"OK," he said, "let's go home," he stood, lifting the duffel bag onto his shoulder. Buffy took the sword. He hoisted her and she wrapped her legs around his waist; their mouths met and they stood for a while, drinking each other in. His tongue in her mouth was a balm to her craving, it was exactly what she wanted, she sighed with relief to taste him, drawing deeply, stroking the roof of his mouth with her own. A strange combination of nostalgia and excitement shot through her, the sweetest of her memories and the highest of her hopes were all in that kiss. She finally pulled back and gazed at him.
"Are you OK?" she asked, slipping her hands around him, over his shoulders (had they always been this wide, this solid?) down the hardness of his arms, down his back. She'd forgotten that, too: that she could barely get her arms around him. His size was luxurious, it made her feel deliciously safe. She'd never felt that way with anyone else. He'd been her worst enemy at one point and she remembered the desperate feeling she'd had when she was forced to fight him. He was big, smart, and very tough, and now he was holding her; now she was his precious cargo. She sighed, releasing an entire lungful of air for the first time in so, so long. Safety.
"Yeah," he murmured, lowering his chin and raising an eyebrow at her, "You? Have you been careful?"
"Careful enough," she said cozily. He was strolling slowly down the pier with her wrapped around him. "Are you healed?" she was exploring his ribs, "You got hurt-"
"You have to be much more of the cautious now," she said.
"Am I becoming a nag within the span of two minutes?"
He laughed softly. "No. I'll let you know,"
She handed him the car keys.
"You don't have your licence back yet?"
"No," she pouted.
"But you drove here,"
He leaned foreward and she slid onto the hood of the car. His hand closed around her right ankle; he wriggled her foot gently in his hand as he pressed his forehead to hers. "What are we going to do about this foot?"
"I'm going to make you wash it,"
He growled faintly. He leaned all the way over her, pushing her onto her back. A trill came out of Buffy as she slid a hand around the back of his neck, pulling his mouth onto hers again. The sword rang on the concrete and the duffel bag thumped to the ground. Buffy's hands crept into his shirt and she gasped at the feeling of his skin, so tender and silky; the thick muscles of his back shifted as her legs tightened around him. The hood of the car made an alarming thunk and they both paused. Buffy pictured a dent and laughed. So WHAT? she thought. He tried to rise, but she had a firm grip on him with all of her limbs and she pulled him onto her with real force. She gave a trailing cry of longing; he was hard against her, hard like she'd dreamed about for literally years, long and steely and insistent, she undulated her body against him. He moaned.
"God, I want you, GOD I want you," she whined.
He cleared his throat, trying to collect himself. "Let's get home," he murmured.
"I want you right now," she kissed him breathlessly, closing her lips over his again and again. He managed to pull back.
"I want to undress you," he said, his eyes darting into hers longingly, "I want to look at you. I want to look at you for hours. I want to put you to bed and crawl in beside you and be home. I want to-"
Buffy reached down and seized him in her hand. He yelped into her hair.
"Look how thick the fog is, still," she whispered. She thrust her tongue into his mouth. He scooped her up, carried her around to the passenger side and gently but firmly deposited her in the seat. When he tossed a leg over the driver's side door she giggled; he had to move the seat back before he could even climb into it. He paused.
"Which way is your house from here?"
"Make a left," she laid her hand on his thigh and gave directions. She stared at his profile as he drove smoothly through the misty streets. She ground her hips unconsciously; she was brimming with heat but another kind of warmth was blooming under her breastbone, the thrill of having him home. My friend, she thought, gazing at him, loving the way his black eyes darted as he drove, loving the play of light over his cheekbones, my best friend, my lover. Her love for him was a force like the very life in her cells, a kind of fundamental chemical reaction that fired on it's own without her attention; her love for him was in her deepest nature. Then she thought the word, "husband", and the word was lush, it spread before her like a vast and fertile country, a new country where she was welcome as royalty but new to her, where she might at times misinterpret the customs, fumble with the language, get lost. So many things would be new, but still she belonged.
Then the fear came up, as fear will. A cold thought touched her and she had to know. Now.
They pulled into the garage. "So...the Mayve," said Buffy, "Why not?"
He shut off the engine. "Huh?"
"The Mayve," said Buffy, "Why not? Pretty good offer. I mean, does body heat make that much difference?"
