Title: Memories from a Forgotten Day

By: Mariah (miaow@zahav.net.il)

Disclaimer: None of the characters is mine. They all have been 'temporarily borrowed' from BtVS and AtS to appear in my story. They all belong to Joss and the rest. The featured songs aren't mine too.

Distribution: Just ask me first.

Spoilers: General BtVS4 and AtS1, just to be safe.

Summary: Takes place when Buffy returns from her 'half forgotten' visit to Angel. They both end up broken hearted, and both sink into depression after that day - especially Angel, who also struggles alone to endure the memories. However, something from that day brings them to a very happy ending! Now, why didn't Joss think about a happy ending?!:(

AN: You'll se that Angel's living arrangements are different from the show's. Reason - simple. My world, my rules. I needed it for the story.

AN2: It kinda concentrates on Buffy-dad relationship too. He's the supportive type. And Joyce Summers is a bitch. Not that she's not on a regular basis, though, cuz I've personally hated her ever since "The Prom".

Feedback: Yes! It's basic necessity!:)

+ Part One +

"Buffy, is that you?" Hank Summers shouted from his study as he heard the door.

"Yeah," he barely picked up the reply.

Buffy was about to go up to her room when her father stopped her.

"Where have you been?" he wanted to know.

The Slayer looked down. "Just visiting a friend," she murmured.

Hank quirked a brow. "A friend?" he asked in surprise. "Before you left, you said you were going to the mall," he reminded.

Buffy shot him an irritated stare. "Look," she threw her hands up in surrender. "Why are you interrogating me?! If you already knew where I was, what's the third degree for?"

"You look like the world has come to an end. It's an unconstrained proclivity at a father, to ask his daughter if something's wrong when he feels something is."

Buffy seemed jittery. "Everything's fine," she assured, "I'm fine."

Her father wasn't convinced. "Buffy, what's wrong with you? I don't understand you."

"Yeah, you and the rest of the world. Take a number," she growled.

"What or who are you so mad at? And why do you feel you have to lie to me?"

Buffy just looked at him. "I wanna go up to my room now, if you don't mind. An act, which is usually being done when a certain person prefers to be left alone. I don't know what you're talking about, and to be frank with you, I don't care. I just wanna be left alone. You think that can be arranged?"

Not waiting for any kind of a reply from her father, she simply went up, leaving him wondering after her in perplexity.

Fifteen minutes later, Buffy heard a knock on her door.

"The concept 'wanna be left alone' really is kinda outlandish to you, isn't it?" she asked.

"Whenever it comes to you, yes. Can I come in?" Hank requested.

"Whatever," she muttered.

He walked in and sat on the edge of her bed. "So," he patted her arm, "are you gonna tell me?"

"Tell you what?"

"For instance, who is this friend? And even more importantly, how did he make you cry?"

Buffy hastened to wipe the remained tears off of her face. "I'm not crying," she tried to sound as convincing as possible. "See? All happy Buffy," she put on a smirk.

Her father smiled at her attempt to cover everything up and stroked her arm. "Come on," he prompted, "you know you can tell me."

"Look, dad, you don't know him anyway, so what good would it do if I told you?"

"I know it's a 'he'," Hank grinned.

"And your point being?" Buffy held on to her careless simper.

"Let me guess, an old boyfriend?"

"Something like that," Buffy whispered.

"Something like that," Hank echoed.

"Dad, I can't talk to you about these stuff. It's the kind of never-talk-to-your-dad-about stuff."

"Do you talk to your mom, then?"

The Slayer sniggered. "Right! I'll talk to mom about him and she's on her way to extreme mental care. Dad, she'll freak!"

"Promise not to freak," Hank pledged.

"I don't know. It's all way to weird. You'll never…"

"Does it have anything to do with the slaying?"

Buffy almost choked on her words. "W…what?!"

"The slaying. Your mother told me, I know, Buffy."

"Since when?" she gawked at him.

"Pretty much since she found out."

"Why didn't you ever say anything?"

"Well, your mother said it's supposed to be a secret."

Buffy beamed. "And she also made sure it stayed that way," she looked away. "I wonder what else she told you."

Hank touched her chin and faced her back to him. "Come on. Tell me what's bothering you."

Buffy smiled.

"What's so funny?"

"Nothing. He…it's just…the way you just did that…never mind," she regained her serious expression. "But the whole slaying thing is as nothing as compared to that."

"Still, it used to be so easy for you to talk to me, what changed? What happened?"

Buffy decided she'd better give up, or else it was possible to last forever, knowing where she inherited her stubbornness. She looked at her father carefully. "Do you…do you believe in vampires, dad?" she inquired right to the point.

Hank chuckled. "Well, it is hard not to, having a Slayer as a daughter. Anyhow, if your genuine question was whether or not I'm aware of what's going on in Sunnydale, my answer would be 'yes'. Your mother and I have been having endless arguments about you continuing living there. By the way, as long as we are on the subject, I have suggested plenty of times about you moving in with me. But…we can discuss it some other time," he realized he had drifted off-topic. "Go on."

"Do you know what vampires are?"

"I read 'Dracula'," he beamed. "I've never met one, so I guess no. But to quote your mother - scary, deadly and ugly beasts. She's not too fond of them, is she?"

Buffy smiled. "I can't really imagine anyone to be in a different opinion. Still, there are…exceptions," she wasn't certain it was put out right.

"Umm…such as?"

"A vampire is a demon. Needless to say - bad. I kill them…mostly. But something happened that…I fell in love with one."

Hank drew back in stupefaction. "You what?!"

"Vampires don't have souls. Once a person is possessed by the vampire's demon, he loses the grip on his soul. The demon plainly doesn't need it anymore, that's why the vampires are pure evil. Only one of them has a curse cast on him by gypsies over one-hundred years ago. This curse had the ability to restore his soul. By his soul restoration, he also repossessed his conscience, and his emotions. All the things he had lost…mercy, compassion and loyalty…and love. Except for being a demon and an immortal…he's pure good. He's dedicated his life to making amends for all he had done as a monster. He's million times more human than most of the humans alive."

"You lost me."

"You think?" Buffy smirked. "I told you, you wouldn't understand. Mom also can't understand, that's why she…well, hates him."

"I don't even know him."

"You surprise me, dad. Most of the people would seize the fact that he's a vampire, making it more than enough to classify him as the bad guy. They would never bother to try to actually know him, and I am talking from lots of personal experiences."

"I'm not most people," her father said.

"And lucky me," Buffy smiled. "Anyway, I've known him for three years. We go…way back. I've known him ever since I moved to Sunnydale. He's known me ever since I was called as the Slayer. I was only 15 years old, and he was sent to protect me. Now that I think about it, I doubt if I would be alive today if it wasn't for him fighting with me, especially when I only heard of my calling and every vampire I came across then could very well be my last. If you know what I mean."

Hank nodded in understanding, then looked back up at his daughter. "How come you never told me?"

Buffy laughed. "Oh, that would be great! So, dad, hear this out, I'm a Slayer. You know what else? Surprise - I'm in love with a vampire! You know, actually, I'd die just to see your mien once I threw that on you. Really. So…now you know. His name is Angel," Buffy's heart flipped as she softly uttered his name. "He's older than me, a lot older. Something like…two-hundred-and-twenty-four years older. He's my first love, and as extraordinary as it is, I am his. He said…he fell in love with me from the moment he first saw me. Me too, actually. We broke up when I finished High School. He left me because he wanted me to have a chance for a real life and a real future. He knew he could never give me the day, give me children…and he knew that maybe not now, but in the long run, this was what I'd need. He did the noble thing, he gave up his happiness, not even thinking about the fact that he also gave up mine. He left. End of story. I just thought that the past months were enough for him to drop the nobility, and come to his senses. I guess I was wrong. Now the circumstances are the following - he causes both of us pain, but still convinced that in the end of the day, he's doing the right thing for me. Anyway, he moved to LA, and I jumped in to see him. That's all."

"I don't know what to say," Hank admitted.

"Don't say anything. I don't want you to say anything, it's just…nothing matters anymore. For both of us. It's like…all lost. Nothing that you would ever say would in any way change that. And it's kinda…hard to talk about, so…"

"Just one more thing. What happened? When you saw him?"

"I told him to stay away. I told him that it hurt when we're apart and that it hurt even more when we're apart but in the same place. He agreed, and I asked him to stay away from me, that given enough time…away…we might learn how to forget. Can you say a funny word?" the Slayer smirked.

"I suppose you can't wait to get home now," her father observed.

"Actually, no. That's the easy way out. I'm tired of that. I've had too many easy ways out and look where it got me. I just…I was standing there, snapping at him, demanding to leave me alone, witnessing my pain reflecting in the pain in his eyes, and more than anything in the world I wished for him to hold me in his arms again. I didn't want to yell at him, I wanted to kiss him. To tell him that I loved him, and to be told back the same. Instead, I just walked away. Turned around and left. It kinda makes you hate life, doesn't it?" Buffy reposed her head back on the pillow, staring away from her father, into space.

Hank got up and walked to the door.

"It's never too late," he prompted before closing it behind him. "Giving up on your happiness is one of those easy ways out you hate so much."

He was right. In her heart, Buffy knew he was right. It wasn't too late, not really. She had the power to change things if she really wanted to. So the sixty-four-million-dollar-question was, of course - what was keeping her away? She wished she knew. More than anything, Buffy feared that she truly believed Angel was right. Deep inside, in some forsaken place in her heart she craved was never there, the doubts kept haunting her. What if he's right? What then? Would it be easier then to admit that he's lost on her forever? No. It was without a doubt the only thing she could never bring herself to accept, no matter what. She rebuked herself for so long for being stuck in the past. In Angel. With Angel. Everywhere - Angel. She had so many chances to move on, that she stopped counting. And now there was one big chance - Riley. He had one obstacle though, in his way to Buffy's heart. He wasn't Angel. Too many men had shared that same impediment lately. All the time, to be exact. There was no one she truly wanted, no one to reach up to her standards. She heard a lot from her friends about being too picky, but was it the actual problem? Was it that she was too picky, or was it that she knew exactly what she wanted, just as she knew that it was the one thing she could never have? Not even if she 'lowered' her standards. The one thing she had lost and that could never be retrieved.

+ Part Two +

It was night. She was with Riley. At first she wondered what Riley was doing in her dreams. They had been sauntering hand in hand down the street in some place she never was before. Suddenly, something caused her to turn around and detect a dark figure in the distance. He rotated concurrently, as if sensing her as well. It was Angel. They bored for a short time into each other's eyes, until he unexpectedly spun around and started to walk away. Buffy released Riley's hand, and started trailing after Angel. As he saw her chasing him, he increased his speed, as did she. When he saw she wouldn't give up, he started running. She also accelerated, but she couldn't keep up, and lost her track of him. The night closed around her again, and she still pictured his vague silhouette in the horizon. Buffy felt Riley's hand on her shoulder and revolved to look at him. She lay open the quandary and the affront in his orbs. Removing his palm off of her shoulder, she took one step back. When she turned away from him, she found them standing right in front of the Bronze, a loud music coming from inside the club. Without glancing once more at Riley, she strolled in, aware of him still behind her. Her legs subconsciously carried her to a nearest sofa, and she found Angel sitting there alone, gazing in her direction. Buffy was standing just about five feet away from him, but he looked farther through her, as if she didn't exist. As she drew closer, the music varied into a slow song.

I kinda keep asking myself many questions
Like, where do I go from here?
I seem to keep losing track of time
And how long it's been
Since I last had you near
Been a painful road to a door that's closed
Been a gamble that I knew I couldn't win
Been a lonely conversation to this photograph of you
In the mirror there's a sign I must give in

Buffy fossilized as she heard the song. She knew this song. It was an old ballad; Angel and she had danced to it the last time they had been in the Bronze, when they hadn't yet known it would be the last time. It now suited the mood perfectly. He reminisced it too. It was blunt, as he bent over with his face in his hands. Moment later, he stood up to leave. Buffy walked over to him and put her palm on his cheek to make him face her. As he did, she saw the woe and the dejection in his soft dark eyes. He turned his face and nuzzled her palm ethereally as he put his own on top of hers.

So I'm not holding back the tears anymore
Trying to escape the heartache
Trying to escape emotion
So I'm not holding back the tears anymore
Yesterday's my memory
Reminding me of all the times that I depended on you

Speechlessly, Buffy dislodged her palm from beneath his and took both of his hands into hers, pulling him after her, to the dance floor. When they got there, Buffy staunchly swathed her arms around him, as he yielded to her and enfolded her in his arms, gently stroking her back. Angel inhaled sorrowfully the unnecessary air, and reclined his head on top of hers, briefly kissing her crown. The world disappeared around them. There was nothing, and no one. Disregarding the rest of the dancing couples, the music, the club, Riley…they vanished into each other.

I used to enjoy spending time on my own here
Watching the jaded people pass
Now here I am sharing their pain and their lonely tears
And walking a road of broken glass
It's never been easy
It's a constant fight to get through each day and night
It's a war between the present and the past
And the face that's in your mind every time you close your eyes
What's the reason?
What's the answer?
How long will this last?

Been a long long time
Since I heard your last goodbye
Still I hear it clearly every day and night
What's the point in love when you have to give it up
But still you need it and it's no where you can find

As the song ended, they gradually, unwillingly, drew back. Buffy looked expectantly into angel's eyes, as he repaid her with a similar gaze. She lowered his face down to her, and kissed him tenderly.

