“Oz has been gone for months, Xander. And I don’t think he’s coming back.” Willow’s voice cracked with pain as she spoke.
Xander pulled his best friend into his arms. “I’m sorry, Will.”
“And now Buffy’s gone.”
“She had to go.”
“All I wanted was a girl’s day. Maybe she could have told me everything was going to be okay. Or even that there’s more fish in the sea. But instead she took off.”
“You know, she didn’t have a choice. This new demon in town is extra bad, Will. And he was gunning for Angel. Buffy had to give him a head’s up.”
“Well, there is such a thing as a phone. She could’ve just called him.”
“You know how she is when it comes to Angel. Besides she probably wants to be there to help him with it. Just to make sure he’s okay.”
Willow raised her tear stained face and stared at him. “Well fine then. Angel is all she has ever cared about anyway. I wish they were married already.”
“That’s not fair, Will. You know Buffy loves you.”
Willow let her head fall dejectedly onto Xander’s shoulder as tears raced down her cheeks. “It still hurts, Xander. The pain isn’t going away. It feels as if he just left. I thought I would be better by now. How much longer is it going to take?”
“I don’t know, Will. I don’t know.”
There was no reason for her to stand there listening except that the pain she heard in the young woman’s voice had her almost glued to the spot. She knew she could walk away and pretend as if she hadn’t heard anything. After all she did have other business to attend to in the next dormitory. But she couldn’t. She couldn’t stand to hear the despair that echoed through the hallway. It drowned out everything, for those who cared enough to listen. She didn’t know who this Buffy person was or how she could leave her friend in such pain nor did she care. All she knew was that although this wasn’t her usual raison d’être she had to do something. Without giving it another thought, she clutched her necklace in her hand and whispered, Wish granted. before she calmly walked away.
The flight from Sunnydale to Los Angeles had been uneventful. Especially considering the fact that she had been too excited to sleep a wink the whole trip. Buffy raised her arms over her head and stretched before she quickly hailed a cab.
It didn’t take long before she was standing outside of the Hyperion. She didn’t understand why she was so nervous but she was. She gathered her slayer courage and walked into the lobby.
“May I help you, Miss...” Wesley let his question trail off as he recognized the young woman standing in front of him. “Buffy? Well, this is a surprise. I...” He cleared his throat. “I meant that in a good way of course.” Wesley cleared his throat as he stood up straighter. “What are you doing here?”
“I need to see Angel.”
Wesley removed his glasses and began to clean them on the handkerchief he pulled from his pocket. “I believe Angel is still upstairs sleeping. Or at least I haven’t seen him come down the stairs today. You’re free to have a seat in his office. I’m sure he won’t mind if you make yourself at home until he...”
As Wesley pushed his glasses back up the bridge of his nose, Buffy quickly interrupted. “I’m sorry, Wesley. This just can’t wait.”
Without another word, Buffy took the stairs two at a time. She couldn’t wait any longer. She had to see him.
She stopped, looked up and there he stood. She wanted to rush into his arms and forget whatever had torn them apart in the first place. But she settled for staring up into his eyes and basking. “Angel.” His name was a soft sigh on her lips.
“What are doing here, Buffy?”
Tears filled her eyes as she continued to stare at him.
The sight of her tears had always been his undoing. He stepped closer and pulled her into his arms. “What’s wrong?”
“Why did you leave me?”
A look of pain crossed his face. Of all the things he had expected her to say this hadn’t even been on his list. “We’ve already been through this, Buffy. We can’t be together. You know that. No matter how much we love each other it just isn’t going to work.”
She quickly pushed him away. “But that’s not fair. You just decided we can’t be together and that’s it?”
Angel shook his head. “I didn’t just decide it. It killed me to let you go but I didn’t have a choice.”
“That’s not true, Angel. There’s always a choice and you chose wrong!” Buffy wiped the tears from her eyes as she glared at him. “A husband and wife are supposed to fight to stay together not find excuses to stay apart.”
“I didn’t....” His face was the perfect picture of shock. “What? How? What?” Surely, he couldn’t have heard her right. Angel cleared his throat and tried again. “What did you say?”
“You chose wrong?”
Angel shook his head again. “Not that part. The other one.”
“That married people are supposed to stay together?”
That was what he had thought he had heard. A smile threatened to pull the corners of his mouth as it dawned on him that she was pulling his leg. It was the only thing he could think of to explain the way she was acting. “Oh yeah. Ha Ha. Look, Buffy. I don’t have time to.....” Whatever he was going to say was lost as he noticed the tears beginning to well up in her eyes once more. “What’s the matter?”
