territory. And Buffy was most definitely his territory.

Leaning down, Angelus slapped Buffy hard on the behind. "Get up. Get dressed."

Indignantly Buffy whirled around and glared at him. But she said nothing as she stood and headed to the shower.

Gathering his own clothes, he began to dress. Then he'd take her somewhere nice and private. Somewhere where he could teach her how to be a proper mate… But first, he'd have to pay a visit to her watcher and friends; he wanted to make sure that the curse was lost for good this time.

***
When Angelus emerged from his rendezvous with Buffy, any of his earlier doubts and reservations had vanished. Slayer blood pounded through his veins giving him added strength. He was a warrior, furious and on attack that they had even dared to threaten what was his. When he finished the Akadian champion, he would see that Jenoff die a slow and painful death for daring to even touch his mate, much less harm her.

The Akadian outside the door opened it after Angelus pounded on it with two short blows.
Jenoff and the rest of the Akadians watched him as he made his way through the opened the door, walking toward them with Buffy in tow. A low murmur went through the small demon crowd gathering at the sight of them, one dark and hostile, the other a seemingly delicate golden beauty. There was no doubt, she was a perfect foil for him, light and dark, good and evil, innocence and corruption…

***
"He's got her. They're out of there." Xander blurted happily when he spotted them across the distance. It seemed as if everything was going according to plan.

Riley and Doyle exchanged glances. They long hours that they had been waiting had been agonizing for Riley, visions of shared intimacies between Buffy and Angel popping unwanted into his head. Yet, he knew it was their only hope; their best plan.

Riley held the high-powered binoculars up to his eyes. Buffy was leaning against Angelus, but appeared to be all right. Then he noticed the fresh wound on her neck. It was faint from this distance, but there all the same. "God damn him!" The words came out in an explosive snarl.

"What?! What's wrong?" Xander glanced at Riley, then back to where he could make out the shapes of Buffy and Angel in the distance.

"The bastard bit her." Riley spat out the words, finding them unpleasant and distasteful.

Doyle looked worriedly at Riley, then dialed Giles's number.

***
Angel spoke rapidly in the Akadian language, telling them that he had come for his mate. He said that Jenoff was a liar and a thief. He said that he would not leave without Buffy.

The Akadians knew of Angelus, stories of his exploits as the Scourge of Europe abounded. They also knew that was prepared to die if necessary. His stance of determination and daring earned their respect and admiration. Enemies though they might be, warriors of all codes understood and honored courage.

Jenoff spoke up indignantly. He wanted no respect to be given to Angelus. And, he was furious that the Akadians had let Angelus in to see her during his absence. Her presence beside him took away much of his bargaining power.

The Akadians talked among themselves, weighing Jenoff's offer of payment in gold against Angelus's offer to fight for his woman. They understood that Buffy had simply been the hostage, dismissing Jenoff's desire for Angelus's now non-existent soul as foolishness. Souls were not something they understood, so the presence or lack of a soul was inconsequential. They did feel honor bound, however, to keep their word to Jenoff.

Angelus watched as they argued, keeping Buffy's hand tucked tightly in his. She was still a little weak from the blood he had taken, swaying against him slightly ever so often. They longer they argued, the better a chance he stood of getting his way. A feral smile touched his face briefly as he thought of Riley and the others hidden in the brush just outside the camp. They had no way of knowing that Angelus had altered the plans, once he left here with Buffy. Something he had no doubt he would do. Still, he uncharacteristically leaned over to Buffy and spoke softly.

"If something goes wrong, Riley and the others are waiting just outside camp. Fight your way to them if necessary." He hated to think of her fate at the hands of Jenoff or the Akadians. As distasteful as it was, he much preferred that she join her friends.

"Don't say that." Buffy was reluctant to risk leaving Angel behind. Even if he was currently Angelus, she knew that they would have made plans to rectify that as soon as possible.

"If I tell you to go, you go. No questions asked, Buff."

"What are they saying?" Buffy chose not to dwell on that possibility, and instead shifted her attention to the Akadians, who were still talking amongst themselves.

"They argue with each other." Angelus looked at Buffy, squeezing her hand. "Now lover, kiss me for luck." Disengaging his hand, Angelus leaned down and kissed Buffy hard. When he released her, he turned toward Jenoff and the others without a backward glance.

Angelus offered his challenge for Buffy to any Akadian, with any weapon. His only condition was that if he won, he wanted Jenoff. To be clear, he added, he would fight Jenoff fairly, one on one.

Jenoff rejected the offer, as Giles has anticipated he would. Instead, he wanted the woman's soul as payment. The Akadians scoffed. With a challenge thrown out, it was now a matter of honor. If Jenoff did not accept, then all of his credibility would be wiped away.

After several tense moments, it was finally agreed.

Angelus knew as he stood there waiting for the Akadian champion to be selected that this would be the ultimate test of his skills as a warrior. He would need all his skills, his courage and any cultivated knowledge of killing. The Akadians champion finally stepped forward. He was larger and more solidly built than Angelus, his long hair braided and tied back. He wore only a pair of pants, his salmon colored chest bare and glistening with oil. His green eyes glittered with menace, anxious for a challenge.

Angelus shrugged out of his coat and tossed it to Buffy, along with his shirt.

***
Doyle talked quietly and quickly with Giles, giving him the update on the current situation. At the close of the conversation, Giles assured Doyle that they would have everything in readiness - all they needed to do was to call back and Willow would begin the ritual.

Everyone was tense and on-edge now that Angelus was obviously in the mix.

***
Angelus and the Akadian circled each other slowly, gradually coming closer and closer. When a sudden striking movement, the demon lunged forward and catch Angelus in a vise grip. The demon lifted him easily into the air, choking him. Buffy looked away, her face pale.

Not needing the breath the Akadian was trying to choke out of him, Angelus shot his knee upward with all his strength. The demons ribs cracked and he staggered backward, releasing his hold. A smaller demon or man would have fallen from the impact, but the Akadian only grunted and stumbled. Angelus twisted away as the Akadian tried to renew his hold. Several well-placed punches and the Akadian staggered only to spring forward once more. Blows were exchanged for a good twenty minutes before either man showed any signs of fatigue. When the Akadian next lunged forward, the impact sent them both crashing to the ground, Angelus underneath. The Akadian crowd cheered.

Using his legs Angelus heaved the demon off of him, then reached up to grab the braided hair and yank hard on the demons head, twisting his neck. The Akadian roared in pain and anger as Angelus rolled free.

Once more both of them were on their feet. This time when the Akadian lunged, he aimed his thumb directly at Angelus's eye. Angelus jerked away in time, but the Akadian buried a thick fist into his hair and wrenched Angelus to his knees. Using his arms, Angelus held himself off the ground as the Akadian attempted to force him into the ground, his crushing weight pressing downward on Angelus with increasing weight even as the Akadian pounded his fist on his back. With slow difficult movements, Angelus inched his hand closer to the Akadians foot planted near his head. Wrenching his body, Angelus grabbed the demons leg and heaved him up and over his shoulder. The Akadian flew threw the air and twisted, crashing hard on the ground. His head bounced against the ground and he was still, the breath knocked out of him. Taking no chances, Angelus stepped over the body, dropped to his knees and twisted the demons neck. The snap echoed through the now quiet courtyard.

Buffy glanced around at the crowd, then at Angelus who was now coming to his feet. His golden eyes were wild as they flicked over the crowd and then came to rest on Buffy. Satisfied that she remained unmolested, Angelus searched for Jenoff.

The Akadian had fallen almost easily to the determined vampire. The hushed whispers among the crowd were uneasy. Finally, Jenoff stepped forward.

If he couldn't have the vampire's soul, then Jenoff was intent on murder. He chose knives as his weapon. Silently, Angelus welcomed the choice. He looked forward to slicing the demon into small bits.

The knife that was handed to him felt solid and comforting in his grasp. He tossed it from hand to hand and flexed his knees, waiting confidently.

***
"One down, one to go." Riley watched cautiously through the field glasses, updating Doyle and Xander on the events.

Once more Doyle dialed the phone. Xander watched the figures in the dark distance anxiously, chewing his nails.

This time when Giles answered, Doyle could hear the irritation in his voice. "What's up?"

"Kate. She's snockered. I think she drank the whole bloody body of liquor and now she's blubbering about Angel. Did you have to bring her?" Giles sighed as he watched the woman stagger around the living room. "Never mind that now. What's happening? Should we start the ritual?"

"Not yet. Angelus is fighting Jenoff now." Doyle glanced at Riley, who only shook his head. "Well, soon, any way."

"Ok. We'll be waiting for your call then." Giles hung up the phone and shook his head.

Kate was now leaning drunkenly over Willow's shoulder, swaying and muttering. "Well, it's not ash if he's not atrashwed to me, you know. He kwished me, I'll have you know. And it waaz good. Hesh a good kizer."

The next few minutes played out as if they were in slow motion in Giles's eyes. He watched as Kate stumbled and fell against the desk, her drink spilling over the papers containing the curse. Willow moved quickly and snatched them up before much damage was done. The real horror was seconds away. Kate stumbled again, this time knocking the Orb of Thessulah to the floor. It shattered with a resounding crash on the hardwood floor, bringing everyone to their feet and to a complete and utter stand still. The silence in the room was almost deafening as they all took in the ramifications of what just happened.

"Oh. My. God." Cordelia spoke first. "Giles. Tell me you have another one of those things. Giles, c'mon tell me. Giiilesss!"

Giles was speechless. He didn't, in fact, have another one. He shook his head slightly as everyone stared at him.

"Magic Box. I'm on it." Oz moved first, heading toward the door.

"But-but," Willow stuttered, waving the papers she held in her hand to dry them. "I don't think they have any."

"Oh God. I knew something like this would go wrong. It always does when Buffy and Angel are involved. Together, involved I mean." Cordelia glanced at Giles, then her gaze landed on Oz, "Well, go already!"

Kate only giggled, before falling drunkenly into the chair near the desk. "Oopsy."