Angel was the one to let go. He looked at her one last time and kissed her forehead. "Don't walk away from me," he whispered softly, somewhat pleadingly, and was soon swallowed in the crowd. Buffy was left alone on the dance floor.

When she opened her eyes, she was still encompassed by the same old darkness.

In that moment, Buffy knew she had to give it another shot before she left, for both her and Angel, just one more shot. After all, wasn't love supposed to be the strongest power on earth? Buffy smiled to that concept. It wasn't really applying for her lately.
To her surprise, when she glanced at the clock, she discovered it was already the next morning.

"A sign," Buffy whispered. Was it a real sign for being too late, or was it her fear of rejection speaking from beneath? She couldn't help but wonder. *Still, he's not necessarily asleep,* she reflected, so maybe she still had time. Buffy knew she had to talk to him before she went home, and she knew it had to happen today.

Her father drew her attention opening the bedroom door. "How was night?" he asked. "Feeling better?"

"Short. Not really," Buffy smiled. "I decided to take you up on your advice. I'll go see him now, hopping he's still awake." She stood up and headed outside.

Hank stopped her at the doorway. "Hey," he smiled, "I know it's a dull thing to say to a nineteen-years-old, but you're still my little girl. Whatever you settle on, I'll back you up. It's your life, your decisions. Don't think that because they're not too normal they're automatically bad. Normal is a very obtuse thing, you know. Mostly, the things that make you happy aren't the normal ones."

Buffy grinned. "Thanks, dad." She kissed him on the cheek and went to see Angel.

+ Part Three +

I could stay awake just to hear you breathing
Watch you smile while you are sleeping
While you´re far away dreaming
I could spend my life in this sweet surrender
I could stay lost in this moment forever
Every moment spent with you is a moment I treasure

- Aerosmith, 'I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing'

It was only when she reached his office that she realized she didn't know where he lived. And of course, the help came from the least expected source.

"And look who's here again!" Cordelia greeted her. "What, couldn't stay away from Honey?"

Buffy was seeking out for a witty response when Cordy continued. "You know, you two are like the weirdest couple. He's just like you, a walking idiot, only dead in his case. You're bickering forever like two little kids, then both walk away to opposite directions. Now, he's miserable, and so are you, but was there a lesson learned? Nooo! What for? You two already had the 'How to destroy best my lover and myself' course, you both aced that one, just for the record," Cordelia stopped scrutinizing Buffy. By the look on the Slayer's face, she figured she had done enough for a while. "Well, why are you back anyway?" she asked in a blander voice. "You of all people should know he's asleep now. You can't keep fighting. You gotta wait for the sun to set."

"Where is he?" Buffy inquired.

"Meaning?" Cordelia looked confused. "Not around here, as far as I'm aware of."

"Where does he live?"

Cordy gaped at her with false fear. "Hey, you're not gonna sneak into his bed, are you? Cuz, you know, I don't feel like being responsible for another doomsday."

Buffy averted her eyes in slight discomfort. She and Cordelia both knew it was no longer the peril, but whenever Cordelia wanted, she knew exactly what buttons she needed to press to make Buffy feel like the world really was coming to an end. The brunette knew that and she usually tried to avoid coming to that point, but she obviously wasn't in her best mood today.

Cordelia was taken aback immediately, she grasped she was way out of line. "I'm sorry," she apologized, "I'm having…not one of my best days. It's up to you whatever you wanna do." Cordy jotted something in her agenda and tore out the page, handing it to Buffy. "Take that too," she tossed her a key. "As I said, he's probably asleep."

"Thanks," Buffy said simply, and left.

"Anytime," Cordelia replied after she was gone, "just as long as you two won't be doing anything I'll later regret on."

Buffy quietly opened the front door to Angel's apartment and stepped in. everything was silent, not a sound at all. Momentarily she even pondered how come she didn't hear him breathing in his sleep. She put the key and the address in her pocket and walked to the bedroom.

It was dusky and silent. The first thing she did was to shade the window in a spot when the sunlight was about to break through. Then Buffy turned to look at him. She bit her lip to forestall the forthcoming laugh of disappointment.

He was lying in bed, the comforter gracefully covering him up to the waist, sleeping so peacefully, so calmly, not even a little aware of her presence in the room. She shouldn't have come. But now that Buffy was there, she couldn't lay her eyes off of his perfect frame. She kept watching with awe at his faultlessness. She couldn't stop looking at him; there wasn't one elegant stir of him that missed her eyes. His perfect and gentle features had never ceased to astound her, but now it seemed like she was beholding them for the first time ever.

She discerned how he placidly moved one strong arm and reposed it on his muscular chest and let out a sigh, and she reminisced how once she was lying by his side, held in his arms. More than anything in the world she wanted to recapture that sensation of safety and secureness.

Buffy felt like nothing else existed in the world as she was watching her Angel sleep. She felt like she cold stay like this forever, that nothing in the world was powerful enough to make her leave his side. Nothing…except for the inevitable fact that today she would not talk to him. And it was that simple. If not today, then never. There are just some things in the world that have to be done in a specific moment that belongs only to them. Afterwards, they can no longer be done. Buffy knew that, she knew it was one of those things.

She took a piece of paper and a pen from his desk, and after writing a succinct note, she folded it and on the upside simply wrote 'Angel'. Then, she left the room, granting one final gaze at her lost love.

Angel woke up when it was already dark, safe enough for him to start living.

He sadly peered around the room, secretly wishing to find her there, with a slight hope that the past hours had been nothing but a nightmare, and now all he had to do was to open his eyes and there she would be…but his eyes were opened. It didn't take that long to realize that he was fooling himself again. There was no nightmare. His life, without her - it was one tremendous nightmare. She wasn't there, and still…how could he smell her so familiar perfume? But then again, maybe it merely stayed in the room since then. Then. Angel had just realized what kind of a burden he had taken on himself to carry for the rest of his existence - forever. The love and the passion of a day forgotten, memories never to be shared…he'd always known what he was getting himself into, when he had given up his life and his humanity, to spare her life and to erase that day he was alone to remember. He knew it would be intolerable, but had he ever thought it would be involved with so much suffering and pain? Even he couldn't predict that. He was wondering, would he survive that alone? How would he survive that alone? But then again, could he do this to her? Could he expose her to so much anguish, of remembering what they had, and also knowing they cold never have that again? Could he do this to her? Could he tell her, perhaps even years from now, one day, could he ever tell her what really happened that fateful day she was not to remember? He knew he would never do this to her. There was more than enough misery in her life even without him adding more. He wouldn't bring on her another wave of sorrow. And besides, it was the agreement - her memories and his life, for hers. He wouldn't brake it. It was now up to him to pay the price. Alone. It was on him to deal. Alone. And yet he felt like she was still there, right there. Her presence, her sweet scent, her laugh, her gentleness and unrivaled beauty and light. They all stayed in the room, in his heart, to hold on to…to remember. As much as he knew these memories would grow only more and more tormenting, he knew they also brought him peace. He didn't want to lose them. After all, they represented all he had left from her. All he ever wanted to have with her forever…and never could.

As he started getting dressed to go to work, he noticed a note on his desk. It was addressed to him, and unbelievingly as it was, it was from her. In her light script there was clearly written 'Angel'. He didn't start looking for rational reasons to its being there; he didn't care how the letter got there. All he wanted to know was what it contained. Maybe he should have never opened it.


I came here in purpose to tell you so much, but I guess I lost it, altogether with the chance to actually talk to you, because I found you asleep. I realize now there isn't really much to say. It's all clear, and we are both too scared to face it and call it 'reality'. I can't see you anymore, because it hurts so much, and I can't stand it. Not when I'm trying…striving to forget, and moreover, know that I can never forget. I can only hope that one day I will. I even have this new other guy, this human guy; you wanted me so much to have. His name is Riley. He's more like a potential guy, but who knows, right?

I still love you, and this is the hardest part. I suppose we said all there was to be told last night, but I'll say it again: for both of ours sakes, whatever brings you to Sunnydale, ignore it. Please, stay away.


Angel leaned on the wall behind him, and slowly slid down to the floor, still overwhelmed by what he'd just read. Lines from her letter ran over and over through his mind and he read it all over again, and again, still fighting its veracity. He clamped the letter in his fist and bashed the floor with it so hard that it caused his knuckles to bleed. Tears arose in his eyes, but it wasn't the pain from the blow that engendered them. That pain he didn't feel at all. It was his heart that shattered to million shreds; the pain came from there. Angel glimpsed once more at the damned letter he held in his hand and hurled it as far as it could get, yearning to forget he'd ever read it. The words of the only one he loved played again through his mind. She found another guy. He knew it would happen sooner or later, but he hoped that this 'later' would never come. But it was inescapable. It had to come.

Angel scorned his entire being in that very moment. He felt more dead than he could ever feel. Why did he hate himself so much, if he was so sure this was what he wanted for her? At least…he was sure enough when he had broken her heart months ago, when he betrayed their love and shattered both of their dreams, just before what he planed to make the best night of their lives, and she didn't even know about it. *Well, she won't know now. Now, she has someone else, and I'm supposed to be happy for her. It's her life...not ours. Not anymore. So why do I love her now more than I've ever loved her before?* The frightful perception of an absolute loss took over Angel as he thought once again about the love he himself was to blame for destroying. His world felt more and more vacant and worthless as she slipped away from there. The tears refused to stop anymore. Why would they? It didn't really matter anymore though. No matter how many tears he cried, there still wouldn't be enough to fill the hollowness inside of him. That was it, her final goodbye. He wondered if this was how she felt when he had said his final words. If Angel's heart was beating that moment, it would stop. He squatted on the floor, and reposed his head on his knees, becoming more and more familiar with what he'd neglected only when he had been with her. Loneliness.He had been right, it really was the scariest thing.

+ Part Four +

The very same day, Buffy returned to Sunnydale.

Willow and Xander met her at the bus station. Someone else was there too; Riley. Buffy tried to hide the chagrin once she saw him. In the back of her mind, every time she saw him, she expected to really find someone else. Willow was the only one to notice the sadness in her friend's eyes. She could read on Buffy's face exactly what happened.
"How'd it go?" she asked.

"Will, we'll talk later, okay?" by that Buffy meant to say 'We'll talk when we're alone'.

Willow seized upon that instantly. She turned to Xander and Riley. "Could you guys meet us later?"

Riley didn't suffice to respond when Xander grabbed him by the shirt and dragged him away, throwing a barely heard 'See you tonight' over his shoulder.

Buffy and Willow headed alone towards the Summers' house.

After Buffy had finished unpacking, she perched beside Willow on the bed, notifying the redhead that now she could start grilling her.

Willow immediately seized the opportunity, because she was dying to have Buffy tell her all that had happened, even though due to Buffy's face she already knew everything.

"So, did you really see your dad?" she asked for the start.

Buffy knew that these questions were merely a fleeting phase in this catechizing, and that they would be over very quickly, but she decided to play along. "Yeah. Saw him, talked to him, we had our father-daughter reunion all as scheduled."

"Oh. How is he?"

"He's fine."

"Okay," Willow inhaled a deep breath. The trifling questions' time was over. "Well, that was mission possible. How about mission impossible? How did that go? Not as good, I dare to guess."

"Not even close." Buffy answered quietly.

"A downfall?"

"A huge."

"Oh, come on!" Willow patted Buffy's arm. "It couldn't have gone that bad! I just think of the way you two were, like two little love bunnies. You were so much in love, you were literally inseparable. I can't believe you have reached the point where you can no longer speak to each other. Come on, tell me."

"There is nothing to tell, Willow, that's just the point. Yeah, I confronted him, yeah, we talked. Think it made me feel any better? How about worse? It only made me realize - even more - how much we couldn't be together. It's all gone. Everything. Everything's gone."

"Still, I remember you two…"

"Will, that's just it. Memories. It's all memories, all in the past. And you're right, we had the most magnificent past, but that's what it is; a past. Don't get me wrong here, I will never forget what we had, I can't, so won't he. But it doesn't change the fact that our future is gone. It's not gone; it was never there," she took a deep breath she suddenly needed to go on. "All that love, Will, all that we had, we somehow managed to push it away. As much as it hurts to admit, we convinced ourselves that we lost it. It was a lot easier than the truth. Lying is always easy, telling the truth is the hard gig. This is why…I told him to stay away from me, from Sunnydale," Buffy bit her lower lip, momentarily averting her gaze, "because I know, just as he does, that once we're together, we can't deal with the truth. We're powerless against it. We'd lose ourselves in each other again, and as much as we wish we could afford that, we know that it can never happen. I can't live in the memories anymore, and along with that I don't seem to know any other way. I'm not sure I wanna learn another way."