His features contracted in something like hurt.
"No...no," he said somberly, "Don't you know?" he took her hands in his, stroking her fingers, "No...it's not that....it's...it's everything. It's the way life loves to be in you, the way you love life, without even thinking about it. It's the way you don't back down from anything. It's the way you take the truth head on and take action, it's the way you face everything down with heart. It's your heart. It's...it's you," he blinked, and moisture clung to his lashes, "There's only you. Don't you know that?"
Buffy sniffled. "I know I'm a jerk," she whispered, "I'm sorry,"
"Don't be sorry," he said, "Always ask me. Always. I'll tell you. Don't make assumptions without asking me, I'll tell you exactly how I feel whenever you need to hear it, Buffy. I love you. I love YOU,"
"I know," it was almost a cry. She climbed over him and wrapped her arms around his neck, sobbing into the kiss. His hands moved down over her haunches and crushed her to him; he made a little growl into her mouth and Buffy made a high, hungry sound; she felt a lush wetness begin between her legs, an irresistible wave of moisture. She'd forgotten how big his hands were. She actually felt faint. He hooked an arm around her and pulled her out of the car with him. Buffy reached quickly behind her and took the sword and the duffel bag and they stood in the garage, their mouths diving together.
"Tell me it isn't a dream...it's not a dream, it's real...tell me-" she gasped.
"It's not a dream," he said huskily, his hands cradling her neck. "You're going to wake up next to me,"
"But we have to get IN bed first," he smiled wryly.
"Now," said Buffy. He followed her; in the entryway he pulled her to him and they fell against the mailboxes. His mouth was silky-cool, his hands consuming her, mauling every inch of her. Buffy had a sudden, strange thought: if only she could have known, every morning when she had pulled a letter from her mailbox, if only she could have seen into the future, to this. But maybe if she'd known it wouldn't have happened. How could she be thinking about anything else right now?
"OK," he grunted, "Me, now. I'm not dreaming," his eyes sharpened humorously, "Right?"
Buffy beamed at him. "No, it's real. Want me to pinch you?"
He lilfted her in his arms and started up the stairs. "Yes,"
"Second floor," said Buffy; she buried her face in his neck, inhaling him. Oh, that clean man smell, that amazing smell. Cool and rich, pure like fresh air, like sea air that made you hungry. Buffy unlocked the door. She tossed the sword and duffel bag into the apartment and turned to him, taking his hands in hers, pulling him through the doorway.
"Come in and be home," she said; she kicked the door shut behind them. She wrapped herself around him and it hit her, took the breath out of her. He was home. She burst into tears.
"Oh, God, you're really home, you're home," she whimpered, "Oh, Angel, you're home,"
"I'm home," he sniffed faintly.
"Don't you ever leave me again,"
"I'm not leaving again. I'm going to marry you,"
"You really are?"
"This is not a dream," suddenly she was in the air, and then sitting on her kitchen counter; his hands began taking loving inventory, smoothing over her face, following the lines of her body. He made a soft groan. The phone rang.
Buffy ignored it. The answering machine clicked several times, then she heard Giles' voice.
"Buffy? Are you there?"
She sighed. He laughed.
"You better get it," he said, "We can't worry him,"
Buffy reached to pick it up. "Hey," she said.
"Is Angel there? Are you all right?"
"Yeah, he's home," she said. Angel began to explore the skin behind her ear with his lips. She cleared her throat, "All is cool,"
"Giles, where are you?" his voice was too clear to be coming through that ancient phone he had upstairs.
"Oh," she paused, then blushed deeply, unable to say thanks to him, "Oh, uh, OK, say hi to Mom," Angel was tasting to the back of her neck and goose bumps raced over her.
"Yes. Perhaps tomorrow night, we could have a pint,"
"Oh," she paused, pulling back to look at Angel, "Pint with Giles tomorrow night?"
"Good," he smiled.
"Yeah, that'll work,"
"Splendid. I'm looking foreward to full accounts of the Ancients,"
"Oh, yeah," Buffy was watching Angel as he went through his duffel bag. She absorbed the mass of him, the solid comfort of just having him standing on her floor, the size of him making her apartment suddenly seem tiny. The scent of him was on her skin. She was flooded with soft contentment. She sighed happily. Then she realized she had drifted away from Giles.
