"He's not just an old friend of the gang..." Riley said.
Buffy shook her head, and sat down, glad she had to put on her shoes, so she wouldn't have to look up and see the hurt on his face that she could hear in his voice.
"You love him..." he went on, saying out loud for the first time something he'd been pondering for weeks, "You don't love me."
She looked sadly up at him, into his sweet blue eyes, and nodded.
Riley blinked, but didn't look away.
"Then, I'm not sure what you're doing here," he said.
That time she saw the wound tearing open behind his eyes.
"I'm sorry," she said, got up, and pulled on her jacket.
The giant shoulders immediately and completely engulfed her, and drowned her in Angel's cool, clean scent.
His coat. She had taken his coat.
Riley really couldn't think of a thing to say, as he came to the same realization.
Buffy turned and walked out, letting the door click shut behind her.
"Goodbye," Riley said to it.
It was already long past noon when she finished showering and changing, and came to the mansion. It was quiet and still, as she had expected to find it. Angel would be sleeping deeply, utterly drained by everything that had happened the night before.
She slipped silently through the front door, glad that he ran such a tight ship, and always kept the floorboards and hinges creak-free.
Once she shut the door behind her, she felt as though she had been sealed inside an air-tight jar with nothing in it to breathe but his essence.
She leaned heavily against the stone wall, struggling to catch her breath. Buffy had suddenly and completely come undone, and completely forgotten all she had come there to say.
That is, until she looked up, and saw him leaning easily in the doorway opposite her, rumpled and sleepy in nothing but black slacks, his hands crammed into his pockets.
"H-hi," she said.
Never taking his eyes from hers, Angel crossed the room and stood before her, looking down into her face as he placed a gentle hand on her shoulder.
"I knew you'd come," he said, inching closer to her, "I always knew."
His lips barely touched hers, and her blood began immediately to boil, her very bones aching for him. she reached up and took his beloved face between her hands, pulling his mouth closer and deeper into hers.
Angel reached down and lifted Buffy into his arms, and walked with her up to the bedroom, never allowing their lips to detach for even a moment.
He set her down on her feet beside the bed and looked down at her, as if she were a buffet, and he wasn't certain where to start his "all-you-can-devour".
Buffy quaked with desire and fear, blinking furiously up at him.
Angel pursed his lips in concern, and reached up to brush her cheek.
"I want..." he began, but thought better of it, "Are you sure this is what you want?"
She took a step closer to him, and lay her hand on his still chest.
"This is all I've ever wanted," she said softly.
He exhaled deeply, and slowly reached down to pull off her silk blouse, delighting to find nothing beneath as it fell away. He stared at her fine, smooth skin in wonder, and she gasped in response to what was almost a touch from his eyes.
Angel put his open palm over her heart and held perfectly still, letting its quickened pulse vibrate through him. He closed his eyes, remembering the many tastes of her... her flesh, her blood, the hot ambrosia from her core...
He slowly brushed his hand across her chest, trailing a finger under the softest part of each breast, then slowly back up, lingering tenderly over the hardest.
Buffy drew a ragged breath, and closed her own eyes, reveling in the very right feeling of his hands on her.
He pulled her to him, crushing her lips to his own, sliding his tongue boldly between her blunt teeth, and blazing a cool path around the inside of her mouth.
He moaned when her hands settled at his waits, caressed slowly down, and then quickly back up, over his shoulders.
The first layer of barrier between them gone, they stood still once again, staring at one another.
Angel hesitantly reached out and took her hand, using it to pull her closer to him. They both gasped when they came fully skin-to-skin.
He felt something base and animal begin to stir in his gut, something searing and uncontrollable that he'd rarely ever felt, and certainly hadn't, in a very long time. When had it last been? That cool spring night when he had drank from her veins? Or had it been the moment he had entered her as a living man, that past autumn?
It didn't matter. It was a lust he couldn't control. He tore off her pants and underwear, and pushed her down on the bed. Buffy lay back, her knees still bent over the edge, and her feet swinging inches from the floor.