Willow stared at her friend for a long while before speaking again. "You know, I try to follow you, but I can't," she shook her head. "How can you give up? You're not the Buffy I know anymore, you're an absolutely different person. The Buffy I know would never give up, she would always fight for what makes her happy. Especially, whenever Angel is what at stake. He would always be your only love, Buffy. You can't deny that. What you're doing now is tearing your own heart to pieces, and guess what? Now you can't blame anyone but yourself. He's playing the noble guy, well, duh!!!" she threw her hands in the air. "It's in his character. You should know, he would always think first about you and about what's right for you, just as you'd think first about his best. He's the one who initiated this whole mess, so you go and make it right!" When Willow was upset, which wasn't too often, she was really exasperated, and she was really really right. "What's the matter with you two? Can't at least one of you be the smart, for once, and open your eyes just to see what you're doing to yourselves? God, Buffy I remember there were times you were ready to die for Angel. Let me get that straight, was all you went through, these three years, that incase I need to remind you, were the happiest time of your life, thanks to guess who, was it all for nothing? I don't understand. I looked up at you two ever since the start. I always knew, despite what the rest were thinking - no matter what would occur in their path, these two had the forever on the palms of their hands. I still think so, Buffy, you can still make it," she beamed supportively. "Your love…is the kind of love that never dies. Neither you, nor Angel, can stop loving one another just cuz you feel like it. You have it, Buffy, you two have what people dream about all of their lives and only few are fortunate enough to find. You have the forever. Are you really that dumb that you can't even see that? You know, Buffy, guys come and go, but you don't have the 'luxury' of looking for the most suitable guy for the rest of your life. You have already found him, and you were only 16. Do you have any idea how lucky you are? Your one guy lives a few driving hours away from you. All you have to do is to reach out and touch him. His name is Angel, and he loves you, and you love him too, so how can you let him go? I know it was his decision, but…"

"Will, there're no buts. Don't you get it? Haven't you been listening to yourself? You've answered your own question. Yes, it was his decision to leave, but the final word has always been mine. I mean, sure, he's the one who chose to leave. But I was the one who chose to let him go. I could have prevented it. I know I could have. You know, that time at the so-called graduation, that night when he walked away, I was just standing there, unable to move. I couldn't budge at all, when I knew that now was the time to run after him and stop him. What halted me then, Willow?" she peered at her best friend, challenging a reply from her. "It's been months, and I still don't know. If you got any ideas on the subject, I'd very much love you to share those with me. Tell me, what kept me from not letting him go? You think you can answer that? I know I can't. You're all wrong about it, Will, your question should not be 'Why I'm letting him go now?' it should be 'Why I let him go then?' and I can't answer that one."

The redhead shook her head determinedly. "I don't believe you. You can't be serious about wanting to let go."

"I don't know what I want," the Slayer stopped to contemplate over it for a moment. "How can I ever let go?"

Willow shrugged, averting her eyes. "I don't think I'm the one to answer that, Buffy. It's kinda up to you now."

Buffy nodded in a silent acknowledgement

+ Part Five +

Buffy thought it was all over, that her life had come back to its good old routine of slaying, hunting…missing. She hoped to leave behind at least a part of Angel once she left LA, but it just wasn't to be. For the first few weeks, everything had been hard, as usual, but still - too good to be true. Buffy had sometimes cogitated whether it was her Slayer's instinct inferring it wasn't over just yet. She had brought something back from LA, and this something wasn't just a memory. It was a child. Buffy had found out she was pregnant by mistake. It was completely unforeseen. If it hadn't been for Willow persuading her to see a doctor for her constant queasiness from food and dizziness, Buffy wouldn't have found out about it anytime soon, because she had kept persisting she was fine. She had just caught some virus. The fact that her cycle had been about three weeks late, she had decided to overlook.

Now that everything was out in the open, Buffy didn't know what to do. The question that constantly occupied her mind wasn't whether she'd have the baby and who was its father. She had no second thoughts there, she was definitely keeping the baby; she wanted the baby precisely because she knew who the father was. There was no doubt in her mind it was Angel. She refused to even take in an account that it wasn't possible. It could only be Angel's. Buffy had always been convinced that it was Angel's, she called it her sixth sense. Of course, she hadn't gotten any support whatsoever from any of her friends, mainly at the start. They all had only one thing to say about that - as far as they were concerned, she was insane. In no way this child could be a vampire's. They all knew that, and albeit they tried to reach Buffy, she refused to hear anything. Even Willow, who had always been supporter-number-one for Buffy and Angel, thought Buffy's theory was preposterous. She could have never conceived by Angel, even though they all knew she wanted to. But Buffy was paying no attention to what they were saying. She held on courageously to her interpretation to the circumstances. Nothing that they said made her even suspect her belief was false. It was Angel's.

Nevertheless, according to the physician that had examined her, she had conceived approximately six weeks before, that meant it had happened while she had been in LA, with Angel. And of course, also that she hadn't slept with anyone but him endowed her reasoning. Her theory, as irrational as it was, was the only possible one. As time went by, her friends had also started believing it. They simply hadn't seen any other option, so they hadn't had many choices left. Besides, she also wanted to find a sensible explanation, and it was all they could come up with, even though Xander was still skeptical about the whole thing. Buffy, on the other hand, had always been certain. Her dilemma was one and one only - how could it happen? She was sure it was Angel's, but how? That she couldn't answer, and that was why her own resolve looked ridiculous.

Seemingly by virtue of her perplexity, Buffy had started having dreams about Angel. She couldn't explain those dreams, they seemed to be unpractical. According to any respectful common sense, the things that occurred in those dreams could never transpire in real life. She dreamt about Angel - human. She could kiss him in the sunlight, eat chocolate in bed, feel his breath and his heartbeat…it all seemed too weird. When it had first taken off, Buffy had thought these were just fantasies she'd been having. She had dreamt so many times about Angel, and these dreams had carried out all she had ever wanted. On top of that, they had been so realistic and so vivid, it was easy for her to think of them as if they were really happening, or had happened. All of them together seemed to be one magical day she had shared with Angel, one day when everything was possible for them. She couldn't explain any of them, but with time she no longer wanted to. She was just happy having them. They seemed to be more memories than dreams, but she didn't care about that as well. For some strange reason, she wanted to hold on to them, whatever they were.

There was one scene among them that did bother her though, and a lot. It was when she saw her and Angel hugging each other, both crying and constantly looking at a clock. It seemed like they were afraid of something dreadful that was about to happen, and she didn't know what it was. Then she was clinging closer and closer to him and blubbering she'd never forget. What didn't she want to forget? What was she striving so much to remember? Buffy didn't know, and IT bothered her very much. She was satisfied in just experiencing the other dreams, but this one…this one scared her. She woke up crying every time after she had had it. It disturbed her too much, and she didn't know why. She also couldn't find one link to connect it to the others. They all were so unthinkable, so happy and pure, a fulfillment of a dream. But this one…when she had this one, Buffy often thought that if she ever truly underwent it, she'd break. It was too much to take.

When Buffy had told Willow about those dreams, the redhead hadn't known what to tell her. She hadn't known how to construe it in any other way but that Buffy simply missed Angel.

One good thing did come out of those dreams though. They somehow, mysteriously, held within them the reason for Buffy's baby.

"Are you going to ever tell Angel?" Xander asked Buffy one day.

She gazed at him in consternation. "Was this supposed to be some sort of a joke?"

Xander looked totally serious. "Well, to him maybe, but I know that if I had an offspring somewhere, I'd want to know."

"First of all, since when do you believe Sky's Angel's?"

"Look, I thought we've all agreed that's irrational. When I say all, I mean all but you - us intelligent people, so to speak. Anyhow, you're my bud, and when you're telling me you haven't had sex with anyone but him, I believe YOU. Besides, whenever it comes to Angel, you can never know. As far as I see it, he could have drugged you, slept with you, and now be roaming LA as Angelus. At least that's a little more rational an explanation than…well, being knocked up by the Holy Spirit."

Buffy sneered. "You know he's not being ruled by his curse any longer. Why is it so rational to you to always make him the bad guy?"

Xander grinned back. "Well, a guy's gotta have some talents. I can claim this one to be mine."

"Well, aren't you the lucky one?"

"Let's stop that, BEFORE it gets ugly, again," Willow got in the middle. "He has a point. Have you called him? It's been a long time, you know."

"That would be kind of a problem, Will, considering I don't have a phone."

"Buffy, you and I both know this is just an excuse," Xander pointed. "If you had really wanted to contact him, you could have come to me or Will to call him. We wouldn't mind, and this would be the millionth time we have told you that."

Willow nodded in an assent.

"And besides, it isn't our fault you got kicked out," he mentioned.

"I WASN'T kicked out," Buffy smirked steely, "I left. Freely. Willingly."

"Which also was an incredibly smart move, taking into account you're due is in less than a month. With all the respect for your independence call, but you can't live here," Xander viewed briefly Buffy's apartment, "in your present state."

He was right. Buffy's living conditions really were unacceptable for a woman in her situation. She could in no way keep living in that tiny flat she had made her home after she had left her mother's house. It was rather cheep, all she could afford, and it certainly reflected its price. It was the main reason why Buffy had agreed to move in with her father, but it was never enough a reason to come back home.

"Should I remind you how she freaked when I told her it's Angel's baby? Everything was great. I mean, boy, she even reconciled with me being only nineteen and pregnant. She had no problems at all…up to the point when I told her who the father was. Believe me, you didn't want to be in the same room with her then. She went psychotic, and I mean it literally. Sure, she didn't just say 'pack and leave', but after what she DID say, I didn't feel much like staying. She had made her opinion about Angel more than very clear when she - and this is the precise narration - had kicked him out off my life. She had spilled it out once, so I know. Since then, we haven't stopped fighting, and few months ago, she just did again something that in her case you can pretty much call a fixation. She got on my very sensitive nerve, called 'Angel'. You know," the Slayer let out a short laugh, "she had said some harsh, in a nutshell, things about him before, but then she just crossed the line. I mean, I still have some self respect, and so does Angel., and if he's not here to defend himself, that makes it my job. I couldn't let her talk about him like that, so of course, I answered back, and we got into another fight, the usual. She just…she said some things that were…well, it took me a while to process they had come out of my mom's mouth. I mean, she's my mom, he's the man I love, and not just that, she KNEW how important he was to me, and how much I loved him, and she talked about him as if he were some kind of…a monster. She even…God, she even said she didn't want me to have his baby. You know, I'm aware of that it wasn't the smartest choice I ever made, but I just couldn't stand it anymore. Sorry I split."

Willow and Xander only gawked at her. Joyce Summers really was incredibly famous in riding her daughter over all that had to do with Angel, and it was about time for Buffy to get out, only...the timing couldn't possibly be worse.

"You never told us that," Willow remarked, her voice revealing she was rather shocked.

"Of course, I did," Buffy affirmed, "you knew why I left."

"No," Xander explicated, "what Willow meant was…you never said anything about this. You never mentioned what she said…exactly."

"Well, I wouldn't have left just like that. I kinda needed a sound reason, so I thought you'd figure it out I had one."

"Right," Willow nodded abstractly.

"I sent him letters," Buffy admitted to her friends, "I wrote him a letter every passing month. Even more frequently than that. If he had wanted anything at all to do with me, or with Sky, he'd have replied to at least one of them, which he hasn't done," she finished sadly.

"I can't believe it," Willow voiced. "I mean, I can't believe he did something like that. It's not just some guy, it's Angel. Angel doesn't do that, it's not…Angel like. I can't believe he hasn't written back."

"Me neither, Will," Buffy agreed, "believe me, it scares me to even think about why he hasn't answered. He's the last person on earth I expected to do that to me. He's the first one I have ever thought about when I needed someone…someone there for me, he's never let me down, he's the last person that…I know we're not together anymore, but still, he's the last person I ever thought…would turn his back on me. And he did just that."

"Maybe he thinks you're lying." Xander suggested Buffy's worse fear as an option. "I mean, you've got to admit, he's gotta be a huge sucker to ever believe it's his tot. Buffy, he's a vampire. You know what I'm saying."

"I don't need to hear this," she said quietly.

"Buffy, don't worry. Angel would never think you're lying to him, it's not his nature," Willow tried to quell her.

"And ignoring me is?" Buffy asked.

"Buffy, whatever his reasons are, and I'm sure he has a few, you have to somehow find them out and make him explain to you what the Hell is going on," Xander advised. "You're moving in with your dad tomorrow, right? Go to him. You have to see him. Go talk to him."

"I don't think I can face him under the present circumstances, Xan."

"Well, so don't do this yourself. I mean, Cordelia knows, right? So ask her to do the dirty work for you. In any case, if he gets mad, he'll eat her. Not a too big loss for mankind," her friend quipped.

"Yes, Cordelia knows, Xan, but she gave me her word she wouldn't say anything to Angel until he started talking about it first, and I know she wouldn't. I trust her."

Xander sniggered. "Cordelia?! You took a promise from my Cordy? Of all the people you CANNOT trust, you picked her?"

Buffy's face remained solemn. "You know, while you're trashing her, just so that you know, she's not the Cordelia you remember anymore. She's changed, Xander. If I say that I trust her, that means that I don't see a single reason not to. Maybe if you had stayed in touch with her as I did, you wouldn't have been so surprised. And by the way, according to your history, she's not the one you cannot trust."

Xander saw her point. "Ha ha, very funny," he smirked. "Look, Buff, someone needs to tell him. The guy's gotta know. Whether it'll be Cordy, or you, that's up to you. The thing is that you've gotta reach a decision. Just think about it, Sky will be say…five, and she asks 'Where is daddy?' what are you gonna say? 'Daddy was a vamp, so he decided to ignore?' yeah, that will clear up a lot for her."

"Thank you so much for your bright broadening about my future as a single mother, Xander," Buffy grinned at him.

"It still doesn't change the fact that I'm right."

Abruptly, Buffy writhed and inclined back on the sofa, catching her breath. "Oh, boy," she hissed, "she is strong, alright."