“You’re treating this as a joke. And it’s no laughing matter, Angel. A married couple should stay in the same house but for some misguided reason we can’t even stay in the same city!”
“What the hell are you talking about, Buffy? We aren’t married.”
Giving up the pretense of trying not to eavesdrop, Wesley quickly climbed the stairs to find out what all of the commotion was about. “Who’s married?”
They spoke in unison but each of them had a different answer.
Angel spun around to glare at Buffy. “Buffy, we’re not...”
“Yes, we are! See? She held out her hand to show the claddagh ring, the one he had given her so long ago, perched in its place on her finger as if she had never removed it.
The sight of his ring on her finger brought back memories and so many emotions it was almost more than he could take. “Buffy, I.....”
Wesley grabbed Angel’s arm to stop him from speaking and pulled him to the side. “Angel, I think it might be best if you don’t say anything else until we can get to the bottom of this. There’s obviously something seriously wrong with her.”
Guilt washed over him. She looked so beautiful and so.... normal that it hadn’t even crossed his mind that something could be wrong with her. But it could explain why she was acting the way she was. “What do you want me to do?”
“Just go along with whatever she says, while I make some phone calls. Maybe Giles will know what’s happened to Buffy.”
“Talk to your wife, Angel.” He whispered softly before quickly adding, “I’ll be back as soon as I know something.” As Wesley turned to leave a huge smile was plastered on his face. He knew he shouldn’t enjoy Angel’s discomfort, it would probably bite him in the ass later, but this was too priceless to pass up.
Angel waited until Wesley had walked back down the stairs before he escorted Buffy into his room. As soon as the door clicked into place he began to speak, “I thought we could use a little more privacy instead of discussing this on the upstairs landing.” He waited until Buffy had seated herself on the edge of the bed before he continued, “Why didn’t you call me and tell me you were coming?”
That’s a good question. Why didn’t I call him? Buffy was unable to come up with an answer. She shrugged her shoulders slightly before she turned around and smiled at him. “I wanted to surprise you. I did surprise you didn’t I?”
He couldn’t help but smile as he nodded his head. “Yes, you did.”
A horrible thought occurred to her. “Maybe I should have called you first. What if you had had someone else....”
Her sentence trailed off as Angel quickly interrupted. “What? What are you talking about?”
Buffy pushed back the stray hair from her eyes. “Well, you didn’t seem at all happy to see me when you first saw me here. And now you ask why I didn’t call.” Buffy shook her head sadly. “Those are classic symptoms of a cheating husband.”
Angel threw back his head and roared with laughter. Of all the asinine things she could’ve come up with. It took a few minutes for him to get control of himself but somehow he managed it. If the look on her face was anything to go by he did it at the perfect time too.
“You’ve been watching too much tv, Buffy.”
“I don’t watch all that much...” She had the grace to look sheepish. “Maybe, I might have caught the ending of a Dr. Phil show. Once.”
He cupped her face with his hand, his thumb gently caressed her cheek. “I have never cheated on you. I’ve never even thought about it. Not once. Not ever. You are all I think about. All I could ever want.”
Her eyes grew round at his declaration. “Then why didn’t you seem happy to see me. And why didn’t you believe we were married?”
What exactly was he supposed to say to that? Wesley had said just to play along with whatever she said but he hadn’t given him any kind of hint on how to answer these types of questions.
Wesley quickly dialed the number to Rupert Giles’ apartment. As soon as a voice came on the line he lost no time with the pleasantries but got straight to the point. “How are Angel and Buffy married?”
Laughter could be heard coming through the phone. “I am being serious, Giles. Buffy is here at this very moment claiming that she and Angel are married.” Wesley rolled his eyes. “Well, of course it has to be something magical. I never for a moment suspected otherwise. I believe..... Yes, I’ll hold.” He drummed his fingers on the counter top as he waited for Giles.
Suddenly he heard raised voices. “I didn’t do anything Giles. I promise. I’m no spell gal. Trust me. I learned my lesson with the last ‘My will be done’ spell. I only said I wish she and Angel....” He could almost see the look of dawning cross her face. “Oh no.”
“But you don’t think there were any vengeance demons around do you?”
“This is Sunnydale, Xander. I would only be surprised if there weren’t any around.”
“Yes, I’m here.”