"-with your mother tomorrow," Giles was saying.
"Yeah...all of the good. Yeah,"
"You are both quite unharmed?" he asked again.
"Promise, Giles. No injuries,"
"Tomorrow night, then,"
"OK," Buffy hung up the phone and blushed again. "He's in Sunnydale," she said.
"Good old Giles," murmured Angel. He was holding a bottle.
"We made a couple of stops. The south of France has amazing vineyards. It's a Merlot de Lafeuille. It's an ancient estate. They're still making good wine there, a hundred years later,"
"Oh," she took it from him and set it on the counter. "You want some now?"
"Later," he leaned on the counter, positioning himself between her legs, "Where were we?"
"Your hands were all over me,"
"I was thinking about undressing you,"
"Hey," she blurted, "How many languages do you speak?'
He turned a surprised look to her. He was adorable when he was taken off guard, she'd forgotten. "You- you mean fluently?" he asked.
"Well..." he puzzled for a minute, "I never thought about it. Four, maybe? I mean...well, Irish...French, English...uh...German, Korean, Chinese....I guess six. I can get by in Italian and Spanish but I don't write in them well,"
She sighed. "I'll never be able to keep up with you,"
He closed his arms around her and gazed down at her.
"That's not the point. I don't have to be a Slayer. I'm in love with one,"
"You won't get bored with me? I mean, culturally-"
"You make me happy. I never thought I'd be happy. I'm happy, Buffy. Do you know what a miracle that is?"
"And nothing you do can make me unhappy with you. You could break my heart if you wanted to, but you could never make me stop loving you. I can't,"
She put her hand on his chest, slid an arm around his neck. She thought she felt an echo, or a stirring under her palm, but that was impossible. "I want to keep your heart safe," she whispered, "I want to keep you safe,"
"I'm safe with you. I'm-I'm almost alive with you," his voice shook. They gazed at each other, and the thought was the same for both of them, she knew. A little dream they both had. Buffy touched his cheek very lightly.
"I missed you. I missed you so much I....I can't even describe it,"
"I know how it feels," he said.
"I think I might still be a little bit mad at you,"
His eyes sharpened. "Are you?"
"Maybe," she suddenly felt confused. Why was she saying this?
"It's not all going to be smooth sailing," he said quietly, "But that's not the important part. The important part is that we never give up again,"
She looked at him and her heart strained under a wave of gratitude. He always knows, she thought, he always gets right to the real core of the issue and he always means what he says. There were so many reasons to love him, so many.
"I love you," she said.
He made a deep, soft guttural sound, a velvety "hmm" that she remembered. It was almost like a punctuation; she wondered if he was conscious of making that sound. She loved it.
"I missed everything," he said, "I missed your eyes so much, I missed you looking at me, maybe most of all. I missed the way you walk, I missed your SHOES because I missed thinking about your feet," she burst into giggles and he smiled at her, "I missed watching you fight. I even missed worrying about you,"
Buffy took his face in her hands and kissed him. He kissed her back as he began to take off her boots. He peeled her socks off and Buffy winced; she'd been fighting in those boots. Eeeew. He took a foot in each hand and worked them gently as he kissed her, stroking the very sensitive soles. It was suddenly an intensely erotic feeling. She shifted her hips on the counter, working the seam of her pants against her sex. He cradled her hips in his arms and brought her against him with a sudden thrust; she gave a little shriek and thanked Giles again in her mind, for one night of unselfconscious indulgence. They would need to start hunting for a house soon.
His face felt warm by this time, warmer than she ever remembered. He pressed his mouth to her ear.
"I want..." he stopped.
"I..." his voice was so soft and low it was almost impossible to hear him.
She breathed on his neck. She tasted his neck. It was warm, too, and smelled faintly of spices.
"Tell me," she begged, "Talk to me. Tell me now-"
"I want to be inside you," he groaned, and moisture seeped from her again, gliding in a soft little motion between her legs. She panted into his ear.
She lifted the edges of her blouse and pulled it over her head. He reached up and opened the clip that held her hair; it fell lightly onto her neck. She tossed her head, moving her hair over her shoulder, baring her throat. He licked his lips quickly and swallowed; a shadow moved in his eyes. He looked at the floor.
