The One I Waited For

By Michelle

EMAIL: cordelia1978@hotmail.com

DISCLAIMER: Not mine, nor will it ever be.

RATING: NC17 overall

AUTHOR'S NOTES: Angel is human. He's not a vampire, trust me on this. AU story.

 

Part 1

Buffy Summers stormed into the library, clutching a piece of paper in her hand. She set it down in front of Rupert Giles, who stood behind the counter.

"Why hello, Buffy," he greeted. "How are you doing today?"

"We have a problem. My report card came yesterday. Guess who's grounded until further notice?"

"Good God, Buffy. What's the matter?"

She raised her eyebrows. "I thought I just told you. Mom saw my report card, saw that I failed History and totally flipped out. I'm grounded until my grades improve. That means no dating, no slaying and no late-night research parties."

"There must be some way around it. Surely she understands how vital it is that you slay."

"Mom understands but doesn't really care. Says that my education is more important than fighting demons. You have to talk to her, Giles," she begged. "I can't spend the rest of the school year trapped in my bedroom. Even if it is only two more months."

Her Watcher nodded. "I'll see what I can do."

"Do it now." Buffy pointed to his office.

"Very well. I shall call her at the gallery." He disappeared into his office, closing the door behind him.

Buffy sat herself at the table, pouting. `It just isn't fair,' she thought. `I hope Giles can talk some sense into her.'

The library doors burst open with the sound of laughter. Buffy looked up, seeing her best friend and boyfriend enter.

"Hey," Willow Rosenberg greeted.

Kevin Matthews walked over to Buffy, giving her a kiss. "Morning."

"Morning," she replied half-heartedly.

"What's wrong? Why didn't you call me back last night after patrol? Did something happen?" Kevin asked.

She looked up at her boyfriend of over a year. "Yeah. Mom grounded me because I failed History. No phone, no dating, no slaying."

"Buffy, I'm so sorry. Is there anything I can do? Help you out with your studying?"

"Kevin, you barely passed History yourself. Besides, Giles is talking some sense into my mom right now."

"I hope he gets through to her."

Buffy smiled slightly, for the first time all day. "Me too."

"Don't worry, Buffy," Willow soothed. "Giles will get your mom to calm down."

"Let's talk about happier things. How did you do, Will? Is your place in National Honor Society still secure?"

Willow nodded. "Yes. Straight As."

"As usual," commented Kevin. "You'd probably go off the deep end if you ever got a B."

"I would not!"

Giles walked out of his office. "Well, Buffy, I have good news. Good morning, Willow, Kevin."

"Hi, Giles," Kevin and Willow said in unison.

"How good?"

He took a seat across the table from her. "Your mother and I discussed the situation and came to a conclusion. She'll allow you to continue slaying at a minimum if you receive extra help with your studies."

"What kind of help?"

"Tutoring."

"I can help Buffy," offered Willow.

"Unfortunately, I brought up that option with Mrs. Summers and she is opposed to it. She doesn't want Buffy to have any distractions, so we have agreed upon outside help. A professional tutor."

Buffy sighed. "Great. Now I feel really stupid."

"You're not stupid," Willow told her.

"Hardly. If Giles and your mother think a professional tutor is a good idea, you should go for it, Buffy. You have nothing to lose."

"Fine. I'll hire a tutor."

"Actually," Giles began, "I have already made arrangements. After I got off the phone with your mother I called someone who can help you. He's going to stop by this afternoon."

"He?" Kevin asked.

"Yes. He comes highly recommended. A graduate of UCLA with a Masters in History." Giles chose only to tell them what they needed to know. "Buffy, you'll be meeting with him every afternoon before your training as well as during your study halls."

"Terrific. I officially have no life." The bell rang, signaling the five minute warning before homeroom. "That's our cue."

Giles followed the three teenagers to the doors. "Please be here on time, Buffy. The fate of the world may very well depend on it."

"Doesn't it always?" she muttered.

********

The two men sat opposite each other at the table. Giles made eye contact with the young man across from him. "I can't tell you how important this is. Buffy's mother doesn't seem to fully understand how essential Buffy's role is."

"She's the Slayer. It's the most important role there is. I'm willing to help out in any way possible," the young man said.

"Buffy isn't aware of your identity. She does not know about your mother or that you are a Watcher-in-training. All I have told her is that you have a Masters degree in History from UCLA. Bringing you in as her tutor will make it easier for you to understand the training of the Slayer, as well as her everyday routine."

He nodded solemnly. "I remember it."

"Buffy is a unique girl. Take everything you know about Slayers and throw it out the window because she doesn't follow the rules. Have patience with her, she an be difficult at times. But Buffy Summers is a lovely young woman. You'll not find another person like her."

"Like who?" Buffy asked with her eyebrows raised. She'd walked in on the tail end of the conversation.

The two stood up. "Buffy, I didn't hear you come in."

"I'm quiet." She glanced at the other man. She was immediately attracted to his tall, dark and handsome profile. He was the polar opposite of Kevin's blonde, upbeat demeanor. Standing at least six feet tall, the young man had brown eyes so deep Buffy thought she might drown in them. He had to be the most handsome man she'd ever laid eyes on.

She flashed him a brilliant smile, happy that Kevin wasn't there to get jealous. "Hi. I'm Buffy. Nice to meet you."

He stared into her green eyes. "Same here."

Giles noticed the young man's inability to find words. It concerned him, but he chose to ignore it. "Buffy, this is Angel Reilly. He'll be helping your with your studies."

********

2

Angel didn't know what came over him at first. When Buffy entered the library, a rush of heat went through his veins, awakening feelings the twenty-seven year old never thought possible. Standing before him was a small, blonde, beautiful spitfire of a young woman. Something in her emerald eyes captured his heart with a grip that refused to let go. Without even speaking to her, he was in love.

She took the seat to his right, placing her backpack on the table. Having her so close scared Angel. He worried that he would not be able to concentrate. "What -- what are you going over right now?" he stammered.

"The Chilly War or something like that."

Angel chuckled. "The Cold War maybe?"

"Yeah, that one."

"Okay, you know that it's about democracy versus communism taking over the world?" She nodded. "It began shortly after the end of World War II and that the Democratic nations of the world feared a communist takeover. Particularly the U.S.."

"I know all of that. Well, at least now I do. But when it comes time for the test, it's gone."

"Nerves? I used to get nervous at tests, too."

Buffy smiled. "More like performance anxiety. It's like, the minute the paper is in front of me, my mind goes blank.

Sorry, I'm not very scholastic. There are other outside things that require more of my attention than who was the twenty-third President."

"You must lead a very busy life," Angel commented.

"Busy is one way of describing it."

"I guess that's why I'm here. To lessen the load."

"No, you're here because I suck at school. And I am probably wasting your time by talking about this. I hope my mom's paying you well for putting up with me."

Angel cast his eyes to the book between them. "I'd gladly do it for free." `Just for the chance to be near you.' "Well, you'll definitely be working for your money."

"Why don't we get started on some questions you have about the Cold War."

He reached over to open Buffy's History book, and in doing so, brushed hands with her. Angel felt a bolt of electricity go through his body at her touch. His fingers lingered for a brief moment, exhilarating in the warmth of her skin. All of a sudden, Angel never felt so alive as he did right then.

He moved his hand away, opening the book as the library doors opened. "Hi, guys," Buffy said to the group of teenagers that sauntered in.

Angel looked up at the group of four; two girls and two boys.

One of the boys was tall and lanky with short brown hair while the other was a few inches shorter, had blonde hair and much more muscular. `An athlete, probably.' The two girls were about the same height, but one had long brown hair and the other had shoulder-length red hair.

The blonde boy came up and embraced Buffy, kissing her softly.

Angel was hurt and more than slightly jealous. `Her boyfriend, no doubt,’ he thought. `Who am I to kid myself, thinking someone as special as Buffy would be without a man in her life.'

"So, Buff, is this the new tutor?" the brown-haired boy asked.

"Yep. Guys, this is Angel Reilly. Angel, this is Xander Harris," the brown-haired boy, "Cordelia Chase," the brunette girl, "Willow Rosenberg," the redhead, "and Kevin Matthews. My boyfriend."

He stood up. "Nice to meet all of you."

"What a hottie," Cordelia whispered to Willow. "I'm beginning to wish I'd failed History, too."

Buffy turned around to glare at the girl. "What are you doing here?"

Xander shrugged. "Nothing better to do."

"Buffy, maybe we should do this some other time," suggested Angel.

She pulled herself out of Kevin's embrace. "You don't have to go. They were just leaving."

"Yeah. We just stopped by to see how everything was going," Willow told her.

"And because Kevin wanted to check this guy out," Cordelia muttered under her breath.

Angel shook his head. "I really didn't come prepared anyway. I just came to meet Buffy. Tomorrow I'll bring some notes and questions for you to answer." He grabbed his black duster from his chair.

"It was nice to meet you, Angel," Willow said.

He smiled and nodded. Taking a last look at Buffy, he walked out of the room.

"Why did you guys really come here?" demanded Buffy.

"I wanted to meet your tutor," Kevin explained.

Buffy narrowed her eyes and placed her hands on her hips. "And I'm sure it had nothing to do with the fact you heard Giles say he is a graduate of UCLA. You were jealous, weren't you, Kevin?"

"I just wanted to meet him."

"And now you've seen that Angel is really good-looking," `Gorgeous is more like it.' "does that mean you'll be here every afternoon when I'm studying with him?"

"Don't be that way, Buffy."

"He's a nice guy, he doesn't deserve this."

"You hardly know him."

Buffy was fuming by this point. "First impressions." She felt the need to pound something, and her boyfriend's face would not be considered socially acceptable. "I need to train with Giles now."

Xander, Cordelia and Willow said their good-byes and left.

Kevin lingered for a few minutes, but left when Giles and Buffy finished setting up for her training.

"So, what did you think of Angel?" Giles asked.

She swung the sword, only to have her swing blocked. "Seems nice. He didn't stay long."

"Why not?"

"Kevin showed up. I think he scared Angel away."

Giles was well-aware of Kevin Matthews' jealousy in regards to Buffy. He immediately felt sorry for Angel. "Will he be returning tomorrow?"

"As far as I now, he said he would be." Buffy wanted him to come back, wanted to see her young, handsome History tutor. "How long have you know him for?"

Giles dodged her swings. "For many years. His father was a friend of mine. Angel's very...introverted, if you will. But a very nice young man."

"Is he married?" Buffy knew she was pushing, but she wanted -- no, needed -- to know more about him. Something unidentifiable passed through her when they touched. It unnerved her.

"Angel? No. He's very dedicated to his studies, and now to his work. I don't believe he has the time."

"Family?"

"You should be asking him these questions. Not me, Buffy."

Buffy took one last swing with her sword, knocking her Watcher to the ground. "I think I will."

*******

Part 3

"Buffy, I am sorry for acting the way I did today," Kevin apologized that night at the Expresso Pump. He'd found her during patrol and convinced her to get a cup of coffee with him. "It was totally uncalled for. I know that now."

"I'm glad. But, Kevin, you don't have to be so jealous and protective whenever you see me with another guy. Angel is just my History tutor."

Kevin grasped her hand across the table. "I guess I'm afraid you're going to leave me."

"Angel's probably pushing thirty. I highly doubt he'd be interested in a high school senior. You have nothing to worry about." Buffy took a sip of her coffee, emptying the contents of the cup. "I gotta head out. Mom wants me in by ten."

She groaned. "I hate having a curfew."

"Can I drive you home" he offered.

"Thanks, but I don't mind walking. Might be able to stake a few vamps on the way." She gave him a quick peck on the cheek. "Just get yourself home in one piece."

Kevin grinned. "Will do, Chief." He walked out of the cafe with her. "Buffy, we're still going to the Prom together, right?"

"If I live that long, we are," she answered.

"Well, I have a surprise for you."

Buffy was immediately suspicious. "What kind of surprise?"

"A very good one. Everything's not all worked out yet, but I will tell you this. I am planning on making Prom the most wonderful night of our lives."

"How intriguing. But I wouldn't be making too many plans for the future. We are living on the Hellmouth, you know," Buffy reminded him.

"You have to think about the future sometime, Buffy."

She frowned. "I try not to, since I may not have one."

He sighed heavily. "Stop talking like you're going to die tomorrow."

"I could. Kevin, I'm the Slayer. My life expectancy isn't exactly the same as yours. Look, it's getting late and I don't feel like arguing with you. Good night." Without waiting for a reply, Buffy turned down the street toward her house.

********

"How was patrol?" Mrs. Summers asked when Buffy walked the door at 9:55.

"Boring. Only three vamps tonight."

"And school? Did you meet your tutor yet?"

Buffy took a seat on the reclining chair that faced her mother. "Yes, I did. We didn't do any studying, it was more like a meeting."

"What's he like? Or she?"

"He. His name is Angel. So far, so good. Nice, normal guy. Giles says he has a degree in History from UCLA."

Mrs. Summers raised her eyebrows. "It's a great school. This Angel must be quite intelligent."

"Like I said, we haven't done any studying yet."

"How old is he? What does he look like?" pried Buffy's mother.

She laughed. "Aren't we Miss Twenty Questions tonight. I'm not sure how old he is. If I had to guess, I would say twenty-eight or so. He's tall, spikey brown hair, brown eyes, nice build."

Mrs. Summers took note of the look in Buffy's eyes and the expression on her face. `Looks like she's got a crush.' "He's good-looking, I take it."

Buffy nodded her head. "He looks like one of those guys you'd see on the cover of GQ. He rates pretty high on the John Cusack scale of gorgeousness."

"I can't wait to meet him."

"Uh-huh. I'm going to my room to do some homework. Night, Mom."

"Night, Buffy," Mrs. Summers said as Buffy walked up the stairs to her bedroom.

********

Her dream from the night before was still fresh in her mind during Buffy's tutoring session with Angel the next day. She found that she had a hard time concentrating on what he was teaching her; all she could think about was the dream. How real, how vivid was had been.

It began with her crying over something. Buffy couldn't remember what, but Angel held her in his arms and simply let her cry. He gave her soothing words, telling her everything would be okay. His arms felt safe, so comforting, so like home to her. And she believed his words.

The next part of her dream showed them lying in bed, but on opposite sides. Buffy shivered, despite the three blankets covering her. Noticing her uncomfortableness, Angel asked if she was cold. She said yes, and he in turn asked her if she wanted him to move over, so his body heat would warm her. Buffy nodded, but never expected him, clad only in a pair of boxer shorts above all the blankets, to climb underneath them and put his arms around her. Buffy felt warm right away.

The last image in her dream stuck out the most in her mind. She and Angel stood facing each other, staring into each others eyes. He asked if she was sure, and she replied by saying that she was ready now. Angel leaned down, capturing her lips in a passionate kiss the likes of which she'd never experienced.

"Buffy?" Angel asked.

She shook her head, tearing herself away from her reverie. Glancing up at him, Buffy saw the questions in his eyes. In looking at him, she couldn't help but remember the image of his bare chest in her dreams. The chiseled muscles, the pure perfection of it. `I wonder if that's what he really looks like,' she mused. `No, stop it. I shouldn't be thinking about this.'

"I'm here."

"You looked like you were a million miles away," Angel told her with a small smile.

"Something like that. What were you saying again?"

He pointed to a group of questions he had written down on a piece of notebook paper. "I'd like you to answer these questions by tomorrow's session." `That's right, Angel. Stay professional. Don't let her see how you really feel.'

"No prob. I've got something I have to do first, but it'll get done."

"I guess that's it for today." Angel didn't want to leave, though. He wanted to stay with her as long as possible.

"Buffy, Giles tells me you have some questions. About me."

Buffy felt embarrassed. "Figures he'd tell you. I just asked him a few questions. No big."

"I'd be happy to answer them, if you want to ask me."

"Don't I feel totally embarrassed now. You must think I'm some kind of loser."

"Quite the opposite," he said, honestly.

Buffy put her books and papers away. "I only asked Giles if you were married and if you have a family."

"No, I'm not married. Haven't found the right girl yet." `Yes you have!' his heart screamed at him. `She's sitting across from you!'

"Do you think she's out there?" she wanted to know.

"I know she is."

"What about your family?"

Angel had a faraway look on his face, which did not go unnoticed by Buffy. "My mom died when I was six. I barely remember her. I never knew my father."

"Giles said he knew your father."

