The Mature Plan

by Maren

Summary: Angel and Buffy give the mature plan another try.
Rating: NC-17
Author Notes: Thanks to Kristi for the beta.



The first one was at a coffee house in London, complete with bohemian intellectuals and old men playing chess, a frothy mochachino, and a double-espresso.

"This doesn't feel real--I can't believe you're right here in front of me," she said, her lips turned up into a smile that managed to be both wistful and content at the same time. Her eyes drank in the site of him--his dark, sexily tousled hair . . . his muscular form emphasized by the black cashmere sweater and just-right black pants . . . his full lips, mesmerizing as they moved in a graceful, tantalizing dance. . .

"Buffy?" he questioned, his eyes sparkling with poorly suppressed amusement.

"Uh, sorry . . . what were you saying?" she asked, her cheeks flushing pink with her embarrassment.

He noticed the flush and had to grip his coffee cup to stop from reaching out to brush his knuckles against the hot softness of her cheek.

"I was just saying that I can't quite believe I'm here either, but there's nowhere I'd rather be," he replied, hoping that she could read the sincerity in his voice and eyes.

She fidgeted, her smile turning nervous, and although he was stricken with disappointment, he understood.

"You wanna know what else I can't believe," she said, trying to change the subject to one she found a little less laden with oppressive panic. "I can't believe that you're sitting here drinking a chocolate-coffee beverage. It's not very manly," she teased, her smile losing its nervous edge.

He raised an eyebrow at her. "Says the woman who used to live on these things. My newly reawakened taste-buds happen to like chocolate," he said defensively. His eyes darkened only slightly as he remembered the last time he had been human and tasted chocolate. He mentally shook off the images--there would be time for that later. "Since when did you start drinking the hard stuff?" he asked, cocking his head toward her espresso.

She laughed and he smiled broadly in response. The sound was music to his ears.

"Since I became Head-Slayer-in-Charge of a whole lotta super-strong girls with lots of hormones and minimal training," she said wryly.

"Is that your official title?" he teased, loving the expressiveness of her face, the way her mouth could smile and frown in a million different ways, show the most subtle degrees of emotion.

She rolled her eyes and laughed. "Nope, I'm still just Buffy. But I'm sure the girls have other names for me."

He laughed in return, and she stared at him in infatuated wonder for a moment before she composed herself. She hadn't heard that laugh in so many years that she'd forgotten that it was her favorite sound in the world, just like the wide open smile he had on his face was her favorite sight in the world. And then she remembered why it was so easy for her to forget these sights and sounds, recalled that their history was punctuated by more pain and longing than happiness and laughter, and her eyes dropped to her cup of coffee, shying away from the laugh and smile that hadn't been hers for so long.

He saw her eyes drop, her fingers fiddling with the cup, and his smile faded.


"When did it happen?" she blurted out, her eyes flying to his so that she could search for the truth in their chocolate depths.

She found what she was looking for, and her heart leapt at his answer.

"About an hour before I called you, two hours before I bought the plane ticket to come, two weeks before I walked into a coffee shop in London to see you," he murmured, his eyes never leaving hers, wanting her to know how important she was to him. The openness was liberating and terrifying at the same time, but now was not the time to guard his newly-beating heart.

"Oh," she whispered in a near sigh, overwhelmed and ecstatic and wary at his admission.

That night, as they parted, she kept her hands to herself, not wanting to touch the dream and have it dissipate into the ether, not wanting to wake up her hope only to be hurt in the end.

That night, as they parted, he reached out to her, tentative, longing to caress the dream that hadn't felt real in so long, but she flinched away and he hoped that he hadn't hurt her so much that it would end before it really began.


The second one took place in a dark theater. The movie playing on the big screen had a lot of action, some romance, and a little bit of mystery. Both of them were sure they couldn't describe a second of it to anyone who might ask.

They sat in the back of the nearly-empty old theater with its seats that creaked and groaned with each movement and its floor that was faintly sticky from years of spilled concessions. She leaned back in her chair, her booted feet propped up on the back of the seat in front of her, and watched him try to get comfortable in his own lumpy chair.

She felt like she did when she was 13 and had gone to her first movie with a boy. It was a group date, because that's the only way her mom would let her go, but she had considered it her first date. Her stomach had been fluttering with nerves, her throat had felt tight, and she had a surprising amount of trouble breathing for someone who had been doing it her whole life as she waited in anticipation for her date to make a move--any move. This was just like that, only she was nearly 2 decades older and the man sitting next to her was the only future she had ever dreamed of. She kept her eyes pointed straight at the screen, but all of her attention and awareness were focused on him.

She would have felt a little gratified if she'd known that he was also having trouble with a rolling stomach, and his chest felt so heavy that he was certain that some sort of invisible demon must be sitting on it. He watched her as she pretended to watch the movie and he marveled at how much she glowed here in the dark. He had always assumed it was his vampiric night-vision that let him see her so clearly in the shadows--now he knew it was the man inside him who had been the one to see her all along.

It took him until the middle of the movie to work up the nerve to touch her, and when he did it was slow and cautious, a brush of his hand against hers, a shift toward her until their shoulders touched, and then . . . blissfully . . . finally, he took her hand in his and entwined their fingers.