"Another kick?" Willow inquired.

"Yeah," Buffy nodded and took another deep breath.

"See? Even she agrees with me. Voice of reason has spoken!" Xander smiled.

On the next morning, Hank Summers came to take Buffy to LA. She was all set and ready to go, only she wanted to stop somewhere on the way out of town.

"Where is it?" Hank asked her as he was driving.

"Not too far. It's just some place where I need to pick up something."

"I thought you had all of your stuff in the apartment."

"Not…all of them," Buffy looked outside. "Here we are," she motioned for her father to pull over.

The car stopped by an old mansion.

"Is this some kind of a museum?" Hank asked her.

Buffy laughed. "No. This is where Angel used to live…while still here in Sunnydale."

"Oh," Hank observed in participation, "so, this is your way of saying goodbye?"

"Actually, it's just the opposite," she smiled and stepped out off the car.

She returned after a few minutes with something clasped in her hand.

"What is it?" Hank inquired curiously.

Buffy opened her palm and looked at the small silver ring on it. "It's a Claddagh ring," she explained, "Angel gave it to me on my seventeenth birthday as a token of his love for me. It's an ancient Irish symbol for loyalty and love, that's what he told me. He has a matching ring too, so…it grants it a much deeper meaning for both of us. I left it in there after he had left Sunnydale. It was a way for me to say goodbye. It just didn't feel right to wear any longer. I mean, what's the point, right? It's like wearing half of a ring."

"So, why did you take it back?" her father wanted to know.

"Because I couldn't leave it behind," the Slayer shrugged. "I guess I realized…that it's a much bigger part of me than I had thought it to be. I just had to have it with me, one way or another," Buffy slipped the ring on her finger, with the heart pointing in, just as Angel put it there. It was more an act of pure instinct than of common sense. She noticed the fashion she had put the ring on only when it already occupied her finger. Buffy stared a long moment on her hand, it felt perfect to wear the ring just like that. "I felt for so long this was the only way for me to wear it, just like he said, with the heart pointing towards me, it means I belong to someone. I thought I couldn't wear it any other way, so I chose not to wear it at all."

Buffy smiled sadly and removed the ring. "I don't belong anymore," she observed, unclasping the chain around her neck and threading it through the ring. "Not anymore," she restored the chain on its former place.

Her father kept concentrating on the road in front of him. After all, there wasn't really much he could say to her.

Buffy forced another smile, notwithstanding the tears sliding down her cheeks, and revolved to look outside the window.

Hank glanced at her. Her feelings were apparently much stronger than a teenage fling, he observed, and he didn't need to be a genius to realize they were returned equally by that vampire. Otherwise, it wouldn't have hurt so deeply. "It isn't a crime to cry, you know. Even a Slayer is allowed to have feelings, Buffy. She's allowed to love."

Buffy wept the tears with the back of her sleeve and turned to stare at him. "Then why isn't she allowed to be loved back?" she asked hoarsely.

He didn't answer. Again, there wasn't much to say.

Buffy reached her hand into a pocket in search for a tissue, but pulled something else. A tense chuckle escaped her lips once she saw what it was. A fading old piece of paper folded in half. A small key inside.

+ Part Six +

"Hello?" Cordelia answered the phone in a tired voice.

"Cordelia?" Buffy's vice came out of the receiver.

She instantly snapped out of it. "Hey!…"

"It's not me!" Buffy hastened to cool her.

"B…Barry!" Cordelia came up with.

"Nice bailing! There are some things in you that just won't change."

"How are you doing?" Cordelia inquired. "I haven't heard from you in…ages! How've you been? The toddler? It should have been born like two months ago, right?"

"Right, and she was. It's a girl, a healthy little girl. She's just so perfect! I named her Sky," the Slayer silenced for a short lapse. "You have no idea how much she looks like her father, Cord," traces of sadness possessed Buffy's voice, "when I look at her, I can see him. Especially when I look into her eyes…she has his exact orbs, dark chocolate, so soft…just like his."

"You miss him," Cordelia pointed out the obvious.

"Gee, and I kinda hoped you couldn't tell."

"So does he."

They both were quiet for a short moment.

"Well, I'm very happy for you," the brunette broke the silence, "I mean, as far as Sky goes. That's great, she must be great. Where are you two staying now? I know the last time I talked to you, you said you moved out of your house, because you didn't get along with your mom or something."

"Or something," the blonde replied dryly.

"Well, where are you two staying now?" Cordelia asked anxiously.

"At my dad's. You got the address, you can drop by and visit sometime, if you want."

"I will. Now, in general, what's up?"

"What's up over there? How…how are you?"

"Is it really me you're asking about?"

Silence possessed the other end of the line.

"I'm okay," Cordelia said, "now stop pretending you don't wanna know about him."

Buffy sighed. "How is he?"

"Get down here and see for yourself."

"Why can't you just tell me?"

"Because I don't know what to tell you, make it the truth or what you wanna hear."

"Cordelia, you're scaring me," Buffy really sounded scared.

"Well, you should be. Even if you come over, you won't recognize him."

"How come?"

"Plain and simple. Buffy, he's not the Angel you and I used to know. Not anymore. He's changed, he's different. He has been ever since you left that day. He's locked up in his own misery, he's always so somber, so lost and…withdrawn. He's turned into a complete reclusive. And the worst part is that he only gets more and more irrevocable. And, when I try to…I don't know, to allure him out, like, to make him feel better or something, he never does. It's like…he doesn't want to feel better. He's great the way he is - all away from the world. And it's not like he was this big-happy-guy formerly, but now you can't even catch him with quarter of a smile. I barely see him at all these days, his habitual is home-office-office-home. He sits for hours in isolation in that office, it appears like the world can blow and he wouldn't even tremble. You know, and when I do see him, I swear sometimes it looks like he's gonna cry. He worries me, Buffy, he won't let anyone in; you gotta see him, talk to him, the guy looks like there's no more point in living. You're the only one who can somehow get into his soul. It's so obvious you two still love one another."

"I don't know what to say…"

"Don't say anything to me, say it to him. Unless you wanna lose him, because if things continue the way they are now, you will. It might sound funny to you, but one time I got so scared that I took all of the stakes from his office. I just don't know what to do anymore, he's losing it, or something."

"Do you have any idea what could have caused this?" Buffy questioned, slight panic evident in her voice.

"I don't know, that's what I've been trying to tell you. He's been like that ever since you left. He simply doesn't say anything at all, and you're all Ms. Secret about what you did in his place that day, so basically, I don't have a clue about what happened."

"I did tell you. We didn't even get the chance to talk, nothing happened. He was asleep, so I merely left him a letter and…"

"A letter?! You left him a letter? What the Hell did you write there? At least now I know what he's been staring at in is office twenty-four-seven!"

"Cordelia, I…" Buffy gasped, struggling for words, "I wish I hadn't…I had no idea he'd take it like he has. It was an innocent letter, honest. There was nothing he didn't know in it, it was facts only, I swear. At least it explains one thing; I know why he's so mad at me. He hasn't wanted anything to do with me ever since. Now I know why."

"Hush!" Cordelia interrupted her. "Subject change. You mean to say he doesn't know about Sky?"

"Well, obviously not. Has he mentioned anything…at all?"


"He didn't answer any of my letters, so I guess he doesn't want anything to do with me…or her."

"Boy, he's dead meat."

"Cordelia, what are you talking about?"

"What do you think I'm talking about? You think he's gonna get away with it? No! Once I'm through with him, he'd wish he had died two-hundred-and-forty-seven years ago."


But the line was already dead.

Angel was sitting in his chair, melancholically gazing into space, as Cordelia burst into his office. He didn't even hear her up until she shouted his name about three times. He rotated in her direction, eyeing her. "What is it, Cordelia?" he asked in his usual soft voice.

Cordelia began to feel for him again as she looked into his orbs. They were full with sadness. She wondered in her heart how he could hold up under it. But her face regained its enraged countenance within an instant.

"You actually dare to ask?" she snapped. "You know, Angel, this is no longer a case of nobility, this is a clear case of you being the world's son of a bitch!"

"What are you talking about?" he asked in a sedated tone. It sounded as if he didn't care at all about what she'd just said. She could lash out on him forever and he wouldn't care less. Cordelia had been right with what she told Buffy, nothing mattered to him anymore.

"I'm talking about you starting taking responsibilities for your actions, how about that?"

"What did I do?"

"My God, are you slow or are you just feigning to be? I'm talking about your not so ex; I'm talking about Buffy. What the Hell is that supposed to be you not answering her letters?!"

"How do you know about the letters?"

"I was the one who passed them to you, moron!"

"With all the respect, Cord, but this is none of your business. This is strictly between me and her."

"This is very much business! Buffy is my friend, and you better get yourself together right now, and fix the mess you yourself created!"

"I don't get you," Angel really did look clueless concerning what she was talking about.

Cordelia seemed to be really ticked off. "Did you even bother to read them?" she asked.

"No," Angel mumbled and looked down from her.

"My God, you two have a CHILD together that you don't even know! Think I'm gonna let you off the hook with that? Wrong again," she glared at him.

Angel's eyes saddened even more if that was possible. "I can't have children, Cordelia," he said inaudibly.

"Listen to me. Your child, your and Buffy's, it's a girl. You two have a child you don't even know. Buffy says she looks just like you, she even has this eyes-thingie, but that's probably Buffy's temporary insanity. Coincidence? I think not! The point is - it looks like a duck, it sounds like a duck - it's a duck. For the mentally challenged among us, I mean to imply she's YOUR daughter!"

Now, Angel looked really exasperated. He stood up and paced closer to Cordelia. "I can't have children!" he snapped. "Vampires CAN'T procreate! I am a vampire. Which part of it didn't you understand or have not yet known?" His expression softened and he hunched on the edge of his desk, beholding the brunette, who didn't appear too impressed. "More than anything in my life," he fought for control over his voice for a second, then went on, "I want to have Buffy's children, and you should know that already, but you know what? What I want isn't really that important. It never has been. I can't accomplish what I want, I can't be with the woman I love, and no, I CAN'T bring her children, and it kills me a little every day. Is this witticism that funny to you? Was it really necessary to rub my nose in it? It probably was, otherwise you wouldn't have done it. So, tell me, is hurting me accurately with what hurts me the most really is so funny? What were you trying to achieve?"

"No," Cordelia replied in a softer tone, "YOU listen to me, and listen carefully. Her name is Sky, she was born less than two months ago, she is your daughter, and I don't know how you two managed it, but she is. It happened during the time Buffy was here. All this time, Buffy has believed Sky was yours, and she is, Angel, there's no doubt about it."

Angel didn't need any further convincing, he didn't question it for another second. She was his, Sky was his. She had been conceived during that day when he had been human, that day Buffy didn't remember. Sky was the one miracle that came out of that day. She was his.

"What's with the brooding?" Cordelia questioned.

"That day," Angel kept looking away from her.

She snapped her fingers and he revolved back.

"What day?" she asked.

"That one day…when it was possible, when everything was possible. It could happen that day. My God, what an idiot I was!" he combed his fingers through his hair in frustration.

"Can I just say I'm with you on that? I've never been a huge fan of you and Buffy's, and you know it. Whatever happened between the two of you that day you're talking about is also none of my business, unless of course she did sneak into your bed even though I told her not to," Cordelia grinned devilishly before continuing. "My point is, that now that your soul is firmly intact, what the Hell keeps you away from the woman you love?"

Angel looked at her with pleading eyes. "I'll do anything to atone for what I've done to her…to us."

"I know," she said softly, "it's about time you started, then."

"But what can I do? It's too late…"

Cordelia put a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "It's never too late. You still got those letters?"

"Of course, I do."

"Good. Sit back, and start reading. You've got plenty of catching up to do."

Cordelia whirled around and started leaving the office, but she rotated back as she reached the door. "By the way, when you'll run looking for her after you finish reading, don't bother running back to town. She's here, she stays at her dad's. You can pick up the address on your way out," she sent him a smile and closed the door behind her.

Angel opened a drawer in his desk and took out a batch of unopened letters. He peered at them and lightly brushed his fingertips over her handwriting. After a long moment, he reached out for the first in the pack, and tore the envelope.

"Dear Angel,

I know I'm probably the last person you're expecting to hear from, especially after that letter I left you, asking you to leave me alone. I would have left things the way they are, believe me. Staying away from you is incredibly hard, but at the same time also easier, knowing that I can't be with you.

This is not why I'm writing though. I think there is something you should know, so without any further ado, I'll get right to the point. I'm pregnant. I've just found out and don't ask me how, but I know it's from you. I don't know how it could happen, I know you can't have children and I'm so sorry if what I say hurts you, but I have to let you know. I haven't slept with anyone but you, Angel, and I also know it happened around the time I was in LA with you. I don't know; just…do the math, I suppose. I feel a lot better now that I told you that. Do what you think is right for you, I don't want to impose on you anything and I don't expect you to promise anything, because the only thing I do want you to promise, you won't. I just want you to know that I'm keeping the baby.


"Oh, God," Angel moaned as he finished reading. "Why didn't I open it earlier? I missed so much…" he reached for another letter and tore its envelope.

"Dear Angel,

I don't know what to do anymore. I don't know whether this is the first letter you're getting from me or the fifth. Hard to tell when you haven't answered any of my former letters, or maybe it's because you didn't get any of them. I don't even know. I probably should have called you, or come to see you face to face, but I couldn't…and can't. I guess I'm just scared.