"He knew the man who raised me. Not my biological father."

Buffy placed a hand on his upper arm. "I'm so sorry for prying. Or to bring up bad memories."

He shifted his gaze to her hand, still touching his arm. "Don't be. I'm glad I never knew him. Some people should never be parents."

"I know what you mean."

"I'm sorry?"

"My dad. Don't get me wrong, I love him, but I wonder where I rate in his life. I haven't seen him in months, he never called me on my birthday. How hard is it to pick up the phone and say `Happy Birthday, Buffy. How does it feel to be eighteen?'? Or even send a card? Don't I mean anything to him?"

"Of course you do. You're his daughter. How could you not?" Angel's heart soared that Buffy confided this in him so soon.

"I don't know."

Angel saw Giles motioning to him. "Why don't we end for today? There's a few things I need to do this afternoon."

Buffy smiled and nodded, but felt disappointed that they had to part ways. But she looked forward to seeing him during her study hall tomorrow. `Who would have thought I'd actually look forward to History? Now if only Mr. Miller looked like Angel...' "Sure. I'll see you tomorrow."

He entered Giles' office. "How are things working out?" asked the Watcher.

"Much better than I expected.

"I am glad. So you believe this situation will work out?"

"Without a doubt." Angel took a deep breath. "I want to tell her, Giles."

"Tell her?"

"Who I am. What I'm really doing here. I don't want to keep any secrets from Buffy. She should know the truth."

Giles shuffled the papers on his desk. "That is up to you, Angel. Part of being a good Watcher is knowing the right time to say something and finding the right words to say it. Telling Buffy this early in the relationship is a good idea. But I wanted it to be your decision."

"I'll tell her the next time we meet." He turned to leave.

"Angel? May I ask you a question?" Angel simply nodded. "Do you care for Buffy?"

He felt the need to be honest. "Very much."

Giles didn't need to hear the reply. He had known from the look in Angel's eyes, the expression on his face, and the way color filled his cheeks whenever the Slayer entered the room. "I thought so. Be careful with her."

"I plan to."

4

Angel needed to get out of his apartment to clear his head. The night was warm, so he decided to go for a walk. He kept a stake concealed in the pocket of his duster in case he should happen upon a vampire during his walk.

For twenty-four hours, he had been unable to get Buffy out of his mind. She plagued his mind constantly, and no matter what he did, the image of the Slayer wouldn't leave. He could picture her face in his books, his cereal bowl, on his television screen, even in his dreams. Buffy Summers was everywhere.

Angel wanted to tell her how he felt, how much he wanted to be there for her-- with her. He'd never experienced love before, and it overwhelmed him. In one brief instant, his world had changed. Angel had gone from Watcher-in-training to man in love the moment he laid eyes on the Slayer.

But he could not tell her how he felt; too many obstacles were in the way. First and foremost was Buffy's boyfriend. She was obviously happy with Kevin, and Angel didn't want to ruin her happiness with his own selfishness.

She, and her happiness, meant the world to him, despite how much it hurt him in the process. The second obstacle was the Watcher's Council. They strictly believed that a Watcher be emotionally detached from the Slayer. It was an issue of safety, and attachments could prove deadly to both parties. Angel would surely lose his chance at being a Watcher if the Council discovered his true feelings. It would be better for everyone if he kept his love for Buffy a secret.

That didn't mean he would keep his identity a secret from her. It was something Angel didn't want to hide from Buffy anymore; if he couldn't be one hundred percent honest with her, he would tell her as much as he could. The question remained, how would he say it.

‘I just can't say "Buffy, I'm a Watcher." It's too forward. I don't want to dance around the subject, but I don't want to scare her either. Dammit. I'm usually good with words. Why is it when it comes to Buffy I can hardly form a coherent sentence?'

He heard sounds of a struggle in the alley up ahead. Ripping the stake out of his pocket, Angel ran to the scene. He stopped in time to avoid being hit with a garbage can. A man wearing a retro-type shirt from the Eighties slammed into the wall, taking a young woman with him. Fearing for the girl's safety, Angel quickly made his way over, raising his stake in striking position. Before he had a chance to attack the vampire, it exploded into dust.

Surprised, Angel didn't see the girl stand up and wipe the dust from her clothes. She looked up at him, her eyes widening. "Angel? What are you doing here?"

His heart pounded at the sight of Buffy standing in front of him in a t-shirt and black leggings. "B--Buffy. I didn't know it was you."

"I can explain," she said.

"There's no need." Angel decided it was the perfect time to tell her.

"Yeah there is. What you just saw..." Buffy stopped when she saw the stake he held in his right hand. "Why are you holding a stake?"

"Why are you?"

It was meant as a rhetorical question, but Buffy answered anyway. "Protection. You never know who you might run into out here at night."

Angel put his weapon back in his pocket. He had to say it. "Buffy, you don't have to lie to me. I know what's going on."

Buffy doubt it. "Do you?"

"Maybe we better sit down someplace."

"I don't need to sit down. Tell me what it is you think you know."

"That vampires and demons exist. And that you are the Slayer. The one girl in her generation chosen to fight them."

She took a step back. ‘How does he know this? Angel's my History tutor, he's not supposed to now what goes on in Sunnydale after dark.' "Where did you hear that? Did someone take out a bulletin in the paper? ‘Cause I don't remember telling you."

"It's time you know the truth."

"Truth?"

Angel looked around, making sure nobody else was around. "I didn't want to keep it from you, but Giles wanted to keep it a secret and let me decide the right time to tell you."

Buffy was perplexed. "Tell me what?"

He inhaled deeply before beginning. "I'm a Watcher, Buffy."

"You're kidding." She couldn't believe it.

"It's true."

She let it sink in for a minute before saying anything to him. "I thought in order to be a Watcher you had to be a stuffy, know-it-all English guy, not young and totally hot." Realizing that she had spoken without thinking, Buffy blushed. "Just forget I said that last part."

Her comment wasn't likely to be forgotten anytime soon. "Technically, I'm not a Watcher. I've been training to be one for the past three years."

Buffy nodded. "Then why are you here and not in England?"

"I guess the easiest way to say it is that I'm training under Giles. Gaining information about the Slayer's everyday routine." He laughed. "God, that sounded so formal."

"Apparently if you hang around with the stuffy English guys long enough you start to sound like them." ‘But lucky for him, not look like them. Ugh. Stop acting like a swoony school girl. Remember Kevin.'

"You're taking this better than I thought."

"I'm a go-with-the-flow kind of girl. But I have to know something. Is the whole History tutor thing a lie?"

"No. I have a degree in History, I didn't lie about that. I haven't lied about anything."

"Okay. So, do you always do this? Go walking around Sunnydale at eight-thirty and save damsels in distress?"

He glanced at the ground. "Not usually. I had some thinking to do and couldn't do it in my apartment."

"Girl troubles?" Buffy joked.

"Something like that."

She grinned. "Let me guess. It's the age-old story where you like her but she doesn't know you exist. Or thinks of you only as a friend."

"I don't know what she thinks of me."

Deciding by the tone of his voice that it was probably a good idea to change the subject, Buffy did so. "Are you busy for the next hour or so?"

"Not unless you count thinking up questions for tomorrow's study session."

"I don't. Wanna sweep the cemeteries with me? You know, as part of your training."

"I'd love to."

********

"What made you want to be a Watcher?" Buffy asked, plopping herself onto a headstone.

Angel sat next to her. "It's a long, complicated story. I really don't want to talk about it."

"Sure. Whenever you're ready, I'd like to hear it."

He was touched that she was interested in learning about him. Her concern and kindness only made him love her more, if it were possible. "Do you do this a lot? Sit on top of headstones and carry on a conversation?"

"Yeah. Except for the conversation part. I usually slay alone. But half of slaying is waiting. It's a boring job, but someone's got to do it."

"And you are the lucky one?"

She laughed shortly. "Lucky isn't quite the word I'd use."

"Being the Slayer is the most important job a girl can have. You are very lucky, Buffy."

"You make it sound like you know what it's like to be a Slayer."

"Maybe I do."

"Sure you do. Everyone seems to know what my life is like, but they don't. I'm really sick of it."

Angel hopped off. "I'm sorry, Buffy. I don't presume to know you, but I would like to."

"I'd like to know you too. Considering we'll be working together it's probably a good idea."

"You are right." He checked his watch for the time. "What time does patrol end?"

"Nine-thirty. Mom gave me a ten o'clock curfew."

He raised his eyebrows. "Well, it's almost nine-thirty now. Would you mind terribly if I walked you home?"

"I wouldn't mind at all." He took her hand, helping Buffy off the gravestone. Angel smiled to himself. ‘Maybe there's a chance after all.'

********

5

No sooner was Buffy in the house when she ran into her bedroom to call Willow. "Hello?" Willow answered.

"Will, you'll never guess what happened during patrol tonight."

The redhead giggled. "You killed the last demon on earth, thus ensuring the safety of humanity," she guessed.

"Not quite. I was fighting a vamp in an alley and dusted him. Angel saw me."

"As in cute History tutor Angel?"

"One in the same. At first I didn't know what to think. I had to think up an excuse for what was going on. But he knew. Turns out he's a Watcher."

Willow cleared her throat. "He's a Watcher? Aren't all Watchers old, wrinkly British guys? Well, except Giles, and Angel's pretty cute."

Buffy laughed. "You know, I said almost the exact same thing to him."

"You did?" Willow said incredulously.

"Yep. You missed seeing Buffy turn a bright shade of red."

"Are you okay with it?"

"Turning red and being utterly embarrassed? Is anybody ever okay with that?"

Her best friend sighed. "No. About Angel being a Watcher."

"It's not like I can change who he is. You are what you are. But yeah, I'm cool with it."

"That's good. Think you'll be training with him?"

"I don't know. Maybe."

"If you do, he might get all hot and sweaty."

Buffy couldn't believe what her friend said. "Willow!"

"Sorry. Couldn't help the mental images."

And she couldn't either. She saw herself and Angel fighting, quarterstaffs in hand. Sweat trickled down his forehead, and his white t-shirt clung to his chiseled chest. Buffy shook off the image. "Stop it. I so can't be having these thoughts." She heard her mother walking up the stairs. "Mom's coming, I gotta go. I'll see you first thing in the morning. Bye." She hung up only ten seconds before her mother knocked on the door.

"Yeah?" Buffy asked.

Mrs. Summers opened the door, poking her head through. "Just me. How was school today?"

"Educational, as it always is. Nothing exciting."

"And patrol?"

Buffy wasn't ready to tell her mother about Angel. "The same. Dusted some vamps and came home."

"Well, that's good. I have some bad news, Buffy."

"What is it?"

"I have to go out of town for a few days, a week tops. There's an art buying seminar and collection being shown in Chicago. Some rare pieces are up for auction that would be great for the gallery," she explained.

Buffy smiled. "Sounds artsy. When do you leave?"

"First thing in the morning. My flight leaves at seven. Buffy, I am so sorry for having to leave like this, but I have to go."

"It's fine, Mom. You do your art thing and have fun. I can handle things by myself for a few days."

Mrs. Summers hugged her daughter. "You've gotten so mature. Who are you and what have you done to my baby girl?"

"It's called growing up."

********

The next morning at school, Buffy found Kevin standing in front of her locker. "Hey, you," she said with a grin.

"Good morning. You're awful cheerful today," he commented.

"I had a good night."

"You should have more nights like it."

‘If patrolling with Angel puts me in this good of a mood, I might make it an everyday occurrence. Not that I wouldn't mind anyway.' "I'll do my best."

"I hope I'm about to make it better. All the Prom preparations are done, finished, taken care of. We are good to go," Kevin told her.

"Does that mean I get to find out what my surprise is?"

Kevin shook his head. "Not until later. Tell you what, after your training session with Giles, I'll meet you out front. Then I will tell you."

She groaned. "I hate surprises, you know that."

"Yes, I do. But you'll love this one. I guarantee it."

"All right. I promised Willow I'd see her before homeroom. I'll see you later, Kevin." They kissed good-bye and Buffy headed in the direction of Willow's locker.

********

Giles sat behind his desk, with Angel sitting on the other side of his office. "Tell me again how it happened."

"I was out for a walk when I heard what I thought was a fight in an alley. I was all ready to stake the vampire when it got staked. Buffy stood up, obviously shocked to see me holding a stake. She started to make an excuse for what had happened when I told her I knew; told her that I am a Watcher."

"And how did she react?"

Angel shrugged. "I think it surprised her. Overall, though, she took it really well."

"That's good. She understands why you are here and why you didn't tell her right away?"

"I guess so. Buffy wasn't upset by it. If anything, she was relieved and happy about it. She even invited me to finish up patrolling with her, and we swept the cemetery together."

Giles thought for a few moments. "If it were agreed upon by Buffy, would you mind patrolling with her nightly?"

Angel didn't need to think about it. 'Patrol with her every night? Can I possibly keep my feelings a secret?' "Of course. I want to learn as much as I can."

The older Watcher stood. "There she is now," he said, pointing to the table where Buffy threw her backpack.

"Perhaps now would be a good time to ask her."

It was quarter to three, and time for her second tutoring lesson of the day. Buffy was beginning to enjoy these lessons, if not for the knowledge then for the company. "Hi again," she said to Angel.

"Hi. Can Giles and I ask you something?"

Buffy glanced from one to the other. "Shoot."

"How would you feel if Angel were to patrol with you from now on? He needs to see how the Slayer operates on the battlefield," Giles said."

"Sure. I don't have a problem with it. Wanna meet me here at sunset? That's what time I usually start patrol."

"I'll be here," Angel agreed.

Giles clasped his hands behind his back. "Now that that's settled, I'll let you two get down to business."

********

6

At four-thirty, Buffy left the library. Her training session with Giles ended and she was supposed to meet Kevin in front of the school. She felt worn and ragged from the grueling training she'd endured. Giles decided to show off her skill to Angel, who'd watched with interest. It was a bit disconcerting at first, having him watch her every move. But knowing that it was necessary for his own training, Buffy began to feel more at ease.

She trudged her way through the halls on her way to the front entrance. Kevin waiting just outside the doors, standing in the sunlight. Buffy tapped him on the shoulder, causing the boy to jump. He sighed with relief upon seeing his girlfriend. "Hi. How was training?"

Buffy frowned. "Tiring. I think I could sleep for a week."

"Why don't we sit at one of the benches. Rest for your weary bones."

"My bones thank you."

They moved to a stone bench in the shade. Kevin placed his hand on Buffy's knee.

"So, tell me about this surprise for Prom. I'm dying to know."

Kevin grinned. "Well, it begins when the limo picks us up at four o'clock for dinner at Giorgio's."

"Sounds nice so far. What else?"

"After dinner we go to the school for the Prom. We do the dancing and mingling thing for a few hours, the limo takes us to L.A. where I booked us a room at the Marriot."

Buffy wasn't sure if she was hearing right. "What?"

"I checked it out already. It's a beautiful room. Amazing view of the city, king-sized bed, Jacuzzi, everything you could possibly imagine."

"Kevin, I don't understand. Why did you do that?"

He stared into her eyes. "Because I think it's time. We've been pretty serious for over a year now, Buffy. I really care about you, and we need to take our relationship to the next level. And Prom is the perfect time; it'll only add to the most romantic night of our lives."

Buffy bit her lip. "You mean..."

Kevin nodded, never breaking eye contact. "Yes. I'm ready."

She sat there, taking several breaths. She knew in her mind that she wasn't ready to take things that far with Kevin. And in her heart, she knew that he wasn't the one she wanted her first time to be with. It wasn't that she didn't care about him, but she didn't love him. Buffy always imagined making love for the first time with the man she loved. Kevin Matthews certainly was not him.

"I'm not."

"Not?" he repeated. "Buffy, this is such an important step. I want it to be with you."

Her lower lip quivered. "I don't."

"What do you mean you don't? Is there someone else?" he demanded, his anger near the boiling point.

"No. I just -- just don't love you. Not enough to make love to you. And I'm not ready. Not for that or for a commitment I might not be able to fulfill."

He slammed his fist on the stone bench. "That is such bullshit. You have to live for the moment and look toward the future. You're so stuck in the now that you can't see the future lying in front of you."

"Future!?" she cried. "I'm sorry that all I can see of my future is a foot-long stake and demons and vampires! And I'm really sorry if you cannot accept it." Buffy felt the tears stinging her eyes.