“I think we may have come up with what is causing Buffy to act this way.” It only took Giles a few minutes to explain to Wesley what they thought might have happened.
As Giles finished speaking. Wesley whispered, “Good Lord.”
“That was my thought exactly. But it doesn’t really help does it?”
“Not really no.”
A huge sigh escaped Wesley as he finally dropped the phone back into its cradle. Although they now thought they knew what the problem was they were no closer to finding the answer unless they could find the demon responsible. And that was going to be like looking for a needle in a haystack. Because without the original vengeance demon to undo her spell, Buffy would continue to think she and Angel were married. And who knew what could happen with that train of thought occupying her brain.
Another sigh escaped him this one louder than the first as he quickly climbed the stairs. He might as well get this over with. Angel’s not going to be..... His thoughts trailed off as he looked around. That was odd. There was no sign of Angel and Buffy anywhere. And he knew he had left them on the landing. Where could they be? Suddenly, a horrific thought occurred to him. Buffy thought they were married and he had told Angel to play along with whatever she wanted. Oh good show, Wesley! And what do married couples want?
Without bothering to knock, Wesley burst into Angel’s room, his chest heaving with exertion. “Angel, I didn’t mean for you to....”
“For me to what, Wes?”
Wesley looked around the room at the perfectly platonic setting. “I thought you and Buffy were...” He shook his head. “But never mind. It was nothing.”
Buffy leaned closer to Angel and whispered, “He thought we were having sex.”
Angel bit his lip to keep from laughing as he watched Wesley turn red, before he leaned even closer to Buffy. “Well, you know Wesley... Always with the mind in the gutter.”
Wesley’s mouth hung open in shock. “I do no such thing. I have a perfectly normal...” Wesley shook his head again. “That’s neither here nor there. I need to speak with you privately for a moment, Angel.” He nodded towards the hallway before he walked out the door.
“I’ll be back.” Angel patted her leg softly as he stood up and followed Wesley.
“What’s wrong with Buffy?” Angel didn’t waste anytime beating around the bush. He wanted answers and he wanted them now. But by the look on his friend’s face he was positive he wasn’t going to like what he heard.
“I spoke with Giles. And while we were on the phone he had a brief conversation with Willow. It seems she is having a rough go of it since Oz left.”
Angel quickly interrupted. “Didn’t he leave months ago?”
“Well yes, but one can’t put a time limit on pain, Angel. I remember this one young lady whom I met while I was in...”
Once more Angel interrupted. “Wesley.”
“Oh right. Sorry. Anyway, it seems the consensus is that...”
“Willow did a spell, didn’t she?”
“No. It would’ve have been a lot easier if she had. But unfortunately that isn’t the case.”
“If you will quit interrupting me I’ll tell you.”
Angel had the good grace to look sheepish. “Sorry.”
“That’s quite alright. It’s perfectly understandable actually. I think you’re handling it marvelously given the circumstances. I...” At the look on Angel’s face he quickly got to the point. “As I was saying the consensus is that there was a vengeance demon in the vicinity of the dormitory. Willow and Xander were talking and she mentioned that you and Buffy should be married already since you are the only thing that she has ever really cared about.”
“But that’s.... She’s...”
It was Wesley’s turn to interrupt. “She’s a young woman in pain. And in her defense she didn’t realize that this could happen.
Angel leaned against the wall. “I know. It’s just... What do we do now?”
“That’s a very good question. I wish I had an answer. But sadly the only one who can undo a vengeance spell is....” He let his sentence trail off as Angel interrupted.
“Is the vengeance demon who created it. Damn.” Angel turned towards the door. “I’m going to go help look for this demon. The faster she’s found the faster she can undo this.”
“But you don’t even know where this demon is. She could be anywhere by now.”
Angel nodded his head. “That’s why I need to leave here right away. The longer this goes on the harder it’s going to be. On all of us.”
“What about Buffy?”
Before Angel could answer, his bedroom door swung open to reveal an angry Buffy standing there. He didn’t know how much she had heard of their conversation but by the look on her face it was enough to know that he was in some serious hot water.
“Yes, Angel what about Buffy?
“What’s the matter cat got your tongue? You just can’t get out of here fast enough can you? Well, don’t bother. If it’s such a hardship being married to me then I’ll leave.”
“Buffy, you’re being irrational. Angel only said...” Once more Wesley let his sentence trail off but this time it was because of the fixed glare Buffy was leveling in his direction.