Buffy cupped his face in her hands, tilting it up.
"What do you feel?" she whispered.
His mouth twisted.
"You have to tell me. What do you feel?"
He swallowed again. "I hurt you,"
"It had to happen, or I wouldn't have you now. We have to put that behind us...or at least in the right place, Angel. What do you feel right now? What do you want right now?"
"I love you. I want you,"
"I know," she said softly, "Kiss me," He kissed her; he drew back.
"I'm not...the best communicator," he said, "I know that. And I've been working on it. But I need your help, too. I ...I don't always say things I should say,"
"No. There are things that need to be said, and sometimes I don't," he stopped, choked, and kept on. "...I have a lot of regrets. Thousands of them. But one of the worst..." he stopped, again, his voice thickening, "The night after...the one night we had..."
She remembered. Angelus. His deadly coldness and sarcasm, how she'd thought it was Angel's. The memory almost made her queasy, even after all this time.
"That wasn't you,"
"But the demon leaves memories," his voice shook a little, "I remember the look on your face. I saw your heart breaking. I could never stand to see that again. And I never told you-I never told you how wonderful you were. You were wonderful, you were the best thing that ever happened to me. You were so amazing, my soul soared so high, I lost it. That's what it meant to me, to be with you,"
"I never said I was sorry-"
She made a small sob. He gathered her to him and it was suddenly very clear to Buffy: they had healing to do. A lot of it. She hadn't thought about that, not really. It wasn't all going to be easy. But the injuries, even the ones they had inflicted on each other, connected them. They had weathered so much together.
"Kiss me," she said, guiding his head, "Kiss me there," his lips touched the scar and they both shook. His mouth traveled slowly over her throat, every kiss waking a light of pleasure in her skin, a pleasure that was nearly an ache. His lips were almost hot under her chin, travelling smoothly up and down her throat, down her chest. Buffy's head sank backward. Her breath began rushing.
"We have-" she panted, "We have healing to do,"
"We do," he moaned, his kisses opening wetly on the upper curve of her breast.
"This is healing, right?"
"It's part of it," His hands slid up her back. Her bra fell and her breasts stirred with the movement, then quieted. He made a soft sound of awe; his hands rested on her upper arms as his eyes soaked her in.
"Important part of it," she sighed. Her fingers explored and remembered the back of his neck and the texture of his hair. He pressed his cheek over her heart as his hands traveled around her shoulders and down, curving under the shapes of her breasts, holding them reverently. He began softly nuzzling them. His mouth drifted lightly across them, occasionally touching down in a kiss, sometimes brushing across a nipple, gliding, tantalizing her. Buffy bucked and whined as his mouth closed delicately over a nipple. He devoted complete attention to it, his tongue moving languidly, teasingly. His fingers slowly circled the other and Buffy slid into obliteration, arching and crying out a little song of cries; he caressed her more urgently and brought her through it. Buffy leaned on him. She was completely winded. He lifted her and stood for a moment, disoriented. She giggled.
"Right," she said breathlessly, "Turn right, it's-"
"Right here," he threw her on the bed, crouched over her. Then he was suddenly still and somber.
"I want to say the things I should say," he said, "I want to be a good husband, I-"
"Say you love me,"
"I love you," his face suddenly opened with an almost childlike smile.
"What?" she asked, grinning back.
"I love saying it," he said, chuckling a little at himself, "Just saying it to you. I love to be able to tell you. I couldn't tell you, for so long. I love you, Buffy,"
"I love you too,"
"I'll make you happy,"
"But you have to help. You have to tell me-"
"I'll do what it takes,"
"Be you. That's what it takes," She was unbuttoning his shirt. She slid her hand across his chest and was taken by need; she flipped him onto his back, straddling him. She looked down at him and paused again, absorbing the beauty of him, his animal-dark eyes, like the eyes of a magnificent cat, the tender shape of his mouth. Mine, she thought, must be mine. I'll keep him happy. It'll be my hobby. Happy husband. Husband! Oh, my God...
His hand had moved under her, cupping her sex. She moved away and stood. She sighed.