"I care about you so much, Buffy. And I want to be with you in every way possible."

"Do you love me?" Kevin didn't answer. "I didn't think so. Kevin, I care about you, too, but I don't love you. When I'm ready to make love to someone, I'm going to know it without having to think twice about it. It's gong to be with someone I love totally and completely, and who loves me the same way. You're not him."

He stared at her in rage. "You are a dreamer, Buffy. You think you're going to accomplish all that? Most people never do. But I wish you the best of luck in your hunt for your true love." Kevin got to his feet and began to walk of the school grounds. Twenty feet from where Buffy remained sitting, he turned to her. "If you die a virgin, like you probably will, the way you think, just remember that I wanted to, but you said no. And don't come crying to me when you change your mind. I won't be there. Good-bye, Buffy."

********

Angel waited for forty-five minutes in front of the school, and still Buffy hadn't shown up. He'd only known her for three days, but she seemed very punctual, not someone to flake out on a promise or a responsibility. Especially one as important as this one. "I'll give it ten minutes, then I'm going to go look for her. God, I hope nothing happened.'

The ten minutes passed slowly for him. He kept thinking of things that might have held Buffy up, but his thoughts kept wandering to the thought of her being hurt. It frightened him to think about it. "I better go look for her. I'm sure she just forgot.'

He took off, heading to the nearest cemetery. By the time he'd searched his third, Buffy was nowhere to be found. Giving up, Angel walked to his apartment.

On his way home, Angel passed Restfield Cemetery and saw two figures in the distance. Out of curiosity, he hopped the fence and checked to see what was going on. Seeing that it was Buffy, he stayed away, not wanting to catch her attention.

Buffy pounded mercilessly on the vampire, venting all of her anger and frustration onto it. She thought she had the upper hand until the vampire wielded a roundhouse kick that caught her off-guard.

"You're going to die tonight, Slayer," the vampire hissed.

**Die a virgin**

'No,' she thought. 'I am not going to die tonight.' The vampire kicked her again, this time successfully knocking her to the ground.

He laughed wickedly as he pounced down on her. Buffy started crying. Not from the fear of her death, but from Kevin's harsh words, and the fact that they might become a reality. The vampire laughed again. "Poor little Slayer's in tears. Any last wishes or requests?"

Buffy never saw Angel move behind her attacker. She fell unconscious when the vampire punched her. "Leave Buffy alone." Angel plunged the stake he carried into the vampire's back, piercing its heart. When the dust settled, he checked to see if Buffy was okay. She was still breathing, and her pulse was normal. Angel wrapped his duster around her and swept her up into his arms, carrying her the four blocks to his apartment.

********

Buffy groaned and began to stir twenty minutes after they arrived at his apartment. When she opened her eyes and surveyed her surroundings, she tensed up. Nothing looked familiar. 'What happened? Where am I?' She saw chairs, a television set and a desk but no people. 'Oh god...'

Angel walked out of the kitchen and found Buffy looking around nervously. "How are you feeling?"

She sighed in relief, knowing that she was safe if Angel was with her. "I've been better. Where are we?"

He placed a steaming cup of tea on the table in front of her. "My apartment. You were knocked unconscious by a vampire and I brought you here."

"You saved my life. He was going to kill me."

"He's dust now, don't worry about it. Buffy, you're safe here."

For seemingly no reason at all, Buffy burst into tears. Angel let her cry and handed her a napkin from the pile he'd brought into the room with him. She wiped her eyes with it. "I'm sorry. I'm having the worst day of my life."

He sat next to her on the couch. "Do you want to talk about it?"

"Do you think I am so horrible and ugly that nobody can ever love me?" she asked.

"Of course not. You're absolutely beautiful and I guarantee that someone loves you very much." It was the closest he could come to admitting his true feelings for her. "What would make you think that?"

Buffy sniffled. "Kevin. He...we...he broke up with me."

"Why would he do that? Doesn't he know how lucky he is?"

"It's personal."

"Oh." Angel didn't want to pry into her personal life. "I am really sorry. I wish I knew what to say."

Buffy wiped her eyes again. "Do you want to know what he did?" She didn't wait for a reply. "He rented a hotel room for us after the Prom. Kevin just expected me to sleep with him." She didn't know what it was about him, but Buffy felt like she could tell Angel anything.

"And you didn't want to?"

"I'm not ready; I don't love him. And I want to be in love when I make love to a man. It has to be right, it has to be with someone who loves me as much as I love him. Kevin isn't the one, and I told him that. Then he broke up with me."

Angel forced her to look into his eyes. "That's his loss then."

"He called me a dreamer and said I'd never find my true love; said I'd die a virgin."

Angel fought back the overwhelming urge to find Kevin Matthews and commit justifiable homicide. "He doesn't understand, apparently."

Buffy began crying, a fresh stream of tears falling out of her eyes. "He doesn't understand. He doesn't understand that I could die tomorrow. Kevin has his whole future planned out for the next fifty years. I don't know if I'm going to be alive in two weeks."

"You're the Slayer. Kevin obviously has no clue what it's like for you."

She buried her face in Angel's chest. "He doesn't understand. Nobody does."

Through her sobs, Buffy could have sworn she heard Angel whisper "I would understand."

********

7

The blankets covered Buffy up to her chin and when she woke up the next morning she felt safe and warm. But it wasn't her bed. Buffy sat up quickly, the blankets falling to her waist. Within seconds she remembered what had happened the night before. Angel had saved her from being killed, brought her to his apartment and listened to her cry about Kevin breaking up with her. ‘How did I end up in his bed?'

She climbed out of bed and stood in front of the mirror. ‘At least I still have my clothes on.' Opening the bedroom door, Buffy padded her way to the kitchen, following the smell of cooking bacon. Once she found the kitchen, she saw Angel standing in front of the stove. Smiling, she said, "Smells good."

Angel turned around. "Morning. How did you sleep?"

Buffy noticed for the first time that the man standing before her wore only a pair of black jeans. She smiled appreciatively, thinking about how accurate her dream the other night had been. ‘He really does have a nice body. My dreams are getting wicked accurate.' His perfectly coifed hair adorned his head in wet spikes. Droplets of water trickled from them. She needed to swallow. It wasn't until right then that Buffy realized just how handsome Angel truly was.

"I slept alright, considering. How did I get into your bed? Did we...?" Buffy was suddenly fearful, afraid that something happened and she had been too out of it to remember.

He shook his head. "No, I would never have let something like that happen with you being so upset like you were. I'm not one to take advantage of someone else's pain. Buffy, you fell asleep and I carried you to my room. I slept on the couch all night."

"Oh boy. Don't I feel embarrassed now," she admitted.

"Don't be. You jumped to an honest conclusion. Anyone could have done it. Would you like some breakfast?"

"Actually, would you mind if I took a shower first? I feel kind of gross in these clothes."

Angel saw the dried mud on her blouse from her fight with the vampire. "Feel free. You take a shower and I'll leave some clean clothes and towels in the bathroom for you. I can wash your dirty ones."

"Thank you. Now, which way is the bathroom?"

"Down the hall on the right."

Buffy left the room and closed the bathroom door behind her. Angel turned off the stove, went into his bedroom and proceeded to find suitable clothing for Buffy to wear for a few hours. He pulled out a white t-shirt and a pair of black boxer shorts. They might be a little big on her, but at least she'd be warm. On his way to the bathroom he grabbed two large towels. He waited in the hallway until he heard the shower run. Knocking on the door, he called, "Buffy?"

"Yeah?" she shouted.

"Can I come in? I have the towels and clothes for you."

"Sure, it's safe."

He slowly opened the door and stepped inside. Steam from the shower attacked him, and he coughed from the lack of oxygen.

"Are you okay?" Buffy asked from the shower.

"Sure. It's really hot in here."

"Sorry."

"I'll leave the stuff on the towel rack." Angel put the clean clothes down and picked up Buffy's dirty ones. "Buffy, I am leaving now."

"Okay." She heard the door shut. "What a gentleman," she said softly. "Why can't there be more men like him out there?"

Buffy washed herself, trying her best to forget everything Kevin said to her. His words were too harsh, though. ‘I will find my true love. He's out there somewhere, I know it.'

Five minutes later, she stepped out of the shower. She grabbed one of the fluffy white towels Angel left and wrapped her blonde hair in it. She dried herself off with the other one, then put on the t-shirt and boxers Angel chose for her. The t-shirt was long, falling mid-thigh and she had to hold the boxers to prevent them from falling down. Buffy towel-dried her hair and brushed it out with a comb that lay on the counter.

"Is your offer of breakfast still available?" she wanted to know when she returned to the kitchen. Angel sat at the table sipping a cup of coffee. Buffy was disappointed to see that he had put a shirt on.

"What would you like? I made pancakes, bacon and eggs. If you don't like any of it, I can make something else."

"No, it's fine."

Angel got up and fixed her a plate. "Um, maybe you should call your mother and let her know where you are."

Buffy put a forkful of food in her mouth. "She's in Chicago. I don't know when she'll be back."

He didn't want to bring up Kevin again, not wanting to hurt Buffy. "Did you have any plans for today?"

"I was supposed to go Prom dress shopping with Willow. Don't think that's going to happen."

"Why do you say that?"

Buffy frowned. "I'm probably not going to Prom anymore. Without a date, I can't."

"Of course you can. And besides, I am sure there are plenty of guys who'd love to escort you." ‘Including me.'

"Yeah right. I won't be able to get a date in time. Prom is less than three weeks away. Everyone will have a date already."

"You're a bright, beautiful girl, Buffy. You'll find a date. If not, go alone."

"Did you go to your Prom alone?" she asked. ‘Probably not. He had girls lining up to be his date, I bet.'

Angel took a sip of coffee. "I didn't go to my Prom."

"Why not?"

He shrugged. "I didn't understand the whole concept of it. Getting dressed up to go to a dance with the same people I'd seen every day for the past four years just didn't appeal to me."

"Do you ever regret not going?"

"Sometimes. But you can't miss out on this opportunity. Don't let what Kevin said and did to you stop you from having a good time."

The two of them sat in silence for several minutes. Neither could think of anything to say. Buffy polished off her breakfast while Angel slowly drank his coffee. He stared into his cup, seeing her image in his dark liquid.

"Do you think I'll find my true love before I die?" Buffy wanted Angel's opinion.

"If it's meant to be, it will happen," he answered truthfully. "You might already know him."

"I don't know. I always imagined knowing right away. Like I'd see him and it would be love at first sight. Do you believe in that?"

"Whole-heartedly. I know from experience."

Buffy doubted if it would ever happen to her. "Is that what happened when you saw that girl?"

"Yes. I took one look at her and know she was the one I want to spend the rest of my life with. Love is the most amazing feeling in the world, even when it's unrequited. She's my entire universe and she doesn't even know it."

"She's very lucky to have you love her like that. Are you going to tell her?"

"When the time is right. It would only hurt her now. She's going through a difficult time right now and I want to be there for her as a friend. I don't think she'd understand the depth of my feelings." He wondered if Buffy had any clue that it was she he spoke of.

She laughed. "I swear, you are like the perfect man."

"I'm hardly perfect," he told her.

"Nobody is. God knows I'm not. But you come pretty close. At least you didn't almost get yourself killed last night."

Angel put his cup and Buffy's plate in the dishwasher. "You were upset. It could have happened to anyone."

"It's not supposed to happen to the Slayer. Look, I want to apologize for being a complete basket case."

"You don't need to apologize. You had every reason in the world to cry. What he said to you was mean and totally unjustified. I'm not one to begrudge you from shedding a few tears over him."

"Thank you." She paused and took a deep breath. "Um...I feel kind of weird asking you this, and I know it's forward of me, so feel free to say no."

"You can ask me anything, Buffy."

"Do you think I can stay here this weekend? I don't think I can handle being alone right now, and Willow wouldn't understand."

He smiled softly. "Of course you can. For as long as you want. Now may I ask you a question with the same stipulations?"

"Go ahead."

"Unless you have other plans, would you like to go out for dinner? Just to get your mind off of things." Buffy grinned. "I'd love to." Dinner with Angel was exactly what she needed to get her mind off Kevin.

********

8

Willow gaped at Buffy when she heard what Kevin did. "I cannot believe he did that. What a jerk."

"Yeah, tell me about it."

"He always seemed so nice and normal. That's really scary."

"I know. Kevin never, not in the year we dated, pushed farther than I was ready to go. Then out of the blue he goes and does this. It's like he did a total one-eighty from the guy I knew."

Willow groaned. "I'm gonna kill him when I pass him in the hall on Monday. He's going to wish he never did that."

Buffy shook her head in response. "Don't, Will. I've decided it's not worth it."

"But, Buffy, that's a best friend's job. I want to do my job. Let me do my job."

"Don't bother. Really. Truth is, I'm not even that upset about the breakup itself. I think it had been coming for a while. What really bothers me is what he said. About me dying before I find my true love. I will find him, Will," swore Buffy.

"I know you will. How come you didn't tell me about this last night?" the redhead wanted to know.

Buffy bit her lip. "After it happened, I needed to vent. So I patrolled. What a big mistake that was. The patrolling, not what happened afterward."

Willow's eyes widened. "What happened after?"

"Do you promise not to tell? I don't want Giles finding out unless I tell him." Willow nodded, promising to keep her silence. "I had a run-in with a vampire and I almost died."

"Buffy! Were you hurt badly?"

"No. I was knocked unconscious. When I woke up, though, I thought I had been kidnapped. I didn't know where I was, nothing looked familiar."

"Where were you?"

"After I was knocked out, I guess Angel staked the vamp. He must have seen the fight. So he killed the vampire and took me back to his apartment. I woke up on the couch. I cried on his shoulder for hours probably and he let me sleep there."

"With him?"

Buffy sighed. "Not like that. I slept in his bedroom and he slept on the couch."

"Wow. What a gentleman," commented Willow.

"I know. Willow, he's so much more mature than any of the guys we go to school with. Angel actually listened to me cry about Kevin for I don't know how long. He made me feel so much better about this whole situation. I feel like his words have given me some confidence again. Hell, he even convinced me to go to Prom, if only by myself."

"You should go. Prove to Kevin that he didn't break your spirit. You'll have a great time. I know, ask Angel to be your date."

Buffy laughed. "Why would he want to go to the Prom with me? He told me this morning he doesn't understand why it's such a big deal, seeing the same people you see every day."

"But he doesn't see them every day. You do."

"I couldn't do that. Besides, he's probably sick of seeing me by now."

"Doubtful. I bet he'd look way cute in a tux."

"Stop giving me these mental pictures. I have to go out with him tonight, I cannot be imagining him in a tux," Buffy said.

Willow's jaw dropped. "You're going out with him tonight? This is getting serious."

"He's just taking pathetic little Buffy out for dinner. He feels bad. It's nothing to get all worked up about."

"I'm sure he doesn't think of you as pathetic. Maybe he likes you."

"Yeah right. Angel is intelligent and good-looking. What would he see in me?"

Willow saw Buffy's cheeks turn a pinkish-red. "That's it!"

"What's it?" Buffy had no idea what her best friend was talking about.

"You have a crush on him, don't you? That's why you weren't upset about breaking up with Kevin. Because you've got a crush on Angel."

"That is so absurd. He's my Watcher."

"No, he's *a* Watcher, not yours. Come on, admit it."

Buffy shook her head, smiling. "Okay, so maybe I do. Not like it makes a difference. He's still a Watcher, and besides, he's kind of attached."

"Kind of?" Willow repeated with a raised eyebrow.

"Not really attached, but he does like someone. More than like, actually. Said it was love at first sight, but she doesn't know it."

"Like that's gonna last. If Angel's so in love with her, how can this girl be so oblivious?"

"I don't know. She's lucky, whoever she is. He's a great guy and I know he'll make some girl happy," mused Buffy.

"And you wish it were you," added Willow.

"Isn't it a hope that every girl has at one point in her life? To have a man love you at first sight?" The Slayer had a faraway look on her face. "Maybe I do wish it were me. It's not, but I can wish, can't I?"

"Yeah, I guess. Come on, let's go Prom dress shopping." Willow and Buffy got up from the table in the middle of the food court and went off in the direction of the dress stores.

********

"You should get this dress for your date tonight," Cordelia said to Buffy, holding up a midnight blue sundress.

The two girls ran into Cordelia at one of the dress shops. The three of them then decided to look for their dresses together.