"I suggest someone take her into the other room to lie down, before she does any more damage. Or before I kill her." Giles walked calmly across the room, stopping to pour himself a healthy draught of the whisky. There was none left.

Cordelia took a glass and held it out to him. She felt the need for a shot of courage herself, given the change in circumstances. Giles hesitated only a moment before he reached under the sink and opened a new bottle of Irish whiskey. He poured them both a glass, and they each made a silent toast.

Willow joined them, holding up a glass as well. She wheezed and gasped as the strong liquor went down. They all stared at Kate, now snoring loudly in the chair, unaware of what she had done.

***
Angelus took the offensive when Jenoff stepped forward. He was in no hurry, wanting Jenoff to suffer. This would not be quick or painless for the soul-sucking demon.

But Jenoff hadn't survived all these years without honing his own skills of survival. Granted, he usually hired henchmen to do his dirty work but that didn't mean he wasn't without a trick or two. And he was almost as ruthless as Angelus himself. An advantage that the Akadian demon, given his lack of any personal grudge against Angelus, had not had.

"I'll take her home with me when you're dust, vampire." Jenoff snarled. "She can share my bed." His eyes were filled with hate, but Angelus only looked back with contempt.

"You'd never survive the experience."

Incensed, Jenoff lunged at Angelus slashing with his knife. Angelus moved out of the way, but not before Jenoff sliced a crimson trail across his upper arm. The crowd murmured their approval as Buffy smothered a cry of alarm.

Lunging back at Jenoff, Angelus managed to plunge his knife deep into the muscle of his upper arm. Jenoff bellowed like a wounded animal, but still managed to twist forward and nearly drive his weapon between Angelus's ribs.

They grappled back and forth for several long minutes before, Angelus clearly toying with the demon, slicing and stabbing his flesh at every turn. Jenoff grew more and more crazed, managing with sheer determination to land a few well-placed stabs as well. It was a long while later, each bearing several slashing wounds, when Angelus heard Buffy's scream of warning. Just seconds later, Jenoff kicked him hard between the legs. Had he not shifted his position to the side slightly, he would have never gotten up. As it was, a stabbing pain tightened his stomach, his groin. The agonizing pain sent him crashing to his knees. Jenoff then kicked him squarely in the ribs, sending him keeling over to the side. When his arm hit the ground, Jenoff stepped over him triumphantly and kicked the knife, sending it flying off into the dust.

"Take a last look at your little whore. I think I'll let the Akadians have a go at her before I take her home."

Angelus fought through the pain, Jenoff coming back in to focus.

"I wonder what it's like to fuck a slayer." Jenoff chuckled, looking at the Akadian demons surrounding them then at Buffy's wide-eyed face.

Angelus felt the rage rise once more in him, pushing aside the pain. He rose from the ground so fast that Jenoff didn't even have a chance to move away. Angelus punched him hard in the stomach, sending him doubled over in pain. His next two blows were to Jenoff's face, then finally he landed one on his neck, breaking his spine. The demon howled as blood and foam spurted out of his mouth before he crashed to the ground. He lay there in an open mouthed sprawl; his head loose like a broken toy. Angelus only regretted that he had not caused Jenoff more pain. Slowly he moved toward the dead demon, stopping to retrieve his knife. Yanking the demon up by the back of the head, Angelus slit his throat and decapitated him, then tossed the head to Jenofff's former right hand man, known only as "Repo-man". Rumor had it that Jenoff could not be killed, but Angelus was not worried about that just now. As it was, it didn't appear that Jenoff would be getting up any time soon.

***
The second that Jenoff hit the ground, Riley was urgently whispering, "Dial. Dial!"

Doyle dialed Giles's number, glancing between Riley and Xander with worry when no one answered immediately. Finally Giles picked up the phone.

"Go! Start the curse. It's over." Doyle watched as Riley and Xander gathered their gear.

"Gentlemen, we have a problem." Giles paused, glancing at Oz and Willow who were now frantically searching through sites on the Internet. "If Angelus sees you, he's likely to kill you. I suggest that you get out of there now. And quickly. I'll explain when you get here."

***
Angelus was exhausted and bleeding from half a dozen wounds. He shook his head to clear the sudden dizziness. He needed to get to Buffy, then get out of here as he didn't trust the Akadians to let them leave. His wounded arm hung limply from his side, and he moved with obvious effort. Finally his eyes landed on Buffy. She hadn't moved. No one had moved. They all watched and waited silently to see if Angelus would fall.

Moving slowly and painfully, Angelus crossed the distance to Buffy. Stopping in front of her, he mouthed her name. Looping an arm over her shoulder, he began to lead them away from the camp. He was careful not to lean on her so that it would be noticeable as they made their way through the crowd.

Buffy felt the drops of blood sliding down her skin from his wounds, but she kept her head up and her eyes forward. When they reached the edge of the camp, Angelus spotted his car. Riley's jeep was gone, and neither he nor Xander and Doyle were anywhere to be seen. Just as well, he'd deal with them later when he had the strength.

When they were in the car and slowly pulling away, Buffy finally found her voice. "Are you all right? She wasn't sure of the extent of his injuries, uncertain of his strength.

"Yes." Angelus turned away from Sunnydale, intent on recovering his strength in a secluded location. Searching his pockets for his cell phone, he dialed Doyle.

***
Doyle, Xander and Riley had just reached Giles's when Doyle's phone began to ring. Giles and the others were clearly packed and ready to move - which further startled the returning guys.

Doyle glanced at the caller-id before he looked at Giles as he answered. Giles shook his head and gestured to the others to keep quiet.

"'lo, Angel?" Doyle's voice was friendly, indicating nothing out of the ordinary. "How are you man? You fought like a madman out there."

"I don't want to think what I might do, if I think you're attempting the curse. I'd forget it, if I were you. Tell that to the little wanna be wicca too."

"What's that Angel? I've got a bad connection." Doyle closed the door quietly as the others piled into Oz's van.

"You heard me clearly, demon." Angel hung up the phone, then glanced at Buffy who was watching him warily.

When everyone was in the van, Giles gave the update as to what happened to the Orb, along with the bad news that there didn't seem to be another in Sunnydale. The Magic Shop's supplier could have one shipped from Phoenix, but that would take two days. Giles didn't believe that they had two days, but had ordered it regardless. In the meantime, Oz and Willow had been checking shops in nearby towns. One woman in LA thought she had one, but she had just moved her store and had yet to unpack everything. She was supposed to call back if and when it turned up. That, so far, was their best hope. But their plan was to keep looking.

In the meantime, Giles thought it prudent that they change locations to one that Angelus did not know about. Giles had suspected that Angelus would not want the curse performed, something that Doyle confirmed, and that all their lives could be at risk. Thoughts of Jenny flashed through Giles's mind and he was filled with regret and guilt that he had willingly helped bring the monster back that had killed her.

***
Buffy attempted to stay awake, needing to know where Angelus took her, but the past few days of anxiety, little sleep and the blood loss finally caught up with her and she dozed off. Sleepily she rubbed her face when Angelus lifted her from the car and carried her into the house. No one knew about the small place just outside of Sunnydale that Angel owned and sometimes went when he wanted to be near to Buffy, yet not so close that she'd know he was there. It was well stocked and perfect for a few days of rest and relaxation while he recovered from his wounds. Not to mention, the perfect hideaway for some carnal amusement.

He laid Buffy on the bed and handcuffed one wrist to the antique iron headboard. He only had a short while to hunt before dawn, needing fresh blood for the most expeditious recovery and he didn't want to risk her wandering out on her own while he was gone. He considered taking more of her blood, but decided against it - at least until she had a little time to recover, not to mention some food and water.

After cleaning up and changing his shirt, he was ready to go. With a small smile, he closed the door behind him and limped out into the night.
***

Giles and company settled in to Xander's apartment, the only place that they could easily think of that Angelus wasn't likely to know about.

Riley paced near the door, feeling frustrated and helpless. He'd argued with the others that they should have stayed. Between the three of them they surely could have overpowered Angelus in his weakened state and locked him up. Riley knew he'd feel a heck of a lot better if he had at least tried. He felt that they simply traded one bad situation for another - only now they didn't even know where Buffy was.

Willow and Oz continued their Internet search for magic suppliers that carried Thessulahian Orbs, and Giles stayed on the phone, working his way through his connections at the Watcher's council. Xander simply stared out the window, wondering where Angelus had gone with Buffy and if she was okay.

Doyle and Cordelia had put Kate in Xander's bedroom, where she was still snoring drunkenly, and then went to pick up pizzas for everyone.

"I knew something like this would happen. It always does when Buffy and Angel are within touching distance of each other. Buffy's trouble. She's always been trouble and she'll always be trouble, especially for Angel. " Cordelia crossed her arms and shivered, shifting on the sidewalk to walk closer to Doyle.

Doyle wrapped his arm around her hesitantly. They weren't dating, although he would like to. He suspected that Cordelia had a crush on Angel, adding to the reasons she'd be upset now. "It's not really Buffy's fault, now is it? Kate's the one that broke the Orb. Everything would be back to business as usual now, if it weren't for that."

Encouragingly, Cordelia leaned into Doyle for comfort and warmth. "Yeah? But we wouldn't even be here if Angel didn't think he stupidly had to rush in and save her."

Doyle dropped his arm as he opened the door of the pizza place, holding it for her to enter. "What? You'd have had him stay in Los Angeles and not help her? Even after what they did to her?"

Cordelia didn't answer. She knew Doyle would think less of her if she were to be honest with him and say yes. Buffy was the slayer after all, surely she and the rest of the Scooby gang would have figured something else out. She only looked at him and shrugged, rolling her eyes.

They walked back to Xander's quietly, both lost in thought about the coming hours.

***
When Angelus returned to the cabin, he was already feeling much better. He'd conveniently found two transients living in the nearby woods that served as his dinner. The fresh blood did wonders to heal his wounds and energize him. That and the thoughts of a soon to be naked blond slayer spread across his bed. He fairly licked his lips at the thought, crossing through the door.