Well, incase you did read the rest of my letters, here's a short update, I hope you want to hear it: I'm at my sixth month. I've decided to name the baby Sky. Do you know why? It's just that when I look at the sky, I think of angels, and I think of you. Well, that's how I came up with that, anyway. I would like her to have a name we both agreed on, but that most likely won't happen, because you decided not to participate for some reason, whatever it is. I wish you would though. In any case, I hope you like it. You know, she kicked for the first time about a month ago, and more than anything I wanted you to be there, but you weren't.

Remember those dreams I told you about? In which we're together, kissing in the sun, eating chocolate and ice cream, making love…and you're human. Something tells me you know the truth and the meaning of those dreams, that you know why I've been having them. And again, you're not here to tell me whether I'm right or wrong.

Angel, why aren't you answering me? What have I done that hurt you so much that you won't even answer my letters? Are you punishing me for something? Because if you are, please, tell me what it is. Write something back. Angel please, answer me. I know I'm not supposed to say this, but I miss you.



"I know the truth, my love," Angel whispered, "but I'm the only one to ever know it, Buffy. I'm sorry." His heart was a turmoil of emotions, all swirling around the woman he loved, and who was now the mother of his child, the same child he had missed her first kick, first cry, first smile, first laugh…but he would miss no more.

Angel stood up and walked out of the office, passing by Cordelia's desk, to grab from her the address she had had ready for him in her hand.

The only thing he had on his mind as he was driving through the early evening was that he didn't care about anything anymore. For the first time, he was thinking about himself, his happiness, which also was the happiness of his love. Nothing was important to him, apart from spending his life with the two people that meant the world to him, the woman he loved and their daughter. All the thoughts of unworthiness drifted once and for all from his mind, all he could think of was his little girl's face he was about to see for the first time in only a few short moments, and the face of his love that had been engraved in his memory forever. He finally knew his place in the world, and now there was nothing powerful enough to make him leave her arms again. And Cordelia's voice echoed in his mind; "Now that your soul is firmly intact, what the Hell keeps you away from the woman you love?"


+ Part Seven +

A tall and handsome young man was at the door when Hank Summers opened it.

"Can I help you?" he asked him.

"I hope so, I," Angel stuttered, "I'm looking for Buffy Summers. Is she here?"

"Yes, I'm her father," Hank nodded, "but Buffy is resting now."

Angel gulped. "It's...extremely important that I talk to her. It won't take long...I need to see her. Can I come in?"

"I told you, she's asleep. Who are you, by the way?"

"You wouldn't know me," the vampire shook his head, "she couldn't have mentioned me. Please, I really need to see her."

"Can't you come back later?" Buffy's father suggested. "Say, tomorrow noon?"

Angel averted his eyes in mortification. "I can't," he whispered.

Suddenly, a baby's cry emitted from inside the house.

Hank scrutinized Angel anew. He appeared to be harmless, he didn't seem menacing or anything, he made a good first impression. "Come in," he invited Angel inside, and rushed to check on the child.

Angel didn't require another invitation to follow him.

Hank picked the tiny infant in his arms and wobbled her in a dull attempt to calm her. She visibly refused to cooperate. "The last thing I need is for her to wake Buffy up," he contemplated, "she was with her the whole day, and now that she finally managed to drowse off, her life only started. Buffy says she took it from her father, she just won't fall asleep at night, no matter what you do. During the day, she sleeps peacefully, but at night…that's the party time. It's all but impossible to put her to sleep at night."

"May I try?" Angel offered his arms.

"I don't see why not, it's not like she actually listens to me." Hank carefully passed Sky over to Angel.

To his amazement, the moment she was in the vampire's arm's, Sky ceased from crying. She smiled up at Angel and he smiled back at her, unable to remove his eyes from the infant he held so mindfully in his arms. She was his girl, his little girl, and she wasn't just another dream anymore. She was real, and she was beaming up at him in his arms. Tears of happiness rolled down his cheeks as he regarded her, without him being able to help it. She was the very embodiment of his dreams. "I love you, sweetheart," he whispered, and mildly kissed her brow.

Hank was genuinely confounded by this entire display. "I see you're…good with babies," he observed, "you are the only person, except for her mother, she actually listens to, and who succeeded to quiet her. She just won't collaborate with anyone else."

Angel nodded politely and turned his full attention back to Sky. He still didn't quite process he truly was holding his daughter, he still couldn't believe it was real. He cradled her closer and kissed her head again. "I love you," he repeated. He held her so gingerly and kindly, as if he was holding the entire world in his arms, and she just kept beaming at him and light more and more the murkiness of his forsaken heart. Angel wiped his wet eyes and placed one more tender kiss on the baby's crown.

Hank was patently astonished by what was going on in front of him. "You two seem to have an odd connection," he remarked.

Angel didn't avert his eyes from Sky.

"Maybe you should put her back in the crib. She looks calm enough, maybe she'll even fall asleep."

Angel didn't hear him; he just beamed at Sky, stroking her head, her little hands, as she closed her eyes in content. She felt it too, he could sense it by her demeanor only. He didn't want to let go off her, he couldn't.

Hank discerned his engrossment. "You wanted to see Buffy, didn't you?" he reminded Angel.

Angel didn't need to be reminded of that. He didn't forget for one second why he was there. He came to retrieve his family, they were his family, and he wasn't going to live one more moment without them. He carefully placed Sky in her cradle, and tucked her in.

"Where is…Buffy?" he inquired Hank.

He motioned for the vampire to come along, and headed to another room. When he slowly opened the door, it revealed Buffy, immersed in a deep sleep. Angel's smile grew wider as he saw her. He paced silently over to the bed and kneeled by where her head was resting. Hank remained standing in the doorway. By the expression on his face, it seemed that nothing more could possibly surprise him today.

Just as Angel drew closer, Buffy wiggled in her sleep and faced him. Her hand moved gently on top of his on the pillow, and her fair touch sent shivers down his spine. He missed her so much, he realized that he missed her even more than he had thought, once she was with him again. He raised his other hand, and mildly caressed her cheek with the back of his palm, then he leaned down and placed a sweet kiss on her lips. At that moment, Hank decided to interfere, because as far as he was concerned, this man was crossing all the lines, but something stopped him; he perceived his daughter utter the name 'Angel' in her sleep. He knew who Angel was, Buffy had mentioned him more than enough. That was when he realized everything. He quietly retreated from the room, closing the door behind him, granting the two lovers their privacy.

"Angel..." Buffy murmured again, with still shot eyes.

A wave of pure joy washed over Angel, as she distinguished his so long absent touch.

Buffy opened her eyes and detected her dream coming true in front of her. "Angel?" she queried, still not believing she genuinely was that fortunate.

"I'm here," he replied softly, clutching her hand in his, "and I swear to you that this time I won't be going anywhere."

She gazed at his gentle features, and heard in her head over and over again the honesty in his voice. A part of her still feared the possibility it was merely another dream, but it looked so real. Her Angel had come back to her, and he wasn't going anywhere. He had promised. She would never lose him again.

"I will never leave you," he asserted her thoughts, "not for the world. I swear, if you have me, I promise to spend my life with you and Sky. All you have to do is just say 'yes', say you'll have me back. I know I caused you pain, I caused both of us pain, which I can no longer stand. Please," he placed his palm on her cheek, "say 'yes'."

Buffy looked at him. At one night, one moment, she suddenly had all she had ever longed for. "I don't want to," she uttered.

Angel looked down from her. Was he really that late? Had he misjudged her feelings so badly? Did she really not love him anymore? Not wanted him anymore? His heart shattered to million pieces as he digested her response. Lines from that letter she had left him almost a year ago flew through his mind. Buffy rolled out off the bed and hunkered in front of him. The amiable touch of her hand, raising his chin back up, disconnected him from his thoughts and fears.

"I don't want to say anything, Angel," she continued softly, "you already know everything I feel. What I want now is just…you to hold me," she let out a sob, "I missed that so much."

With no subsequent words, she leaned into him, clasping him as if he were to be gone in a minute, as if it were just one more of her dreams.

Angel wrapped his arms as tight as he could around her, crushing her to him. His heart was abruptly filled with joy he hadn't felt in so long…he pressed her body against his, cherishing every moment. Her smell, her life and her light filled in him all that had been empty for such a long time. Their souls became one.

"I love you," he whispered to her, "I love you so much. I wouldn't be able to live another moment without you," he kissed her hair as she snuggled into his wide chest.

"I waited forever for you to say this to me. Sometimes…I was afraid I'd never hear your voice again." She raised her eyes to concentrate on him. "I love you," she told him, her tears trickle down on his shirt, as he looked at her with his teary orbs.

Angel leaned down and kissed her tenderly. When he drew back, her eyes remained closed, as if she were memorizing and savoring the kiss. When she opened them, she peered at him, grinning, and wrapped her arms around his neck as he pulled her closer.

"I love you," she reprised before sealing his lips in a long sweet kiss.

They gazed in wonder into each other's eyes a long spell after the kiss had ended, still afraid to believe the fortunateness in their part.

Eventually, Angel stood up, hoisted Buffy back on the bed and set by her side. She snuggled in his lap and took his hands into hers as he encircled his arm around her in a loving embrace.

"Angel, there's one thing I have to ask you," she contemplated, while playing with his fingers.

"Anything," he pledged, kissing her crown tenderly.

"I," she hesitated whether it indeed was that significant after all that had happened tonight, but she had to know. "Why haven't you answered any of my letters?"

Angel knew he'd have to respond to that sooner or later. "The letter you left me…that day you were in my place…it tore me apart inside when I read it. I felt like I wanted to die, really die," he confessed, not looking at her, "because after what you said there, even though I knew this was how it was meant to be, and I knew that this was what I wanted for you, I saw no more point in living. It's just that…knowing it was one thing, but having you say it…that was another. After that…I just couldn't open the rest of your letters, because I was afraid to find there something even worse."

Buffy looked up at him. There was so much pain in his eyes, even though he was trying to hide it from her. She embraced him tightly and instantly felt his arms wind around her, solacing, stroking her back, as she reposed her head on his shoulder. "I'm sorry," she whispered to him and snuggled even closer, "I never wanted to hurt you, I just…came to see you that day, to talk to you. I wanted so much to make things right between us, Angel. I missed you so much, and the rue in me only increased when I saw you were asleep. I felt there were no more chances for us. That letter was…my way to finally give up...although I never could."

Angel ethereally kissed her neck. "You know what I've just realized?"

Buffy straightened to face him. "What?"

"If it hadn't been for Cordelia snapping at me tonight, what we now share…it would have remained just another fantasy."

Buffy beamed. "I love Cordelia."

Angel grinned in recognition and cleared off the remnants of her tears with his thumbs. "I love you," he said, and nestled her back into his lap.

Buffy studied his hand she was holding, and found the ring on his finger. She smiled, stroking it with her fingertips, then she shrunk back from Angel and took off her necklace. She slid the ring off of it, and handed it to Angel, putting the chain aside. "I think you know best where it belongs to."

Angel accepted the ring with a smile. He gracefully took her right hand, and put the ring on her ring finger, with the heart pointing in. "Right here," he said when he finished. Then he brought her hand to his lips and delicately kissed it. "Forever," he promised, "that's the whole point."

Buffy angled her head up to kiss him and yawned as their lips touched. She recoiled and smiled in slight embarrassment. "I'm sorry," she chuckled, "I guess she really got the best of me today."

Angel laughed. "She's incredible, Buffy, one of a kind, and…she's ours. Buffy, ours, it's a miracle," his formerly rueful eyes shone with happiness.

Buffy brushed his cheek. "You're a miracle," she whispered.

Angel grinned and lowered her head on the pillow. "Sleep," he prompted, "you're tired, you have to rest."

"You promise you won't go?"

"I don't think your father will appreciate me staying here over night," Angel remarked, whereas his voice turned him in. He didn't want to leave.

"As a matter of fact, I think he will. He likes you. At least, I think he does. Well, he doesn't hate you, and that's a start, right? It was his idea to come to you that day, you know that?"

"I see there are a few things he and your mom disagree upon, myself included."

Buffy giggled. "Yeah. A few things. Still, I told him about you, and he's not yet on Prozac, so…"

Angels couldn't believe it. "You told him about me? You mean, really told him? About us?"

Buffy nodded. "Really really told him. He took it pretty well."

"Funny," he observed, but didn't look so amused..

"What's so funny?"

"He didn't seem to recognize me when I came tonight."

Buffy sat upright and shot him an amused glimpse. "I think that this tiny meaningless snag of him having never seen you before, kinda got in the way," she ran her fingers through his hair. "Or maybe…it was Mr. Cryptic Guy, who predictably forgot that there was this superfluous custom amid us people, of introducing ourselves once we meet someone we don't know."

Angel smiled at her taunting. "I didn't want to get you in trouble," he explained, "I had no idea you told him about me. I just didn't want to be the one to tell him."

Buffy's smile vanished in an instant. "Get me in trouble?" she inquired gravely.

"Well, after what happened with your mother…"

"Angel, you're not trouble. You're a part of my life, an irremovable, very important part of my life. Whoever has a problem with that, he'd better deal it, fast. Same goes for my mother." Buffy's expression appeased. "How about we make it official, then?"

Angel gawked at her in misapprehension. Without waiting for him to grasp, she yelled. "Dad!"