"It's not a date, Cordy. He's just taking me to dinner," Buffy told the brunette.

"Hot date tonight, Buffy? You certainly don't waste any time," someone said from behind them.

They all turned around, seeing Kevin standing a few feet away. "What business is it of yours? You dumped me, remember?" Buffy spat, bitterly.

"What are you doing here, Kevin? Shopping for dresses for your blow-up doll?" joked Cordelia, with a straight face.

"Who is he? Does he know ahead of time what's he's getting himself into?"

"Kevin, go away," warned Willow.

Buffy stood there, trying to keep her cool. Cordelia on the other hand, knowing exactly what he had done and being pissed off about it, didn't hold back. "None of your business. But I will say that he's higher up on the food chain than you. Rats are pretty close to the bottom."

"Like you're one to talk, Miss I'm-Dating-Xander-Harris." Kevin turned his attention back to his ex-girlfriend. "I figured you'd be at home whittling stakes or something. Not dress shopping."

"I'm not crying over you, Kevin. You're not worth it."

Cordelia couldn't resist one more jab at him. "Will your blow-up doll be accompanying you to Prom, Kevin? Or do you need to hire someone?"

"At least I can get a date. Buffy here is going alone I bet. If she goes at all," he laughed.

"What makes you think I'm going alone?" Now Buffy was getting mad.

"Without a date, why would you go?"

"She has a date!" Willow shouted.

Kevin looked at her. "Yeah right."

"I do," said Buffy.

"Who is it? Oh, and relatives don't count."

"I guess you'll just have to wait a couple of weeks and find out."

"This ought to be interesting," Kevin said before leaving.

They watched as he left. "Way to go, Buffy. You really stood up for yourself," Cordelia complimented.

"Yeah. But I have a bigger problem."

"What's that?" asked Willow.

"Finding a Prom date."

********

9

Buffy twirled around in front of the full length mirror in her bedroom. Cordelia convinced her to buy the sundress and a matching pair of shoes, and Buffy had to admit that she looked good. The dress fell two inches above her knees with spaghetti straps and a conservative neckline. Wherever Angel was taking her, she was ready.

She fixed her hair so that it was curled slightly to her shoulders. For some reason, whenever she saw her reflection, she giggled like a schoolgirl on her first date.

‘But this isn't a date. Angel just feels bad for me and is doing this to make me feel better,' she told herself.

As she put on the final touches of her make-up, the doorbell rang. It was six o'clock and Angel was right on time. Quickly giving herself the once-over, Buffy walked downstairs to open the door. What she found was not what she expected. Angel stood on the front porch in a pair of black trousers, black shoes and a dark blue shirt. In his hand he held a single red rose.

"Hi. Come on in," Buffy invited.

Angel gazed at the blonde beauty in front of him. He had never seen a true angel until he saw Buffy. She literally took his breath away. "You look wonderful" was all he could say.

"I bet you say that to all the broken-hearted girls you take out to dinner," she joked.

"No, just you."

"You're a great liar."

"I never lie." He handed her the rose. "A rose for the lady."

Buffy took it, bringing it to her nose. It smelled fragrant and sweet. "That's so thoughtful. Thank you. Would you like to have a seat while I finish getting ready?"

Angel sat down on the couch, looking at the framed photographs that adorned the end table. One was a family photo of Buffy and her parents when she was ten, another of Buffy, Xander and Willow standing in front of a tree at the park, and one of Buffy and Kevin at a school dance.

"All ready," Buffy informed him when she returned to the living room. "Hope you don't mind, I grabbed my pajamas and a change of clothes."

"Why would I mind?"

"Thought I'd at least let you know." The two of them walked out of the house, Buffy locking up while Angel carried her overnight bag. "Where are we going?"

Angel held the car door open for her. "I saw this little Italian place just outside of town. Would you like to go there?"

"Mmm...Italian is my favorite."

Twenty minutes later they were seated in a secluded booth in the restaurant, looking over the menu. Several waitresses passed their booth, all taking a look at Angel as they walked by. Buffy felt a wave of jealousy pass through her. She wanted to rip their eyes from their sockets and tell them that he was her date. ‘My date. Is that what this is? Cordy and Willow think so, but I don't know. Maybe. But Angel probably doesn't. Just doing his good deed for the day.'

A waitress, tall and brunette, stopped at their booth. She smiled at them, mostly at Angel, which did not go unnoticed by Buffy. "Hi, I'm Shannon and I will be your waitress. What can I bring you to drink?"

"Water, please," Buffy answered quickly.

"Make that two," Angel replied.

Shannon left to get the waters. "Everything looks good," commented Angel. "I'm having a hard time deciding. How about you?"

"Pasta Alfredo with chicken. Heart attack on a plate. If I'm going to die, I'm gonna go happy."

"Buffy, you're not going anywhere."

"Sure. Whatever." ‘Way to go, Buffy. Go into full brooding mode. What a way to make him think you're a total loser.'

Luckily, Shannon returned with the drinks. "Have you decided?" she asked.

"Buffy, you go first."

She sighed. "Pasta Alfredo with chicken and a caesar salad. Extra dressing."

"Great." Shannon wrote it down in her pad. "How about you, sir?"

Angel glanced over the menu swiftly. "I'll have the chicken parmesan and a cup of vegetable soup."

The waitress took the menus from them. "Thank you very much," she said, addressing it more to Angel than to Buffy.

"Are you aware that every girl walking by is checking you out?" Buffy asked.

He shrugged. "I haven't noticed anyone."

"Then you must be blind, because at least five girls have done it. Including our waitress."

"She's just friendly."

"Please. She didn't look at me once," Buffy informed him. "She's obviously single and on the prowl."

"Let her look all she wants." He was beginning to feel uncomfortable with the conversation. "Did you find a Prom dress yet?"

"Yeah. All three of us did. Willow and I ran into Cordelia at the mall." She neglected to mention their run-in with Kevin.

"I am sure you are going to look beautiful. The belle of the ball, etc."

‘Should I ask him? But what if he says no? Then I'll be utterly humiliated in the middle of the restaurant. No, not now. Maybe later.' "Okay, you are obviously seeing something I don't."

Their soup and salad were delivered, and the two of them began eating.

"Can I ask you a personal question?" Buffy asked between bites.

"Depends on the question. But sure."

"How old are you? I have a guess, but I'm curious."

"Twenty-seven last August. Was your guess right?"

"Pretty close."

They ate in silence until the main courses arrived. Buffy glared at Shannon for flirting with Angel. "Wow," Angel said, commenting on the portions. Once again, he didn't notice the waitress staring at him.

"I know. They're going to have to wheel me out of here."

During dinner, Angel asked about Buffy's friends. How they had met, what they do for fun and whether they knew about her being the Slayer. She told him all about Xander, Cordelia and Willow. Buffy dominated the conversation, telling Angel about her life in L.A. as a child and what it was like for her after she was called. "Anyone I considered a friend turned on me. It's made me see how true my friendship with Willow, Xander and Cordelia really is. They don't judge me."

When they finished dinner and exited the restaurant, Angel asked, "What would you like to do now? It's still early, maybe a sweep through the park.?"

Buffy shook her head. "No way. Saturday is my day off, Giles knows this. Do you mind if we just go back to your apartment? I'd kind of like to veg out."

"Sure. We can watch a movie or something."

********

"I can't believe you have HBO," Buffy said for the third time that night.

It was almost eleven and the two of them had just finished watching ‘Say Anything.' "Just because I'm a Watcher doesn't mean I'm ready for the nursing home yet. I'm still young."

‘Don't I know it.' "That was such a sweet movie. I swear, if some guy ever stood in my yard with a boombox blasting ‘In Your Eyes' I'd be his forever. Lloyd was so romantic."

Angel agreed. "That he was."

Buffy stood up to stretch. A photograph on a nearby table caught her eye, so she picked it up. "Is this you?" she wanted to know, sitting down once again.

"Yes."

"You were such a cute kid. Who's this with you? Your older sister?"

"No, my mother," he replied with a hint of sadness in his voice.

She took a long look at the young woman in the picture. "She's beautiful, Angel. She looks young."

"She was. When the picture was taken I was five and she was twenty."

"Oh my god. You mean she had you when she was fifteen?" This shocked Buffy.

He nodded. "And she died when I was six."

"What happened?"

"It's not a very pretty story, Buffy." ,P> "I think I can handle it. If you want to tell me."

He took a deep breath. "It was a demon. A particularly strong demon. He found her patrolling and killed her. Ripped out her inner organs and outlined her body with them."

She was horrified. "I'm so sorry." She paused. "Did you say patrol?"

"My mother was a Slayer."

"I didn't know."

"I didn't want to tell you right away. I've never told anyone. Her Watcher raised me, and from as far back as I can remember, it's all I wanted to do. Be a Watcher."

This intrigued Buffy. "Do you remember much about her?"

A solitary tear fell down Angel's cheek. He never spoke of his mother; it hurt too much. But he wanted to share his memories with Buffy. "I must have been four or five. She took me to this park and it had an old-fashioned carousel. My mother sat me on this white horse and watched me with the most amazing smile. I'll never forget it."

Buffy wiped the tears away with her fingers. Unconsciously, she moved her face closer to his, gently kissing his lips. They were warm and salty from the tears. Her right hand cupped the side of his face.

Her kiss surprised Angel. He did not know how to react, for it had been so unexpected. Her kisses were like heaven to him, and he never wanted to return to earth. Unsure at first, Angel soon gave in to his urges, responding to Buffy. His hands wound to her back, slowly moving up and down. He could feel her heart beating rapidly through her shirt. This kiss awakened feelings and desires Angel had never experienced.

When she felt his hands on her neck and in her hair, Buffy panicked. ‘What am I doing? What if he wants more?' She broke away from him, flushed and panting. It was the most intense moment of her life and it scared her. She looked into Angel's tear-filled brown eyes, not seeing the love that radiated from them. "I can't. I..." She jumped up and ran into his bedroom, slamming the door behind her.

Buffy threw herself on the bed, crying into his pillow. It smelled of a combination of his shampoo and aftershave. She inhaled it, but it only made her cry harder. ‘Why am I feeling like this?' A voice inside of her answered. ‘Because you love him.'

********

10

He stared after Buffy as she ran out of the room. ‘What happened? Did I scare her? What?' One second they were sharing a heated kiss, and the next thing he knew she was running away. Angel wanted to go after her, but decided to let her be. Maybe he'd pushed too hard or came on too strong. He didn't know and figured it would be better to apologize for whatever he did to upset her.

Angel walked over to the bedroom door, preparing to knock. Something made him stop just before his hand made contact with the wooden door. ‘No, she needs to be by herself. Buffy wouldn't have ran away if she wanted to be with me.'

So he turned out the lights and settled down on the couch. Sleep didn't seem to want to take him, which left Angel to contemplate what had happened.

He had never known that a simple kiss could be so intense, could stir such emotions. There was a spark that accompanied the touch of Buffy's lips. It made him feel more alive, as if her kiss restored the life he'd lost somewhere throughout his life.

He was unable to control himself. Suddenly, his heart had taken over control from his mind. Thinking rationally was no longer an option. While his mind told him to resist the urge to kiss her back, his heart shouted that he shouldn't deny himself the touch of the woman he loved. Angel's heart won out, forcing him to respond passionately to Buffy. And it cost him.

She rejected him, of that he was certain. He scared her away by coming on too strong. ‘She probably thinks I'm like every other guy; that I'll expect something from her. That kiss was much more than I ever expected.' Angel did want something: her love. He prayed to whatever god would listen that someday, Buffy would love him with the same intensity that he loved her.

********

The bright rays of the sun woke Buffy at dawn. She groaned, trying to blink away the light, but to no avail. The alarm clock next to the bed read six forty-three. Too early for her to get up on a Sunday morning.

For twenty minutes she lay there in an attempt to fall back to sleep. It didn't work, so she swung her legs over the side of the bed. She opened the door and peaked out in the living room. Angel lay on his left side on the couch, facing the hallway. Biting her lip softly, Buffy went back inside the bedroom to get dressed. She wanted to leave before he woke up. It would be too embarrassing and awkward if she were to stay. Running away and crying from their kiss was childish, and Buffy knew it. ‘What he must think of me now, kissing him like that. I was so caught up in the moment that I wasn't thinking about the consequences. I'm so stupid.'

In five minutes Buffy had her things ready. She quietly stepped through the hallway and into the living room. Stopping a few feet from the couch, Buffy looked at Angel. He was sleeping peacefully, making her smile that she hadn't woken him up. She suppressed the innate urge to bring her lips to his again, knowing it would be even more embarrassing. No, better to leave. Without saying anything, Buffy left the apartment and headed home.

When Angel awoke two hours later, he found his bedroom empty. ‘She left. Buffy didn't want to be near me. Dammit, how could I have been so stupid?'

********

"Come on, spill," Willow begged. "How did it go last night?"

Buffy, Willow and Cordelia sat on Buffy's bed. "Yeah. Did you ask him? What did he say?" Cordelia wanted to know.

"Dinner was nice. We went to a restaurant outside of town. And no, I didn't ask him," Buffy told them.

"Why not?" demanded the brunette.

Buffy frowned. "Things happened; I never got a chance."

"You were with Angel all night. How could you not have had a chance?"

"If I tell you, you have to promise not to tell anyone. Not Oz, not Xander and especially not Giles," Buffy said to her friends.

"Of course" and "Yeah" were their responses.

Buffy took a deep breath before beginning. "After dinner we went to his apartment and watched a movie. I saw a picture of him and his mother, and you know me, I'm always curious. Angel told me about her, how she died and stuff like that. She died when he was only six years old. Then he told me his most vivid memory of her. He started crying."

"He cried?" The idea of a grown man crying astounded Cordelia. She'd never seen it happen.

"I felt so bad. There he was, crying because I'm too nosy to mind my own business. I wanted to make him feel better. And the next thing I knew, I was kissing him."

"And?" Cordelia questioned.

"And...Angel started kissing me back. I got scared though. Like, what if he wanted more? He's in his twenties, and experienced. What would he think of me? God, what does he think of me now?"

Willow grabbed her best friend's hand. "I'm sure Angel doesn't think any less of you."

"Hey, Buffy, I have a question. What -- what was it like? The kiss, I mean," Cordelia wanted to know.

"Cordy!" hissed Willow.

"I wanna know."

"It's okay. It...it was amazing. I've kissed guys before, but never like that. I don't even now how to describe it. With Kevin, it was never about passion or intensity. But with Angel, my knees went weak and I couldn't even form a coherent thought. It seemed so automatic, so right. I didn't need to think about what I was doing, I just did it."

Willow's eyes were wide. "Wow. I've never been kissed like that."

"It scared me so much. I ran away."

"You did what?" screeched Cordelia.

"I ran into the bedroom and cried."

"Why didn't you stay? Talk to him?"

Buffy blinked hard. "Because if I stayed, I knew I'd kiss him again. So I left this morning without saying good-bye. He was still asleep on the couch when I left."

"What does he wear to bed?" asked Cordelia, with a sly smile.

"Cordelia!" Willow hissed again.

"Boxers, for your information. Guys, what am I going to do?"

"What do you want to do?" Willow asked.

Buffy shrugged. "I don't know. My head says to stay away, he's older and my Watcher...sort of. But my heart says to go for it. That maybe it's worth the risk."

"Follow whichever is louder."

"That's real smart, Cordelia. What if she makes the wrong decision?"

"She won't know ‘til she tries," argued Cordelia.

"Buffy, you have to make your own decision."

She nodded. "I know that. But I don't know which to listen to. My heart or my head."

"Well, how do you feel about Angel?" asked Willow.

"It's weird. I've known him for less than a week, but...I think I love him," Buffy admitted.

"Go for it," advised Cordelia.

"If you love him, Buffy, what do you have to lose? He kissed you back, right?" Buffy nodded. "Then he obviously feels something for you. Run with it. See where it takes you," Willow told her.

"What if he looks at me and thinks I'm just some lovesick school girl?"

"If he's the one, he won't think that."

"The one? My true love?"

Willow smiled. "Have you thought about the possibility? If that kiss was as intense as you described it, maybe Angel is your true love."

"You lucked out, Buffy. They don't come much cuter than Angel," commented Cordelia.

"It's not about cute, Cordy. It's about love and being soulmates. I think he's the one. Angel is your true love."