"You'd think that with 250-plus years under your belt you'd work faster than a 13-year-old," she whispered, looking at her watch and smiling into his frown.

He spent the rest of the movie memorizing the feel of her hand in his as he traced the smooth contours of the top of her hand and her knuckles with his fingers, caressed each line that creased her palm with his thumb, and marveled at how something so dainty and soft could possibly hold the power that he knew rested there. Shifting in his creaky seat every so often, he was grateful that the theater was dark, not wanting her to see that something as simple as holding her hand could make him as hard as a rock. He wanted her so badly--wanted to pull her into his lap and capture her lips as his hands explored and re-memorized other areas of her body--but he was aware of her reluctance to move too quickly.

He couldn't know that the woman sitting next to him was having the same thoughts as he trailed his large thumb over her palm, that each stroke sent tingles down her spine, or that she wondered just how much better that thumb would feel stroking a more intimate part of her anatomy. By the time the credits were rolling, her breath was coming in short gasps that she struggled to hide from him and her thighs were pressed closely together as she tried to relieve some of the pressure that had built up at her core.

They sat there, each staring blankly at the screen, each concentrating fully on the simple touch of hand on hand between them, until the film ended and the lights flickered on in the theater. When they stood up, neither pulled away, and they left with their hands still tightly entwined.

It was when they reached the sidewalk that she recalled the last time they had seen a movie together, years before when Sunnydale was a thriving metropolis of evil and not a huge crater in the earth. "Remember our first movie-going experience?" she blurted out, her tongue moving faster than the inhibition-center in her brain. She flushed, appalled that she brought it up when she didn't feel any less aroused upon leaving now than she had then. He nodded, amused at her embarrassment.

"I remember," he drawled, his voice sexy in its husky deepness.

"So what's your favorite movie of all time?" she inquired, wanting to change the subject. She was also curious--for having loved a man so deeply for so long, she was surprised at the amount of things she didn't really know about him.

He fidgeted, looking uncomfortable. "Buffy, I haven't really seen that many movies. . ."

She saw his reaction, and knew he was stalling. "Stop right there," she interrupted. "I didn't ask how many movies you've seen, I asked what your favorite was and from your sudden case of ants-in-the-pants, I'm guessing it's of the embarrassing kung-fu or porn variety," she said, trying to scowl at him in mock censure, but she was utterly unsuccessful at keeping her lips from quirking up in the beginnings of a smile. When he let out a breath and laughed, her grin widened and she didn't even try to hide it.

"Fine. It's `Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Arc'," he mumbled, his smile fading as her body shook with repressed laughter. "What's so funny?" he grumbled. "It has some great action scenes and. . ."

She waved her hands to stop him, and pursed her lips in an attempt to school her features into a more serious face. "I'm not laughing at you. . ." she began, and then she giggled . . . "o.k., maybe I am, but I can't believe that Mr. Sophistication didn't name some obscure artsy film like the kind Will used to make us watch. You picked Indiana Jones! And you didn't even pick the best one!" she exclaimed.

His defensiveness melted away at the way her eyes sparkled, the way the color subtly shifted with the nuances of her emotion. "Not the best one? Surely you don't think `Temple of Doom' was better," he challenged.

She snorted in response. "Are you kidding? `Last Crusade' had both Harrison Ford and Sean Connery. Double the yum, double the fun."

He raised an eyebrow and shot her a look of disbelief. "Sean Connery? Isn't he a little old for you?"

The flirty look she gave him in return nearly made his knees buckle. "Old? He's like a baby compared to my ultimate fantasy guy," she purred, enjoying the banter and not caring that she was making herself even more vulnerable to him.

His heart leapt in his chest, and it felt so good that he wanted to freeze this moment in time. He didn't trust himself to speak, so he squeezed her hand in acknowledgement instead.

"Well, at least you didn't say your favorite movie was `Nosferatu' or something like that," she chirped, uncomfortable with her admission and the silence that had followed it.

He grimaced. "I don't think so. I used to know a guy who looked exactly like that though--he called himself The Prince of Lies. I had to kill him."

"I'm sure he deserved it," she replied.

"He was annoying me," he said with a shrug.

They continued their light banter during the walk back to her flat, both enjoying the casual talk. In their history they'd had few opportunities to talk about normal things--there was always too much gloom and apocalyptic doom to focus on. She was delighted with his wit and sense of humor that she'd seen so little of when they'd last been together. He enjoyed the freedom of their repartee, the way she devised smart, clever retorts, the way her voice was choked with laughter at something he said.

All too soon they were standing outside her building, and as much as the reckless part of her wanted to invite him inside, she knew she wasn't ready. Their voices grew silent as each one pondered the best way to say goodbye when neither wanted to.

"Do you think that we could . . . do you think that I could see you in the sunlight?" he tentatively asked. They had only seen each other in the dark since he had arrived.

"Uh, sure," she answered, looking down at the sidewalk. Her tone betrayed her nervous reluctance.

His brow furrowed and he reached forward to cup her chin in one large hand, forcing her to look at him. "What's wrong?" he asked quietly, afraid that she was going to tell him she never wanted to see him again--dark or not.