"Stay there," she said. She took a moment to light candles, because even though it made for a break in the action, she wanted the right light for this. He stayed where he was, watching her. She finished with the candles; the room was throbbing softly with golden light. She stood before him again and began to peel her pants off very slowly. He beamed at her. She pushed the pants down and kicked them away; the panties were all lace. He sat up. She pushed him back onto the bed. She slid a finger under the lace edge and stroked along the plane of her belly, moving the panties down very slowly. He gulped. She let them slip to the floor.
"I love you," he said longingly. She climbed over him again; his hands swept quickly over her skin as though they needed to touch every inch of her at once. He cupped her breasts and then her hips; he massaged her lower lip, he stroked her arms, the backs of her thighs, her back, all in warm, encompassing movements. He was praising her with his hands. She stayed on all fours and let him. She arched and trembled, trying to resist the urge to kiss him, because this was important somehow, this was like a welcoming ritual, she was giving him her body and his hands were saying grace. His fingers finally found her sex, first cradling it very delicately, then exploring with little strokes. His fingers were coated with moisture, they were gliding elegantly along the folds of her, and then deeper into her; she gasped and was overcome suddenly. He drove two fingers inside her. She was surprised on a level below words, listening to herself crying out his name like a warning, over and over. Then she was plastered against him as her body convulsed, her breasts were on his chest and she needed him naked NOW. She sat up and crawled off the bed; she brought him with her and undressed him, pushing his shirt off his shoulders and allowing her hands to marvel at the shape of him, the perfect, classical shape of him. She pulled his buckle open, she lowered his pants and pressed her lips to the inside of his thigh, inhaling. Her mouth watered; she kissed the tender flesh there as she unlaced his shoes and removed them, as she mpulled off his socks and ran her hands over his feet. He was smooth all over, heavenly smooth. She took the rest of his clothing off, gently and reverently; she bent and put her lips to his feet and his hands found her, brought her to him.
When she felt his body agianst her she took an endless breath, a long breath of blessing. Tears fell; she had no words. They pressed their faces together and held each other very gently. She put her mouth against his and was still; she could feel thoughts moving between them in exchange, not thoughts made of words, but of otherworldly texture, a powerful conduit of shared knowing, melding them together. She knew every sensation he was having. The sacred quiet of this, this space they were both poised in now, was a space that could only open when they created it, by the quiet of their joining. They lay for a long time, but desire had been building for so long that it became deafening. Buffy took his sex in her hand and stroked him as she took mouthfuls of his chest and his belly. Her hunger grew and she moved more needfully, rubbing her silky-wet patch of curls on his thigh. He reached around her hip and brought her nearer; she arched her hips closer and dipped his sex into hers. She hissed and he groaned, and then they froze.
She was trembling. "It-it's OK,"
"Yeah," he said, and they looked at each other, shivering as fear crept up and through the air between them.
"Birog wouldn't lie, or anything," she said, but her voice had a question in it.
"No, she wouldn't,"
They stared at each other.
"Would you feel better if I chained you up?"
He laughed nervously. "I might,"
"This is silly," she said, "It's fine, it's going to be fine. All those dreams,"
"Just-" he tossed his head toward her bedside table, "Tell me you have a stake in there,"
"As IF!" she sat up.
"Yes, I have a stake. And NO, I couldn't, not in a gazillion years. God!" she stared at him, "Way to ruin the mood! You can dwell in the past if you want to, if it satisfies some obsessive need to self-flagellate, but I am NOT going to! This is now!"
"If the tables were turned-"
"Don't pull THAT on me, either. I know more about it than YOU do! You remember it. Well, I LIVED it!"
"You think I don't know that?" he demanded.
"And YOU-" she frowned suddenly, putting a hand to his cheek. "You-you look....you're flushed,"
He touched his face. "Am I?"
"You were kissing me. You must have warmed me up,"
"And now we're fighting," she blinked, "Why are we fighting?"
"I-I asked you-"
"OK," Buffy put her hands over her eyes briefly, "OK. I overreacted. We have a history. It's not exactly like starting with a clean slate,"
"No. Not exactly,"
She sighed. "You know what you said about smooth sailing? What do we do when there's a hurricane?"
His eyes were gentle on her. "Hang on to each other,"
Her eyes stung. "I'm sorry,"
"I am too. I shouldn't have asked you that. You're right. It was definitely a mood killer,"
"OK," Buffy laughed a little. "Hey," she said brightly, "That was our first fight, I mean, our first fight as fiancees," she blinked at him, "How do you think we did?"