“Irrational? How would you like it if it was your husband who couldn’t get rid of you fast enough?” And without another word she promptly burst into tears, and slammed the door in their faces.
Angel and Wesley stared at each other, dumbfounded. This had clearly not gone as they had expected.
“I’m sure she meant to say wife, when she was speaking to me. Right?”
“That’s right, Wes. That’s the part of the conversation we need to worry about.” Sarcasm dripped from Angel’s voice as he spoke.
“I only meant.. Never mind.”
Angel ran his hand through his hair as he stared at the closed door. This was one of the hardest things to ever have happened to him. To have Buffy as his wife was a dream he secretly carried but one he knew would never come true. And now here she was in his home believing that they were indeed married. It took all of his willpower to ignore the urge to barge into the room and take what was rightfully his. But of course he wouldn’t do that, he knew better. Just because he knew he couldn’t do it didn’t mean that he didn’t want to with every fiber of his being.
At the sound of his name, he slowly turned his head to look at Wesley. “Yeah?”
One look and Wesley knew what was going on his friend’s mind. “No. Angel. You can’t. I know this mustn’t be easy. But...”
“Not easy? That is the understatement of the year. Possibly the century.”
“Look. I know how you must feel. But...”
Once again Angel interrupted. “You don’t know. You can’t know.” Angel pointed to the door. “That woman in there means more to me than anything in this world. She is the one thing I have always wanted but have denied myself. I left Sunnydale because I thought the miles between us would damper the effect she has on me. But of course it didn’t work. And now here she is within my grasp. And what’s even better is that she thinks we’re married. How can I resist the temptation? How can anyone expect me to? I don’t know what kind of game the Powers that Be are playing, Wesley but I’m not sure I’m up for it.”.
“You’re not the only one who has known pain, Angel. We’ve all had our share. Granted the Powers that Be do seem to have made it a habit of sticking it to you of late. But you need to remember that this situation had nothing to do with them. It was just a misunderstanding. I’m sure we can figure out how to end this.”
“That’s the point, Wes. I can’t be sure that I’m going to want it to end. I don’t know if I can let Buffy go again.”
“Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it, shall we?” Wesley patted Angel on the shoulder. “Besides I have faith in you. I know you’ll do what’s right. But right now you have an angry and very upset wife to attend to.”
“What do I say?”
“I’ve been told the truth is good for the soul.” Wesley smiled at the look of doubt that crossed Angel’s face as he opened the door, walked into the room and softly shut the door behind him.
As Wesley walked down the stairs he couldn’t help but feel sorry for his friend. He didn’t envy him in the least.
As the door clicked shut behind him, he could see the rise and fall of Buffy’s shoulders as she lay sprawled across his bed, crying as if her heart was breaking in two.
Without warning Angel laid down beside her, pulled her into his arms and cradled her against his chest. “We aren’t really married, Buffy. I’m sorry. It’s a spell that’s making you believe we are.”
More tears streamed from her eyes and soaked his shirt. “We are. I know we are.”
“Do you honestly believe if we were married I would have ever let you go? That I would have left you behind in Sunnydale?” Before she could begin to nod, he continued, “Come on, Buffy you know me better than that. If we were married nothing could ever take you away from me. I would kill anyone who tried.”
“If it’s a spell. Why? Who would do such a thing? It would be a cruel thing to do.”
“It wasn’t done on purpose, Buffy. She...”
Angel quickly shook his head. “A vengeance demon. Apparently she overheard a conversation between Willow and Xander and decided to take matters into her own hands.”
“So what do we do now?”
Angel smiled as he kissed the tip of Buffy’s nose. “As long as you’re under the spell and believe we’re married we do what all married couples do. We stay together.”
Without a word, Buffy flung her arms around Angel’s neck and held on. She didn’t care what he said. She knew it wasn’t a spell making her feel the way she did. They were married. If only she could make him believe it too.
Three weeks, four days and ten hours later the phone in Angel’s office began to ring. “Isn’t anyone going to answer that?” Wesley poked his head into the room only to find it empty. Without another thought he picked up the receiver. “Angel Investigations. We help the... Yes, hello, Giles. Have you made any progress in finding the...? Excuse me? What did you say?” Wesley could almost feel his eyes getting too big for their sockets. “When did this happen? Two days ago? Yes, I see. Of course. I will, thank you.” Wesley slowly replaced the phone back in its cradle before he took off his glasses and began to furiously clean them on the handkerchief he pulled from his pocket.