Her eyes flooded with tears that pooled but did not spill over. "I. . . Angel, I'm afraid that this is all a dream, that the minute I take you out into the sun you'll explode and it will be my fault for ever wishing that you were human," she admitted, and a single tear rolled out and down her cheek. He sighed in relief and used his thumb to gently brush it away.

"Buffy. . . I promise that this is real. I'm real, we're real, and this may be a dream but it's not one that you wake up from," he said softly, staring intently into her eyes so that she could see that he wasn't lying to her. Slowly, she nodded and swallowed the rest of her tears. Still holding her chin, he leaned forward, intending to finally taste her lips, but she quickly backed away. Bitter disappointment rose up in him, and he had to force it back. He had promised himself he would be patient.

That night, as they parted, she squeezed his hand briefly and reached up to trace a finger over his beautiful features before turning and walking into her building, hoping and praying that he was right and this wasn't just a dream.

That night, as they parted, he watched his soul's desire turn and walk into her building, and sent up a hopeful prayer that this dream could be his forever.


The third one involved ice cream and a stroll in the park, the sun shining brightly enough to alleviate the spring chill as the flowering trees bloomed in riotous color and abundant fragrance.

She walked slowly, watching him out of the corner of her eye as he put a spoonful of the sugary concoction in his mouth and nearly groaned in pleasure. She smiled into her cone, her eyes sparkling with an equal mixture of joy and amusement at seeing the former vampire moan about ice cream. She was so happy--ecstatic even--that he was here with her, in the daylight and no part of him was on fire. This was real.

He looked at her, and was amazed at how much more beautiful she looked in the sunlight--the way her skin glowed even brighter, the way the light glinted off her hair, the way her smile. . .

"Hey, are you laughing at me?" he asked, grinning as he noticed her trying to hide her amusement.

She let her laughter spill out into the crisp air, and it was music to his ears. "You're kind of freaking me out with your intense love of the ice cream--I'm thinking maybe the two of you should get a room," she teased.

He shook his head in mock anger, and reaching over, tipped her cone up until her ice cream smooshed into her face.

A look of surprise flitted across her features, and she squealed, the cold of the pink ice cream permeating her lips and nose where it pooled and dripped.

"Hey. . ." she began to laughingly protest, but any complaint she might have had was abruptly cut off by the sight of his eyes focused on her lips and his mouth moving toward hers. Her breath hitched in her throat, her stomach clenching in long-unfulfilled want as his tongue snaked out of his mouth and onto her lips. He licked tentatively at first, but when she didn't move away, he pulled her closer as he removed all traces of the ice cream from her face with nips and kisses. She tasted so good, and it wasn't the sugar and cream--it was her, Buffy. He was filled with an almost overwhelming need to pick her up and take her somewhere private where he could taste every inch of her, and the only thing that stopped him was his fear that he might lose her if he rushed her.

She sighed and leaned into him, allowing herself to feel the solid strength and comfort of his body for the first time in years. He felt different, but it was good. His heat was soothing, the humid puffs of his breath on her face were arousing . . . or maybe it was his warm lips that were the cause of the tingle that radiated from the very center of her all the way into her fingers and toes. The teasing nips and licks at her lips weren't enough though, so she pressed them more firmly against his and moaned when he accepted her invitation and began to probe the interior of her mouth with his tongue.

It seemed that an eternity passed before their mouths broke apart, both of them panting for breath, trying to slow racing hearts and dampen raging desire. They stood there, not speaking, but the silence was ripe with messages as each felt the intensity of their mate's craving.

Eyes clouded with want, his mouth curled into a half-smile that she couldn't see because of their close proximity but could feel against her own mouth, Angel broke the silence, his voice deep and husky. . .

"I think strawberry is my new favorite flavor," he murmured against her lips, before moving against her again to re-explore the depths of her sweetness.

That afternoon, when they parted on the steps leading into the new Watcher's Council building, she pulled him toward her and touched her lips to his as she wrapped her arms around him. This felt so good . . . so right . . . that she was able to forget her reservations for a moment.

That afternoon, when they parted, he didn't hesitate when she pulled him into her embrace. Her lips, her breasts, her hips, all pressed against him and it was so good . . . so right . . . that he never wanted to forget this moment.


The fourth one was a mid-morning jog through the residential streets of London, their physical exertion creating just enough heat to stave off the cold air. The route was different than the one she usually took, but he had wanted to go this way, so she followed.

"Running is. . . . much harder. . . . when you . . . have to . . . breathe," he huffed out as their feet pounded over the pavement in tandem. He found that even though he had much longer legs, he didn't have to check his stride--running was so much different as a human and she was fast. It was he who had problems keeping up with her.

She looked at him and rolled her eyes, but then grinned and slowed her pace just a little. "So, since I never told you that I always go on a morning run, am I to assume you haven't given up your stalker-like ways?" she joked, glancing in his direction. He had been waiting on the steps to her building when she came out this morning, dressed in a pair of black sweats and a t-shirt that hugged his muscular chest and hard abdomen, his feet clad in running shoes. It had taken her several seconds to get over seeing him dressed like that, and then she had realized she was staring at him with her mouth open. He'd smiled his all-knowing sexy grin at her and she'd tried not to melt in a puddle right there on the sidewalk.