"It'll never work. So what if I love him? He's in love with someone else, remember? True love or not, I can't take that risk. I have to forget him and move on," Buffy said, making up her mind. Whether her heart broke in the process or not.

********

11

Monday morning rolled round quickly. Both Buffy and Angel were nervous about seeing each other, given the events of Saturday night. They respectively decided not to say anything unless the other brought it up.

Buffy showed up for her tutoring session five minutes early, in hopes that Angel would bring it up. When she saw that he wasn't there waiting for her, she was slightly disappointed. "Hey, Giles. Where's Angel?" Her heart beat nervously in anticipation of seeing him.

"He is running an errand for me, so he might very well be a few minutes late," Giles answered. "Tell me, how was patrol on Friday night? Did you show Angel how it's done?"

She decided to be totally up-front with her Watcher. "He didn't need me to show him how it's done. He saved my ass in fact. If he hadn't shown up when he did, you might be out of a job."

"What do you mean, ‘shown up when he did'? Did he forget about meeting you?"

"No, he was here, but I wasn't."

"Buffy, you made a promise and I expected you to keep it. Breaking it almost got you killed, if I am understanding you correctly." Giles was none too pleased with Buffy.

"Look, I'm sorry. Buffy did a stupid thing. She did a lot of stupid things this weekend. But you know what? Something happened Friday and I went patrolling alone to think. I forgot about meeting Angel, but he found me and saved me."

Giles looked at her. "May I ask what it was that caused you to forget?" It wasn't like Buffy to be so irresponsible.

"Kevin broke up with me because he's a hormone-driven teenage boy," she said with a bitter edge to her voice.

"I didn't know, I'm sorry," apologized Giles.

"It's okay. He said some really nasty things that I'm not feeling up to repeating and he dumped me. I wanted to be by myself, so I went on patrol, completely forgetting that I promised you Angel could come with me."

"Why don't you move on to the part where you almost died," suggested her Watcher.

Buffy frowned. She knew she had to tell him, but feared his reaction. "In the cemetery I got into a fight with a vamp. He got the upper hand and knocked me unconscious. I don't remember what happened after that. When I woke up, I didn't know where I was."

"Where were you?"

"Angel had found me, staked the vampire and brought me back to his apartment."

"Really," he commented. This did not sit well with him. Angel should have taken her to the hospital or home, not his apartment.

"Yeah. He told me what happened and listened to me cry all night about Kevin." She thought back to how easy it was to talk to Angel that night. Before things became complicated by their kiss.

Giles narrowed his eyes slightly. "You spent the night with Angel."

"God, not like that. Everyone makes it sound so sordid. Nothing happened. Me on the bed, him on the couch. Get your mind out of the gutter."

"Did you patrol with him at all this weekend?"

Buffy shook her head. "No. Saturday night we went out and Sunday I stayed in. Why, did you want me to patrol?"

"We? As in you and Angel?"

"Uh-huh."

Just then, Angel burst into the Library carrying several books. He stopped almost dead in his tracks when he saw Buffy. He tried to make eye contact with her, but she stared at her hands instead. Giles felt the uneasiness between the two, and planned on getting to the bottom of it.

"Here are the books you wanted, Giles," Angel said, handing the books to the elder Watcher.

"Thank you." He took the books and walked into his office. He made a mental note to keep an eye on Buffy and Angel.

"Hi, Buffy," Angel greeted her. He was unsure of what to say.

"Hi," she repeated. The awkward feeling from that weekend had returned.

Angel figured she wasn't about to bring up Saturday night, seeing as she hadn't even looked at him since he walked in.

"Do you want me to go over any more about the Cold War?" ‘Better to get right down to business.'

"I'm pretty sure I understand it. We can move on to something else."

Angel sat down at the table and Buffy chose the seat across from him. ‘I really did scare her,' he thought. ‘She doesn't even want to sit next to me.' "Why don't we go over the Kennedy administration then."

Buffy listened as he talked about Camelot and how America changed in the three years John F. Kennedy was President. Her mind wasn't on his words, though. ‘It didn't mean anything to him, just another kiss. I am so dumb for thinking it meant anything. Probably had a good laugh over how he got the Slayer to fall for him.'

She nodded her head once in a while, pretending she was actually paying attention to his words, when in fact she wasn't. No, Buffy kept watching his lips move, remembering how warm they were when they kissed. And she wanted so badly to silence him with another one to see if it would feel the same. But she pushed those thoughts away.

"Do you have any questions?" asked Angel when their time was up.

‘Yeah, I do. Were you as affected by our kiss as I was? Will you do it again so I can feel that way once more? Do you love me? Because I love you.' She shook her head. "Nope. Nothing I can think of."

********

"Angel, may I see you in my office please," requested Giles after Buffy's training.

"Sure." They walked into Giles' office. Angel didn't bother to close the door behind him; the library was empty.

"What is it, Giles?"

"Buffy informed me of what happened Friday night. Is it true that she had a near-fatal run-in with a vampire?"

Angel didn't see where it was going. If Buffy told him, why did Giles need to ask him? "Yes. When she didn't show up to meet me, I went looking for her. I was on my way home and I saw her fighting a vamp. He was about to kill her when I staked him." He shuddered involuntarily at the thought of almost losing Buffy.

"And Buffy was unconscious?" Angel nodded. "Where did you take her?" Giles already knew the answer, but wanted to hear it from the young Watcher himself.

"To my apartment."

"Why didn't you take her to a hospital?" demanded Giles.

He shrugged. "I don't know exactly. My apartment was closer."

"Did you ever stop to think that perhaps she was seriously injured? A concussion or a coma, maybe?"

"Buffy woke up twenty minutes later. She's perfectly fine."

"It didn't occur to you that Buffy could have died from her injuries, did it?"

"No," answered Angel. "Look, I made a mistake. I'm sorry, but I can't change what I did. And I'd do it again."

Giles glared at Angel. "She also told me that she spent the night there, too."

"She was upset, fell asleep on the couch. I didn't have the heart to wake her up, so I let her sleep in my bedroom."

"And you went out with her on Saturday night. Am I right again?"

"Yes."

The Watcher nodded. "Did anything happen between you two?"

"I don't know what you are talking about."

"Don't play coy now. I saw the way you looked at her and how Buffy wouldn't look at you. It's apparent that something is going on."

Angel looked away. He hated being forced into admitting what happened between them. "We kissed. But that's all. I...it...she ran away from me. I think I scared her."

Giles noted the look of hurt in Angel's eyes. "You care about her, don't you? No, let me rephrase that. You love Buffy, don't you?"

"Are you insinuating that I'm too blinded by love to do my job? Then fine, I'll admit it. I'm in love with Buffy. I have been since I first saw her. You know, I never expected to, either. But I saw her and I just knew she was the one.

"And you don't have to tell me how wrong it is, because I know. It hurts to know how much I love her and that I can never be with her."

"The Council will frown on this, should I tell them," informed Giles.

"A Slayer is supposed to be distanced from her Watcher, I get it. But you can't tell me that you don't care about Buffy. You do. She's like a daughter to you, anyone can see that." Angel took a breath. "I don't care if you tell the Watcher's Council. It's not going to change the way I feel. I love her, and I will continue to do so whether the Council approves or not."

********

Willow placed the books she borrowed on the library counter. She intended on saying hello to Giles until she heard voices coming from his office. She recognized them as belonging to Giles and Angel.

"You love Buffy, don't you?" she heard Giles ask.

A few seconds later, Angel replied. "Are you insinuating that I'm too blinded by love to do my job? Then fine, I'll admit it. I'm in love with Buffy. I have been since I first saw her..."

The redhead stood in utter shock. ‘Angel's in love with Buffy. She's the one he told her about. But, should I tell her?' Deciding, after a great deal of thinking, that it wasn't her place. If they were meant to be, they'll find their way to each other. ‘That doesn't mean I can't give them a push in the right direction.'

********

12

Two and a half weeks seemingly flew by. The awkwardness between Buffy and Angel remained, because neither of them wanted to bring up the kiss. When they spoke it was about either history or slaying. Never did they talk about personal business.

The Prom. Sunnydale High had been bustling about it, particularly Willow, Xander and Cordelia; it was all they could talk about. Buffy, on the other hand, had come to think of it as a chore. No longer did she look forward to it. Prom became something she came to dread, yet she was still planning to attend. It was a chore now, something she had to do, like slaying.

"Earth to Buffy," Xander said.

Buffy, who had been staring at her plate and pushing around the mashed potatoes with her fork, blinked. "Huh?"

"Where were you?" he wanted to know.

"Just spacing. What did you want? I didn't hear you."

"What time are you going to be here tonight?" he asked.

She shrugged her shoulders. "Seven, seven-thirty. God, I don't even want to go."

"Because of Kevin? Don't let him stop you from having fun. It's party time."

"Yeah, I know. But I'm going to make a fool out of myself. I...I sort of told him I had a date. Which I don't. Hence, Buffy the Fool."

"Lots of people are going stag."

"And I hadn't planned on being one of them," Buffy replied miserably. "I just wish I had a date, that's all. Look, I'm really depressing you, so I'm gonna go." Buffy stood up, walking out of the cafeteria.

Willow approached Xander, who sat at the table by himself. "What's wrong? Where did Buffy go?"

"She took off. I think she's upset about not having a date for the Prom tonight."

She shook her head. "This is all Kevin's fault. If he hadn't been such a jerk, Buffy wouldn't be so upset right now. Ugh!"

"Yeah, tell me about it. If I only there were something we could do to help her," mused Xander.

A lightbulb went off in Willow's head. "That's it, I got it."

"Got what?" Xander didn't know what his friend was talking about.

"A way to make Buffy happy. I know just how to do it. Bye." Willow took off.

********

Angel walked through the halls. Classes were over for the day and the halls were virtually empty, due to the Prom that evening. He thought he was alone until a hand tapped his shoulder. Whirling around, he found himself looking at Willow.

"Willow. What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be getting ready for Prom?"

"I will be. Actually, I'm here to see you."

Angel tilted his head. "Me? Why?"

"I need your help. With Buffy."

"Willow, I think I'm the last person you should be asking for help. Especially where Buffy is concerned. She and I haven't--"

"Angel, I know," Willow said.

"Know what?"

Willow hesitated for five seconds. "About the kiss. Buffy told me."

"I scared her away."

She shook her head in disagreement. "No you didn't. You didn't scare her away, she was afraid you'd want more than she was ready to give. After what happened with Kevin, she's a little leery."

"I wouldn't hurt her."

"I know that. You love Buffy."

"What? Where did you hear that?" He didn't know where, or from whom, Willow had heard it. Except from Giles.

"From you. I heard you talking to Giles a couple of weeks ago. I wasn't eavesdropping or anything, I kind of overheard."

Panic gripped him. "Buffy. Does she know? Did you tell her?"

"No, I didn't. It wasn't my place to tell her. But I need your help with her. Tonight's the Prom, and Buffy doesn't have a date."

"I still don't know how I can help you. Things have been awkward between us."

"I know that. But she wanted to ask you, Angel. She told me; she said she was going to ask you, but then everything happened. And now Buffy's going to the Prom alone and she's miserable," explained Willow.

"What could I possibly do?"

"Do you want Buffy to be happy?"

"Of course I do."

Willow raised her eyebrows. "Then do what I tell you. If you love Buffy, you'll do it."

********

"You're a vision," Mrs. Summers complimented when Buffy strolled down the stairs in her Prom dress.

Buffy smirked. "You're my mother. You have to say that."

"It's the truth, honey. Your dress is beautiful. You are beautiful."

She glanced at her reflection in the hallway mirror, not recognizing the girl looking back at her. Her dress, blood-red, cascaded to the floor, held up by two thin straps. The neckline was lower than Mrs. Summers would have liked, but Buffy pulled it off, making the plunging neckline sophisticated. With matching red heels, a red bag and her blonde hair in curls framing her face, Buffy was ready to go.

"Do you have your bag?" her mother asked.

Buffy nodded. "Yes, Mom. I'm staying at Xander's tonight, you have the number."

"My baby's going to her Senior Prom. I can't believe it."

"Yeah yeah."

"Buffy, you are going to have so much fun," promised Mrs. Summers.

She snorted. "Sure I will. All by myself."

"You won't need a date to have fun."

"I wish I had one, though." ‘I wish I'd asked Angel before this whole fiasco started.' "All of my friends will be dancing and having a grand old time while Buffy sits at her table all alone, shoving appetizers into her throat. Yeah, big fun."

Mrs. Summers smiled. "Maybe you'll surprise yourself. Come on, I want to take some pictures before you go."

********

The inside of the gymnasium had been transformed into a grand ballroom. Streamers, strobe lights and a large disco ball added to the festive ambiance. Buffy couldn't believe her eyes. It was like she'd entered another reality.

"Buffy!" called Willow.

She made her way over to Willow and Oz. "Hi, guys. You look great." Buffy admired the simple blue dress her best friend had purchased during their shopping excursion.

"So do you." She gave Buffy a hug. "How are you doing?"

"Okay, I guess. Dateless, but otherwise fine. Are you two having fun yet?"

"Yeah, so far," began Oz. "Prom is surprisingly affecting. I might get choked up. But that's to be seen."

Buffy laughed. "I'm going to say hi to Cordy and Xander."

She had seen them on the other side of the gym and walked toward them. On her way, though, someone stepped directly in her path. Kevin.

"Hello, Buffy," he said.

"Hi. Excuse me, but you are in my way."

He smiled slyly. "Where were you headed?"

"I see Xander and Cordy. Do you mind?" Buffy was really not in the mood to deal with her ex-boyfriend.

"Actually, I do. See, I want to meet your date. Exactly where is he, Buffy?" Kevin questioned.

"Go away, Kevin. I don't want to hear it."

The boy chuckled. "I knew you didn't have one. See, if you'd gone with me, we could be out there dancing right now. But you had to go and be all pristine. Buffy the Pure."

Buffy resisted the urge to slap him. "Pardon me if I don't want to sleep with you. I'm sure you can find any cheap slut on a street corner willing to do that. Go find one and leave me alone."

"You bitter bitch. No wonder you couldn't get a date," Kevin shot.

She was about to explode when she felt an arm moving around her waist. Familiar brown eyes stared into her green ones.

"Sorry I'm late, Buffy," Angel said.

"A-Angel?" she stuttered.

"An emergency came up, I'm sorry if you thought I stood you up." Angel glared at Kevin. "Kevin. I believe Buffy told you to leave her alone."

Seeing the menacing look in the older man's eyes, Kevin gulped. "Fine. See you around." He took off in the opposite direction from where Buffy and Angel faced.

Angel grasped Buffy's hand, sliding a red rose corsage onto her wrist. "May I have the pleasure of a dance?" He offered his hand.

"You certainly may."

********

13

Angel guided her to the dance floor, her hand in his. He clutched it as if he'd never let her go, which he didn't want to. A slow song began when they found an empty space among the other dancing students.

//Take me as I am, put your hand in mine

Now and forever

Darling, here I stand, stand before you now

Deep inside I always knew

It was you, you and me

Two hearts drawn together bound by destiny

It was you, and you for me

Every road leads to your door, every step I take forevermore.\\

"Angel, why did you come? I thought you didn't get the whole Prom thing." His presence sent chills down her spine.

"Willow asked me to come. She told me about your encounter at the mall with Kevin and how you told him that you had a date. She wants you to be happy, Buffy; didn't want you to be alone for your Prom. So she asked me this afternoon if I would come."

"And you did? Just for me?"

"She also mentioned that you were going to ask me."

Buffy groaned. "I'm going to kill her," she threatened.

"Willow only wants what's best for you. It's flattering to think you wanted to go with me. Had you asked, I would have said yes."

//Just say you'll love me for the rest of your life

I've got a lot of love and I don't wanna let go

Will you still love me for the rest of my life?

‘Cause I can't go on, no I can't go on

I can't go on if I'm on my own.\\

"You would have? God, what an idiot I am."

Angel placed his hand under her chin, lifting her head so he could gaze into her green eyes. "Why?"

"Because I messed everything up. I never should have done what I did. I'm sorry."

"You have nothing to apologize for. Buffy, I had no right to presume I could touch you like that. It was wrong of me, I should have known better. I hope you can forgive me."

‘He's apologizing to me? Why? I started it; I kissed him and he kissed me back. Angel didn't do anything wrong.' Buffy was unable to find the right words to say this to him. She grinned up at him, letting her feelings be known through a simple gesture.