His first order of business come nightfall would be to find Buffy's little friend Willow and make sure that she never cursed anyone, ever, again. He'd briefly considered searching for her now, but it was nearing dawn. Besides, he had a slayer to entertain… He did send his new minions out to take care of the little witch for him, but he doubted that they would be capable.

Buffy had been awake for only a few minutes when she heard Angelus return to the cabin. Lying still, she pretended to still be sleeping, hoping that perhaps Angelus would leave her be. He was in the kitchen now, opening cabinets and rattling dishes. Buffy cautiously opened her eyes and looked around the room. She didn't recognize the darkened bedroom at all. However, she did realize that it was very tasteful and clearly suited for a vampire, with dark navy blue velvet window coverings that complimented the taupe walls. The room was obviously masculine, sparsely furnished and uncluttered. The framed photograph of her on the bedside table surprised her, and she smiled slightly at the accompanying warm feelings. She guessed then, that this was Angel's room - somewhere.

"You're awake. Good." Angelus entered the room carrying a tray of food. "Eat." He sat the tray down next her and Buffy took in the steaming bowl of oatmeal, along with toast and juice. There was even a small bowl of wild blueberries. She glanced at his face, for a split-second moment hopeful that he was Angel and not Angelus. When the handcuff rattled against the headboard as she shifted, she grimaced - the thought instantly quelled.

"Do you mind?" Buffy held up her wrist, indicating the cuff.

"I'm tired and not in the mood to chase you down, so yes, I mind." Angelus settled comfortably in the leather recliner in the corner of the room, kicking his shoes off as he leaned back.

"I can't eat like this." Shooting him a dirty look, Buffy crossed her free arm across her chest.

Without even looking up, Angelus replied. "Eat or I'll come over there and feed you. Which, I'm pretty sure you won't like."

"I need to use the bathroom." Buffy attempted a different tactic, her immediate goal to free herself.

"After you eat." Angelus still had not moved from his comfortable sprawl in the chair. "Buff, I'm going to count to ten and if you aren't eating, I'll feed you. One… Two…" When he heard the sound of the spoon in the bowl he stopped counting. Glancing at her from under his lashes, he was satisfied to see that she was, in fact, eating.

Buffy realized that she'd need her strength if she expected to take him on, or even if she just planned to escape. And she was hungry, her stomach growling as she began to eat. She'd just barely finished, setting the spoon back in the bowl when Angelus was beside her, swooping up the tray of dishes. Minutes later he returned, then unlocked the handcuff from the headboard pulling her to her feet and down the short hallway. He stopped in front of the bathroom door. "There you go. Leave the door open."

"So you can watch?!" Buffy turned to him indignantly, her cheeks pinking with embarrassment.

Angelus let out a short bark of laughter then looked down at her with a wolfish smile. "Is that some new fetish," all trace of amusement fled from his face with his next words "that you and Riley are into to? I could indulge you, if you'd like."

"No." Buffy's look at him would have frozen a weaker man in his tracks.

"Then I suggest that you not do anything stupid, like attempt to climb out the window."

Angelus turned away then, moving a few short feet down the hallway to wait. If she didn't come out by the time he counted to 200, then he'd go in and get her. He'd just reached 190 and was pushing away from the wall when she stepped out into the hallway. He gestured back to the bedroom and then followed her inside.

"Now then, I think it's time we got reacquainted." Angelus closed the bedroom door, not wanting any avenue for her escape. He locked the door with a key, the put the key on the top of the windowsill, well out of her reach.

"Been there, done that." Buffy flounced away from him and sat in the leather chair he'd occupied earlier. She thought it would be in her best interest to stay clear of the bed. "And I have to say, it's not worth a repeat. Got anything to read?"

Narrowing his eyes at her, Angelus slowly began to unbutton his shirt. Still watching her, he tossed it aside then unbuckled his belt. Buffy tried not to look at him as he walked toward her, his stride as graceful and fluid as a predator stalking it's prey.

"You don't actually think I'm going to stay here with you. Or have sex with you." Buffy met his gaze directly, her eyes challenging.

"I actually know you are." Angelus continued prowling toward her, his dark eyes piercing.

An unwanted thrill spiked through her senses at the thought. Her conscience, however, was not going to let her give in easily.

"You're making a mistake, lover." Buffy spat the words contemptuously. "I'm not going to just give in to you willingly."

Angelus looked down at her with a salacious grin, "Good."

The instant that he clasped a hand around her wrist and jerked her to her feet, Buffy kicked him hard. He staggered back, but recovered quickly and slapped her hard across the face. Had Buffy been up to her full strength, she likely would have taken him. As it was, with Angelus newly fed and very determined, he was able to ultimately able to subdue her, pulling her hard against him.

His lips descended on her with startling force. He kissed her hard, ravishing her lips and probing deep into her mouth with his tongue. When she bit him, he jerked his head back and growled but did not release her. Instead, he lifted her violently in his arms and carried her to the bed, tossing her roughly on it, knocking the breath out of her body. Buffy rolled rapidly and swung her legs over the side of the bed but Angelus grabbed her hair, yanking her back toward the bed. When he moved over her, Buffy raised her knee with as much force as she could muster. Arching back just in time, Angelus avoided her paralyzing blow. Forcing a knee between her legs, he climbed over her and lowered his weight on her, pinning her to the bed.

Buffy thrashed and twisted beneath him, but she was unable to shove his heavy weight completely off her. Forcing the wrist still wearing the handcuff up toward the headboard, Angelus snapped it to the frame, effectively minimizing her ability to fight back. Buffy swung her other hand hard at Angelus's face, her nails curled. He jerked his head back, but her nails still raked across one cheek leaving red furrows that began to bleed. A new wave of anger surged through him.

His hand closed around her free wrist with a painful grip. "Don't scratch my face." Angelus's vanity would not abide by scars, especially scars caused by a woman.

He pulled another pair of handcuffs out of his back pocket as he rested atop her, then managed to seize her other arm and cuff it to the headboard as well. They glared at each other, both panting and incensed, blood still dripping from the scratch on Angelus's face.

"Now then, Buff. Where were we? Ah yes, you need some instruction on the proper role of mistress."

"Not your mistress, you whoremonger." Buffy's spat in reply, pulling hard against the handcuffs that held her.

"Whoremonger? Where did you learn to be so vulgar? Of course, it's a fitting term if you want to call yourself my whore." Angelus leaned up on her elbows, surveying her with a cold, predatory gaze.

"Don't you dare touch me, vampire."

"Dare? You're baiting the wrong man, lover. You know I dare anything." His tone was soft, dangerous.

Angelus shoved her shirt up out of his way, his hands seeking the warm softness of her skin. She gasped when he ripped her shirt off and roughly covered her lace-clad breasts with his large hands. He pawed them for a few moments before ripping her bra away, then stripping her pants and thong panties down her legs.

He crawled back over her then his lips found hers again with a fierce, seeking hunger. He kissed her again and again, nibbling at her bottom lip with his teeth before tracing the edges of her teeth with his tongue, destroying all her thoughts of opposition. The feel of his body so intimately pressed to hers filled Buffy with an aching, sweet warmth. A tingle spiraled through her entire body, seeming to feed off his hunger for her. Though she knew better, she wanted him. She lusted after him with a fierce growing need that seemed to consume her. But she knew who he was, what he was, so she refused to give him the satisfaction of responding. She lay still beneath him, passive and lifeless.

Angelus stared down at her, frustrated with her response, swearing that he would hear her beg and plead for him. His skilled hands explored her body, as his lips followed and caressed each and every pleasure point on her body. Cupping her breasts in his hands he lowered his mouth to tease and suck each nipple until they stood erect and hard. He then kissed a path down her firm, satin-skinned abdomen, stopping to dip his tongue into the inviting dip of her navel. Continuing lower, he kissed her downy curls then below to lick and suck the soft flesh between her legs. His fingers and tongue probed her damp folds, titillating and tormenting until she moaned softly and began to arch her back and move her hips in search of the elusive source of pleasure. When he finally had his fill of her and she was teetering on the brink of orgasm, he moved back and stripped off his pants.

Buffy kept her eyes closed tightly, unwilling to face him as he lowered himself over her once more. She felt the hard erection probe at the entry between her legs, then he glided into her wet heat. He moved slowly at first, pushing deeper with each stroke. Buffy bent her legs, gripping his hips as she began to rise up to meet his thrust. Her hazel eyes opened briefly to look at him before her head dropped back, the intense pleasure beginning to consume her.

Angelus deliberately restrained himself, thoroughly enjoying the feel of her writhing against him with her hands restrained over her head. She pulled on the cuffs as he watched, wanting now to wrap her arms around him - despite what he was. Suddenly Angelus withdrew.

Buffy opened her eyes in dismay, feeling bereft now that he was no longer over her, inside her.

With his arms straight, leaning on his hands over her, Angelus met her eyes. "Say it."

Buffy took a deep breath, attempting to calm her nerves. "No."

"Say it, Buff." Angelus reached out and grabbed one nipple, pinching it hard between his fingers then tugging.

"Please." Buffy finally relented, her voice quiet.

"Please what?" His voice was merciless. His hand returned to the damp cleft between her legs, teasing the taut nub of her clit with his fingertips before squeezing it firmly.

"I want you." Her breath caught in the throat as she breathed out the words, his hand expertly manipulating her.

"Now, tell me those three little words you whispered to soul-boy when he was fucking you." They were burned into Angelus's brain, as was the feel of her body willingly wrapped around him.

Buffy felt the pain keenly, the ache of loss for something that she once again would not be allowed to have, to keep. She didn't answer, closing her eyes at the memory only hours ago.

"Tell me." He stroked her harder, nearly hurting her with his touch.

After a long pause, Buffy finally whispered, "I love you." She closed her eyes, ashamed to look at him even as she spread her legs wider for him.