Hank Summers walked in after a minute.

"Yes?" he asked artlessly.

Angel let go of Buffy and hastened to stand up as her father paced into the room.

The Slayer pulled him back down by the sleeve. "Sit," she commanded, returning him to her side.

"Daddy," she turned to her father, and cuddled in Angel's lap, "this is Angel."

The vampire looked down and started nervously twisting the margins of his shirt. Buffy took his hands in hers to ease him off. "He won't stake you," she promised him jokingly, "he probably doesn't even know how to use a stake."

"I think Angel wants to avoid another predicament like with your mother," Hank observed. "She doesn't like you much, does she?" he asked Angel.

"No, sir," Angel answered coyly.

"Can I make one small suggestion? You're playing a far too huge role in my daughter's life to be calling me 'sir'. Hank would do."

"See?" Buffy touched Angel's cheek and faced him to her. "He's harmless."

"I'm sorry," Angel said in a more confident tone, "I know I have met you before, but…I don't mean to be like that, it's just that, well…where and when I come from…when a woman formally presents a man to her father, he's ought to behave…politely."

Hank waved his hand in annulment. "I think that you and Buffy are not only over the 'polite' stage, you're also over the 'natural' stage. I won't kill you just for being you. You know what I've learned from personal experience, and do recall, I am a guy…in an older capacity."

Buffy peered at her father.

"Alright, not older than you, but you know what I mean. Anyway, most of the times when a guy starts acting something he's not - he fails. I doubt that your politeness was what made Buffy love you. What I'm trying to say is that it's not me you have to impress, it's her, and she loves you just the way you are. I don't think it's me you're building your life with."

Angel smiled. "Having your support is important to me. I've already reconciled with the fact that Buffy's mother won't accept me anytime soon, so it means a lot to me, not to have you against us as well. I'm sure the same goes for Buffy."

"As long as it comes to Buffy, if she trusts you and loves you as much as she does, and it's manifestly reciprocal, the fact that you are…a vampire," Hank frowned slightly while uttering the word, "shouldn't be that substantial. In her age, and being the Slayer, Buffy should be already mature and responsible enough to know what she wants from her life. Neither her mother nor me can make these decisions for her forever. In a point we have to let go, and though I evidently don't speak for Joyce, but I think that this point is now."

Angel turned to look at Buffy and found her slumbering, still curled in his lap, with her face buried in his chest. "I should probably go," he started saying, just when he heard Buffy's sleepy voice.

"Don't you dare," she muttered, "now that I got you here, you won't be going anywhere." She gazed up at her father. "Dad, can Angel spend the night here? In his case, also the day?" she asked him.

Hank eyed the two for a couple of minutes, his eyes falling on his daughter's hand, which was holding on to the vampire's. "As I earlier said to Angel, you're twenty. You don't ask for my permission in such matters anymore."

"Great!" Buffy hugged Angel. "You're staying."

Angel released her grasp. "No, I…I can't. It wouldn't be right, this is your father's house, Buffy."

Buffy looked at him appealingly. "Angel, don't go," she pleaded.

He kissed her forehead. "I have to. But tomorrow night, when I'll be back, I'll take you with me. I promise."

Buffy didn't see that coming. "You mean…move in with you? Angel, are you serious?"

"If you want to," he certified.

"I'll leave you two to discus that," Hank rose and left the room.

Buffy stared back at Angel. "Angel, I," she hugged him, "of course, I want to."

"Settled, then," he beamed, "in no time, you'll get tired of me, I assure you."

"I can't wait," she let go and smiled at him. "I don't want to wait. I want to go with you right now."

Angel refused. "No. It's not that simple, we have to make room for Sky…"

"Angel's she's a baby, how much room does she need? I'll just bring her crib, and we'll find somewhere to place it."

"And there is also the food. You need real food, which I have none of."

"We can do some grocery shopping. The stores aren't all closed yet."

"And you need to rest, which is the most…"

Buffy put her finger on his lips. "Why do you have to be so bullheaded?"

Angel grinned. "After knowing you as well as I do? Was that a trick question?"

"Alright. Tomorrow. Do we agree on that?"

"Absolutely," Angel kissed her, "first thing tomorrow...night, after a loooooong sleep, you'll take Sky and come over to my place. You can trust me not to doze off this time."

Buffy looked at him sadly. "I already miss you."

Angel kissed her and smiled. "Sleep. Before you even notice it, you'll wake up with me."

"I have an idea," Buffy grinned mischievously.

"What?" Angel eyed her.

"Would you like to take Sky with you tonight? It's not like she'd be getting much sleep anyway. She does have daddy's schedule. So, I thought maybe you'd take her and spend some time with her?" she suggested.

"I can?" Angel's face lit. "Buffy, are you sure?"

"Angel, you're her father, of course I'm sure, and of course you can."

"Do I have to bring her back in a certain time tonight, or something?"

She chuckled. "Angel, again, Sky is just as yours as she is mine. You don't 'bring her back', this isn't a divorce settlement. In fact, if you want, you take her now, I join you tomorrow. What do you say?"

Angel hugged her. "I love you," he whispered.

"I love you too," she beamed.

"Now, go to sleep. I'll…we both will be waiting for you tomorrow when you come."

Angel stood up and started heading to the door when Buffy called him back.

"Angel?" she called.

He returned to her side. "Yeah?"

"One more thing before you go," she pulled closer to him. "I want you to leave me something to dream about."

"And what did you have in mind, exactly?" he asked roguishly.

Buffy kissed him. "This."

Angel pulled her closer and they immersed into a sensuous passionate kiss.

+ Part Eight +

Cordelia headed to Angel's office once she saw he was back. She couldn't wait to hear what happened.

"Hey!" she peered inside. "I didn't see you come in."

He looked up at her and smiled. "That's probably because you were elsewhere."

"Right," she nodded, "bathroom. Hey…what happened to you?" Cordelia looked confused.

"What happened to me?" Angel didn't understand what she meant.

"You're…smiling, you're happy? How's that?"

Angel kept grinning at something on his knees.

"What you got there?" Cordelia asked.

He stood up and walked around the desk with Sky in his arms. "What do you think?" he showed her to Cordelia. "Isn't she gorgeous?"

Cordy's eyes opened wide. "Is this?…"

"Yeah," he affirmed with a grin, "isn't this amazing? I've never been so happy in my life. It's like…I have all I always wanted." He offered Sky to Cordelia. "You want to hold her?"

The brunette faltered. "Are you sure?"

"Of course. But be careful, and support her head. She's so small…and fragile, I've never seen anyone like her." He put Sky in Cordy's arms. "I mean…I've seen babies, but never one like her. She's extraordinary," he brushed Sky's cheek with his finger and she reached out to grip it.

"It's written 'Dad' all over you," Cordelia perceived. "By the way, you two do look alike, I got to admit, and she does have your eyes," she glanced at Angel and then back at Sky, "your eyes exactly," she confirmed.

"I don't even remember how I look like," Angel remarked, with a scarce dejection in his tone.

"Well, then you're gonna have to take my word for it," she declared cheerfully. "She's so cute! I wonder if one day I'll have one of those."

"Why wouldn't you? Don't you want children?"

"Want…'want' is a relative term. No. I mean…I do, I want…one day. It's just that kids are a big to do, especially nowadays, when this trivial necessity of actually having a job becomes less and less trivial. I guess I'm not sure if I'm ready…or ever be."

"I always wanted children. Well, not always, but," he sighed, the faraway look in his eyes traveling back to the past, "I remember, it was a few months after I had regained my soul, I was already in America then. I think…it was spring of eighteen-ninety-one. In any case, I was in the streets, and I heard a baby's cry emitting from a pram by a bakery, and I went there to see what happened. Before I even got there, I descried a young man, in his twenties, coming out of the bakery, taking that baby in his arms and quelling it, until it stopped crying, and then they walked away. That second, the fact that I myself could never have kids, go through all of those unforgettable moments, like holding my baby…it struck me," his eyes filled with sadness, and he cast them on his little daughter. "I hated my whole existence that moment. After spending over a century in torturing and murdering children among others, I wanted so much to hold one of my own, and I knew I never could." Angel gazed at Sky and took her from Cordelia into his arms. He hugged her close to his heart, as if repairing for all those countless years when he had yearned so much to hold her, but he couldn't. "And then I saw Buffy," he peered at Sky, grinning, "and I fell in love with her. I thought to myself - this is the girl I want to live my life with. For the first time in centuries, I had the musing of a mortal. I thought - her I want to marry, have her children and grow old with her. And at the same time, I knew I couldn't ever do any of those things. I could never marry her, because she would never want anything to do with me once she knew what I was, I couldn't bring her children because I couldn't have any and I couldn't grow old with her, because I couldn't grow old. But she wanted to be with me, despite what I was. She could look into my soul…and love me. One time, I don't know why, but I thought I should let her know I couldn't have kids. She didn't seem to care at all. She said, all she could see in her future was I. It felt wonderful to hear that from her, I felt like a whole man again. And then Sky was born, and now I'm sure more than ever that I will be able to consummate what I wanted almost four years ago when I first saw Buffy; I will be able to share my life with her and our daughter."

Cordelia contemplated for a moment. "I see your point, but that's a whole other story with me," she shrugged. "I mean, look at Buffy, she discovered she was carrying Sky, and she was all alone at the time. Not only alone, you made it seem like you deserted her. Nevertheless, she gave birth to her, when she could not to. You know why? I think you do. In her heart, she trusted you, she KNEW you'd be there for her, no matter what. She has had a blind faith in you, she knew you'd never leave her alone or deny her, and she appeared to be right," the brunette smiled, "you never did. You never would, that's just the thing with you two, you're only right when you're together. She wants the same things you do, that's why it's so easy. I can't handle a kid, especially not alone. I gotta find a guy I can trust at least half as much as Buffy trusts you, preferably married to me, and then there's a chance. It's clearly not the same in your and Buffy's case, because you're committed to each other enough even without the formality of marriage. In fact, you are more committed than many married couples I know, and I know what I'm talking about. It might surprise you, but it turns out that the only perfect guys in today's world are undead, if you get the picture," she finished with a pointing grin.

Angel smiled. "You will find someone right for you one day."

"Or...I will find someone I'll have to settle for, cuz I won't have any other choice," Cordelia offered.

"With that kind of an attitude, you just might," he taunted her.

"Oh, yeah, look who's talking, Mr-Lucky-I-have-all-I-ever-wanted. You just glanced at her and already swore you'd be hers forever."

"And I am," Angel beamed.

"And I rest my case," Cordelia chuckled.

"Look, I'm sure Buffy and I weren't ready right away…"

"In which alternate reality was that?" she quipped.

"What I mean is that we didn't see it coming. We lived under the assumption it wasn't possible. In spite of that, I speak for both of us when I say Sky is the best thing that has ever happened to us. And as far as the formality goes," Angel cautiously moved Sky to his right arm, reposing her head on his shoulder. With his left hand he reached into his pocket, pulled out a small box and gave it to Cordelia.

She shot him a puzzled gaze.

"I've been saving it ever since…well, I was going to ask Buffy at the prom, which of course didn't turn out as planned. But I don't want any more annulments, I'll ask her tomorrow. I only hope she'll say 'yes'."

Cordy examined the diamond ring. "Oh, man…her 'yes' is in your pocket…metaphorically speaking. Trust me," she guarantied. "It would have been cool though, if you had asked her at the prom. Too bad it didn't work out."

"Yeah," he sighed.

"Well, but now it will," Cordelia grinned. "Buy the way, isn't it supposed to be nap time for some of us?"

Angel beamed, glancing at the baby in his arms. "Obviously not. Buffy says it's one of the aspects she inherited from me."

"The vampirism?"

"No," he laughed, "the sleeping schedule. She just likes to sleep more during the day than during the night. She definitely gives Buffy a hard time with it."

"See? One more reason why you're handy to have around," she patted Sky's back. "She's a great kid, Angel, really. You know, maybe you should take the night off? I'll close up. You go and spend some time with her."

"You wouldn't mind?"

Cordelia smiled. "Just go before I change my mind. Say 'Hi' to Buffy."

"Who told you I was going to…" Cordelia made him her 'Do you think me for an idiot?' face and he smiled in return. "Okay."

Cordy was right, the first thing Angel did was to go back to Buffy's. He resolved he wanted her to move in with him tonight. He stopped being reasonable, he just wanted to have this night spent with her, after too many nights he had spent without her. And since he knew her better than anyone, he figured she was awake even though he had told her to rest.

To his surprise, Hank opened the door. "Angel?" he obviously hadn't expected to find the vampire on his doorstep.

"Hello," something seemed wrong to Angel, "is Buffy still asleep?" he asked.

"What do you mean? I thought she was with you."

Angel's puzzlement shifted into anxiety. "What do you mean, with me? She's not with me, I came here now because I thought she wasn't sleeping so that she could move in with me tonight."

"Well, she did," Buffy's father nodded.

Angel gawked at him in confusion. "What?"

"You obviously think alike too," the man observed, "a while after you had taken Sky and left, she woke up, packed everything and said she was going to Angel's."

"And you just let her go alone?!" the vampire couldn't believe it.

"Well, I gave her the car, why are you so worried?"

"She never got to me. If she had, I wouldn't have come to look for her here," Angel turned around and strode to his car.

"Where are you going?" Hank yelled after him.

"To my apartment. She could be there," Angel yelled over his shoulder.