He had the decency to look just a little ashamed before he shrugged. "I like the post-run stretch show," he retorted, and was pleased to see the color rise in her cheeks. Then she turned her face toward him and he could see the seductive intent in every pore of her glistening skin.

"Oh, but that's just a cool-down stretch. You should see the real show post-shower," she quipped, and then screamed in surprise when he barreled into her sideways, pushing her into the grass and tumbling her to the ground. Her giggles turned to pants as his weight settled lightly on top of her and his lips found her neck. He teased the sensitive flesh with his tongue and lips before he found his mark and bit down gently on it, growling lightly in response to her moan, before lifting his head and letting her see the naked want that resided inside him.

He was pleased to see that her look matched his own.

She panted, trying to catch the breath that had been fine when she was running but was now refusing to come easily. She raised one hand and traced her fingers over his face in love and wonder.

"I didn't know you could still do that," she said breathlessly, almost to herself.

"Do what?" he asked, reveling in her touch and cocking his head so that he could capture her wondering fingers in his mouth.

A slight groan escaped from her throat and she gave him a tiny smile. "Growl. What else is the same?"

He looked at her intently, searching for any indication that she was upset with the signs of something not quite human residing inside him. Seeing none, he shifted his weight off of her and rolled so that he was on his side facing her. He brushed a stray tendril of hair that had escaped her ponytail off of her face, and then moved his hand to rest on her hip.

"Everything, and nothing," he replied.

"Well, you've certainly kept the cryptic," she drawled, flashing him a look of irritation that was tempered by the adoration that shone out of her eyes.

He chuckled, and squeezed the flesh of her hip. "The shanshu left me with my physical prowess. Once I learn how to breathe, I should be able to fight as well as I ever could," he said wryly. "I'm human, but not completely. Buffy. . . I . . . well, I'm still part demon. Not full-Angelus demon, but some part of my fundamental nature is imbued with the supernatural, with traces of what he left behind --it's the price for keeping the strength and healing powers. But I'm different- I'm going to age and eventually I'm going to die just like any other human," he explained, watching her carefully for any sign that she might be disappointed by his words.

"Oh, so you're all demon-essencey-- me too," she said. She sat up and waved her hand at his inquiring look. "It's a whole big Slayer creation thingy. I'll tell you all about it some other time," she promised. "Right now we should finish our run. I have a feeling the old guy I saw peeking out of his window is calling the police on us right now." With that, she hopped up and reached out a hand to pull him to his feet.

His head was spinning with questions, but he let her pull him to his feet and lead him back to the street, where they continued their run. He might have stopped her, but there was a reason he'd chosen to invite himself on her run today, why he'd led her on this particular route.

Her head was also spinning. He was like her--he wasn't fragile and she wouldn't have to worry about him hating her for being what she was. It seemed like a huge weight was lifted off her shoulders, a worry that had been nagging at her since he had called and told her he was coming. She ran with him and her whole being seemed to be lighter.

They ran for another ten minutes before he stopped again. She slowed down and glanced back over her shoulder, worried that he was hurt. When he pulled his t-shirt off and used it to wipe the sweat from his face, she turned so quickly that she nearly stumbled. She couldn't tear her eyes away from the broad expanse of his chest, the corded muscles of his shoulders and arms, the well-defined abdomen, and the creases that cut his pelvis and led down in a v-shape to his. . . Her mouth was dry, and she pushed out her tongue to lick her lips as she stared at him with undisguised appreciation.

He noticed the attention and smiled into the t-shirt he was using to wipe his face. When he saw her tongue snake out of her mouth he had to use a good deal of control to keep himself from closing the distance between them and inviting her to use her tongue on the flesh that she was admiring. Instead, he gestured for her to follow him through the gate of the house in front of him.

"Angel, we can't just walk in there," she protested, but followed when he smiled at her. She pulled a bottle of water out of the water holster around her waist and tried to wet her mouth as she watched the muscles in his back ripple as he walked down the flower-lined path.

The landscaping was beautiful--the yard a cornucopia of colors and textures. The house was large and situated a surprising distance from the road, given that it was located in London. It reminded her of her house in Sunnydale despite its cottage feel, and she could imagine growing old in a place like this.

When Angel walked up to the front door, she paused on the cobblestone path.

"Umm, Angel?"

He turned and gave her one of his dazzling, toothy smiles and she no longer cared why he was going to bother the nice people who lived in this beautiful house. When he reached inside the waistband of his pants and retrieved a key, she barely noticed. Instead, she was focused on the fantasy of watching him strip naked in front of her that the sight of his long fingers at his bare waist evoked.

The sound of her name spoken from his lips pulled her back into the present.

"Buffy? Do you want to come in and see my new house?" he asked. He was more anxious than he could ever remember being. It was so important that she love this house, that she love that he was staying here permanently. He held his breath as he watched the confusion play over her face. When her features arranged themselves in an unmistakable look of excited awe, he let himself breathe again.

"Angel? This is yours? When--what--when?" she exclaimed, looking around once again. This time, knowing that this was his, it was even more beautiful. Happiness filled her and threatened to bubble out of her mouth in unchecked words of her love and desire for him, so she clamped her lips shut and just beamed.