Angelus released an unneeded breath of satisfaction, his desire for vengeance satisfied. Lowering himself over her again, he drove his cock inside her. He took her then, not in fury but in hunger. She clutched him with her legs, pulling him harder and deeper against her, attempting to hold him against each withdrawal. She was quivering with unfulfilled desire, arching against him wildly as he moved inside her. After he brought her to a shuddering climax, he lay still inside her waiting for the waves of pleasure to recede. He then began again, bringing her once again to the peak of ecstasy before finally releasing his seed into her body. This time he buried his fangs into the plump flesh of her breast, drinking greedily of her rich blood until he finally collapsed against her. He was finally sated, for the moment.

He rolled from her and retrieved a key from his pants pocket. He then released her wrists from the headboard then cuffed one wrist to his. They both drifted off to sleep, Buffy cradled in Angelus's arms.

***
Giles had been dozing in the chair for only a short while when the phone rang, startling him awake. Groggily he stared at it for a moment before rising to answer it, even though it was Xander's phone.

Squinting his eyes against the bright sunlight now streaming in the room, he glanced around as he said hello to the person on the other end. Xander hadn't moved from his position on the floor where he was sleeping, Anya curled up next to him. Doyle was in the kitchen, searching for coffee. It was just after 7 am, and they had all been up until almost 3 worrying and searching for sources for a new orb.

Riley had left around 1 am to go back to his house, hoping to find out if anyone from the Initiative had news of Buffy and Angelus.

Giles brightened considerably when the caller told him that she indeed had an Orb of Thessulah. In fact, she had three. Giles immediately said that he would take them, all of them. He gave her his credit card number, and then took down her address and directions. Her shop was just outside of Los Angeles - traffic permitting they could be there and back within four hours. It was longer than they would have liked, but that was still better than waiting two days.

By the time Giles hung up the phone, everyone else had woke. Oz was pulling on his shoes, getting ready to drive to LA. It was agreed that Xander would go with Oz while everyone else waited in Sunnydale.

Minutes after they left, Kate finally joined the group. She had an incredible hangover, not to mention a sense that something terrible had happened. A feeling that was furthered by the stares of everyone as she walked into the room. "Where are we?"

"Hiding out, thanks to you." Cordelia bluntly stated, placing blame where she thought it was deserved.

"Now 'Delia…" At this point Doyle didn't want any more tension. They had enough to deal with without fighting amongst themselves.

"What do you mean? What happened? Where's Angel?" Kate replied angrily, not liking the brunette's accusation.

"Probably sleeping off his Buffy snack right about now." Xander snapped, giving voice to his fears.

"What are you talking about? What about that rit-" Kate's voice trailed off as the vague memory of the glass orb shattering on the floor invaded her mind. "Oh god. Tell me I didn't-" She looked around anxiously at Giles and Willow, finally turning to Doyle and Cordelia.

"You did." Cordelia tossed her head as she stared back at Kate. "You fucked everything up, Miss police-detective. Now evil Angelus is out there somewhere most likely plotting our demise."

"Why you little bitch," Kate stepped toward Cordelia, pointing her finger in blame at Giles. "I thought the whole idea was a bad one from the beginning, so if it's anyone's fault, it's his for even suggesting such an outrageous thing."

Giles did feel a certain amount of guilt for his role in the events of the last hours, so finding words was a trifle difficult. He lifted his eyebrows and opened his mouth when Doyle interrupted.

"Look, blaming anyone isn't going to change things. It's day now - Angelus won't be roaming about." Doyle swallowed hard, thinking about Buffy and what Angelus might be doing instead, "We've got to sit tight for the next four or so hours, so I suggest that we all go to the coffee shop down the street and get some breakfast."

After a few tense moments, everyone agreed and silently made their way out of the apartment.

***

Chapter 3 - Cursed

 

When they reached LA, Oz and Xander promptly managed to get lost. Giles's directions had unfortunately been scribbled hastily on a napkin that Xander had used to mop up spilled coffee only minutes after they left Sunnydale, something neither of them realized until they were frantically searching for the directions in order to determine which exit to take off the freeway.

Oz pulled over for the third time and they dialed Xander's number, again. They had been calling for the last half hour with no luck, unaware that the gang had gone out for breakfast. Finally Anya answered. "Hello, Xander's apartment."

"Anya! We thought something had happened to you guys." Oz looked at Xander with relief. While they hadn't given a voice to the thought, they both had worried that Angelus might have found Xander's apartment after they had left.

"Well, it *was* pretty awful. The toast was burnt, the eggs were runny and-"

"Anya. We need directions to the place where we're supposed to pick up the orbs." Oz interrupted, anxious to get moving and annoyed with Anya's preoccupation with herself.

"You took the directions. I know you did. Giles wrote them down for you. I saw him." Anya glanced over at Willow who was typing away at her laptop.

"Yeah, but Xa- something spilled on them. Look, just get us the directions." Oz was getting frustrated, knowing time was of the essence.

"Ok. Hold on." After a few minutes of muffled conversation, Giles finally came on the line. He had them give him the closest street numbers where they were, then asked Willow to get them directions off the Internet from their location. A few minutes later they were on their way again.

***
The unusual warmth next to him woke Angelus only a couple of hours after he had dozed off. He blinked, clearing his eyes and glanced down at the source of that warmth. Buffy was curled against him, her bottom pressed against his hip, her handcuffed hand resting almost behind her and against his, which was also dangerously close to the now growing erection between his legs.

Buffy was dreaming. She smiled in her sleep and moved against the large hand erotically caressing her breasts. Angel. She sighed and arched, pressing back against the hard shaft now nestled between the cheeks of her bottom. She'd had this dream before, of them together. It almost made her blush to think of it, the things he would do to her with his hands, his wicked tongue…

Angelus smiled as Buffy moaned and moved against him. She obviously had not yet woken fully and recalled where she was, or who she was with. Quietly, with slow measured movements he released the handcuff from his wrist. With a sliding caress along her arm, he managed to raise her head above her and attach the cuff once more to the headboard even as he rolled her on her stomach.

Buffy whimpered slightly, rousing. Angelus's lips drifted across the nape of her neck, tickling her. Yet, her body arched into his hands as he reached under her to once more tug at her hardening nipples. Buffy sighed again, not wanting the elusive sensations to end. His hands swept along her sides as his lips continued down the column of her spine. With another caress he managed to raise her other arm and lock her wrist above her head. This time, the resounding click of the lock brought her eyes open and her head up.

"Damn it." Buffy muttered, frustrated with herself for having fallen asleep next to the monster last night and also for allowing him to so easily retie her to the bed. And, if she would have admitted it, she was also disappointed to find that she had been dreaming. Although, the reality wasn't half bad… No, Buffy. Stop those thoughts right now. She chided herself even as she pressed against him.

With his groin hard against her buttocks, pressing her into the bed Angelus lifted her hair away from her neck and leaned down, his lips close to her ear. "I think I'll keep you like this. Naked… Wet… So you'll always be ready to please me…" His hips undulated against her, leaving no doubt in her mind as to what he meant.

Buffy's eyes closed at the husky whisper, her body so receptive to his slightest touch. His suggestions triggered a flood of wetness between her legs, no matter how much she wished to deny him. His hands moved leisurely down her back as he too moved down. His palms flat, he traced the firm contour of her ass, eyeing her as a connoisseur might examine an expensive object d'art. "You have a great ass, Buff." He punctuated his words with a bite, his blunted teeth sinking firmly into the rounded fullness of one cheek.

Buffy gasped in surprise, lifting her head and attempting to roll over and face him. Angelus only smiled up at her at he held her down, leering as his hands continued their exploration. His fingertips slid between her bottom cheeks and dipped lower, tracing her outer lips before dipping inside. Removing his finger, he sucked it into his mouth. "Ummm. Slayer pussy."

Buffy squirmed in surprise as his fingertips once more poked between her legs, this time to press at the tight rosebud of her rear. Buffy glanced over her shoulder at him fearfully this time, even as she tried to squirm away.

"What's the matter, Buff? Oh, that's right. I haven't fucked you in your little virgin ass yet." Angelus dipped his hand once again to the wetness between her legs as he slid two fingers forcibly inside her.

Buffy tensed when his now dampened fingers returned to her rear and began to penetrate her behind. Angelus waited only a moment for her to relax, the pressed forward, sliding one finger completely inside her.

"Don't… it hurts…" Buffy groaned when he added a second finger, stretching her slowly. She once more attempted to pull away but he held her hip tightly.

"Oh yeah, it's going to be a nice, tight fit…" Angelus gritted his teeth. He was already so hard, he ached. At this rate, he'd come the second he stuck his traitorous cock inside her.

Angelus reached under her and began to massage her clit, moistening it with the wetness that was flowing between her legs and pressing firmly. Even as he did it, he wondered disgustedly why he should he care about the little bitch's pleasure. He finally decided that it was because he enjoyed the humiliation she felt when she was unable to resist him, that seeing the lust in her eyes for a creature she was supposed to despise was pleasure in and of itself.

Buffy closed her eyes as she felt the heat streak through her body. She was stretched tautly, the thickness of his fingers filling her and stimulating her nerves. She knew it was madness to want him so desperately, yet she couldn't stop. She was powerless against her lust for him. She glanced at him over her shoulder as he slapped her behind. "On your knees."

Leaning on her elbows, Buffy came to her knees. Briefly she considered kicking him, something that she could easily do from her position, but changed her mind when his fingers tugged at her clitoris once more sending sharp waves of pleasure through her. Angelus spread her thighs wider, then leaned down and ran his tongue up the inner side of one thigh and down the other. She tasted of lust and faintly of vanilla. At the first touch of his mouth on her swollen nether lips, Buffy whimpered. With leisure and experience, he licked her wet folds, exploring the outer lips before dipping inside to taste her. As he ate her, Buffy gave up any thought of resistance and ground her hips against him, craving release. She came hard, biting her lip to keep from crying out his name when his lips seized her clit sucking hard, his fingers still pressed firmly in her ass.