Never had she felt so sure that the kiss was not a mistake. She no longer regretted it, and took comfort in being near him. Buffy brought her head to his chest, resting it comfortably above his rapidly beating heart. Her arms wrapped tightly around Angel, and he did the same to her.

//Take me as I am, put your heart in mine

Stay with me forever

‘Cause I am just a man

I never understood, I never had a thing to prove

There was you, you and me

That it all came clear so suddenly

I'm close to you that I wanna be.\\

He never imagined he would ever be so close to Buffy again. ‘I don't deserve this,' he thought. He had made a mistake in overstepping his bounds as Watcher and let his feelings take control when they kissed. Angel believed he'd ruined any chances of gaining her love, but now he wasn't so sure. Buffy had forgiven him for his lack of judgement, and his hope returned.

Nothing had ever felt so right as holding Buffy in his arms did. He held her close, pressing her to him. He wanted so much to tell her he loved her, and then show her exactly how much. But he couldn't do that; no, not unless she felt the same way. Instead of giving in and kissing her on the lips like he wanted to do, Angel pressed his lips to her hair, gently kissing her head, where she probably wouldn't notice.

Buffy did notice, though. She sighed softly when his lips made contact with her. ‘This is perfect. I'm dancing with Angel and he kissed me. I'm in his arms. But I can't even tell him how I feel. He would think I am too young to know what real love is. I do know. And he's it. Him. My true love. Here I am, in the arms of my true love and I can't even say anything.'

‘I love you,' they both said silently, as the dance continued.

//Just say you'll love me for the rest of your life

I've got a lot of love and I don't wanna let go

Will you still love me for the rest of my life?

‘Cause I can't go on, no I can't go on

I can't go on if I'm on my own.\\

"Look at them," observed Willow. She watched Buffy and Angel slow dance from across the room. "It worked."

"Your plan? Did you ever doubt it would, Will?" asked Oz.

She shook her head. "Not at all. They are so in love with each other, but they are too stubborn to say anything. All they needed was a push in the right direction."

"And you gave it to them. Always a matchmaker."

"They are so right for each other." They saw Angel kiss the top of Buffy's head. "See what I mean? Look at him. You can't tell me his body language doesn't just scream ‘I love Buffy.'"

"Don't you think if they love each other they will get together eventually?" Oz adored his girlfriend's mechanisms.

"Oz, they are so thick-headed. Buffy and Angel needed my help. I want Buffy to be happy. And I know that Angel will make her happy. I just know it."

"But you can't force them to become a couple. Doesn't that require communication and kissing?"

Willow nodded and smiled. "That's where Xander comes in."

//Do you believe a love could run so strong?

Do you believe that love could pass you by?

There was a special one for me

I was the lonely one, you see

But then my heart lost all control

Now you're all that I know.\\

"Buffy?"

"Yes?"

"There's something I want to tell you."

Angel felt the moment was right. Even if she rejected him, at least he told her. He doubted she felt the same way, but he was getting sick of keeping the truth from her.

Buffy looked up at him. "What?"

"I--" he started. Then, Angel lost his nerve. No, he wouldn't be able to handle her rejection. Buffy meant the world to him, and without her he didn't know if he could go on. "You look lovely. You are truly the most beautiful girl here."

Buffy blushed. "Thank you." Coming from him, Buffy believed it. "You look pretty good yourself."

‘Who am I kidding,' Buffy asked herself. ‘He's the most gorgeous man alive. And I'm here with him. How did I ever get so lucky?' Her head kept telling her something different. ‘You aren't that lucky. Angel's in love with someone. And it's not you.'

//Just say you'll love me for the rest of your life

I've got a lot of love and I don't wanna let go

Will you still love me for the rest of my life?

‘Cause I can't go on, no I can't go on

I can't go on if I'm on my own

‘Cause I can't go on, no I can't go on

‘Cause I can't go on, no I can't go on

I can't go on without somebody I can call my own

‘Cause I can't go on, no I can't go on

Stay around, and never be alone...\\

The song ended, but Buffy and Angel continued to hold each other. Neither wanted the moment to end. It had to, an up tempo song began playing. They broke their embrace, and Buffy was worried he would leave.

"Are you leaving now?"

"Do you want me to leave?" he asked.

"No!" she shouted. "I mean, I thought you came just to show Kevin I have a date."

"Well, at first that's why I came. But, I'd kind of like to stay, if you don't mind."

‘Mind? Hell no!' "You actually want to stay and be my..."

"Date. I would very much like to be your Prom date, Buffy."

Buffy smiled. "So would I."

********

"Did you guys go get pictures taken?" Willow wanted to know when Buffy and Angel made their way over a half-hour later.

"Yeah. We decided to get some so we'd have something to remember this night by," replied Buffy, who smiled at Angel.

"I never went to my Prom, this is the closest thing I've ever come. I don't want to forget it."

Willow grinned at him. "Are you having a good time?"

He nodded. "Thank you for convincing me to come, Willow. I'm having a great time." ‘I could be anywhere with Buffy and have a great time.'

"Good. Are you going to Xander's house tonight?"

"Xander's?"

Buffy grabbed Angel's arm. "Oh yeah! Xander is having a post-Prom party/sleepover thing. Would you like to come with me?"

"I don't want to intrude or anything," Angel said.

"Not at all. You're my date, you wouldn't be intruding. Please come." Buffy really wanted Angel to go to the party with her, which would require him to spend the night with her. Again.

"Only if you're sure."

"Of course I'm sure. The more the merrier. We'll have a great time, and I know Xander won't mind if you come." Buffy glanced at Willow.

"He won't. I'll go tell him right now." As Willow took off to find Xander yet again, she thought, ‘My plan is working perfectly. By tomorrow at this time, Buffy and Angel will be a couple.'

********

14

Prom continued for another four hours. Buffy had never had so much fun as she had that night. Being there with Angel made it even better. They weren't apart for more than five minutes at a time, dancing, laughing and simply enjoying each other's company. Throughout the night, Buffy caught sight of several of her female classmates eyeing Angel, but she paid no mind. He was with her, nobody else.

"This is going to work out perfectly," Willow said. "Xander, you know what to do, right?"

He nodded. "Yep. I still don't see why we can't let nature take its course."

"Like I told Oz, those two are way too stubborn. They need a push, and we are going to give it to them."

"Fine. But if it backfires, I had nothing to do with it."

"It won't backfire. I promise."

********

"You don't have to come if you don't want to," Buffy told Angel when they were walking to his car.

"If you don't want me to, I won't." Angel wasn't sure if she really wanted him there or if she was being nice and felt guilty.

"I would like it if you came, but if you feel uncomfortable..."

Angel smiled at her. "No, if you want me there, I'll go. Besides, it's not like I won't know anyone. I'm sure I will have a good time."

"Okay."

On the drive to Xander's house, Buffy stared at the road ahead of them, glancing at Angel out of the corner of her eye. His hair blew in the wind from his convertible. She bit her lip and looked at the road, trying to keep her mind off of how much she wanted to touch him.

Ten minutes later they stood on Xander's front porch, waiting for him to answer the door. "Hey there, you two," Xander greeted, opening the door.

"Hi. Are you going to let us in or are you going to have the party out here?" asked Buffy.

"Sorry, Buff. Come on in."

Buffy and Angel walked through the door. They were the last to arrive; Cordelia, Willow and Oz sat on the floor in the living room, watching television in their pajamas. Buffy asked Xander, "Where can we change?"

"My bedroom or the bathroom. Take your pick."

"Which do you want?" she asked Angel.

"I don't have a change of clothes," he told her.

Xander laughed. "You can borrow something of mine. They should fit."

"I guess I'll take the bathroom then," Buffy said. As she headed to the bathroom, Xander led Angel to his bedroom.

In the bathroom, Buffy changed out of her Prom dress and into a gray t-shirt and flannel pants. She wiped all of the make-up off her face, thinking about how great the night had been.

‘Would I have had as good a time with Kevin? Would we be in L.A. right now, at the hotel? God, why do I even care? Stop thinking about what might have been. I'm here with Angel and I had a great time with him. Kevin doesn't matter anymore; I don't love him. He never made me feel the way Angel does.'

She returned to the living room, stifling a laugh when she saw Angel. Xander dressed him in a light blue Hawaiian shirt and black boxer shorts.

"What are you wearing?" she asked with a giggle.

Angel shrugged. "Everything else was too small."

"Yeah, well, Xander's kind of scrawny." ‘And you are so big. Muscles...lots of them.'

"Hey!" complained Xander.

Cordelia stood up. "This sucks. There's nothing good on T.V.. I'm bored."

"We can always play a game," Willow said, winking at Xander.

"Let's play Truth or Dare," he suggested.

"Truth or Dare? Please, how juvenile," Cordelia commented.

Xander looked at Buffy and Angel. "Come on, guys. You two are the deciding vote."

"What about Oz?" Buffy asked.

"I go with Willow. She wants to play, so do I."

"Sure, count me in," the blonde Slayer replied. "Angel?"

He was a little wary at first, but if Buffy was going to play, he'd do it too. "Yeah. I haven't played in a long time, though."

"Great. Everybody sit in a circle," ordered Xander. The group did as they were told. "Remember, no changing your mind. Once you agree to truth or dare, you have to do it."

"Who goes first?" Oz asked.

"I'll start. Xander, truth or dare?" questioned Willow.

"Truth."

"How do you feel about Cordy?"

"She's my girlfriend. I care about her. More than I'd like to, sometimes."

"I believe you." Willow saw Cordelia grin at Xander's answer. "Your turn."

He scanned the group. "Buffy, truth or dare?"

She scrunched her nose. "Truth."

"Do you miss Kevin?"

"Not for a second," she replied without hesitation. "Cordy, truth or dare?"

Angel watched with interest as everybody answered their questions honestly.

None of them took a dare. He had to answer a few simple questions, like where he was born and how old her way. As time went on, the questions became increasingly personal.

"Angel, truth or dare?" Willow wanted to know.

He thought for a second. "Truth."

"Have you ever been in love?"

The question took him by surprise. But Willow knew the answer to it. "Not until recently."

Willow grinned. ‘Maybe he'll admit it.' "Anyone we know?"

"I don't know."

"Okay, your turn."

"Oz, truth or dare?"

Twenty minutes went by. Cordelia became antsy. "I'm getting bored again."

"Fine. One more question." It was Xander's turn. "Truth or dare, Angel?"

He took a deep breath. "Dare."

Xander and Willow exchanged a look. "Okay. You can't go back. You have to do what I tell you."

"I know the rules."

"Alright. I dare you to kiss Buffy."

Angel and Buffy looked at each other. Both of their hearts beat uncontrollably, their hands becoming hot and sweaty.

"And no cheek kissing. Full on the mouth," Xander said.

They stood up, gazing for a few moments at one another. Their faces moved closer, and they instinctively closed their eyes as their lips touched. They each expected the kiss to last only a few seconds. Angel started to break away but Buffy wouldn't let him. She kept her lips on his, not letting him leave. She had been waiting for this opportunity for weeks, and wasn't about to let it pass her by.

Both were breathless when they pulled away. Their cheeks were flushed and lips red from the kiss. "Well," Cordelia started. "That covers that."

"Perfect ending, wouldn't you say?" Willow commented.

Buffy glared at her best friend. She pulled her aside. "This was all a big set-up, wasn't it? You know I have feelings for Angel."

"Buffy, I thought it was a push in the right direction."

"It was wrong, Willow. He doesn't feel the same way."

"I don't know. Looked like he was enjoying it to me."

"Just stay out of it. Please. You're pushing this and doing the whole matchmaker thing is only going to hurt me more. I'm just gonna get my heart broken. You can't force something that isn't there," Buffy pleaded.

‘If only you knew the truth,' thought the redhead. "Sorry. I won't push anymore."

They all decided to get some sleep. It had been a long, busy day for all of them, and they were dead tired.

"Where are we all sleeping?" Oz wanted to know.

"Mom and Dad are out of town, so that leaves the three bedrooms open. Cordy and I will take my room, Willow and Oz in my parents' room, and Buffy and Angel can have the guest room."

Buffy groaned. Not about having to share a room with Angel, but because her friend had obviously been planning this. Xander showed everyone to their respective bedrooms. Upon closing the door, Buffy and Angel looked at the bed.

"You take the bed. I'll sleep downstairs on the couch," offered Angel.

She vigorously shook her head. "No. You can stay here. I'm not going to make you sleep on the couch."

"Then I'll sleep on the floor."

"Angel, you think I'd actually let you sleep on the floor? Nuh-huh. We can share the bed, it's pretty big."

"Are you sure about this, Buffy? If this is uncomfortable at all..."

"It's not." Buffy climbed under the covers of the bed. She waited for Angel to join her on the other side. Laying her head on the pillow, she closed her eyes. She opened them slightly, watching Angel as he removed Xander's shirt. She metaphorically drooled at the sight of his well-defined, muscular chest. He shut off the bedside lamp and laid on top of the covers. Buffy didn't question it, figuring Angel was keeping minimum safe distance.

His nearness made her shiver. She'd never felt so cold, despite the three blankets covering her. Trying to warm up, Buffy shifted her position.

"Are you okay, Buffy?"

"Yeah."

"Cold?"

She nodded. "A little."

"If you want, I can move closer. More body heat might warm you up. Would you mind if I do that?" Angel asked.

Once again, Buffy nodded. The bed shifted next to her, and she thought, ‘He's getting under the covers. Oh boy.' Without warning, he embraced her, pulling her into his arms and closer to him. Buffy's back was pressed against his chest, and she sighed. She felt warm and safe, and immediately fell asleep, lulled by the sound of his beating heart. "Good night, Buffy," Angel whispered in her ear.

********

15

She had never slept so soundly. Maybe it was Angel's arms around her, or the near-perfect evening she just had, but Buffy slept like a rock. And she had a wonderful dream on top of it all. She and Angel were walking hand-in-hand through the courtyard of Sunnydale High. They talked and smiled at each other, kissing every couple minutes. Kevin saw them and strolled over, calling Angel a cradle-robber, and asking why he had to steal his girlfriend. Buffy told Kevin that Angel didn't steal her away from him. When Kevin said to stay out of it, Angel ordered the boy to leave Buffy alone. But the boy was stubborn, and shoved Angel, who shoved him back. The push knocked Kevin into a puddle of mud. Everybody around them started laughing at him, making pig noises.

"Guess you really are a pig, Kevin. And now everybody knows it," taunted Buffy.

She woke up, laying on her left side, still locked in Angel's embrace. Buffy sighed, not wanting this seemingly perfect moment to end. She brought her hand up to his arm.

"Morning," Angel said.

Buffy turned her head. Angel lay on his side as well, his eyes open and aware. He'd been awake for some time. "Morning to you, too."

"How'd you sleep?"

"Like I hadn't in weeks. You?"

"Never better." It wasn't a lie. With his angel in his arms, Angel had slept better than ever before.

Buffy yawned. "What time is it?"

"Almost ten. Xander is out getting coffee and doughnuts. He left about half an hour ago."

"Why didn't you wake me up?"

"You looked so peaceful. I couldn't bring myself to disturb you," he admitted. Angel unwrapped his arms from Buffy's thin form, sitting up in bed. "Hope you aren't mad."

Buffy watched as the blankets fell to his hips. ‘He's only wearing Xander's shorts! Oh God, keep cool. And don't stare!' "Not at all. I need all the beauty rest I can get."

"That's not true. You are already beautiful."

"Thank you," she said shyly. "For everything. Last night meant a lot to me, you showing up and saving me from utter humiliation. And for coming to the party and putting up with Xander's cruel idea of fun."

He placed his hand on her upper arm. "I had a great time. I'd do it again just to see you this happy."

"For me?"

"In a heartbeat."

‘Why can't I tell him how I feel? That the kiss last night was the best I ever had. And that falling asleep in his arms felt like home to me. That I want to feel that way every day for the rest of my life.' "I guess we should get up now," Buffy said.

He nodded. "Yeah, we probably should." They both climbed out of bed. "You take the bathroom first. I'll wait until you're done."

"Angel, you don't have to do that. I don't mind waiting."

"Ladies first. I insist."

Angel walked downstairs, finding only Cordelia sitting at the kitchen table. "Hello, Cordelia," he greeted.