He chuckled at her excited babbling. "This is mine. As for the when, I've had plenty of time to go house hunting since I've been here," he answered, the last part said with more than a little grumbling. He would have spent every second of that time with her, but she hadn't allowed it. It left him with a lot of free time.

He turned and unlocked the door, holding it open for her to go in before him. She walked in, slowly, her head swiveling from left to right as she took in the details of the house. She knew he had exquisite taste, and this house was just more evidence of that. Light flooded in the multitude of windows, alleviating the darkness that might have been present because of the abundance of mahogany woodwork. The downstairs had a formal living and dining area, a library complete with four walls of built-in bookshelves, a more informal living area, and a large, modern kitchen. Upstairs there were three bedrooms, each with its own bathroom, and a den. They walked through it silently--she taking in every detail she could and he trying to read her every reaction to the house.

As they made their way back down the stairs and out the door, she finally spoke.

"It's beautiful, it's so . . . you," she said quietly, looking wistfully out at the flowering bushes and trees that peppered the well-manicured lawn. There was more that she wanted to say, so many more questions that hammered inside her brain about what this meant, but she was afraid--afraid that his answers wouldn't be the ones she was hoping for, afraid that he would break her heart again when it couldn't stand another injury from him.

His heart thumped loudly in his chest and he wondered if she could hear it. He was ecstatic that she liked it--he could see the truth of that in her face--but he also saw the sadness that flashed through her eyes and his smile faded. He wasn't stupid. It wasn't difficult for him to surmise that she must be worried about him and his permanence, and he wondered why she didn't ask.

When she remained silent, he decided to give her a little time to process the news. He wouldn't push it, but he wanted to make sure she knew that he wasn't going to be going anywhere.

"I was hoping you'd come over tomorrow night. I'll cook us dinner and we can . . . talk," he said, praying she wouldn't say no.

She tore her eyes away from the house and gave him an absentminded nod. "Sure. Look, I need to get home. You wanna finish the run?" she answered.

He nodded and they made their way back to the street. When they arrived back in front of her flat, he stretched with her as she began her cool-down, enjoying the sight of her muscular legs and firm bottom as she bent and gently applied pressure to stretch her hamstrings. Then he recalled her earlier teasing about her "post-shower" stretch and he couldn't stop himself from touching her.

She stretched her tired muscles and tried to ignore the feel of his eyes raking over her body. It was impossible. Now that there was nothing standing in the way of a physical relationship besides her own reservations, it was difficult not to notice how his eyes hungrily appraised her body when he thought she wasn't looking. It was also difficult not to notice the supreme sexiness of his every feature. It was a wonder that they hadn't given into temptation yet. So she wasn't really surprised when she felt him grab her and carry her up the stairs until they were standing at the door to her building, or that when he set her down he pressed her back against the door with his body and bent his head to devour her mouth with his own.

He pressed himself tightly against her as he tasted her mouth with his lips and tongue. One hand snaked behind her and he scraped his knuckle against the wooden door as he firmly pulled her even closer to him. The other hand tangled into her hair until his fingers were close against her scalp under the ponytail, and he pulled her head back so that he could nibble down her chin and over her neck. When she moaned and wiggled against him he made his way back to her mouth, kissing and nipping at her lips until he felt her tongue move out and over his own.

The weight of his body against hers, combined with his talented mouth, triggered a swirling warmth in the pit of her stomach that spread down until she could feel the ache and throb of her want centered in her sex. She sighed when he cupped her backside and pulled her closer--she could feel his hardness pressing into her stomach and she wanted him to lift her up so that he was flush against her core, teasing and promising. When he answered her unspoken wish as though he could read her mind, she mewled. Her hands found the hem of his t-shirt and moved in slow, sensual circles over the hard skin of his abdomen and then up, higher, over his pectoral muscles and then his back.

He reveled in the feel of her roaming hands and the heat that was emanating from between the legs that were currently cradling his erection. He continued his assault on her mouth and their harsh, panting breaths mingled together with the low sounds of want that circulated between them. And then her little hands were back in front and she was reaching for the waistband of his sweats and he was sure he might die from forgetting how to breathe once again. Instead he groaned in naked want, and then nearly cried when her hand stilled just short of his cock and then began to retreat.

"Don't stop," he moaned into her mouth, pleading with his eyes as he held her flush against him.

"Angel," she said, panting and out-of-breath, "we have to stop."

"No. We don't," he argued as he placed his lips against his mark and began to lick at it.

"Anggggel," she hissed, and he could hear the passion that laced her voice. "Stop. We have an audience."

"Don't care," he murmured against her neck, nibbling up to capture one perfect earlobe between his lips. He could feel her relaxing against him again and he was sure she was going to relent when he heard someone behind him clearing his throat.

"Hemm. Excuse me please," the male voice said, and Angel pulled away from her just enough to turn his head to see the man who dared interrupt. He gave him his deadliest stare and turned back to Buffy, intent on continuing until she invited him up to her apartment for a shower.

The man didn't take the hint. "I said excuse me," he said, his voice rising in irritated indignation. "You're blocking the door to my building."

This time Buffy pushed against his chest, and he reluctantly backed away from her so that she could move away from the door.

"I'm so sorry Mr. Anders," she said in apology as the man huffily moved past them into the building.