Refusing to release her, Angelus nibbled further at her sensitive flesh, once more driving her toward orgasm. His lips explored her, sucking and licking her highly sensitized flesh. Buffy was over-stimulated; the pulsing unfulfilled ache between her legs taking precedence in her thoughts. She didn't care what he did to her just then as long as he didn't stop…

When she was teetering on the brink again, Angelus knelt behind her and plunged inside, his jaw clenched at the feel of her hot, wet channel around his cock. Leaning over her, his muscled chest pressed hard against her back, Angelus grabbed her breasts, pinching and tugging at one nipple and then the other.

Angelus felt his features changing once again as the demon inside him took over. He moved inside her with a powerful rhythm, moving with long hard strokes as he penetrated and tested the limits of Buffy's yielding flesh. He lowered his mouth to her neck, running his tongue across her nape and moving up toward her ear. His tongue traced the delicate shell as he told her what he was going to do to her in a husky whisper, his words explicit, stimulating. She whimpered as he nipped at her neck, scraping the flesh with his now sharp fangs.

When he felt the first convulsions of her orgasm, he drove her harder. Rendered almost insensible by the explosive assault on her senses, Buffy buried her face into the pillows, gasping for air. Without waiting for the pulsing to subside, Angelus jerked out of her and guided his erection to her bottom hole, pushing forward with persistent, deliberate pressure.

Buffy gasped at the pain, the steady fullness as he slid steadily up her tight rear channel. She whimpered and tried to squirm away, the pain increasing as Angelus continued his slow progression. With one hand, he reached under her and began to massage her wet pussy, his thumb tracing circles around her clit. When she relaxed, he pushed hard, driving his cock the rest of the way inside her.

Angelus licked his tongue across his fangs, glancing down at himself buried inside her. He wanted to ram himself so deep inside her she'd taste it. He felt an ungovernable need to possess her, to own her. He wanted to bury himself in her in all her glory and ravage her innocence, her delectable beauty. And he wanted her to need him desperately, to crave him as he did her.

When he moved, she moaned softly. As he continued to rub her clit she slowly began to push back against him. With gradually increasing strokes he moved as slowly Buffy began to rock in rhythm with him. Finally, spreading her legs wider, she encouraged him on as she adjusted to the feel of him inside her and the pleasure took hold.

"Yesss...Don't stop…" When her husky plea came to him, he almost lost control. She writhed against him, the combined pleasure and pain creating an overwhelming sensation.

When he heard her high keening cry out and felt the first shuddering spasm around him, he responded with a feverish desperation. Intent on joining meeting her in climax, he drove deep in a hard, driving rhythm. Leaning down, he sank his fangs into the nape of her nape. He sucked hard and ravenously, like a man starved, drinking in the delicious, rich blood as he filled her with his sperm. Holding her hips between his large hands, he pressed down with such savage intensity that Buffy cried out again, her orgasm so breathtaking, so prolonged, so excruciatingly acute that she collapsed, quivering on the bed.

Angelus withdrew from her and rolled away, collapsing on the bed next to her and studying her prone form under his lashes. She was a woman of inestimable beauty, remarkable, lush, sumptuous; his own glorious prize. And he looked forward to furthering her education in other ways that would please him…

***
Oz and Xander drove as fast as Oz's van would safely allow them, the orbs tucked safely in an old ice chest with several layers of bubble wrap and two blankets surrounding them. They were taking no chances with these - they would get back to Sunnydale whole.

Giles and Willow had set everything up for the ritual, prepared to begin immediately when the guys arrived. While they all waited, the tension in the apartment built. Cordelia and Doyle sat in the kitchen, Giles and Willow stayed in the living room and Kate spent most of the time either in the bedroom or the bathroom. Anya was the only one who didn't seem bothered by the whole ordeal, and she casually flipped through several magazines. Finally bored, Anya turned on the TV, breaking the silence.

"Can you turn that thing off? We need to concentrate here." Giles snapped, annoyed after only a few minutes of arguing voices on "Jerry Springer".

"It's my boyfriends apartment. I can watch whatever I want to." Anya snapped back without looking away from the TV.

"Oh, hell." Giles sighed in exasperation as Cordelia and Doyle peeked in from the kitchen.

"Can you people please keep it down out here?" Kate snapped from the door of the bedroom, her head still pounding from her hangover making their raised voices sound twice as loud.

"Oh, like we should keep quiet for you?!" Cordelia yelled back, her anger at Kate undiminished. "Do you keep forgetting that this is all your fault?! If you hadn't insisted on coming along, if you weren't so obviously panting after Angel then this would never have happened. Don't you get it yet? He's not interested."

Kate crossed her arms across her chest as a realization dawned with Cordelia's words. She smiled slightly as she spoke. "Oh. I see now. You're jealous. You have a thing for Angel, but he doesn't even know you exist, does he Cordelia? No, wait, let me re-phrase that. He knows you exist, but he doesn't care. Is that about right?"

"As if. I could have Angel if I wanted him." Cordelia sniffed, the blonde's words striking a nerve. "And don't try to change the subject. It's your fault that we're in this mess and if and when we get out of it, I'll make sure that Angel knows that." Turning, Cordelia went back into the kitchen, Doyle following.

After an angry glare at Giles and a half-smile at Willow, the only one that she perceived as friendly, Kate went back into the bedroom. She was uncomfortable here with these people that she didn't know. She wished she knew someone that could take her back to LA.

When the knock sounded twenty minutes later, everyone returned to the living room and stared at the door anxiously. When no one dared to move, all of them seemingly frozen to their spot, Anya finally sighed and got up to open the door.

"Riley. Won't you come in to Xander's apartment?" She smiled and stepped back. She knew Buffy wasn't really in love with the sandy hair boy, but she actually found him quite attractive. More than attractive. The only drawback was the Initiative and his involvement. If she thought for a moment that he'd be interested in her, a former demon, for more than just a lab experiment, she'd drop Xander in a minute…

"Any news?" Riley smiled absently at Anya, bemused that she was staring at him as if she might devour him, and looked anxiously at Giles as he entered.

Giles updated Riley on their progress, explaining that Oz and Xander were due back within the hour. Nervously, they all sat down to wait. All of them that is, except for Anya, who chose to continue watching "Jerry Springer" while sneaking peeks at Riley during the commercials.

***
Doyle hadn't really meant to start the conversation when he did, but they had a long time to wait and the silence was really starting to get to him, so it finally just sort of came out.

"So, then, do you really have a thing for Angel? I mean, I'd understand if you did. Most women seem to." Doyle cleared his throat, a little uncertain. "Seem to like him, that is."

"No. Me? No. Oh no." Cordelia answered a little too quickly, giving lie to her words. "I just don't think he should be with Buffy. The curse and all. And she's always trouble. I don't know what guys see in her anyway. Her hair, well, it's just so last year. And her fashion sense? Non-existent. Not to mention the fact that she's so short and freakishly strong. Don't you think?"

"Uh, no. Not really." Doyle was disappointed, hoping that he and Cordelia might actually have something together. But, he wasn't about to give up just yet. He and Angel had talked on several occasions since they'd known each other regarding Buffy and he had no doubt that the vampire was still very much in love with his blonde slayer. But that was something that Angel needed to tell her himself. Cordelia would eventually have to give up her dreams and move on. And he was just the guy to help her with that.

When he realized that Cordelia was looking at him with an irritated expression, he shrugged. "Well, she's cute and all, but not really my type. I've always had a thing for brunettes, myself." With a wink and a smile he stood, leaving Cordelia to ponder his words.

It was only minutes later it seemed when they heard running footsteps on the stairs. Everyone came to their feet once more when Oz and Xander burst into the room, Oz carrying the cooler of orbs tightly in front of him. Xander was panting heavily, having tried to keep up with Oz during their run from the car.

Giles breathed a sigh of relief. Finally.

***
Angelus came awake with a sudden gasp, waking Buffy who had been slumbering beside him. She glanced at his face in time to see the light swirling through the room, then into his eyes.

He gripped his midsection as if in pain, then rolled off the bed onto the floor. Panting heavily, he broke out into a sweat as his soul made it's way back into his body. His last thought as Angelus was that he should not have let his lust for Buffy's body sway him from seeking out those that wished to return his soul. He should have gone after them when he had the chance instead of trusting those minions that he knew would be not be able to do the job…

Buffy watched anxiously as Angel knelt on the floor. She had a pretty good idea what was happening, having seen this once before. When she attempted to go to him, wanting to somehow ease the pain he appeared to be in, the handcuff chaining her to the bed rattled.

Angel looked up at the sound, the earlier convulsions now calming. "Buffy. What have I done? My god. I'm so sorry." As Angel searched frantically for the key to the handcuff, the memories of the last few hours began to wash over him, furthering his remorse and guilt.

Buffy, too, was feeling her own shame. She was sure that Angel would be disgusted or angry with her at the way she so brazenly responded to Angelus. Those feelings were reinforced as he refused to look at her as he unlocked her.

Buffy stared down at her wrist dumbly for a moment, before slowly rolling off the bed to retrieve her clothing.

Angel dressed, his mind recoiling in horror at what he had done. He was sure that he would never be able to repair the damage; he only prayed that he had not hurt her terribly. Sneaking a glance at her, he noticed that she was still nude, her arms wrapped around her as she picked up her tattered clothing. Everything had been torn beyond wearing. Another wave of guilt washed over him as he realized he was once again responsible. He flinched at the sight of the new bite marks on her, adding another offense to the list of wrongs he had done to her.

Without a word, Angel swept his coat over her shoulders. She glanced up at his face briefly, attempting to read his expression but it was shuttered. He retrieved the key to the room from the windowsill where he had taken to stashing it, and unlocked the door. He gestured for her to lead as he followed her out the door.