This was a fine kettle of fish! What exactly was he supposed to say? After weeks of searching for the right vengeance demon the Scoobies had finally given up. Willow had managed to contact D’hoffryn and after explaining things to him, he had agreed to reverse the spell. Wesley couldn’t help but believe Giles was right. It did seem as if D’hoffryn was still hoping to get Willow to join him.
He ran his hands through his hair. “How exactly was he supposed to explain this to Angel?”
“Explain what to me?”
Wesley jumped and spun around to see Angel standing directly behind him with his arms curled around Buffy. They looked so happy, so content. “I...” He cleared his throat and tried again. “I...” But it was no use he couldn’t make himself say the words. He really didn’t want to be the one to burst Angel’s bubble.
A sad look crossed Buffy’s face. “Giles called.” It wasn’t a question, merely a statement.
“What?” Angel glanced at Buffy before turning to look at Wesley. “What’s going on?”
“Yes.” There was so much sadness in her eyes it hurt him to look at her. “I’m sorry, Buffy. He needs to know. And he should hear it from you.”
Tears filled her eyes as she turned in Angel’s arms to face him. She had hoped she would have had more time to convince him that they really did belong together. But apparently her time was up.
Her words came out so jumbled together Angel was only able to decipher a couple of them. The most damning part that the spell was broken two days ago. “Why didn’t you tell me, Buffy? Why would you keep something like this from me?” Even as he asked the question he already knew the answer. He was positive the only reason Buffy would ever keep such a thing a secret was that she was hoping he would fall for her so hard he would be willing to let her stay. What she didn't realize was that he did feel that way about her. He always had.
“I’m sorry, Angel. I...” Tears fell harder down her cheeks as she stared at the man she loved. How could things have gone so horribly wrong? All she had wanted was to convince Angel they really did belong together.
Wesley quickly jumped into the conversation. These last few weeks had shown a remarkable change in Angel. And there was no way he was going to let one of his best friends ruin his life... Again. “Wait. I know how you must feel, Angel but I’m sure she wasn’t trying to hurt you. I’m positive...”
“It’s okay, Wesley.” Angel reached out and patted Wesley’s shoulder. “Would you mind giving us a moment in private?”
With a nod, Wesley walked out of the room. As the soft click of the lock fell into place he couldn’t help but hope that Angel wasn’t about to ruin a good thing when he had it.
Angel tightened his arms around Buffy. “So, two days huh?”
Buffy nodded her head.
“You could’ve told me, Buffy. You should have told me.”
“I know. It’s just everything was going so well. It was all just so perfect. And I didn’t believe you when you told me it was just a spell. I thought....”
Angel quickly interrupted. “You didn’t believe me?”
“Of course I didn’t. I thought it was just one of your over handed ways of making decisions for the both of us.”
A strangled sound echoed through the room. “I don’t make all the decisions. I..”
It was Buffy’s turn to interrupt. “Are you kidding? You were the one who first decided we couldn’t be together. And of course we started seeing each other. Then you broke up with me. You left town and broke my heart. All this without once talking it over with me first and asking what I wanted.”
Angel looked sheepish. “I was only trying to do what’s right for you. But that still doesn’t explain why you didn’t tell me.
Buffy shrugged her shoulders before she continued her story, “The other day I felt something change inside of me. It wasn’t until Giles called and told me that D’hoffryn had reversed the spell that I knew you had been right all along. And it almost killed me, Angel. You are the one thing I’ve always wanted and yet can never have. Not because of circumstances or the miles between us, but because of you. You said it yourself. You don’t want my life to be with yours.” She let her head fall on his chest as more tears fell in earnest.
Her head snapped up. “What?”
“You heard me. I had to say what I did. I wanted you to think that I didn’t want you. I thought it would make the leaving easier. I was wrong. Not a day, not a minute has gone by that I don’t miss you.”
“So, what do we do now?”
He smiled as she asked the same question she’d asked a few weeks ago. There was only one answer he could give. “We do what all couples who are in love do. We stay together. Forever. If that means we have to have a long distance relationship then that is exactly what we’re going to do. I’m not letting you go again, Buffy. Not ever.”
“Thank God!” Tears streamed down her face as she pulled his head down to hers. As soon as their lips met Angel took control of the kiss. His arms tightened around her harder, refusing to let go even an inch as she melted into him.
Finally, the vampire and the slayer had found their way back to each other once again. This was how it would always be.