"I'm coming too," Hank hurried after him.

+ Part Nine +

To their relief, they discovered Buffy in the apartment, drowsing on the sofa, with an open journal under her hand.

"She must have fallen asleep while reading," Angel observed inaudibly. He passed Sky over to Hank and stalked to Buffy. He carefully removed the journal from under her hand and scooped her in his arms.

"Could you open the door for me, please?" he asked Hank, gesticulating with his head in the direction of the bedroom.

Hank did as asked and let Angel into the room.

The vampire reposed Buffy on one side of the bed, then he removed the cover and made the other side, and moved her there.

"I see you don't need me, so I'll be gone," Hank informed. "I'll put Sky in her crib."

"Alright," Angel replied abstractly.

After he had heard the door closing behind Hank, he carefully disrobed Buffy from her shoes and dress and covered her.

"Angel?" he heard her somnolent voice.

"Right here," he sat down beside her.

"I antedated the moving," the Slayer clarified.

"So I noticed," he smiled. "I'll check on Sky and be right with you."

"Okay," she yawned, "Angel…I brought her cradle…I put it in the other room…"

"I know," he smiled, "I'll be right back."

"Okay," she closed her eyes and fell back asleep.

A minute later, he came back, undressed, and climbed into the bed by her side.

Buffy rotated to him and smiled. "Hello, stranger," she whispered.

Angel grinned back and kissed her lips, taking her into his arms. "God, I missed that," he whispered, brushing her back with his fingertips, "I missed you."

"Me too," Buffy reclined her head on his chest and kissed it gently, "what you make me feel. Just by being in the same room with me, you make me feel…alive. You make me fly. You know, tonight when you came to me, the moment you touched me, I knew it was you, it was YOUR touch that I could never forget. I felt in Heaven that moment, Angel. I thought I was dreaming again."

Angel enfolded her tightly in his arms. "You remember that morning, a couple of days before your prom? I kept rerunning it in my head over and over since it had happened. I recall how I woke up that morning, and saw you sleeping in my arms. Then, I thought I was in Heaven, it just looked too perfect to be real. There were so many times since then, that I didn't want to fall asleep, because I wasn't in your arms anymore…"

"And I didn't want to wake up, because I knew that once I open my eyes, your face will no longer be the first thing I see," Buffy completed him. "I also kept rewinding that morning, it was supposed to take me through the rest of my life. At least I thought so, up until tonight," she beamed up at him, "I remember how I woke up in your arms, and you smiled at me…"

Angel laughed. "And you worried that your hair didn't look good."

Buffy chuckled. "Yeah. And you just smiled and told me I looked perfect. You know, even though there was no sunshine, I could swear it was shining down on you that moment," she reached her hand up to his cheek, "that was when I realized I wanted to wake up by your side for the rest of my life."

"Me too," Angel kissed her crown lightly, sadness suddenly entering his eyes, "and in the same night I shattered both of our worlds."

Buffy wound her arms around his neck. "And God knows I desperately tried to hate you for that. Instead, I loved you even more, knowing the enormous sacrifice you had made for me, and that it wasn't only my heart that you had broken. But it doesn't matter anymore," she smiled, looking up at him, "it suddenly feels so good to fall asleep, and to wake up…"

"Because now I know that you will take me through it," Angel finished for her.

Buffy took his hand and kissed it. "Loneliness doesn't look so scary once it doesn't exist," she observed.

"I know," Angel smiled, "good night, my love."

"Good night."

Buffy curled up on his chest and he hugged her tighter, taking her into her sleep, and even though he wasn't so tired, falling himself into the most careless sleep he'd had in months.

Angel found himself in a middle of a white mist, descrying two images of a man and a woman emerging from it and gracefully pacing over to him. He recognized them at once. "What was I summoned for?" he demanded.

"You truly don't know?" the man inquired.

"I wouldn't have asked if I had."

"But I think you do," the man insisted.

"It is the girl," the woman clarified.

"Buffy?" Angel's heart filled with fear for the upcoming. "What danger is she in?"

"You," the woman said simply.

"What do you mean 'me'? I would never…"

"You simply don't understand or refuse to do so," the man observed. "We warned you a year ago, to leave her alone unless you wanted her dead, and so you did - up to tonight. Why have you come back? If you claim to love her as much as you do, why have you come back?"

"It's because I love her, that I've come back," Angel justified, "I am no longer a danger to her. I have my strength to protect her now, I'm not as helpless as I was as a mortal."

"You are a danger to her, don't you understand?" the woman spoke resolvedly. "Your existence alone endangers hers, and now also the infant's, are you so desperate to have them both dead? We have the power to behold the future. If you stay with them and disobey us again - they will die. Have you forgotten what you are?"

Angel swallowed hard. "The curse has been revoked…"

"The peril is no longer in the curse, now your state is even more delicate than it was when you had the curse. Then, you had something to contain the demon within you from being unleashed, now you have nothing, now you can never know which of what you do can bring Angelus forth anew."

Angel began to lose his temper. "You're absolutely right," he snapped, forgetting who he was talking to, "there is no curse, because I don't need a curse, I have you two as my curse! Why should I have a curse on me to keep me from being really happy, if I have you showing up just in time whenever I finally am, just so you can screw it up?!"

"You are not to be with her," the man asseverated, not at all impressed. "Leave, and forever this time, let them live their lives in peace. Why do you refuse to accept you are not good for them? You weren't meant to be happy. Your purpose on this earth is to serve our purposes, not to have those of your own. You put at risk the lives of those you declare to care for the most, and yet you won't stay away!"

"What do you want? What can I give you? The last time it was my humanity you took away, and I gave it to you. What can I give you now? I have nothing, there is nothing but my life that you can possibly take, unless…this has been your wish all along," his voice faded off as everything drowned upon him at once. "Will this assure their safety, then?" he asked the Oracles. "Me being gone?"

Both male and female were soundless.

Angel woke up and opened his eyes. "Then this is what it takes," he comprehended. He mindfully loosened Buffy's grip on him and got out of the bed.

"Angel? What happened?" he heard her asking when he was on his way out of the room. He wished she hadn't woken up. "Nothing," he promised, "everything's alright."

The Slayer glanced at the clock. "It's already dawn," she pointed.

"I know. Don't worry, from now on, everything will be alright," he walked towards her and kissed her, "I promise you."

An odd sensation of fear took over Buffy. "I love you," she said.

Angel felt like crying. "I love you," he replied, "now, go back to sleep."

He started leaving the room when he heard her again. "Come back soon," she whispered.

The vampire couldn't respond, he just hastened to leave the room. He knew that if he stayed one more minute, he'd break.

Shortly after, Angel stepped outside into the dawning day. He felt the sunlight warming his cold skin. At first it felt pleasant…alive. Then he didn't feel anything.

+ Part Ten +

When Buffy woke up a few hours later, Angel wasn't anywhere in sight. She found it strange…and scary. She completely panicked after she had searched the whole apartment for him and didn't find him anywhere, and the sun was already high in the sky. The first thing she came up with was to call Cordelia.

The Slayer didn't manage to squeeze out one word before her friend's drowsy greeting. "Angel, just for the record, this is my day off, and it's 8AM. Get a life." And she hang up.

Buffy redialed, and this time spoke fast. "Don't hang up!" she said as Cordelia picked up.

"Buffy? What's the what? It's morning for some people, you know."

"Angel is gone."

Cordelia seemed to be listening. "What do you mean?"

"I mean that he's not here, the Slayer explained. "I woke up and he wasn't there."

"So you reflexively thought he'd be in my place? Well, he was last night, but you shouldn't have called us then. You know, we were kinda busy," Cordelia quipped.

But Buffy didn't have time for that. "Cordelia, be serious for one moment, the sun is up and he's not home. I'm kinda going crazy here."

The brunette sighed. "Umm…okay, have you checked if his car's in the driveway?"

"Yes, it is. He didn't take the car…wherever he is."

"Look, I," she groaned, "whatever, I'm coming over. I'll jump to the office on my way to see if he's there. By the way, when he does show up, he's gonna pay me over hours."

"Thanks," Buffy didn't sound amused at all, "bye."

"Sure," Cordelia hanged up.

Thirty minutes later, Cordelia arrived.

"Not a sign yet?" she queried.

Buffy was eaten with concern by now. "No," she shook her head.

"Look, first of all, relax," Cordelia put her hands on her friend's shoulders, "wherever he is, I'm sure he's safe."

Buffy rolled her eyes. "Cordelia, incase that little fact slipped your mind, it's day now, and he's not home. Where, but here, can he be safe?"

"Have you checked on the kid?" the Brunette gesticulated with her head towards the baby's room.

"I've been to her room, he's not there…"

"No, I mean that I hear her cry…I think."

They both listened carefully. Cordelia was right.

"I'll go see what it is." Buffy left to check on Sky.

She returned after a while, holding an envelope in her one hand, her face deathly pale.

"What's up?" Cordelia inquired.

"It's…from Angel," Buffy handed her the envelope, "I found it in Sky's crib."

"Well, what does it say?"

"I haven't opened it yet," Buffy seemed to be scared to do so.

"There's something in here," Cordy groped the envelope, "a jewelry of some kind. Open it," she tossed it back to the Slayer.

With trembling fingers, Buffy tore the envelope. She found inside Angel's Claddagh ring, a dainty golden chain with a golden angel dangling from it, and a letter. Buffy started reading it to herself.

"My love,

You've probably noticed my absence by now. I'm so sorry about it, Buffy, but I didn't have a choice. I had to choose between your and Sky's lives and my own. It didn't require much thinking. And the Oracles have made it very clear - I endanger those I love most for as long as I live. I'm sorry. I don't want you to cry, please, don't cry, I love you so much. I had to do this. Also, never think it's your fault. It's my choice and my decision entirely, and I did what I thought was right, and it was right. In the future, maybe you'll understand. I hope you will find it in your heart to forgive me.

I left you my ring. Keep it, you're the one person it has always belonged to, just like its wearer. I know you'll keep it safe for me. I love you, honey.

The angel is for Sky. Once she's old enough to understand, and to know it all, give it to her. Please, Buffy, tell her about me, tell her her daddy loved her, that she was his little angel. Tell her I never wanted to hurt her, I never wanted to hurt either of you.

It won't take long in the sunlight, it won't be painful. It is the right thing to do, it will keep you safe. I can only hope you'll understand, and that you won't forget me.

I will always love you."

Tears cascaded down Buffy's cheeks, silent tears that in no time turned into wailing. "No…no!" she cried as she leaned against the wall, still denying what could not be reversed. "No," she kept reprising.

Cordelia took the letter from her and read it. Her own eyes also filled with tears as she was done.

"I'm so sorry," she moaned and hugged Buffy in a dull attempt to comfort.

"It isn't happening," the blonde kept sobbing, "it's just a nightmare, a cruel…atrocious nightmare. It isn't real. I'll wake up and he'll be there…to hold me. It isn't real…oh, God!" she embraced Cordelia tighter.

"I'm sorry. Buffy, I'm so sorry," she brushed her back. "It'll be okay. I promise, one day…it'll be okay." Hearing Buffy's whimpers made it harder to believe it than to say it. Furthermore, Cordelia also lost someone dear to her. Still, she thanked God she wasn't in Buffy's shoes.

Buffy recoiled from her and went to Sky's room. Cordelia trailed behind her.

Buffy lifted Sky in her arms as they both cried. Buffy had never heard her cry like that. Obviously, she felt what had happened. Buffy wore the necklace around the baby's neck and she clinched it with her chubby little hands.

"It's from your daddy," the Slayer tried to form words through the tears. "He loved you, honey. You were his little angel," she hugged Sky to her shoulder, bringing her free hand to her face, to cover her eyes. The infant started bawling even louder.

Cordelia took them both into her arms.

"It's a nightmare," Buffy kept disputing, "it's a nightmare…"

"It's okay," Cordelia knew no other way to comfort her, not that this one was bringing any results.

"I need you, Angel," Buffy sobbed, "I love you…this isn't happening," she kept crying against Cordelia's shoulder, clasping Angel's ring in her fist.

Again, Angel was before the two Oracles. "What do you want?" he asked in a broken voice. "I gave you all I had, why am I here now? I'm supposed to be dead, remember?"

"Reach your hand into your pocket," the woman said.

Angel did it and pulled out the box with the engagement ring.

"Who are you planning on giving it to now?" the man asked. "Is it to her?" he waved his hand and a smoggy cloud emerged, divulging Buffy sobbing, holding a crying baby.

The vampire reached out his hand to touch them, but it merely permeated through the disintegrating fog. "This is what you wanted."

Angel's eyes filled with tears as he replayed that picture in his mind. "Isn't this enough for you?" he bellowed. "Aren't you happy? For someone who possesses the power to mold people's fates to fit your taste, you're doing a Hell of a job!"

"What we wanted was merely to test you," the man explained.

"Really?" Angel seemed like he was going to kill them any moment now. "Did I pass?"

"Yes, in fact," the woman proclaimed.

"We tested your devotion. 'Love', as you humans call it."

"I'm not human, especially not now. Now, I really am…nothing," Angel remarked.

"Let it be, then," the man was annoyed by him. "We don't necessitate to our services someone whose heart is elsewhere."

"I wonder if you ever loved anyone who wasn't your own ego," Angel affronted. He had no reasons to fear them anymore.