The girl looked up from the newspaper article she was reading. "Good morning," she replied, emphasizing the word "good." He had not bothered to put Xander's shirt back on. ‘No wonder Buffy's got it bad for this guy. Hello, like total Greek god. How lucky is she?'

"Is anyone else up yet?"

She shook her head. "Just you, me and Xander. Where's Buffy?"

"In the bathroom, we just woke up."

"Late night?" she implied.

"Not in the sense you mean, Cordelia. I'm not dumb, I know what you're implying. Nothing happened."

"Sure. Like that kiss meant nothing to you two."

Angel eyed her. "It was just a kiss. A dare."

"Uh-huh. You think what you want to, Angel. But I know better."

********

"Thanks for driving me home," Buffy said when Angel dropped her off.

"You're welcome. It wouldn't be right to make you walk. Here, let me carry your bag." Angel took Buffy's overnight bag as they walked to her front porch.

Buffy smiled at him. "I know I must sound like a broken record, but thank you again. Prom would have been a total disaster otherwise."

"No, thank you for making me see what I missed out in high school."

She looked down at the ground. "Um, you can say no if you want to, but I was wondering if you had plans for tonight. Giles wants me to patrol, since I didn't last night. I thought you might want to go with me."

"Thank you for inviting me. I'd love to."

"Great. Want to meet here at seven?"

"It's a date." He leaned down, kissing her softly on the cheek. "Bye, Buffy."

"Good-bye."

She watched him pull out of the driveway before entering her house. After closing the front door behind her, Buffy leaned against it and sighed.

Mrs. Summers saw her daughter standing there. "Have a good time, honey?"

"The best."

"I can tell. You're beaming. I haven't seen you this happy in a long time."

"You were right, Mom. I had the time of my life."

"See? Going by yourself isn't all that bad."

Buffy moved away from the door, heading for the living room couch. Mrs. Summers sat next to her. "Willow asked Angel to come and be my date. He saved me from being humiliated by Kevin and he wanted to be my date."

"Really? That was very sweet of him."

"And we danced and talked. It was like we were the only two people in the world. Then we went to Xander's house, played Truth or Dare and we had to kiss. Mom, it was the best kiss ever. I fell asleep in his arms...it was just amazing!"

Mrs. Summers took note of the expression on Buffy's face. "You really like Angel, don't you?"

"I love him. Mom, I know what you are going to say; that I'm too young. But I do. In the year I dated Kevin, I never felt this way. Like it was meant to be. Until last night, I wasn't positive, but now I am. Angel and I are soulmates."

"I would never judge you that way, Buffy. I trust you, and if you believe that you love him, I am happy for you. Have you told Angel how you feel?" her mother asked.

"No. I wasn't one hundred percent until last night. And before that, I didn't even think he liked me. Now though, I think there might be a chance. It was the kiss. I could tell. And falling asleep in his arms, it felt so right."

"Why didn't you say anything to him before?"

Buffy shrugged. "I was afraid he'd laugh in my face. You know I've never handled rejection well."

"What makes you think he'll reject you? Buffy, I'm not going to tell you what to do, but I will give you some advice. Tell Angel how you feel; find out how he feels. If you think there's something between you two, you deserve to know for sure. It'll save you a world of hurt later down the road. Being open and honest is the best way to start a relationship," advised Mrs. Summers.

"You're right, Mom. The worst that can happen is he says he doesn't feel the same way. I have to tell him. Now, before I lose my nerve."

********

"Coming!" Angel called, hearing the knocking on the door. He'd been laying on the couch, reliving the past twenty-four hours. He found Buffy standing in the hall when he opened the door. "Buffy."

She smiled sheepishly. "Hi, Angel. May I come in?"

"Of course." She stepped inside and he closed the door, asking, "Is something wrong?"

When he turned to face her, Buffy was standing a foot away. She didn't answer him. Instead, she wrapped her arms around his neck, pressing his face down to meet hers. She caught his lips in a heated kiss which he wasted no time in responding to. Neither broke the kiss until the need to breathe overwhelmed them.

"What...?" Angel started. "Did I miss something?"

Buffy shook her head. "No, you didn't miss anything. There's something I need to tell you."

"What is it?"

She took a deep breath, preparing to bare her soul. "I'm in love with you, Angel. Not just in a brother-sister kind of way; in an ‘I want to be with you forever' kind of way. And I don't know how you feel, but I couldn't hold it in anymore. It's been eating away at me for weeks. On some subconscious level, I think I've been in love with you since I saw you. I never knew how you felt, so I held back and kept it a sec--"

Angel hushed Buffy's rambling with a kiss of his own. He placed his hands on her waist, lifting her to his level with ease. Her hands made their way to his hair, running through the dark brown spikes. Angel pressed her even closer to him, not allowing an inch of space between them. The kiss slowly ended, and he placed her back on the ground again, staring into her eyes.

"I love you, too, Buffy."

********

16

"You love me?" an astonished Buffy replied.

Angel nodded. He took her hands in his, leading her to the couch. They sat down, still holding hands. "I love you. I have since the moment I first laid eyes on you."

"But..." Then it sunk in. "The girl you told me about; love at first sight girl who had no idea how you felt. That was me, wasn't it?"

"Yes, Buffy. When you walked into the library the first day we met, I knew. I loved you. My destiny walked into my life in the form of a beautiful young woman named Buffy Summers. You. And my life has not been the same since," he explained.

"Why didn't you say anything?"

"At first, because of Kevin. You seemed so happy with him and I didn't want to ruin that. It would have been selfish of me. Aside from that, there's the Watcher's Council. They firmly believe that a Slayer and her Watcher should be distanced from each other."

"You aren't my Watcher, Angel," Buffy pointed out.

"Technically, no. But to them, I'm still a Watcher, and by training with Giles, I am taking part in your training. In the Council's eyes, I am your Watcher."

"They are thousands of miles away! How could the ever find out?" Buffy saw the look on his face. "Giles. But as long as he doesn't find out, the Council will never know."

"Giles knows how I feel. The way I act around you, it made him realize what was going on. I don't know if he's going to tell them or not."

Buffy touched his cheek. "That's all you were worried about? Giles won't tell, I know him. And Kevin is so out of the picture. He has been for weeks. What kept holding you back?"

He looked away. "I thought I scared you."

"What? How?"

"When we first kissed, you ran away. I was afraid I came on too strong and it frightened you," he admitted.

She shook her head. "I ran away because I was afraid you'd want more; that I'd want more and out of fear of what I might do. Angel, I've never been kissed like that before. So many emotions were running through me, I thought I would do something really stupid. Not to mention, I was afraid of what you might think of me."

"That kiss...it was amazing, Buffy. I could never think less of you because of it, ‘cause I wanted it, too. I wanted you; I still do."

"Really?"

"I honestly believe you are my true love. The one I'm destined to be with."

"Me too," she agreed. "Where does that leave us?"

He cupped her face in his hands. "I am going to follow my heart. Buffy, it has led me to you. I want more than anything to be with you, whether it be as a friend or a soulmate."

"I feel the same way. Only I won't settle for friendship. I want the whole package. Soulmate. Forever."

"Forever."

A gentle, loving kiss sealed their decision.

********

Buffy sat in Willow's bedroom an hour later. She needed to tell her best friend everything that happened. "So, after I talked to Mom, I went to Angel's apartment. He barely got out a sentence before I jumped him."

Willow's eyes widened. "You're kidding."

"Well, I didn't literally jump him, but as soon as he closed the door, I kissed him. And he kissed me back and it was...wow."

"What did you say? What did he say?"

Buffy grinned. "I told him that I am in love with him, and I guess I started rambling because halfway through a sentence Angel started kissing me. And then he said he loves me too. Will, I'm the girl he told me about!"

"I know."

Buffy raised an eyebrow. "What do you mean you know?"

"A couple weeks ago, I heard Angel and Giles talking. I overheard Angel telling him that he's in love with you. I knew how you felt and how he felt, but it wasn't my place to tell you guys."

"And you decided to do a little matchmaking?"

Willow shrugged. "You two would never had admitted it. Xander, Cordy and Oz helped me. I convinced Angel to show up at the Prom, knowing that he'd want to go with you. Then I brought up Xander's party because I was sure you'd invite Angel. I came up with the idea for Truth or Dare, but the dare was all Xander's idea."

"I really should be mad at you for this little stunt," Buffy said to her. "But I can't. If it wasn't for you, I wouldn't have had the perfect Prom, or wouldn't have kissed Angel again, or have woken up in his arms this morning, or wouldn't have admitted to him how much I love him. Thank you, Will."

The two girls hugged. "What are you and Angel going to do now?" asked Willow.

"We're meant to be together, and nothing's going to stop us. Angel and I don't care what anyone else thinks. In fact, he's coming over tonight to meet Mom."

********

She asked Angel to come over half an hour early so her mother could meet him before patrol. Buffy and Mrs. Summers sat in front of the television, waiting for him to arrive.

"Honey, stop wringing your hands," Mrs. Summers told her.

"Sorry. I guess I'm nervous about you meeting Angel; afraid you won't like him," Buffy said.

"Don't worry so much. From what you've told me, I know I'll like him. If you love each other, just trust that. Forget everyone else."

Buffy sighed. "You're my mother. I need you to believe in us. If you can't, then I don't know what I'll do. I need your approval. I may love him, but you're opinion means a lot to me."

"Why don't we wait until Angel gets here and let me decide."

For the next ten minutes, Buffy tried to watch television, but it made no impact on her. The words went in one ear and out the other. At exactly six-thirty, the doorbell rang, making her jump off the couch. "It's him."

"Go answer the door, Buffy."

Mrs. Summers waited in the living room while her daughter opened the door. She could only see Buffy, and saw the grin on her face upon seeing their guest. A minute later, Buffy entered the room once again, holding hands with a tall, dark-haired man in his mid-twenties.

"Mom, I'd like you to meet Angel. Angel, this my mother, Joyce Summers," Buffy introduced.

Mrs. Summers extended her hand to the young man. ‘Buffy wasn't lying when she said he was good-looking.' "It's a pleasure to meet you, Angel."

"Likewise, ma'am," he replied, shaking her hand.

"Please, call me Joyce." She took a seat on the reclining chair while Buffy and Angel sat close to each other on the couch. "Tell me a bit about yourself."

Angel took a deep breath. He tried not to show how nervous he was, but meeting Buffy's mother proved to be nerve-wracking. "I'm twenty-seven years old, I lived in L.A. almost my entire life, graduated from UCLA three years ago with a Master's in History."

"How do you support yourself?"

He looked at Buffy, who mouthed, "Tell her the truth." "I've been tutoring Buffy for almost a month now, so that takes care of my food expenses. But the majority of my income comes from the Watcher's Council."

"The Watcher's Council?" questioned Mrs. Summers. "The ones in charge of the Slayers?"

"One in the same. I've been training to be a Watcher for three years now. I came to Sunnydale to learn the everyday routine of the Slayer -- Buffy," said Angel.

"That's very interesting. So you are going to be a Watcher to a Slayer. After Buffy dies."

Angel saw where Mrs. Summers was going with this. "I'm not going to let anything happen to Buffy. I swear it. I love her, Mrs. Summers...Joyce."

"I trust that you won't let anything happen to my daughter. And by the look in your eyes, I can tell you love Buffy. I'm happy for you both."

"Thank you."

"What about your family? What do they think of your career choice, Angel?" she wanted to know.

When Angel didn't answer right away, Buffy grasped his hand. "I never met my father, he left before I was born. My mother...she died when I was six. Her Watcher raised me."

"Her Watcher? Your mother was a Slayer?"

"Yes. It's -- it's not something I'm comfortable discussing. I'm sorry."

Buffy glanced at the clock on the VCR. "Angel, we should get a move on. The vamps are going to be out soon."

He nodded in agreement. "You're right." They stood up. "It was nice to meet you, Joyce."

"Same here. Please don't be a stranger. You're welcome here anytime."

"Thank you very much."

Angel and Buffy headed for the door. "Buffy?" Mrs. Summers called.

"Yeah, Mom?" she asked.

"He's a nice young man, honey. Hold on to him with both hands. Don't let him go."

"I'm not planning on it."

********

17

Buffy and Angel walked through the cemetery. They'd come across two vampires in the hour since they began patrolling.

"I'm getting pooped," she said. "The vamps are out in full force tonight. Must be the weather."

"Yeah. Must be."

She glanced at him. His handsome face wore a mask of sadness. "What's wrong?"

He shook his head. "Nothing. Don't worry about it."

Buffy stopped walking, and Angel stopped as well. "I am worried about it. If we're going to make us work, we have to be honest with each other. Please tell me what's on your mind."

Angel sat down on the grass, leaning against a gravestone. "I want so badly to tell you everything, Buffy. But talking about my mother is hard for me."

"Look, I'm sorry about what my mother said. She didn't know, Angel. And whenever you're ready to tell me about her, I'll be here to listen. Forever, remember?" She sat down next to him, holding his arm as a show of comfort, support and love.

"How did I get so lucky?"

"We're both lucky, I guess." She leaned over, kissing him softly.

"Aren't we supposed to be patrolling?" he asked when the kiss ended.

"We're taking a break. A pooped Slayer is a careless Slayer. Let that be lesson number one," Buffy told him.

Angel smiled. "Lessons now? Do I have to take notes, too?"

"No, let's leave that to Giles." She stared for a moment into the darkness. "Giles! What are we going to tell him? About us."

"The truth. I thought we didn't care what people thought about us. As long as we love each other, nobody else matters," reminded Angel.

"You're right. But I'm freaked now; we have to tell Giles. It never occurred to me, but what if he tells the Council and you lose your job?"

"Don't worry so much. If the Council fires me, then I can do something else."

Buffy looked at him. "You told me being a Watcher was all you ever wanted to do. Because of your mom." She realized she'd made a mistake in mentioning Angel's mother. "Oops. Sorry."

"It's okay, Buffy. You don't have to tiptoe around the subject. I think I'm ready to tell you about her, but now here, not now. Maybe tomorrow. And as for my being a Watcher, you're right. It is all I ever wanted to do. But if it comes down to choosing between you and the Watcher's Council, I'll choose you without a second thought. The Council means a lot to me, but you mean so much more. You're my true love, Buffy. Nothing will ever change that."

"You'd do that for me? Give up everything you ever worked for?"

Angel touched his forehead to hers. "Nothing else matters to me anymore except you."

Buffy hugged him close to her, leaning her head into the juncture where his shoulder and neck met, kissing his warm skin. "I love you so much. I never thought it was possible to love someone like this."

"Me either."

********

For the second night in a row, Buffy slept soundly. When she awakened Sunday morning she felt refreshed and relaxed, almost as if she were a new person. Her alarm clock read ten-fourteen, so Buffy climbed out of bed, stretching. She walked downstairs to the kitchen, expecting to find her mother sitting at the table. Instead, she found a note.

Buffy,

Had some errands to run. I'll be back by noon, I promise. Mr. Giles called at nine this morning to ask about patrol last night. Please call him back, he sounded anxious.

Love,

Mom

Buffy sighed. Calling Giles was the last thing she wanted to do. Patrolling hadn't exactly gone as usual. She and Angel spent more time kissing then slaying. Picking up the phone, Buffy dialed Giles' number.

"Hello?" he answered, on the third ring.

"Hi, Giles. Mom left me a note saying you called. What's up?"

"Did you just wake up?" he wanted to know.

"Yeah. I was a little tired."

Giles cleared his throat. "Was it a late night last night? Did patrol go well?"

"Uh-huh. Got four vamps in all. We had loads of fun."

"We? Willow went with you?"

Buffy didn't know whether or not to tell him the truth or not. If she told Giles that Angel went with her, he might find it a bit odd. They only patrolled together during the week. Or so he thought. "No. Me and the vamps ‘we', not Willow and me ‘we.'"

"Very well. Patrol was fruitful, though?"

"Yep. Told you, got four vamps."

"How was Prom, then? I know how excited Xander and Willow were about it. Did you have a good time?" Giles asked.

"I had a great time, Giles." ‘Thanks to Angel.'

"I'm glad to hear it. I only called to see how patrol went last night. Unless something unforseen should occur, I'll see you in school tomorrow, Buffy."

"‘Bye, Giles." Buffy hung up the phone. "Thank God that's over."

********

At two o'clock, Buffy was sitting on the couch next to Angel in his apartment, holding the picture of him and his mother. "I can't get over how cute you were," she said.

"Were?"