"Not bad," he deadpanned, "We stopped before anybody got hurt,"
"Yeah," she thought about this, "That would be the important part,"
"I love you,"
"Put your arms around me NOW,"
He drew her to him. Buffy sobbed as her skin met his. She writhed very slightly against him.
"I love your letters," she said, "I love what you wrote to me and all those things you said you felt about me. I love...I love the way you feel about me,"
His arms circled her. She felt him rising again. She laid her hand on his sex, pressing it to her belly. It grew under her palm. She gazed at him.
"Promise me something,"
"Promise me you'll write me little notes. I'm addicted now,"
He smiled with dusky eyes, "I promise," he said in a murmer.
Buffy lifted one leg gracefully, pulling on his shoulder and hip. She positioned her sex to his; she slid down onto him and they both cried out, first with the motion, and then in a series of moans, like aftershocks, just to feel each other. They stayed still, trembling. Buffy was on the very edge and she wanted to stay there for a time, admiring the sensation of impending oblivion like someone lingering on a cliff over the sea before the leap, to admire the view. She moved on him then, and was completely lost. She drove against him viciously, screaming; her throat contracted with the force of it. He twisted and threw her under him. She drew her legs up as high as she could, opening her depths to him, demanding him. She looked up at him.
"Yours," she whispered, and he returned her gaze solidly, knowing what she meant.
"I know," he was letting her say it, and he knew. He knew she had always wanted him, underneath every other connection she had with every other man, she had always wanted him. He knew. She looked into him and saw the long night of him, the vastness of him. He was so beyond the understanding of anyone else. They saw his beauty and his strength. They saw his bravery and his sadness. They didn't see his absolute authenticity, his warmth, his wisdom, his loyalty, his perfect generosity, because those things belonged to her and always had. A large part of him was hers and only hers. The thought was astonishing.
"Yours," he said, in echo of her thoughts.
"Give it to me," she whispered hoarsly, "Really hard, really like you want it. It's not the first time and it's not going to be the last time either, I want you to really give it to me, show me how much you want me right now, hard, Angel-now, now..."
He was shaking, gritting his teeth. He wrapped his arms around her and gave her the deepest thrust she had ever felt, he brought her hips up in his arms as he swung into her with long, brutal drives and Buffy fell into joy. Her vision was lost. She was aware of some very slight pain, because he was filling the full limit of her body, but the pain lingered around the edges of the flood of pleasure; her senses were drenched with him, the scent of him, the satin of his skin under her hands, the strength of his sex, as unrelenting as stone. She raised herself up to meet him, to take him even deeper. He began to shout her name and her sex clung to him, she gripped him in her arms. His shouts were in her hair and then she cried out in wonder to feel the deep spill, the cool little gift of his pleasure, and she gripped him harder, pulling him onto her. They hung on to each other, not willing to conceed any distance yet. Buffy sobbed, stroking his hair, his back.
"I love you,"
"I love you," he moaned.
The lines of her body, the edges of her fingers and her cheekbones and her hips were dissolving. The softness began inside and ran out through her nerve endings like watercolors, blurring her into him. She was weightless, almost formless; she rubbed her swollen lips along the angle of his chin lightly. Everything moved at a languid pace, everything was slowed supernaturally. It took perhaps an hour for her lips to travel along his jaw and find the tender place under his ear. She laid her hand on the firm curve of his chest and felt a thump under it.
She gasped, her eyes widening. He smiled.
"Oh, my God," she whispered.
"Yeah, it...it does that once in a while. When I'm talking to you or sometimes when I dream about you-"
"Oh, my God," she said again, "How long has that been happening?"
His face darkened and she knew. The night she'd fed him.
"That's part of us," she said to him, "That night, what we had to do. It's part of us, of who we are. It's not just something you can throw on the self-hate pile. It was important,"
"So, stop regretting it," she said. Then she locked eyes with him. His chest was warm under her hand. "Your heart..." she said wonderingly.
His eyes were adoring hers. "Yeah,"
She rested her cheek there and vowed to herself that she would do it every
morning, and every night. Every night, every morning, she would place an ear
to his heart. She would listen carefully. She would know the slow, patient
song of his heart like she knew the song of her own soul.