Buffy clutched his coat tightly around her, glancing around at the house as they walked toward the front door. It was the first time she'd seen any more than the bedroom or the bathroom, and she was admittedly curious. It appeared to be Angel's, but she wasn't sure where it was. Or how long he had lived there, if he lived there at all. It had a vacation home feel to it, sparsely furnished. Yet it was neat and clean, indicating that someone had been there recently.

Angel swiped his car keys off the table near the door, then they both stopped short.

Buffy cleared her throat. "It's, uh, day."

"Here, you can take my car." Angel held out his hand with the keys. He never let anyone drive his car, never. And Buffy was a terrible driver - but he knew that she probably wanted to get away from him as quickly as possible. It seemed the least he could do.

"We should go back together." Buffy's voice was soft, hesitant, as she spoke knowing that Angel probably wanted her out of his sight as soon as possible, but she felt strongly that they needed to return together. She didn't want her friends to think badly of him. After all, he'd done what was necessary to get her out of there. And it wasn't like he had really forced her… Once he got past her initial objections, she was, in fact, a willing participant. More than willing. A thought that made her once again lower her eyes in shame.

Angel realized that she was probably right. He didn't want to leave Buffy to face this alone. He would take responsibility for what he had done to her, he wanted no blame or embarrassment attached to her for what had happened.

"We can't leave for another," Angel glanced out the window then at the clock on the nearby shelf. "six hours or so."

"Ok. I should call Giles." Buffy looked even smaller dwarfed in his long black coat. It pooled on the floor around her feet and the sleeves covered her hands.

"Let me get you some other… clothes." The thought of Buffy nude, wearing only his coat gave Angel a momentary unwarranted thrill. Quickly he pushed away the thought. He'd already done more than enough to her. How could he think of that at a time like this? Besides, they couldn't… "The phone is through there."

"Um, ok." Buffy shuffled across the room in the direction he pointed.

Angel rounded up a pair of sweats and a t-shirt for her while Buffy dialed Giles's number. "Hm. No one's there." Hanging up the phone, she glanced up at Angel as he entered the room with the clothes. "I don't know how many times I've told him to get an answering machine."

Angel said nothing, only handed Buffy the clothes.

"Thanks." She took them and made her way to the bathroom. "Uh, do you mind if I shower?" Buffy looked over her shoulder at Angel but he had already turned away and was staring intently at something on the wall. "No, not at all. There are clean towels in the cabinet."

Buffy started the shower, then looked around while the water was warming, curiously opening the cabinets and peering inside. There were all the basics, but nothing particularly personal. Nothing that really gave her any clue about Angel, how often he stayed here. Who he stayed here with… That thought disturbed her as she recalled Kate. Earlier he had said there was no one else, but did he mean it?

When the water was hot, Buffy stepped into the shower. She stood under the hot water for only a few minutes before the tears began. Her tears mixed with the spray of the water, hot silent tears running down her face. She should have known from the moment Angel appeared in that army bunker that bad things were going to come out of this. Now he couldn't even look at her, and he'd probably never look at her the same again. Even the few times Angelus had come to her when she was 17 she hadn't responded with the same wanton behavior she had shown him now. The difference between the girl she had been and woman she had become was clear. And she was sure that he was disgusted with her. Just as she was also sure, without a doubt, that she still loved him. If anything, her feelings for him had only grown… Yet another difference between the girl and the woman. With her face in the spray, Buffy sobbed out her heartbreak until she had no tears left.

While Buffy was in the shower, Angel remembered his cell phone and retrieved it from the kitchen counter. He dialed Doyle and waited.

Doyle jumped in surprise when his phone rang, fumbling it in his hands as he tried to get a hold on it to answer. Everyone stared at him as he finally got it under control and glanced down at the caller-id. Flipping it open, he answered. "Lo, Angel? That you?"

"It's me." Angel's tone was morose.

"You're sure it's you?" Doyle looked at Giles then at Willow.

"Yes. I'm sure. The curse- it worked." Angel paced through the living room, stopping when he neared the bedroom. He couldn't bring himself to go there again. The memories were too vivid. In his mind Buffy's cries of passion had become cries of pain, her moans of pleasure were moans of anguish.

"And Buffy? How's she?" Doyle tensed, asking the question that Giles has been mouthing. Given Angel's distinct sound of misery, Doyle would not be surprised if the news were bad. He braced himself for the answer. When Angel was silent, Doyle prompted him again. "Angel, talk to me man."

"She's… okay." Angel sighed, unsure about his choice of words. Would she ever be okay after what he had done to her?

"Okay?" Doyle repeated Angel's reluctant word. "How okay?"

"Okay." Angel's voice was irritated.

Doyle's words and worried expression alarmed Buffy's friends. "Where are you?"

"A place I have just outside of Sunnydale. I'd rather not… Look, we'll meet you at Giles's as soon as the sun sets." Despite the circumstances, Angel didn't want to reveal the location of his house. In the last few years, it had been a sanctuary of sorts for him, and a place where he could retreat from the demands of life in LA. And it was a place where he felt close to Buffy. He wasn't sure that after what had happened here that it would be the same, yet something inside him still felt the need to protect his safe haven.

"Giles wants to talk to Buffy." Everyone was still watching Doyle intently, looking for any sign, any clue that would tell them what had happened. Even Kate peered over Willow's shoulder, having heard the commotion.

"She's in the shower. She tried to call him, but there was no answer." Angel could still hear the sound of the shower running. For the hundredth time he wished that things were different, that Buffy showering in his bathroom was a normal, everyday occurrence - not the result of yet another horrific event that they would now add to the array of bad memories in their collective past.

"We're at Xander's. I think her friends would feel better if they heard from her, so have her call as soon as she can."

"I will." Angel grimaced knowing that her friends were right to worry.

"So, we'll see in you in a few hours then?" Doyle breathed a small sigh of relief. He didn't know yet what had happened, but he trusted Angel that everyone was relatively okay. Maybe he and Buffy needed some time alone, to sort out what had happened… As for the rest of the gang, well, they'd get any details - at least those that Buffy and Angel might choose to share - later.

"Yes. And Doyle? I'm going to want to know what took so long with the curse." Angel hung up the phone, his thoughts once again preoccupied with the events of the last day. He wondered how he'd be able to live with himself. She must hate and despise him for the things he'd done to her. He wanted to scream in rage and pain. Why did he always have to hurt the one person he cared about most?

Buffy called Giles a short while later and assured him, as well as Xander, Willow and finally Riley - all of them insisting on hearing her voice, however briefly - that she was fine. No, nothing bad had really happened. She glanced at Angel when she said those words and saw him visibly wince.

When she hung up the phone, silence hung in the air. Finally Buffy looked at Angel across the counter in the kitchen where he stood by the stove.

"Hungry? Marty - she cleans the place for me - she insists on keeping the place stocked with a few things…" Angel trailed off, uncomfortable. "I can make eggs…"

"Um, ok. I mean, yes I'd like that." Buffy sat at the counter stealing glances at him under her lashes as he turned on the stove and took out the pan and necessary ingredients. She watched him quietly as he proficiently scrambled eggs, adding chives and other herbs for a gourmet touch.

"I didn't know you could cook." She ventured softly as he put a plate in front of her. For some reason Buffy found the idea of him cooking for her incredibly sexy. Maybe it was the cozy setting, just the two of them, or maybe it was from the events of the past day - the fact that they had experienced the ultimate intimacy and now were having breakfast together like a normal couple. Regardless, she felt a warmth stirring in the pit of her stomach as she watched him, as she thought about his hands, his mouth on her…

"I don't very often…" Angel replied, realizing that he hadn't cooked for her. Only recently had he started cooking for the AI team, finding it something he enjoyed and was proficient at.

Angel cleaned up while Buffy ate, then he excused himself and went to shower.

Buffy sat in the living room and stared out the window, finding only a couple of French novels to read. Since she didn't speak or read French, they weren't of much interest to her. She thought a lot about her life, about Angel, about Riley. She felt a wave of guilt that she hadn't thought of Riley since Angel had walked through the door and back into her life. As usual, he easily dominated her thoughts, her world, - and heart a little voice in her mind added - with his presence. After sorting through her muddled feelings, Buffy decided that she needed to break things off with Riley, the sooner the better. It was unfair of her to give him hope that she'd love him when she couldn't. She couldn't return his feelings. Not now, maybe not ever.

Angel startled her out of her reverie when he sat on the couch across from where she was curled in the chair. His hair was still a little damp from the shower, and Buffy thought she could smell the faint clean scent of his cologne. For a minute she almost went to him, wanting to crawl into his lap and cuddle next to him, to lick the patch of skin appearing just above the v-neck of the sweater he now wore.

He studied her under his lashes for a few minutes, taking in her small feet sticking out of the much too large sweats, her legs curled under her. When his eyes drifted upward, he quickly averted them from her chest, the outline of her nipples faintly visible under the white t-shirt, and chastised himself once again for his thoughts. Unbidden flashes of those same warm breasts pressed against his chest filled his mind. He shifted uncomfortably.

"Buffy-"

"Angel-"

They both spoke at once, breaking the long silence.

"You first." Buffy replied, nervously twirling a strand of her hair.

"No, go ahead." Angel couldn't help recalling all the times that he had wished to have her here with him, how he imagined a life for them together. Seeing her like this now - wearing his clothes no less - brought those feelings out in a rush.

"You're hurt…Those knife wounds. That, uh, scrape on your face…" Buffy trailed off self-consciously, cognizant of the cause. "You should put something on it."

"I'm okay." Angel felt that he deserved every wound, every pain that he received and then some for what he had done. "They're healing. How about you? Are you hurt?"

"No. I'm good." Buffy felt only a faint lingering soreness in a few intimate areas, the bite marks there but healing.

After a minute of silence, Buffy started again. "Thank you for coming to get me."

"You know I would do anything to help you Buffy. You just have to ask." Angel ran his hand carelessly through his hair, "Maybe if you would have told me from the beginning what it was about, the whole thing could have been prevented." His anger with himself made his words come out differently than he intended, harsh and angry.

