They walked together through the streets of Sunnydale; everything was quiet and Buffy, her mind full of more important things than Slaying, let her guard down a bit. She could with Angel there, he'd never let anything bad happen to her. Physically she felt safe with him; emotionally he was an undead minefield ready to explode at any moment at one misstep from her.
He hadn't mentioned that terrible, awful, soul shattering word again; leaving.
She chanced a glance at Angel out of the corner of her eye, he didn't look broody tonight and Buffy was suddenly full of hope and desire. He must have abandoned the idea of leaving her. He must have realised how heart wrenching it would be and that he couldn't be without her any more than she could be without him.
Soul mates were meant to be together after all.
They had been through so much heart ache and drama in so short a space of time, just having Angel walk her home was a moment to be cherished and hugged close to her heart. It was nice and normal, even if it did follow a night of patrol and she was a Slayer and he was a vampire. Their differences were vast, even Buffy had to admit that, but they didn't matter. Differences didn't matter when two people were in love.
Buffy wanted to slip her hand into his and feel the cool strength of his fingers wrapped around hers, but maddeningly, Angel had his hands stuck deep in his pockets. His arm was bent slightly at the elbow and Buffy found herself thinking of the hard strength of the muscles beneath the rough fabric of his coat. She had been glad of that strength so many times and not just during a fight, but when his arms went around her and held her close and even when she had grasped at his arms to try and steady herself as they made love.
Since they had found out about the happiness clause in his curse Buffy had tried to keep her distance from him in a physical way. It felt wrong, offering up a temptation they couldn't give in to. It was hard for her, it must be doubly hard for Angel; but so long as she could be near him, see him, talk to him, spend time with him, Buffy felt she could deal with the curse. She would deal with anything for Angel.
Impulsively, she reached for his arm, smiling up at him when he gave her a startled look.
The startled look disappeared, but it was not replaced with the soft, loving look she had hoped for. Instead, Angel stopped and untangled his arm from hers. Buffy's heart thumped painfully.
"I'm still leaving, Buffy."
For a moment the world stopped completely; everything seemed to swirl and her blood thundered in her ears. This couldn't be happening. She had killed him, sent him to hell and it had torn in her two and now she was teetering right on the edge of losing him all over again; her chest tightened; hard and swelling until she couldn't breathe.
"But.... but we... we've been given a second chance."
He said nothing, simply looked at her and Buffy felt an overwhelming sense of panic clawing away inside her. "I can’t breathe without feeling you in my heart. It makes me ache."
Buffy had never seen anyone look so utterly miserable as Angel did in that moment.
"All it will bring is pain."
Tears gathered, her heart splintered and Buffy struggled not to go to pieces. "But it doesn't stop me loving you, Angel."
"When I leave you'll move on. Not straight away. Maybe not for some time, but you will."
"I don't want to move on," she cried passionately. "I want to be with you."
"We've been over this..."
"You've been over it," Buffy snapped. "I listened to everything you said but I don't think you listened to me at all."
He smiled, it almost bordered on indulgent and patronising and even though Buffy knew Angel wouldn't mean it to come across that way, her temper flared. She wasn't child she was a woman; she had become a woman with him, and she didn't need placating. All she needed was for Angel to stop saying things that cut her heart to shreds.
"I listened to you, Buffy. You didn't say anything I didn't already know. Leaving is going to hurt me too, but it's for the best. It's best for you, and one day you'll see that I'm right."
"I won't," she said fiercely. "You'll see that I'm right."
"It'll hurt and it'll be hard, you're right about that. But if I stay, it'll only hurt you more, Buffy and I don't want to do that. I don't want to hurt you any more than I already have."
"You're hurting me right now." Her voice cracked, scraping against the back of her throat like broken glass.
"I know, and I'm sorry, but it'll pass. It will, Buffy."
His cool reasonable attitude crushed her spirit and her defences disintegrated; she couldn't think straight, not when she was hurting so much. "I'm going home now." If she had to have the same argument all over again Buffy felt she might be in danger of taking a swing at him; beneath the pain her temper was sizzling.
Angel nodded. "Alright."
"This conversation isn't over, it's just you know, on pause for now." He didn't reply and Buffy's jaw clenched. "It isn't over," she insisted.
"I don't want to fight, Buffy."
A smile came to her lips. "Neither do I, Angel. We'll talk about it tomorrow or something, without fighting. Goodnight."
She felt his eyes on her as she walked away. Somehow this had felt like a last fight; like goodbye. She paused, turning back. Buffy could just make out the hulking shape of him in the darkness. Her words died on her lips, there was no need for her to ask him to promise not to sneak out of Sunnydale without telling her, Angel wouldn't do that. He would always be there for her.