"Okay, so you're still cute. I love that little blue baseball cap. Do you still have it?"

He shook his head. "After we moved, most of my stuff stayed in San Francisco. I have very few things from my childhood."

"That must have been hard, leaving everything behind."

"I don't remember it really well. My mother's Watcher, Mr. Kensington -- I always called him Geoffrey -- thought it would be better if we moved away from the bad memories. Mom died on a Thursday night and we were in L.A. by Friday afternoon."

Buffy snuggled closer to Angel. "I'm sorry. Have you ever been back there?"

"In 1996, before I left for England to begin my Watcher studies, I visited her grave. Left her a dozen roses and told her how much I missed her. I haven't been back since," Angel said.

"What was her name?"

"Carolyn Reilly."

"She had a beautiful name. She was a beautiful woman, Angel. And she loved you, I can tell just by looking at the expression on her face in this picture."

He managed a smile. "I loved her, too. I only wish there was more I could remember about her."

"You were young." She rested her head on his shoulder. "There is one more thing I'm curious about."

"What's that?"

"I'm not sure if you even know the answer to it."

"Try me."

"Well, why did she name you Angel? It's such an unusual name," Buffy commented. ‘Like Buffy is such a normal name, too.'

Angel exhaled deeply. "My mother had been patrolling with her Watcher when she was seven and a half months pregnant. They were attacked by a vampire, but before Mr. Kensington could stake him, the vamp kicked my mother in the stomach. She went into premature labor and gave birth to me the next day. The doctor's weren't sure if I would make it; being the early seventies, the hospital didn't have much in the way of neo-natal technology. She named me Angel so that if I lived or died, she'd always have an angel with her."

"I wish I could have met her, she sounds like a great woman."

"From what I've heard, she was."

Buffy wrapped her arms around Angel, giving him a long, loving kiss. "We'll visit her someday soon. You and me."

"You mean it? You'd go with me, Buffy?"

"Yes I would. I want to thank her for giving me you."

********

18

"How was your weekend? Anything interesting happen?" Cordelia asked Monday morning at lunch.

The gang sat at a round table next to the window facing the library. Through the library's window, Buffy could see Giles and Angel sorting through a pile of books. She licked her lips, imagining her lips on his, her hands in his hair, his hands running up and down her back. Buffy shook off the image. ‘Not here. I can't be thinking about that here,' she scolded herself.

"My weekend was great, Cordy. How was yours?" Buffy knew what Cordelia was really asking, but wouldn't give out the details unless asked outright.

"Who cares about my weekend. I wanna hear what it was like to wake up next to Angel."

Buffy shrugged. "It was nice, I guess."

"Nice?" repeated the brunette. "Please, Angel is a total hunk, you shared a bed with him and all you can say was that it was nice?"

Xander raised his hand. "Hello, Xander's still sitting at the table. Do you really have to remind us that History Boy is good-looking? Because I think we already covered that awhile ago."

"Shut up, Xander," Cordelia and Willow said in unison.

"Come on," pleaded Cordelia. "I want details."

"Fine. When I woke up Saturday morning, I was in his arms and he was watching me sleep."

Cordelia widened her brown eyes. "Did anything happen? Did you two...?"

"No! Nothing like that happened."

"You might want to tell them the news, Buffy," Willow suggested.

Buffy glanced into the library window again. Angel looked out at the same time. She smiled. "Angel and I decided that we belong together."

"That's great. Congratulations!" Cordelia gave her friend a hug.

"It's about time," said Xander. "How'd you two crazy kids finally come to that conclusion? Because we've known for quite some time now."

"I had a long talk with my mother and she convinced me to tell him how I feel. So I went to his apartment and told him. I said I loved him and he said the same thing. And things just went on from there."

"Were there smoochies?" Xander wanted to know.

"Maybe. Okay, so there were lots of smoochies. At his apartment and on patrol."

"You guys were making out in public while you supposed to be patrolling?"

"You guys make it sound so bad. And we weren't in public. We were in the cemetery," explained Buffy.

Willow had a question. "What does Giles have to say?"

Buffy shrugged. "Angel and I haven't told him. We're kind of afraid of what he'll say."

"Why would Giles be upset about it?" Xander asked. "Angel's just your History tutor." He didn't know that Angel was a Watcher. Buffy never had a reason to tell him.

"Because Angel's a Watcher-in-training sent here to observe me and train with Giles. And Watchers aren't supposed to have any kind of feelings for Slayers. They're supposed to be detached."

Xander nodded his head in understanding. "Ah. I can see why Giles would have a problem with you two being a couple. Are you guys gonna tell him, though?"

"Eventually. But not right away. Yeah, it's going to be hard to keep it from Giles...he's always there. He will totally flip out, I just know it."

********

Throughout their tutoring session, Buffy and Angel had a hard time keeping their hands off of each other. They held hands under the table, brushed their legs against each other, stole glances at each other when Giles wasn't looking. He walked in and out of his office every five minutes.

"Is he ever gonna leave?" Buffy muttered under her breath. "We can't even get five minutes alone together without Giles walking into the room."

Angel grasped her hand. "Buffy, we'll be patrolling tonight. Alone. Giles won't be there."

"I don't want to wait that long. God, it took all my self-control to keep from kissing you when I walked in here. Even now it's hard," said Buffy.

"I know exactly what you mean. But we should get back to work before he starts getting suspicious."

"Probably a good idea." Buffy turned the page in her History book. "Be tutor and tutoree Angel and Buffy. Got it. Let's move on to the Nixon administration. Lots of fun there."

Angel gave her a small smile. "Maybe it'll get my mind off how much I want to kiss you right now."

"Save that thought for later."

Half an hour later, their History lesson ended. Buffy walked to the locker room to change into her workout clothes. Giles came out of his office once again and approached Angel, who stood at the table packing up the History books.

"Angel, a problem has arisen that requires my immediate attention. I won't be able to partake in Buffy's training session today. You've sat through enough of them, and I feel I can trust you to take my place," Giles informed the young man.

"You want me to train Buffy today?"

"I feel you can handle it. Can I trust you, Angel?" Giles asked with a raised eyebrow.

Angel was offended. "I would hope you wouldn't have to ask me such a question."

"I know your feelings for Buffy run deeply. I want to be sure you won't let them get in the way."

‘A little late for that.' "Not to worry, Giles. Everything is under control."

"Very well. I don't know when I'll be back. Be careful, Angel. Buffy is a difficult adversary. She's strong and powerful."

Angel nodded. "I'm stronger than most humans; I inherited my mother's strength. Giles, I'll be able to hold my own."

"Good luck and I shall see you later." The elder Watcher exited the library.

Five minutes after Giles left, Buffy returned. She looked around, but didn't see her Watcher in the room. "Where's Giles?" she wanted to know.

"He had to leave. Some kind of emergency came up and he had to go," answered Angel.

"What about my training?"

"I'm doing it today. Giles thinks I'm ready to work on training with you."

Buffy grinned. ‘Alone at last.' "I hope you can handle it. I may just kick your ass."

Angel lifted his gray sweater over his head and placed it on the table behind him. He wore nothing underneath, and stood bare chested in front of Buffy. "Don't hold back. I have a lot of my mother's strength, I can take it."

Buffy headed over to the cage where Giles keeps the weapons. She pulled out two swords, one for her and one for Angel. "Ready to fight?" she asked, tossing him one.

"Ready, willing and able. Hit me with your best shot."

She swung at him, narrowly missing his head. Angel blocked the next swing with a blow of his own. This went on for ten minutes before they dropped their weapons in favor of punches and kicks. Buffy eased her punches so as not to hurt Angel. He, however, opted to do just the opposite. He unleashed all of his strength, proving that he could take anything she threw at him. With one roundhouse kick, Angel knocked Buffy to the ground flat on her back.

"Ow," she complained. "That hurt."

"Sorry. Here, let me help you up." Angel held out his hand, intending to assist Buffy in standing.

When she gripped his arm, Buffy pulled him, forcing him to fall on top of her. "This feels a lot better."

"Buffy, you could be hurt."

"So kiss me and make it all better."

"Buffy..."

She wrapped her arms around his neck when Angel tried to stand up. Buffy used all of her strength to hold him in place. He couldn't get out of her grasp. Fearing he may be putting unnecessary pressure on her possibly injured body, Angel applied all of his body weight onto his arms, keeping his upper body off Buffy.

The kiss great from fun-loving to dangerously passionate in a short period of time. Their tongues dueled inside each others' mouths, and Buffy ran her hands across the warm, damp skin of Angel's bare back, trying to memorize each ridge. Her legs tangled around his, lifting his one pant leg over his calf.

Giles entered the library, staring in shock at Buffy and Angel's heated embrace on the floor. When he could form a sentence, he exclaimed, "What the hell is going on here?"

********

19

They disentangled their limbs and climbed quickly to their feet. Buffy straightened her hair while Angel fixed his pant leg. "Giles, this isn't what it looks like," Buffy said.

"Really?"

"I--I can explain," Angel began with a stammer.

"Let me guess. You were training and your lips fell on top of Buffy's?" Giles asked, matter-of-factly.

Angel gazed at the floor. There was no way he and Buffy could get out of this predicament without telling the Watcher the truth. She held his right hand in her left, placing her right hand on top of them. "Angel and I love each other very much and we belong together."

"Really?" he repeated. "When did this come about? Because last time I saw you two together you barely looked at one another. Now all of a sudden you're all over each other?"

"It happened this weekend, after Prom," Buffy said to Giles.

"I was under the impression you went alone, Buffy. Did you have a sudden revelation during the Electric Slide?"

"Willow asked me to go as a favor," Angel informed him. "She wanted Buffy to have a good time, so I went intending to be her date. Nothing more than that. Things just went on from there."

Giles nodded. "That explains why I was unable to get a hold of you Friday night. This -- this thing you two have decided upon is not a wise idea."

Buffy didn't get it. She expected Giles to be upset at first, but figured he'd get over his anger quickly. "Because of the Council? They are half a world away! And Angel and I don't care what they think; what anyone thinks. We're in love."

"Buffy, you being in a relationship with Angel is a mistake."

She threw her arms out in front of her. "Why? You've never had a problem with me dating before. You were always okay with Kevin and Scott and Owen."

Giles shook his head. "No I wasn't. A Slayer in a romantic relationship is dangerous. To both parties."

"What's so dangerous about me being with Angel? He knows who I am, what I am, he ca hold his own in a fight and he can protect me if I need protecting."

The Watcher exhaled his breath angrily. "Buffy, go change out of your workout clothes. I need to speak with Angel alone."

"No. Anything you say to Angel you can say to me, too."

"Now!" Giles shouted.

Glancing once at Angel before walking away, Buffy stormed out of the library.

"Giles, look--"

"No, I don't want to hear it," Giles interrupted. "But I do want to know what in bloody hell you were thinking. And for God's sake, put your shirt back on."

Angel did as Giles requested. "Buffy already told you, we love each other."

"Buffy is a naive, vulnerable, impressionable young woman. You are older and wiser, Angel. You should know better."

"I'm not going to hurt her. I love her more than I've ever loved anyone else."

"You know what the Council will say," he reminded Angel.

Angel shrugged. "So tell them. And while you're at it, why don't you tell them you love her, too. I know you do, she's like a daughter to you." He was beginning to lose his temper with Giles' threats.

"Yes, I love her, but I don't go making out with her on the library floor for everyone to watch, either! I hoped you would show better judgement than that."

"I refuse to apologize for loving her; it was beyond my control. You make it seem as though I planned it. Like I saw her and said, ‘She's really pretty. I think I'll fall in love with her.' Love isn't brains, it's blood. And part of being in love is losing control. I may not have much experience in matters of the heart, but I know that much."

Giles frowned. "I suppose nothing I say will stop you from continuing on with Buffy. The repercussions of this decision are yours to deal with. Angel, you should have thought more about this before jumping into whatever you're jumping into with Buffy."

"I've thought about it for a month now. Any doubt I had flew out the window when Buffy said she loves me. And there is nothing you can say or do to change my mind. I'm old enough to make my own decisions, Giles, I don't need your blessing. If you'll excuse me, I have to go find Buffy."

After Angel left, Giles entered his office, pulled out his address book and dialed the long-distance number he searched for. He waited anxiously until it was the answered on the other end.

"Hello, this is Rupert Giles...I am fine, how are you?...I'm glad to hear it. I'm sorry to bother you, I know how busy you are. But there is a problem here that I believe you can help me with. It's in regards to Angel. I desperately need your help."

********

"Will, it was horrible," Buffy said on the phone with Willow before dinner. "Giles totally lost it. He yelled at me and said that me and Angel are a bad idea."

"Maybe he just needs some time. It must have been a big shock to him, seeing you two making out on the floor."

"I guess so. But he could've been more understanding. He acted like we were driven by our hormones or something like that. We aren't, though. Angel and I love and respect each other."

"I know that, Buffy. I can see where he's coming from, though. He walked into the library and found you two getting hot and heavy on the floor. Maybe he thought you were going to...to sleep together if he hadn't come in when he did." Willow was trying to see things from Giles' perspective.

"No way! I'm not ready for that yet."

"Then let me ask you this: when Giles walked in, how far had you gone with Angel?"

Buffy sighed. She knew what Willow was getting at. "We were on the floor. I guess at least second base, pushing third. But that still doesn't give Giles the right to say that stuff about us."

"He's only looking out for you. He could think you're still on the rebound from Kevin."

"No. Giles said me and Angel were dangerous if we are a couple. God, I wish he could see things the way I do. I'm over Kevin, I love Angel. Why can't he see that?"

"Buffy! Dinner!" Mrs. Summers called from the kitchen.

"I have to eat dinner now. See you tomorrow, Willow. ‘Bye." Buffy hung up the phone and headed for the kitchen. She sat down in her usual chair.

"How was school today, Buffy?" Mrs. Summers asked.

Buffy shrugged. "Okay, I guess." She didn't feel like telling her mother about the incident in the library.

"What's wrong? Something's bothering you, I can tell."

"It's nothing. I just had a bad day."

"Did something happen with your friends? With Angel?"

She shook her head. "No. Everything's fine with them."

"Then what is it?"

"I don't want to talk about it. Can we eat, please? I'm hungry and I have to patrol tonight," Buffy said.

"Is Angel going with you?"

"No. I'm stopping by his place after I'm done. I may be home a little later than usual."

Mrs. Summers eyed her daughter. "I hope you're not planning on doing anything irrational."

"Mom, don't worry. Angel and I are taking things slowly. I'm not ready for that big of a step," Buffy reassured her mother.

"Alright, I believe you and I trust you. I'll extend your curfew to eleven, but not a minute later."

Buffy smiled. "Thanks. I just really need to talk to him."

********

"I still don't get why Giles flipped out. Yeah, I understand it, you're a Watcher and I'm a Slayer. But we love each other. He should be happy for us," Buffy said. She felt tears running down her cheeks.

"You don't have to cry over it. He'll come around. Right now he's in shock over what he saw," Angel tried to comfort her. He pulled her face to his chest, letting her cry.

She sniffled. "Is he going to tell the Council?"

He caressed her cheek with his fingers. "I don't know. Personally, I don't care. I love you. And I don't think he could say anything. It would be hypocritical of him to do so. Giles thinks of you like a daughter, so in a way, he loves you, only different from the way I do. Telling the Council and having them investigate would jeopardize his job, not just mine."

Buffy leaned her head up, kissing his neck, working her way up to his lips. Unlike the last time, Angel didn't try to stop her. He kissed her with the same ferocity, plundering her mouth with his tongue. She moaned with pleasure when his hands roamed under her shirt, moving up and down her back, and when his lips trailed from her mouth to her ears and then to her throat. He moved his hands, putting them on her upper arms, pushing to her lay flat on the couch cushions.

With Angel on top of her, Buffy took the opportunity to remove his sweater, leaving him as clothed as he had been earlier. She raked her nails across his skin, moving her hands up and down gently. "Oh God, don't stop. Please, I love you, don't stop," she whispered as he nibbled on her earlobe.

A knock on the door caused Angel to stop his ministrations. "Don't answer it," Buffy told him.

"I have to. It might be important." He climbed off of her and pulled his sweater back on. He opened the door, surprised to see a tall, salt-and-pepper haired man standing on the other side. "Geoffrey."

Geoffrey Kensington smirked at Angel. "Hello, Angel. Aren't you going to invite me in?"

********

Part 2



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