When he was safely through the door, Angel started to move forward again but he was stopped by Buffy's hand.

"I need to get showered, get to Headquarters. I'll see you tomorrow night, o.k.?" she said, her voice still shaky with passion, but clearly resolved. He sighed in frustration and backed away, nodding.

"Tomorrow night," he agreed, the two words a promise of much more as his eyes raked over her swollen lips and disheveled clothing.

That morning, as they parted, her mind was clouded with desire and confusion as she headed toward the shower, and she wondered if he was going to actually stay for good this time.

That morning, as they parted, he thought about being here with her forever, days and nights filled with desire, and no more cold showers like the one he would have to take now.


The fifth one was dinner at his new, largely unfurnished house. It was candlelight, it was two dozen silk pillows on the floor around the coffee table, it was three dozen white roses, and it was home.

She rang the bell, and as he wiped his hands on a kitchen towel and moved toward the front of the house, he hoped she would never ring the bell again.

When he opened the door, she took his breath away. She wore an ice-blue dupoini silk strapless dress and silver sandals that left her manicured toes exposed. Her hair was off of her neck in a casual up-sweep and she wore his cross nestled in the expanse of skin just above her breasts. In that instant he wanted nothing more than to sweep her up in his arms and carry her over the threshold straight to the pillows on the floor in front of the fireplace.

Instead, he leaned forward and gave her a quick kiss. He could smell her perfume, a light, citrusy scent, and not for the first time since he became human he missed being a vampire--missed being able to smell every nuance of her essence beneath the fragrance.

"You're beautiful," he murmured against her lips before stepping back to let her through the door.

She looked him up and down, taking in the view of the wine-colored silk shirt unbuttoned at the top and tucked into a pair of black pants that fit him to perfection. He was barefoot, and the sight made her smile.

"You too," she responded as she brushed past him. "Here," she said, offering him the bottle of wine that she had brought over. "A little housewarming gift--I asked Giles about vintage and stuff like that--he said this is a good one."

He took it and glanced at the label, his eyebrows rising in appreciation. "Yes, this is a good one." He looked back at her and was met by the sight of her bending over, the skirt of her dress rising to her upper thigh, as she pulled off one shoe, then the other. She stood up and turned back toward him, smiling.

"I think it's probably rude to wear shoes when your host is barefoot. Somewhere, anyway," she chirped.

He smiled in return, and her toes curled in response to the sexy tilt of his lips.

An hour later they were spread out on the pillows, finishing the last bites of the tiramisu he had made for dessert.

"Mmmm," she moaned as she licked her spoon clean of all traces of the custard and espresso creation. "When did you learn how to cook?"

He took a sip of his wine and tried to tear his mind away from thoughts of her tongue licking other things. "Here and there over the years. Made me feel like less of a monster," he answered, remembering all the times he cooked for his team after a battle. Picking up the bottle of wine, he emptied the last of its contents into her glass.

She put her spoon down and watched him in the flickering candlelight as she picked up the glass and took a sip. There were so many things that she wanted to ask him, so many little pieces of information that she wanted to learn about him so that she could once again be the person who knew him better than anyone, but she was afraid-- afraid of the answers, afraid of the knowledge, and most of all, afraid of her love for him. She took a deep breath and forced herself to mentally push aside those fears. She was tired of the mature plan and she'd promised herself that tonight she would ask all the questions she needed to ask to decide if they had a future together.

"What's it like--being human, I mean?" she began.

He thought about teasing her, telling her she should know because she was human herself, but he knew she wasn't joking and that somehow his answers would determine their future.

"It's wonderful and terrible at the same time. To have not only been forgiven for my crimes, but to have been rewarded for my service to the Powers is humbling. I don't think I could express how grateful I am for this gift. I know I don't deserve it. . ." He paused when she made a sound deep in her throat and shook her head as she reached over to caress his cheek.

"Don't say that," she whispered, pleading, and he knew that he had said something wrong. He hoped that she would listen, let him finish, and that the truth would be enough for her.

"I'm trying to accept it, and it gets easier every day, especially when I see you and everything you've become. You've dealt with so much more pain and loss and you've done it without any promise of a reward. One look at you, and I'm reminded that brooding and choosing to suffer is egotistical and a waste of this life I've been given. Buffy, I'm alive and I will die and I don't want to waste a single second of it."

Her eyes softened, and she nodded in understanding. "You said it was wonderful and terrible. What's terrible?" she asked.

He took a deep breath, and considered his words. He knew that he had to be truthful, but he was scared that she would reject it . . . and him.

"Sometimes I miss things that were a part of my existence for centuries. Getting dressed is harder, because I have to take the weather and temperature into account and I can't ever seem to get it quite right. I wake up at night sometimes sweating and twisted in my sheets, and other nights I'm shivering from the cold. I miss being able to see perfectly in the dark, especially when I stub my toe on in the middle of the night on the way to use the bathroom for the first time since modern plumbing was invented. I miss. . . I miss being able to smell you--the scents of your emotions, of your . . . arousal . . . are mostly hidden to me now and I want so badly to know you as intimately as I could when I was a vampire. And sometimes I wake up at night, panicked, because I can't hear my blood pumping in my heart, flowing through my veins and it takes me several minutes to realize that I shouldn't be able to hear those things anymore. It's an adjustment, but even with all of that, being blessed with humanity is the second-best thing that has ever happened to me," he finished.