He dropped to his knees before her, and plunged his face between her legs. There was no more powerful pull than this... this true essence that flowed from her in response to his touch, into his nose and his mouth and over his tongue... It was a taste of something even more fundamental than the blood he could hear rushing through the big artery throbbing inside her thigh. It was a sensation sweeter, even, then the well-remembered thick flow of her blood washing across his lips, his teeth, his tongue, and down his throat.
Angel drank her now without fear or shame, using the very same mouth for one fair purpose, and one only:
To keep her moaning and whimpering the way she was now... to keep her shouting his name, just like that, as she clamped her strong knees against his head.
He moaned into her, but didn't look up. He only kept licking and dipping into her. He lost count of many strokes he used on each hot inch of her. Every cell of her flesh began to jump under his touch as she finally collapsed beneath him.
Angel wiped his mouth, staring at her from under lust-lidded eyes, as he joined her face to face, near the pillows.
Buffy still hadn't caught her breath, and she looked at him in pleasurable amazement.
"Ah... I... oh..." she gasped, smiling.
He smiled back.
She looked over every millimeter of his face. He never aged, of course, and he looked exactly as he had the first time she'd looked into big brown eyes.
"Is this real?" she whispered, "Is this okay? Can we do this?"
Angel looked at her, his smile slipping a little. "I don't see any way it couldn't be," he said.
"But we don't know... what if..."
"Sh," he said, stopping her with a gentle fingertip to her lips, "They owe me. They owe both of us, for what we've done. We saved humanity. Averted the apocalypse. That was the deal. Now it's time for us to get what reward we have coming."
It sounded stupid and over-dramatic, even to his ears. But it was the truth. Something had told him... something inside had come alive with knowing and had made him cry in her arms last night in that cave.
He didn't know how he knew, but he did.
"There are few things more important in all the dimensions than truth, Buffy. And to me?" he traced a line across her cheek, under her jaw, and back to her lips again, "You are the truth. Your love is my redemption. Being with you is my reward."
She leaned down and kissed him softly.
Buffy reached down and undid his pants, sliding her hands against his hard skin inside. He sighed deeply at her warm touch.
"Make love to me, Angel... please..." she said, stroking him softly.
Angel opened his eyes and looked at her. He felt suddenly uncertain and awkward, like the young boy he hadn't been in over two centuries. Although her hands slowly sliding his pants over his legs felt more like home than any place he'd ever laid his head, he still found himself unable to move.
Buffy didn't seem to notice. She began licking the outlines of every carved muscle of his chest and arms, working her way down until she was tracing what he could swear were the letters of his name over his stomach.
She wasn't awkward or uncertain at all as she sealed her lips over his hardness, and slid its length to the hilt, far in the back of her throat.
He grunted from the hot sensation, his eyes rolling back in his head.
He could remember, vaguely, when he had died. There was a sudden quiet that echoed in the mind as the synapses fired one last time before the nothing that followed. That moment was filled with light, for some people; with Jesus or Jehovah or Allah for others; and still others saw the shades of the beloved dead waiting for them beyond the pale.
For Angel, it had been like this -- a painful, exquisite collapsing sensation, as his heart clenched, the muscles in his body became rigid from starvation for blood, and the feeling of being turned inside out and set on fire raging through him. A cry grew from the depths of his soul as Buffy drew on him, accepting him, swallowing him in the heaven of her lips as the world exploded around him.
That's why the French called it Le Petit Morte - "The Little Death"...
When he regained consciousness, Angel found himself watching Buffy licking her lips sheepishly.
"Like Elmer's Glue-All," she observed.
Angel scowled and crunched up his nose at her, "I never, really, needed to hear that."
Buffy gave him a broad, genuine smile, then leaned down to rest her ear against his quiet chest. She loved it when he held her, keeping himself so still it was almost like he wasn't there at all, and yet she could feel him like she could feel her own skin still humming from his touch.
She took a deep breath, and let it out with a satisfied sigh.
He smiled and put his arms around her. He remembered this... he remembered exactly this...
"I want you to stay with me," she said quietly, "I won't let you go again. Last time, I almost had myself convinced that you were right to go... that I needed to be far away from you to grow or to change... without this..."
Angel leaned his head against hers.
