The band played a popular love song as couples slowly moved across the dance floor unknowing and uncaring that the slayer's heart lay in tatters at her feet. As much as she hated to, she had to let him go. They were never meant to be together, they couldn't be. He was a vampire, she was the slayer. They were like oil and water, not mixy things. And even though he was the best thing to ever come out of her freaky life she had to let him walk away.
Her feet felt like lead as she walked unwillingly towards the doorway where Angel stood waiting for her. It was the longest walk she had ever taken but it didn’t take long enough. Finally, she stopped in front of him. As their eyes met, her breath caught in her throat. It was almost as if she was looking at the other half of her soul, the part she hadn’t even known she was missing. And she was about to give it up. But that was ridiculous. Wasn’t it? You couldn’t find your other half at sixteen years old. Could you?
She tilted her head back, reached up, wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled his head down until their lips met. Fire crackled through her body, flames licked at each molecule and still she held on. Oh God, she couldn’t let him go. She didn’t want to. As a matter of fact it was the last thing she’d ever want to do but she didn’t have a choice. She had to walk away from this. With one last lingering brush of her lips against his she let go, turned and walked away hoping what was left of her heart would come with her and not stay behind, with him.
The mansion was cold even though a fire burned brightly in the fireplace. Usually mundane things like temperature didn’t bother him. He didn’t feel the heat or the cold but for some reason a chill crawled up his spine. That couldn’t be a good sign.
A mere whisper of sound caught his attention and he turned towards the doorway. Buffy. One look at her face and Angel knew whatever she was going to say he wasn't going to like. The minute she had started to speak about wanting to take a break he knew he was right. He didn't like it. But he loved her and he would give her whatever she needed no matter how much pain it caused him. And if that meant letting her go then that’s what he would do. But before he could let her walk out of the door, there was one thing he needed to know.
"You still my girl?"
"Always." She whispered before she turned to walk out of the mansion and out of his life.
He wanted to run after her and tell her that they could face anything as long as they did it together but somehow he managed to control the urge. He sank to the floor, his head in his hands and let the pain wash over him.
Tears fell unheeded down her cheeks, the pain cascaded over her, leaving a broken shell where her heart used to be. "Angel, please don't go."
"I'm sorry, Buffy." Every part of his body screamed at him to take her in his arms and tell her that he would stay.
But it wouldn't be the right thing to do. At least not for her. She deserved someone who could take her into the sunshine, a man who could give her everything that he couldn't. He stomped down the jealousy that threatened at the thought of another man loving his girl. She couldn't be his anymore no matter what his soul wanted. He didn't have the right to claim her.He wanted to kiss her tears away but that would accomplish nothing. Without conscious thought, Angel reached out, captured a tear and brought it to his lips.
The tender gesture from Angel brought on more tears. "Why?"
"Believe me, Buffy. This way is better. You don't need me. You can move on with your life. Forget about me and find someone who's right for you. You should have a real relationship, someone who can do all the things that a girl wants to do. The things you want to do but can’t because of me. Buffy, I promise this is the right thing for you. In the long run you will see this way was better.”
Buffy eyes rounded in shock. Better for whom? Why would he think she would be able to move on without him? As if she would even want to. This couldn't be the end. She had to do something, anything to make him stay.
"Angel, I love you." Her voice cracked with tears as she spoke. It was the only thing she could think of to say but that didn’t make it any less true.
Angel could see the pain that Buffy was in and it almost destroyed his resolve. He turned away from her so she wouldn't see the answering tears in his eyes. "I wish that I could love you the way you deserve to be loved but I can't." Without saying another word he began to walk away.
Angel ignored her and kept walking. He knew if he paused for even a second he would give in. He had to leave now or he never would. For Buffy’s sake, he had to do what was right.
It was Thanksgiving Day, and once again Angel was on the outside looking in. He watched through the window as they all gathered around the table to enjoy the feast that had been prepared for their consumption. He would give anything to have the right to walk through that door and join them. To have Buffy look across the table at him with a loving smile on her face and know he belonged. But he didn’t. He was only back in Sunnydale to protect Buffy. And then he would return to his lonely, barren existence in LA without her being any the wiser.
Although he was positive that Cordy and Doyle both would take exception to what he was thinking, he couldn’t help the way he felt. Buffy was his, she belonged to him, every fiber of his being knew this, accepted it. Even the demon inside of him raised his head whenever she was near, sensing his mate. It beat at him insistently, urging him to claim her and the consequences be damned. It took every ounce of his self-control to resist, again, but somehow he managed.