"What are you saying? That it's my fault?" Buffy responded to the emotion in his voice, her own feelings spurring her reaction. "I try to keep demons and the Initiative from capturing you, and you just decide to walk into their trap and somehow that's my fault!?"

"No, that's not what I'm saying. If you would have worked with me rather than just going there on your own, thinking you could handle it, things might have turned out differently."

"You left me, remember? That means I handle things on my own now." Her eyes flashed with anger, hiding her hurt.

"I know that Buffy." Angel looked away, shifting once again on the couch. This was not going as he intended. They were both touchy and on edge. "I-"

"Well then, don't think you can tell me how to run my life or what to do." Buffy lashed out, wanting to hurt him before he hurt her. "Last time I saw you in fact, you were clear that you wanted to… forget." Buffy's voice nearly broke as she recalled those few minutes in his office.

"Fine." Angel wasn't sure how to respond. As before, he felt it would be better for her if he were out of her life. He couldn't think of anything to say that would undo what he had done, anything that would make it better. How could he apologize for the things he had said? Can you actually apologize for rape? Maybe it was best to leave well enough alone.

"Fine." Buffy wasn't sure what else she could say. How could she explain her reaction to Angelus? Would he believe that her body, her mind recognized him despite any evil façade? She couldn't think of anything to say that would undo what she had done, anything that would redeem herself in his eyes. Besides, he'd only leave her as soon as he was able. She'd only humiliate herself if she tried to explain. Maybe it was best to leave well enough alone.

They sat in silence for the next three hours, both believing that their thoughts were accurate, both sure that the other was disappointed or worse with them, and both sure that irreparable damage had been done. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

***
Xander paced by the door watching for Buffy and Angel as soon as the sun neared the horizon. Giles made tea, as was his usual behavior when he needed a distraction, while Cordelia and Kate had both spent time primping, naively assuming that Angel would notice. Willow seemed preoccupied with her notes, shuffling papers and searching online, whereas Oz and Doyle talked quietly.

When Buffy and Angel finally arrived, forty minutes later, they were quiet and somber. They carefully avoided contact when they stepped through the door at Giles's place, unwilling to break the imaginary boundary that they had resurrected between them.

Cordelia and Kate rushed forward and nearly collided in their attempt to throw their arms around Angel and welcome him back. Cordelia, in fact, did run into Buffy knocking her back a step and away from Angel.

Buffy stiffened, contemplating shoving Cordelia in response, but Willow and Giles circumvented any such action as they seized her in a hug. She closed her eyes for a moment, glad to be with her friends again. After a few seconds, Xander joined the group hug. Riley hung back and watched, uncertain.

For his part, Angel held his arms out to the side, not resisting but not returning the hug from either woman. In fact, they seemed to be trying to jostle each other out of position more than they were hugging him. He nodded at Doyle over Cordelia's head, and finally broke free.

When the group released Buffy, she stepped forward and hugged Riley. With his arms around her, Buffy realized how good it felt to be held in a pair of strong arms by someone that cared. Maybe she had been too hasty with her earlier decision to break things off with him. Maybe she should reconsider, particularly in light of Angel's feelings.

Angel steeled himself against the sight of Buffy in Riley's arms, Riley leaning down to whisper in her ear and asking her if she was all right. Buffy nodded against his chest, and Angel resisted the urge to tear her away from him.

When she released Riley and turned back to face the group, suddenly everyone was talking at once. "Are you okay?" "It's all her fault!" "What happened?" "Where have you guys been?"

"Guys. Guys!" Buffy raised her voice over the commotion, her patience short with Cordelia and the blonde, whom she assumed was Kate, hovering near Angel making what could only be described as cow eyes at him. With effort, she attempted to shift her thoughts away from the phrase bitches in heat and focus on the questions her friends were asking.

"Let's start with why it took so long for the curse." Angel broke in, looking at Willow.

"Well, the orb- it broke." Willow started to explain, feeling responsible.

"And we had to find another one. Closest one was in LA." Oz put his arm around Willow, prepared to speak up if it appeared that Willow was going to be blamed.

"Broke? Broke?! Try drunken Kate knocked it off the desk and shattered it." Cordelia screeched, eager to see Angel angry with Kate.

"You? You broke the orb?!" Buffy couldn't believe her ears. This was priceless. With her blunder, Angel's new girlfriend unknowingly helped to drive them further apart.

"It was an accident." Kate muttered, shooting a dirty look at Cordelia. "I fell."

"Yeah, after you drank Giles's entire bottle of whiskey." Cordelia replied snottily.

"Buff, where are your clothes?" Xander blurted the question, noticing for the first time that Buffy was wearing clothes that were much too big for her. Clothes that he guessed belonged to Angel.

Buffy looked down self-consciously as all eyes were now on her once again. She felt especially uncomfortable since Kate and Cordelia were dressed and made-up perfectly. As she flushed and stammered, Doyle saw a glimpse of the girl that Buffy had been, and that Angel had obviously fallen in love with.

"They were, uh, torn." Buffy refused to look at Angel, uncertain what she would see in his eyes.

Doyle noted that Angel seemed particularly uncomfortable, looking down at the floor as she replied. His mind quickly came to the conclusion as to how her clothes had been torn. As did everyone else's.

"Well, I can guess how that happened, seeing how you have the matching accessory bite marks on your neck." Xander replied cuttingly, his eyes on Angel. Xander remembered clearly how Buffy protected Angel when they were younger, how she made excuses for him when he turned evil, how she couldn't kill him and how she protected him when he returned. He jumped quickly to the conclusion that she simply spread her legs for him again, a thought that made him angry with her. He never liked Angel, and resented the hold that he seemed to have on Buffy. He wondered more than once if there was some truth to the whole vampire thrall thing.

"Bite marks? You bit her?" Kate glanced at Buffy, then back at Angel.

"Yes." Angel replied, willing to take blame, responsibility, whatever necessary to protect Buffy. He had refused to look away from Xander, daring him to continue his tirade. In his present mood, Angel would willingly wipe the floor with the boy. He only needed a little more of a push.

"I thought vampires killed people when they bit them. Don't they drain them?" Kate stared at Buffy rudely, as if any deviation from the norm were her fault. Once more, Kate wondered what Angel saw in the petite girl.

"Not during sex." Anya, who had been watching quietly, joined the conversation. When everyone turned to look at her, Anya shrugged. "What? It's true. Vampires have an oral fixation. They usually bite during sex, but not to kill. It's to enhance pleasure and prolong orgasm. I remember Dracula-" Anya's face took on a dreamy expression.

"How could you do that, Angel?" Kate was incredulous, noting that there were two bite marks. It never crossed her mind that there might actually be others that she couldn't see.

"He was Angelus, not Angel. Angel - Soul. Angelus - no Soul. Don't you get it yet?" Cordelia, unhappy with the turn of the conversation, once more attempted to attack Kate. "Angelus would bite her, Angel wouldn't."

It crossed Angel's mind that Cordelia did not have a clue what she was talking about. Soul or no soul - that didn't change a vampire's desire for blood, particularly during sex.

Buffy felt a hysterical giggle bubbling. The conversation, the comments, Kate - the one who broke the orb, Kate and Cordelia bristling over Angel, Xander behaving, well, like Xander - it all just seemed unreal.

"Look, what happened, happened. The mishap with the orb was unfortunate, but after a few calls and a quick drive to LA - thanks to Oz - order has been restored. The important thing is that Angel was able to get Buffy out safe and sound and everyone seems to be fine now." Giles interrupted, tired of the constant bickering.

"Minus a few pints of blood and who knows what else." Xander muttered, shooting a dirty look at Angel. When Angel leaned forward as if to step, Xander squeaked and jumped back, falling over the end table and tumbling clumsily to the ground. Doyle put his hand up to stop Angel's progress, but it wasn't necessary. Seeing Xander fall and nearly wet his pants was amusement enough.

"Giles is right. Angel, thank you." Riley, finally speaking up, extended his hand. He had put his arm around Buffy again, much to Angel's displeasure, and was holding her against him. Buffy however, not in the mood to be coddled, shrugged out of his embrace.

"We should go." Angel shook Riley's hand even though it grated him to do so. He didn't like being thanked by anyone for Buffy's life. Suddenly he wanted out of the crowded room and out of Sunnydale. "We need to get back to LA."

Doyle nodded in reply and gathered up the few things that they had brought. He impulsively hugged Buffy goodbye and said that he hoped that next time they met it would be under better circumstances. Buffy nodded and smiled slightly in reply, but thought it highly unlikely that they would meet again.

Angel stared a Buffy for a few minutes, wanting to say so many things. He wanted to beg her forgiveness, he wanted to hold her in his arms… hell, he just wanted her.

Buffy stared back, wanting to tell him not to go, not to leave her again. She wanted to hear him say that he still loved her.

But neither of them said a word. As he had done to her once before, Angel simply turned and walked away.

Kate and Cordelia were still bickering as they made they way out the door, Angel speaking with Giles privately for a moment before following them to the car.

"I'll be right back, okay? I want to make sure that they didn't forget anything." Riley squeezed Buffy's hand and went outside. Angel had just climbed in the car and was waiting for Doyle when Riley stopped next to his door.

"Look, I appreciate what you did for Buffy but make no mistake, vampire. If you come back to Sunnydale I will turn you in to the Initiative. That is, if I'm feeling generous. If I'm not, I'll kill you. Either way, you won't get a chance to hurt her again."

Angel said nothing. He simply stared at Riley until Riley turned and walked away.

***
With some difficulty, Buffy finally managed to convince the others to let her go home, alone. Self-pity was threatening to overwhelm her, and even Giles and Willow thought it best to let her be.

Retiring to her room, Buffy locked the door, lay on the bed and stared at the ceiling, trying to put her feelings in some semblance of order. She still loved Angel, even as Angelus - an appalling, wretched fact. Like Cordelia, like Darla, like Kate, like a dozen - or even hundreds - of other women, no doubt. And, while he may have loved her once, but there wasn't a hope in the world that he would reciprocate her feelings now. He seemed incapable of ever loving her again.