She slid even closer to him and rested her hand on his thigh.

"Second-best?" she inquired, her voice so low that he almost couldn't hear her.

He reached over and cupped her chin in his large hand, tilting her head so that she could see the sincerity in every line of his face.

"Having you in my life is the best--no competition," he said, his voice deep and husky as he bent forward to press his lips to hers. This kiss was born of devotion and love as opposed to passion, and when they broke apart, their souls were tied even more closely together.

She marveled at his openness, his willingness to let her be privy to his most secret thoughts. It was almost foreign to her--this type of honesty hadn't been a regular part of their relationship in the past. Still, she needed to know one more thing before she could surrender her whole being to him again.

Looking around the room, she surveyed the lack of furniture or personal belongings. This was the only room in the downstairs portion of the house that had anything in it, and it was only furnished with the bare minimum required for their dinner date. What if he didn't plan to stay long enough to bother with furniture? What if he just bought this as some kind of vacation home, a place to stay when he visited his on-again-off-again girlfriend?

She turned back to him, and tried for a light tone. "Are you going for the Spartan look here?"

He wondered if she realized how dismally she had failed in her attempt to sound as though she weren't deathly afraid of what his answer might be. Reaching down, he pulled her into his lap and bent down so that his lips touched her ear.

"No. I was hoping that I could convince a certain someone to decorate it with all of her things. I'm also hoping that I can convince her quickly because I'm going to get really uncomfortable sitting on the floor if I don't" he said softly. He held his breath as he waited for her reaction.

She sat perfectly still, not wanting to turn and look at him until she was sure she had heard correctly. "So you're staying? This isn't some pit-stop on your humanity tour?"

He cuddled her closer to him and trailed his fingers over the silky skin of her forearms. "I'm staying here as long as you're here. I'll be wherever you want to be. I'm here to cash in on that promise of `forever'," he murmured. The back of her neck beckoned to him, and he placed a kiss there, waiting once again for her to say something, do something.

She turned her body so that she was sitting sideways in his lap and looked up at him. He could see her hope and fear shifting in the recesses of her eyes and he waited, wanting to take away all of her fears but understanding their genesis.

Taking a deep breath, she blurted out the question that had been plaguing her since he called to tell her that he was human, the fear that had kept her from leaping into his arms and bed the second he had come to see her. "Angel, are you going to leave me? Are you going to decide that you don't deserve this humanity, or happiness, or me? Are you going to bail at the first sign of trouble, or tell me that I deserve better after our first real fight? Because if any of that is true, I need to know. I can't do it again--I can't live through you leaving again. I need you to know that before you make any commitments that you can't keep."

He was stunned by the vehemence in her words, and ashamed at the evidence of the hurt he had caused. His eyes clouded over with grief and he squeezed her to him in silent apology for the damage he'd done. When he spoke, his voice was laced with all of the love, adoration, and longing he had ever felt for her.

"Buffy, I love you. You are the only woman I have ever loved, and that's because you own my heart . . . my body . . . and my soul. I wish I could take away all of the pain I've ever caused you, but I can't. What I can do is promise you that I will never leave you again. I don't want to live without you . . . please don't make me live in this world without you," he said, pleading, holding her close.

When she smiled at him, her eyes flooded with happy tears, his heart pounded loudly in his chest and he felt like he could breathe freely for the first time in the weeks since he had become human.

"I love you too, Angel," she said, simply, before shifting again so that she was in his lap facing him. Wrapping her arms around his neck, she tipped forward and pressed her lips to his. The kiss started out slow, a benediction of their long-repressed love, as their tongues tasted and teased. His hands spanned her back and stroked it gently, reverently, as her hands tangled in his hair. She pulled him more insistently toward her as the kiss deepened, and soon his hands moved down to cup and caress her ass through the bunched up silk of her dress.

She moaned against his mouth when she felt his hands drift lower, and then his mouth left hers and was trailing kisses down her chin and neck until he had her leaning back against the table as he licked and nibbled at the cleavage that peaked over the top of her dress. She was gasping for air when she felt his hands slide down her upper thighs until he had found the hem of her dress, and gliding his hands under it, he pushed back up until he was cupping her without the dress as a barrier.

He was already hard and aching, but when he felt the smooth skin of her backside with nothing covering it, he could feel himself growing and he groaned as he pulled her forward so that she was seated on his length. He was rewarded with a wiggle and the sound of her harsh, panting breath in his ear as she leaned forward to whisper. . .

"Make love to me Angel. Please."

It was the invitation he had been waiting for forweeks, and he quickly stood up, never letting go of her. She wrapped her legs around him as he ravaged her mouth and carried her expertly through the house and up the stairs to the master bedroom. Once there, he felt her unwrap her legs and set them on the floor. He growled in displeasure, but she simply broke away and shot him a look of pure desire that stabbed into him like a million tiny needles. Pulling her back against him, he reached behind her and unzipped her dress as he felt her nimble fingers unbuttoning his shirt. As her dress dropped to the floor, so did his shirt, and then before he knew it his buckle was undone and his pants were unbuttoned. Not wanting to wait another second to see her, he pushed her hands away and stepped back.