He knew it was time to go when Buffy flashed Xander a smile, the smile that he should be receiving, and he wanted to rip the other man’s head off. With one last longing filled look at the woman he loved but couldn’t have he turned and walked away, leaving Buffy to get on with her life without him.
“I don’t understand.”
Her tears were almost his undoing. He wanted to run back to the Oracles, and tell them that he had made a mistake, that being human for her, staying with her was more important than anything or anyone else in the world.
He wanted to offer them everything he had to change him back but he couldn’t. Buffy’s life meant more to him than anything. And if staying human meant that she would die sooner...he couldn’t be responsible for that. She had to live no matter what the cost to himself. As long as she was alive somewhere in the world, even if she wasn’t with him, then he could survive the pain of losing her.
“I’m sorry, Buffy. I couldn’t stay human. It wasn’t worth your life.”
“Don’t you think I should get to decide that?” She hated the begging tone in her voice but was unable to stop it.
“No. I don’t.” Of their own accord, his hands reached for her. “You mean more to me than anything and my heart couldn’t take it if something happened to you because of me.”
“Your heart? It’s not even beating.” She knew she was being childish, lashing out at him in anger and hurt but she couldn’t seem to stop. More tears spilled down her cheeks at the look of pain that crossed his face. “Take it back. Tell them you’re sorry, that you made a mistake. Tell them to take it back. Please, Angel. Take it back!”
He knew hurt caused her to speak harshly but it didn’t keep the pain from knifing through his body at her words. Slowly, he pulled her unresisting body close to his and wrapped his arms around her, offering her the comfort that he couldn’t with words. “I can’t. It’s already too late. We only have a minute left before the day starts over.”
“Oh. God. No.”
Angel kissed the top of her head, her soft, inviting lips and tightened his arms around her trying to hold on to the woman he loved even as he felt her slipping away. “Shhh, it’s okay. Please. Don’t.” Tears slipped from his eyes as her anguished cries filled the room.
Three minutes later he watched as she walked out of his door and out of his life. Watching her walk out of his life was a physical pain; Angel closed his eyes and leaned against his desk for support. If vampires have no heart then why was his breaking?
Angel leaned against the nearest headstone listening as she explained the reasons why she couldn’t be with him, or any other man, at the moment. Something about cookies and that she wasn’t done baking; but he didn’t care why she couldn’t make it work with anyone else. It only mattered to him why she wouldn’t be with him. He wanted to tell her she was wrong, that they could make it work but he didn’t. This was what she wanted and he had to make her happy.
He made a quick retort about not getting any older and turned to walk away but stopped before he could get too far. No, this wasn’t going to happen. He wouldn’t walk away from her again and there was no way in hell he was letting her walk out of his life this time without one hell of a fight! With determination in every step he turned around and walked after her.
She'd only taken two steps in the opposite direction before Angel grabbed her by her arm and spun her around trapping her body against his. "How can you give us up?"
Her eyes shimmered with tears as she stared up into his face. "That's not what I'm doing. I just need a little time to..."
Angel quickly interrupted. "All I care about is you. The only woman I've ever wanted is you.” Angel licked his lips as his arms tightened into hard bands around her. “Besides I love cookie dough."
Despite herself Buffy couldn't help but smile. "Angel, I just need..."
Once again Angel interrupted. "Yeah, time. But the thing is... I can't let you walk away from me, not now, not ever again. We're not doing this. Too many times one or the other of us has walked away from what we have and it's not happening anymore."
Buffy felt her heart race at his words. "It's not?"
"No, it's not." Angel leaned his head down, his lips brushing against hers, tender, teasing. "You know you want to stay." He whispered against her mouth, his breath warmed her body in ways that she would never understand not even if they were together for an eternity. His lips were soft, inviting against hers, coaxing a response. "Come on,
"Buffy. Hold on to me; don't let me go."
“I don’t want to let you go.” The admission was wrung from the depths of her unresisting body.
“Then don’t.” He urged as his tongue teased at the corner of her mouth.
Finally, with a soft sigh of surrender, Buffy wrapped her arms around his neck and gave herself up to the joy of Angel’s kiss. Tears of happiness burned beneath her closed eyes. She was home, where she belonged, in Angel’s arms.
A growl sounded deep from within Angel’s chest as Buffy gave herself into his keeping. This was what he wanted, needed, what he had been waiting for. This time they were going to hold on to what they had with both hands and they weren’t ever going to let go, no matter what.