The man turned to the woman. "You deal with that lower being, perhaps he'd listen to you."

The woman sighed, looking at Angel. "You have done plenty to serve us, and to amend the sins of your past. Enough to proclaim forgiveness, which you never did. In fact, you have never asked for anything saving to live your life with that mortal girl, the Slayer. On the other hand, you were a weighty asset for us; we couldn't afford to lose you. But we saw we had no choice, when ever since you two lost that one day of your humanity, you were useful to us no more. Your heart and mind were elsewhere," she beamed knowingly, "they were with her. You discarded to all you're here to do. You assume we are only capable of hurting people…"

"You hurt me and those I love more than enough to establish that assumption," Angel cut in.

"But you are wrong. As I said, we cannot use one that devoted to something, in your case someone, else. You were too important for us to lose you, therefore we had to test you first, to see how sure were you of your choice. From this moment on, you are free to go. You have never asked us for anything, part for her life, which you paid for with yours. Now it is our turn to give, without asking for something in return. We give you your life, your humanity, back, and you are also to keep your strength. We send you back, erasing another span of time, to live the life you are truly here to live. We have mistaken clearly planning your destiny, it has already been sealed. Your fate is with her."

Angel gazed at her with incredulity mixed with endless gratefulness, as her words penetrated his conscious.

"Live as a lower being, a trifling mortal, for the rest of your life, but remain a Warrior for our cause," the male Oracle told him. "This is what you want and what truly makes you happy. It replies to all your wishes. There was never a danger to you, nor to her. As you were told, it all was part of a test. You have passed, and proved yourself beyond our expectations. Go to her, she will remember. Fight the good fight together. You will never be summoned again."

+ Part Eleven +

A white light flashed in Angel's face and his eyes flapped open, as he sprung up in bed, gasping for air.

Buffy woke up and gazed at him with concern. "Angel, what is it?" she shook him by the shoulders until he came back to himself, and concentrated on her. She put her palm on his cheek in concern. "Did you have a nightmare?"

Angel only beamed, and removed her palm from his cheek to his chest, watching her countenance's variation from agitated to overwhelmed.

"Angel," she whispered, "I felt your heart beat. I felt your heart beat…I remember!" she exclaimed anxiously. "I remember! These dreams I was having, they were real. It all…it all really happened, it was real!" Abruptly, fear covered her face. "Oh, God. We have another moment…it's just one more moment until it's all gone again…"

He didn't let her finish, shushing her with a soft kiss on her faltering lips. "It's forever now, my love," he promised, "permanent. I'm human, and this time it's for good. No one will take any more days from us, we will never be parted again."

Buffy leaned into his embrace, not moving her ear from his heart. "It's the most perfect sound," she whispered as he enclosed his arms around her, "an unforgettable one."

Angel climbed out of the bed and pulled Buffy after him to the window. He removed the blinds, and let the sunshine fill the room.

Buffy stroked his cheek gently and gazed up at him. "It's shining all over you," she observed, with barely noticed disbelief in her voice, "and you look so perfect."

Angel let go of her and paced toward the chair where his slacks were hanged. He returned with a small box in his hand and kneeled in front of Buffy. "I wanted to do this ever since the prom, when I first planned to ask you." He kissed her hand and opened the box to show her the ring. "Would you…honor me with becoming my wife? And letting me make you the happiest woman on earth?"

Buffy smiled down at him. She seemed to be waiting forever for him to ask that question, the only answer possible had been readied long ago. "Yes," she verbalized it, and watched as Angel put the diamond ring on her finger. "I can't wait to tell you 'I do'," she whispered.

"I do too," Angel beamed at her.

Buffy pulled him up to his feet and he enclosed his arms around her waist.

"May I now kiss the bride?" he asked.

She smiled and ascended on her tiptoes to meet his lips in at first tender and then passionate kiss, lightened by the morning sun.

"You know, I was thinking," Buffy pondered later in bed, "will we have like…a honeymoon?"

"Sure, we will," Angel replied. "Why, you want to go somewhere specific?"

Buffy cuddled in his lap. "Frankly, I have no idea."

"I'll take you everywhere you want to go, just name the spot. But you know what?" he glanced at her. "I thought that maybe, among all the other places, I will take you to see Ireland. If you want, of course."

Buffy grinned. "Of course, I do."


"Of course," she took his hand, "I want to see the places where you grew up."

"I think they have changed a little since then," Angel joked.

Buffy laughed. "You know what I mean. It'll be nice."

"Okay," Angel pulled her closer.

"I was wondering," Buffy contemplated, "what we're gonna do after the wedding, and the honeymoon, when it'll really start 'us time', and I can't think of anything."

"Really?" he cocked a brow. "Well, then in that case, allow me. I have it all planned."

"You do?" Buffy peered up at him. "Wanna share it with me?"

"I see no reason why not. Once we're back from our honeymoon, and once we're settled down, you're going back to school. That's my plan for the next four years."

Buffy gave him a look. "Thank you, dad."

Angel combed his fingers through her golden hair. "Buffy, I never want you to think that marrying to me in any way puts your entire future on hold. I want you to have one."

But the Slayer still played the mistreated little girl. "But why does college have to be anywhere in it?"

"It is the higher education that grants you the opportunity for a future, yes."

"But I don't want to," she pouted, "I want to spend my time with you."

Angel smiled. "You will, but you also have your own life to think about."

"Forgive me for not being a big college fan," she groaned.

"Buffy, I want nothing but the best for you. Don't you know that by now?"

"I do," she kissed him, "I do know, it's just that…I don't know. I don't know what's the point. What will I get from spending four years in college? Do you actually think that my destiny will leave me time to run a carrier?"

"Of course, it will. Don't you want to have a future? Don't you want to wake up one day and say, 'I'm someone'? This is what college is all about."

"I am someone. 'The Chosen One' AKA 'the Slayer', remember?"

"You honestly want to tell me you want nothing more of your life? Don't you wish to be more?"

Buffy smiled in recognition. "Okay, school it is. But for now, can I suggest an alternative?"

"Go ahead," Angel grinned.

"How about…we started practicing on bringing Sky a little brother or sister?" she climbed on top of him and wound her arms around his neck. "We don't have to actually produce a brother or a sister, not that I'm so against having one or two more, but for now I'd prefer us focusing on the process itself. We're kinda rusty in that department."

Angel smiled and pressed her against him. "You think?"

"I'm sure," Buffy kissed him. "You see? I'm doing it all wrong. You will just have to show me how it's done all over again."

Angel rolled her down to the bed and positioned himself on top of her. He kissed a trail from her breasts up to her lips and tarried there. "How was that for a start?" he inquired seductively.

Buffy just pulled him back into a fervent kiss.

+ Epilogue +

"Will!" Buffy detected her friend ahead of her and yelled out her name.

Willow instantly revolved and after a brief incredulous stare ran into a hug.

"It's so great to see you!" she burst out as they let go. "I haven't heard from you in maybe a month! Were you hiding from me or something?"

"I wanted to surprise you," Buffy beamed slyly.

"What do you mean?"

"Angel, Sky and I moved back to Sunnydale a little less than a month ago. Angel bought the mansion and we had to renovate it to make it more living appropriate, so we haven't moved officially until a couple of days ago. What do you think?"

"Buffy, this is great!" Willow hugged her again. "But what are you doing here?"

"Enjoying my first day as a freshman all over again, the end of it to be exact. How's that for a reason?"

"Great. Angel doesn't mind that you're back at school?"

"Will, Angel was the one who pushed me back to school, although now that I think about it, I would have come back ultimately anyway. Well, how are you? How's life with Oz?" she grinned knowingly.

Willow grinned back. "Better than ever, even though we're NOT married. And you are!" she exclaimed. "And to Angel! This is all so great, it's just like it should be! You know what I did yesterday? I was going through my old diaries, and I found one excerpt there that was perfect for how things turned out."

"What was it about?"

"Remember that day…according to my diary, it was a few days after you had met Angel for the first time. We went to the mall, and you started window shopping, and you stopped by…"

"A wedding gown! I can't believe I remember it, it seems to be like ages ago."

"Yep. And who did you say you were thinking about when I asked you?" Willow prompted.

Buffy beamed. "The same one that eventually got to kiss me in a gown. God, I can't believe it, we were like what…sixteen, back then?"

"Well, I have to agree, it's not that common among the sixteen-years-olds to know what they want from their future, yet there are exceptions. Well, how are they? How's Angel, and Sky?"

"They're great. Could you believe she started walking a couple of weeks ago? It's pretty weird, insomuch as me starting walking when I was almost two. Angel, of course, doesn't remember. But then, she was born strong, nothing to say here."

"It really is unusual. She isn't a year old, is she?"

"No," Buffy shook her head, "but you haven't seen the half of it yet."

"What's the other half?"

"She talks. And I mean actual words. It was a week ago or so, Angel and I were sitting on the couch, and she was on the rug, playing with her stuffed animals and suddenly she approaches us, and says 'mommy daddy'. You should have seen our faces that moment," the Slayer's eyes sparkled with pride.

"Hey!" Willow nudged Buffy. "Maybe you have a Super Baby?"

Buffy laughed. "Well, then we're about to have another one."

Willow looked stunned. "You mean…"

"Angel and I have been suspecting for a while already, but we weren't sure. Anyway, I had a doctor appointment this morning to be sure. There's another bun in the oven. Angel's picking me up today, so he should be here any moment," Buffy glanced at her watch, "I can't wait to tell him, he's gonna be thrilled."

"What about you?"

"Oh, I already am," Buffy beamed, "but with Angel it's…he has been repenting for not being there when I was pregnant with Sky, so now he probably won't let me out of his sight…and not that you will hear me complaining."

"Buffy, this is amazing! I'm so happy for you two!" Willow pulled her into another hug.

"What'd they do?" Xander queried, approaching the women with Riley by his side.

"Buffster!" he hugged her. "Welcome back to school!"

"Hi, Buffy," Riley smiled.

"Hey, guys," she replied.

Xander stood in front of her and examined her frame. "May I point that…you look great?" he concluded.

"Not for long, I don't," she grinned mischievously.

"She's about to have another baby!" Willow blurted out.

"Another one?" Xander disbelieved. "Don't you two ever rest? You still look great."

"Be careful, Xan," Buffy forewarned playfully, "I'm a married woman."

Xander tittered. "Oh, yes! The Dead-Boy who scored again, how is he? How's the kid?"

"You're married?" Riley queried. It seemed he had been left out lately.

"And may I add, happily? To the man I love," she showed them the ring.

Xander scrutinized it. "He doesn't spare expenses, I can tell you that."

"Like you haven't seen it before," Buffy giggled and glimpsed down at the parking lot, "and here he is."

Angel was standing there, with Sky holding his hand. Buffy waved at them and as soon as Sky spotted her, she started pulling her father in that direction.

"Hi," Angel greeted everyone.

"Dead-Boy!" Xander quipped. "Long time no seen!"

Angel smirked at him, used to his wisecracks.

Buffy embraced him and they kissed.

"There are kids here," Xander bantered.

Buffy stopped the kiss but remained in Angel's embrace. "Yeah, and their name is Xander," she retorted. "Get over yourself." The Slayer lifted her daughter in her arms and gave her a warm kiss on the cheek. "Missed me, honey?" she asked her.

"Mommy!" Sky pronounced and embraced Buffy.

Xander was astonished. "Hey, isn't she too young to…"

"Not my girl," Angel said proudly and brushed Sky's back.

Buffy turned Sky's attention to the people around her. "These are your aunt Willow and uncle Xander. Remember them?"

The girl eyed them for a few moments. "Hello," she said shyly.

Buffy reposed her back on the ground and turned to Angel. "Angel, this is Riley," she motioned towards the other man, "this is my husband, Angel," she presented him to Riley.

As Angel heard the name, he impulsively reinforced his grip on his wife and she collaborated willingly. The two men exchanged polite looks.

Buffy faced Angel and inclined back on the firm circle of his arms, as he supported her around the waist. "I have a not-so-surprise for you," she told him smiling.

"What?" he pulled her closer.

She reached up to his ear and whispered something.

After a moment of first shock, Angel gathered her in his arms and swung her around. "This is great!" he exclaimed, drawing her closer for a kiss.

"This time it can be a boy," she estimated.

"I don't care!" he declared and pulled her into another kiss.

"Alright, you crazy kids!" Xander intervened. "You keep it like that and you'll have another one before this one is even born."

Finally they let go, but remained touching foreheads. "I love you so much," Angel whispered.

"I love you too," she kissed him tenderly.

"Daddy," Sky pulled him down by the pants.

"What is it, honey?" he inquired.

"Up," she chirped in a commanding voice.

Angel laughed and uplifted Sky on his rear, her legs straddling his neck. "Soon you'll have a little brother or sister," he informed his daughter.

"I want to go celebrate," Buffy announced.

"Ice cream!" she heard Sky's instant response.

"The verdict has bee determined," Angel noted, "ice cream it is."

Buffy took his hand and started walking away. "Aren't you coming, guys?" she asked the others. "It's not like it's a private party."

"Never say no to free ice cream," Xander tugged along with Willow.

"I'll pass," Riley excused, "I got stuff to do."

"Suit yourself," Angel replied, although inwardly, he was a little happier the other man wasn't coming. Ever since the first time Buffy had mentioned him in her letter, he substantially hated the guy. "We're going to have ice cream!" He tickled Sky's loins until she began to laugh.