So, the question was - how to get over him? How to dismiss unrequited love and move on with one's life? She understood, practically, the liabilities in loving him. The mayor had outlined many of them in painful detail once. Over the course of the evening, Buffy considered her options. Unfortunately, none of them helped to soothe her misery.

By morning, Buffy had managed to reconcile fact and fantasy, and had put what had happened between her and Angel, and between her and Angelus in perspective. She stopped berating herself for her inability to distinguish them sexually, or for her ardent response to him - either of them. Sex was sex, and Angel, uh, Angelus happened to be particularly skilled - so it was natural that she would enjoy it. That didn't change the fact that they couldn't be together - physically - because of the curse. Nor did it change the fact that he didn't want to be with her, regardless. So, there was no point in wishful thinking.

She finally settled on diversion, knowing that the more activities she filled her life with, the less time she'd have to dwell on what she did not and could not have. It had worked for her before, and it would work again.

***
When they arrived back in LA, Angel coldly dismissed Kate, suggesting politely that she go and not come back. She protested and pleaded with him, trying to convince him that she wasn't at fault and that he should give her another chance. When he remained unmoved, she screamed at him. Only when she changed her tactic and began to malign Buffy, did she see any sign of emotion in his eyes - and it scared her. Grabbing her arm, he pulled her to him, his eyes flickering with gold. "Don't. You can't even begin to understand what your clumsiness caused - and unless you want to find out I suggest you get out of my sight." He fairly threw her away from him and stalked away. From the shadows Cordelia laughed as Kate scrambled to her feet and left the office. She hadn't been back.

Angel also decided on diversion as a course of action, and spent his every waking moment for the next two weeks working on cases. He patrolled, he researched, and he fought with relentless energy, determined to make amends for his latest offenses.

He was sitting in his office going over yet another case file when Doyle knocked on the door and entered.

Angel glanced up and scowled, not wanting the company. "I'm not in the mood to talk. Or actually, for company at all."

Doyle smiled, undaunted, and sat in the chair across the desk. He was used to Angel's churlishness these last few weeks. "And just what has put you in such a charming mood?"

"I hate springtime." Angel replied sarcastically, recalling their conversation of a few days ago when Doyle, in a good mood after taking Cordelia to the movie, recanted the joys of spring.

"Ah.. so you'll be an asshole for the next few months then." Doyle leaned back in the chair, crossing his legs and crossing his arms behind his head.

"Don't get too comfortable. I don't think you'll want to stay." Angel returned his attention to the file on his desk.

"Then I'll pass along my advice and be on my way."

Angel looked up moodily, used to Doyle's continued attempts to draw him in to conversation. "And?"

"It's said that a simple apology can go a long way," Doyle glanced at Angel with a small smile on his lips. "For yourself and others."

"Really?" Angel crossed his arms in front of him, "Then I'm sorry you're here."

He'd expected Angel to be difficult about this, but he also believed that it was like lancing a sore. It had to be done. "Did you even tell the lass you were sorry?"

Angel sat upright, his back stiffening. Doyle's words broke through the anger that had been simmering under the surface for the past weeks. "What do you want, Doyle? Do you want to hear that I raped Buffy? That I sodomized her? That I fed off her, not once but several times? Do you think if I just say, 'Gee, Buffy I'm sorry, I wasn't myself' - that it will be better? That saying those words will take any of the pain and the hurt I caused her away? Well, I have news for you my friend, it won't." Angel put his hands over his face, trying to shut out the images that his words created in his mind, his distorted memories of what he had done.

Doyle contemplated Angel's words for a minute, not surprised by any of what he heard since he'd expected as much. Angel's outburst was the first time he'd spoken of what had happened since they had returned from Sunnydale. "Maybe not. But it can be a start at healing what ails you. Besides, Angel, do you think you can live with yourself if you don't?"

Angel swore softly and slumped into a sprawl. He wasn't sure of anything.

***
Willow double-checked the address for the third time, searching for street numbers on the buildings that they passed.

"There it is." She pointed and Oz circled the block, looking for a parking spot.

Willow knew Cordelia worked there, but somehow she hadn't really expected to see her when they walked in to the offices of Angel Investigations. It was almost surreal.

"Can I help- Willow. Oz." Cordelia's smile froze in place as she looked past them, expecting to see Buffy. "What are you doing here?"

"Uh, we came to see Angel." Willow ignored Cordy's less than friendly welcome, not really expecting otherwise from the former Sunnydale cheerleader.

"Oh god. Buffy isn't here with you, is she?" Cordelia leaned over and looked past them.

"No. Is Angel here?" Willow nervously looked at Oz. Buffy didn't even know that they had come or why.

"He's busy. Besides, he's never in a good mood anymore. It takes months for Buffy broodiness to wear off, and I don't want to restart the clock with you two - so why don't you just tell me why you're here and I'll pass along the message." She smiled, but it was forced and insincere.

"Well, it's kinda personal." Willow clutched her bag, then looked up as Doyle came down the hallway.

"Well, hello there. Oz, Willow. What brings you to the City of Angels?" Doyle sat on the edge of Cordelia's desk, smiling at them in welcome.

"They want to see Angel. Which, I don't think is a good idea." Cordelia gave Doyle a wide-eyed look, clearly attempting to send him a not-so-subtle signal to make sure he agreed.

"Really? Well, it is the City of Angels." Doyle chuckled at his own pun, ignoring Cordelia's hint and pointing behind him. "He's in the back. Right through those doors."

Willow said thanks and Oz nodded before following her through the doors.

"Doyle! You idiot - we don't even know why they're here. It could be bad stuff - Buffy stuff and now Angel will be all growly and broody again."

"Princess, Angel hasn't stopped being 'growly and broody' as you put it, since we got back from Sunnydale. Maybe they'll make it better." Doyle hoped it would, since his own conversation with Angel days ago had done very little.

Angel was in the training room, practicing several jujitsu moves when Willow slowly opened the door. She waited, watching his graceful movements for a while until he noticed her. Oz stayed outside, giving them some privacy.

"Willow."

"Hi." Willow was nervous now, the words she had practiced so often on the ride here having completely flown out of her head.

"Is everything okay?" Angel walked toward her slowly, an anxious feeling building in the pit of his stomach. He stopped and pulled on his t-shirt.

"Yes. I wanted to be sure before I said anything, but it took me a while to research it. I wanted to be thorough and all. And then, I had it verified - several times-"

"Willow." Angel looked at her curiously, her words making no sense.

"Oh- duh!" Willow slapped herself on the forehead. "You're probably wondering what I'm talking about. The curse. I changed the curse - but I didn't have a lot of time to decide what to change it to, and then I wasn't sure because it was an old Romany phrase-"

"Slow down. What are you saying?" Angel felt that anxious feeling again. His nerves were on edge.

Willow took a deep breath, realizing that she was babbling still. Again. "When I had to do the curse again, I did some research and found the phrase that limited the curse to 'perfect happiness'. I replaced that phrase with another Romany phrase that I found; I had another wicca that I met, Tara - she's great - anyway, I had her confirm the change and I also sent it to a coven in Romania to verify the translation. I would have come earlier, except it took them a while to find someone who understood that particular dialect. But, everyone believes it to be air tight."

Angel slumped heavily against the wall, finding it difficult to comprehend what Willow was telling him. "So, uh, then…" He wasn't even sure what to ask.

"So you should be able to er, you know, without losing your soul. There's no perfect happiness clause." Taking a guess at what he might be asking, Willow answered.

Angel's mind raced. How ironic that this would come up now - when it mattered so little without Buffy. He'd be considered Doyle's words carefully for the last two days and had come to the conclusion that he should apologize to her. If nothing else, she'd know that he had never wanted to hurt her, however he didn't really expect it to change anything. But if he went to her now, would she think it was because of the change in the curse?

"Does Buffy know?" Angel said the words almost without thinking.

"Not yet. I wasn't sure…" Willow trailed off. She knew that Buffy had put on a good front these last weeks but Willow could tell that she was guarded emotionally, shut down to protect fragile feelings that had been bruised and battered again. And Willow didn't want her hurt even more if she found out that Angel could be with her, but still chose not to.

"I'll tell her, if you don't mind. When the time is right." Feeling as a prisoner that had just been pardoned, Angel sighed. After a few minutes of thought, he asked softly, "How is she?"

"She's Buffy. Patrolling, fighting…" Willow looked at his eyes. She could easily see the emotion, the pain in them. Debating briefly, she came to a decision. "She shut down again after you left. She's afraid to let anyone get too close, afraid that she'll get hurt. I mean, she tries to pretend that every thing's okay, but-"

Angel closed his eyes briefly, guilt for the pain he had caused her overwhelming him.

"She told me - a little - about what happened between you, and- and she doesn't blame you. If anything, I think she believes that you don't care anymore. That you're disappointed with her - or worse."

Angel slumped to the floor, Willow's words running through his mind. Could Buffy really believe that he'd think any less of her because of what he had done?

"I don't know if it would be fair to her. I still can't offer her much…"

"She may want to make that decision herself, rather than having you decide what's best for her, again." Willow knew that Buffy loved him and that she had been heartbroken when he left.

"I don't know if she'll ever forgive me." Angel murmured, his mind preoccupied now.

"Well, you won't know if you don't ask."

Angel smiled slightly. "True."

"But Angel? If you go to her, make sure that you mean it. Because if you fuck it up again, I'll stake you." Willow turned to leave, the stopped as she reached the door.

"Oh! Pickles!"

"What?" Angel looked up, a perplexed expression on his face.

"Pickles! You can't have pickles. The word I changed in the curse was happiness to pickles. I couldn't think of anything else under pressure, and it was the first Romany word I found in that dialect. Apparently they were a common food then. Anyway, I'm sorry if you liked them…"

Willow grinned as she opened the door where Oz waited. Mission accomplished.

 

Next Chapter - Forgiveness

 


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