He groaned, low and nearly anguished, when he saw her standing there in the candlelight in the bedroom that would be theirs from this point forward. Her skin glowed bronze in the dim light, its color accentuated by the white strapless bra and matching white lace thong. He watched, eyes glazed with desire, as she reached behind her and unfastened her bra, letting it fall discarded and unwanted to the floor. Then she was raising her arm, the fullness of her breasts accentuated by the movement, as she removed the clip that held her hair up. Her golden hair fell over her shoulders and brushed against the tops of her breasts as he watched, frozen . . . mesmerized.

When he moved, it was so fast that if she hadn't already known he still possessed some demon traits, she would have realized it then. His mouth plundered hers as he ran his hands over her back and eased her towards a bed that she didn't know was there until it hit her gently behind the knees. She gasped as he picked her up and then laid her gently on the bed, his eyes dark and dangerous as he raked his eyes over her form. As though he had just realized she still wasn't completely naked, he ran both of his hands up her thighs and hips until they were between her skin and her panties, and he drew them slowly down her legs and off. His pants and boxers quickly followed and then he was lying next to her on the big bed, his hand cupping her hip as he pulled her into his body.

She sighed into his gentle kiss and rolling onto her side, she pressed into him, craving the feel of his skin on hers. He pushed her back gently, her protest dieing in her throat when he followed her down and moved his hand to cup her breast as his mouth played over her clavicle. His thumb made a pattern of small circles around her areola, brushing against her puckering nipples without quite touching them. She whimpered and felt him smile against her skin before he answered her plea and brushed his thumb across her nipple before rolling it between his fingers as she arched into him. Soon his mouth replaced his hands and fingers and he flicked each nipple with his tongue before drawing it into the cavern of his mouth. She mewled and arched against him, begging for more after each suckle and gentle scrape of his teeth. When his hand reached down to caress her folds as he laved one breast, she whimpered. When his fingers dipped into her and then drew her wetness up to her clit where they rubbed gently, she bucked against him and moaned in something not unlike desperation.

He continued to stroke her with his fingers, his mouth on her breasts, her hands buried in his hair, until he felt her tightening, preparing for release. He took her to the edge, and then stopped.

"Angel, please . . . please. . ." she begged.

He answered by moving his lips down her body, over her taught stomach, his tongue dipping into her navel, before he was situated between her legs and she could feel his hot breath puffing against her clit, teasing it with the warmth that was to come.

He looked at the plump pink folds of her sex and felt his cock jump in anticipation. She was so beautiful. He could feel her quivering on the brink of her orgasm despite the fact that he wasn't touching her, and he leaned in and sucked her clit between his lips as he pushed a finger into her wet heat. Her moan was almost a sigh as she came on his mouth, her inner muscles fluttering around his fingers, her strong thighs capturing his head between them.

If he had missed being able to smell her arousal as a vampire, he now knew that it was nothing compared to being able to taste her as a human. He continued to lick, nip, and suckle at her, his tongue licking over every inch of her as his fingers pressed into her. She came two more times that way before he heard her . . . begging for him to be inside her.

"Please, I need you inside me. Angel, please," she panted, and he couldn't have denied her if he had wanted to.

He moved slowly up her body, still kissing and touching her reverently, needing for her to know in this first time together in their new lives that he had never loved anyone-- never wanted anyone-- as much as he loved and wanted her.

And then she was pulling him into her embrace, her legs opening and cradling his hips and he could feel her wet heat radiating into his throbbing cock. In that moment he lost all of his control, all of his intentions of going slow, and he plunged into her, hard and so deep that he could feel her womb brush the tip of his erection. She was so tight around him, so hot, and he wanted to fuck her until she screamed. But when she tensed at his invasion, he forced himself not to move so that he wouldn't cause her any more pain.

"I'm sorry love. . . I didn't mean to hurt you," he gasped, looking into her eyes for any sign that he should pull out and praying that he wouldn't find one.

"Oh god Angel, I forgot how big you are--how you fill me," she panted, and he could only see desire in her eyes. She rocked against him. "please don't stop, need you . . . need you," she chanted, and he groaned as he pulled out and thrust into her, more gently this time.

Each time he pushed into her, she rocked her hips back against him, pulling him in as deep as she could. What started gently quickly increased in pace until her heals were digging into his ass as she spurred him on, each thrust driving her into the mattress. Her soft moans and tightening muscles signaling her closeness, he angled his thrusts so that his pelvic bone rubbed insistently against her clit and soon she was gasping and clenching around him. He could feel her womb contracting as her entire body tightened around his cock and he let himself go, exploding deep inside her with a groan of satisfaction.

When he rolled off of her, he pulled her into him so that her head was cradled on his chest and her leg was draped over his. His mouth turned up into a satisfied smile and he let a sound of contentment rumble from his chest.

"Mmm, you got to keep the purr. I'm glad," she murmured sleepily, completely happy and satisfied for the first time in more years than she could count. This was what she had always wanted, and now, finally, it was hers. He was here, and he wasn't leaving.



"I love you."

"I love you too."

That night they didn't part, and both knew that they would never willingly do so again.


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