"And then I realized," she went on, "Last night, when you read that poem, I knew. I tried to ignore it, tried to deny it, tried to wash it away with someone else... But I already knew that I could never be away from you again. No matter what I told myself. No matter what you told yourself. No matter what we told each other. And I felt like I had missed something important between us. All these little moments like backstory of why I needed to be with you now. To get back there again..." she paused, "Am I making any sense at all?"
He chuckled softly and pulled her closer, "Perfect sense," he assured her.
Buffy woke some time later to the touch of his cool lips on the back of her neck. Her body responded immediately to him, and she arched her back into the spoon his big body formed around her.
//Right. Safe. Beautiful.//
She felt his hardness pressed against the backs of her thighs, and she opened them to him, an involuntary gasp escaping from her lips as an invitation.
Angel held his breath as he gently bent her body forward, and slid inside her. He exhaled slowly as his sank into her heat, sheathing himself to the root.
Buffy whimpered a little for a moment, and he hesitated, afraid to hurt her. But she resisted the interruption, sliding her hips closer to him once again.
He wrapped himself around her and kissed her cheek as he eased out of her, and then back in again.
She reached her arm around the back of his head, and clutched his hair.
"God..." she gasped.
Angel breathed heavily into her ear as he slowly rocked her. He knew she was his mate without any doubt, simply because of the sheer range of emotions that tore through him, only sharpened by his passion and how close he finally was to her, after so long a time...
"I don't know how to let you go," he gasped, his need for her quickly consuming him, "I tried, but I can't. I can't be apart from you..." he paused, holding his breath and ceasing his gentle motion for a moment, "Ah... mmmm... I can't. You're a part of me..." he struggled to finish his thought. He swore that he would say everything he ever had to say to her, before they were done making love this day.
If someone came and burst the bubble their reunion had formed around them, he wanted to make sure there was nothing that he left unsaid. Nothing to regret.
"Angel... Angel..." Buffy half-sang, and half cried. She felt so full... not only her body, which was so overflowing with his, but her heart and her soul, as well.
He leaned forward and kissed away the tears as they fell from her eyes.
"Never again," he sighed, "Never. I don't know how."
Their bodies found that perfect rhythm again within seconds, and both of them gasped and sighed and moaned and called out to the other, forgetting where one ended and the next began.
Angel could barely hold himself back anymore. But... if this weren't true, if he wasn't right, then letting go would be the end. The next thing he would feel would be his soul being ripped from his body.
The look of pure, wild bliss on the Slayer's face beneath him told him that she was not afraid. If she wasn't, then he wouldn't be, either.
"I love you... so much... you're so... uhhhh... so beautiful..." he pressed his cheek to hers and held her as closely to him as he could, and with his free hand, reached down and dipped his fingers into her wet curls. He found that hot, throbbing spot and touched it with a feather touch, causing her to cry out and thrust herself back onto him. He pushed himself deep inside her, in time with the rhythm of his fingers on her hard flesh.
"Oh, Angel... god... I love you... yes..."
//This is it. This is right.//
They both thought it as they came, clutching helplessly and desperately at one another, their lips inextricably locked. Buffy arched her back so hard, Angel swore he heard her spine crack.
That was it. He was done. His mind checked out and his soul started screaming. But it was a beautiful pain... Her hair, like silk, choked him as he lowered his face through it and to her neck. He clamped his human teeth over her tough jugular, and came harder from the sensation of his fangs not sinking into her skin, as anything else.
Buffy collapsed, completely limp, in his arms, and he softly kissed her ear. She lay quietly, thinking about the memory of his heartbeat.
//It wasn't that Riley felt wrong, exactly... it just wasn't... this. Him.//
Angel spent those moments memorizing, again, the feeling of being part of her... the feeling of her body, held full-length against him.
"Beautiful," he whispered.
"I want to stay," he went on, stroking her shoulder with his thumb and nuzzling her softly, "If you'll have me, I want to try."
She slowly turned over and looked into his eyes, "I wouldn't have you be anywhere else," she promised, kissing the tip of his nose, "Ever again."
Graphics mangled by Ducks, 2000. Please don't steal them without being a nice, decent sort, and asking...