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i. it’s daybreak...and you are asleep...

The first faint predawn glow was sneaking around the sides of the blinds. Buffy was lying still under the blankets, tired but unable to sleep. She resisted the urge to snuggle into Angel’s warm body, though she knew that would help. He’d taken a nasty hit when they ran into a group of vampires on patrol, and she didn’t want to risk putting pressure on his injuries and waking him up.

He couldn’t quite roll with the punches like he used to. Now he needed the same time to heal as any other human.

It wouldn’t hurt to look at him, though. She rolled to her side. His face was as angelic as ever, though he had lost the look of an actual statue now that he tanned. And, y’know, breathed. His brow and jaw and the little patch of sunburn on his nose, all outlined against the pillow, were so dear to her it made her ache. He was sleeping on his stomach, the strong curves of his shoulders and back slipping out of the covers and calling to her.

Since the first time she saw him shirtless, standing in her mother’s kitchen, she had never found anything that appealed to her more than the long, sculpted lines of Angel’s body. She had to hold her hands back from tracing them even now.

Back then, the sight of him had awoken something new in her. She’d started dreaming of him all the time, of tracing his tattoo with her fingertips, trailing over his skin with her lips and — a tad embarrassingly to her 16-year-old self — her tongue. She’d had fantasies about guys before, of course, but these had fire behind them. She wanted nothing more than to make them real.

Instead, there were months of hoping and longing. Even once they were dating, he always slowed things down, made her wait. And while that drove her nuts as a lusty teenager, the part of her that wasn’t quite ready yet appreciated it all the same.

But, finally, finally, she had gotten Angel’s shirt off during an actual makeout session. And touching him the way she’d dreamed of for so long had been...incredible. She’d spent forever running her hands over the soft skin and hard planes of him while they kissed like a conflagration. The feel of him, of their bodies pressed together, had gotten her so worked up — pounding heartbeat, panting breaths — that eventually Angel gave in to her need, sliding a hand beneath her skirt and exploring her secret places until she shuddered hard against him and buried her face in his chest.

He’d been so sweet after, stroking her hair and her back, her name on his lips like the softest caress. She felt loose-limbed, lit up from the inside. But she didn't find the courage to meet his eyes until she realized he was trembling.

His face looked as overwhelmed and awed as she felt. What a wonder it was to be connected to someone so deeply that you could look into their eyes and see your own emotions perfectly mirrored back at you. She was sure then that Angel loved her. He hadn’t said the words to her yet, but in this moment the feeling between them was tangible. She'd never really considered the term "making love" before but she thought then that love could be made, that you could create it, build it up between the two of you until it filled the whole room, filled the world. And later, on that fateful rain-soaked night, she had felt completely safe with him, sure that anything he would do to her body, to her heart, would be exactly what she wanted, what she needed, and that waiting even one more night would be a mistake.

Ha. Another great cosmic joke.

But now — now that Angel was human, now that she'd shared his bed for months — she could think about that night again. Not the guilt and pain and horror that followed, but the stolen bliss, the look in his eyes. It was impossible to find words to describe it. Even “perfect happiness” seemed inadequate somehow. It didn’t capture the truth of it, the reverence and longing and hesitation and desire all mixed up in it.

Their second first time...well, that had been a different kind of perfect happiness. A more unbridled joy. They both knew exactly what they wanted and what it meant and she had never smiled so much in her life.

She hoped against hope that this would be a happiness that she could keep.

ii. i can hear you breathe now...your breath is deep...

With a sigh, she snuggled into the pillow. She closed her eyes and tried to match her breathing to his. It was such a lovely sound, Angel breathing as he slept. She still had to pinch herself sometimes, to believe it. And then she’d remember that even her dreams could hurt, so nothing was a sure thing.

At least he’d promised her that he wouldn’t give it up again, no matter what.

That had been one of the worst nights of their new life together. The night she found out he’d been turned human once before.

She’d come home one day so exhausted and discouraged from some demon-fighting setbacks that she grabbed the pint of cookie dough fudge mint chip that she’d picked up at the convenience store and headed straight for bed. She was sitting amid the covers in pajama pants and one of Angel’s huge hooded sweatshirts when he walked through the door. He looked at her with such heartbreak in his eyes that she paused with her spoon midway to her mouth.

“Oh, god, what is it?” she asked. “Is it Dawn? Is it Connor?”

He shook his head, unable to speak, and when she set the ice cream aside to cross the room and put her arms around him, he started to cry.

Angel started to cry.

It took a long time to come out, but eventually she heard the whole story. About a day that never happened. A day that was taken from her. All that smiling and laughing and unbridled joy — he’d done that before, seen her happiness before, and given it away.

She raged — how could you? how could you take that from me? — and he spent the night on the couch.

But after hours of tossing and turning and punching her pillow a little too forcefully, she crept out into the living room and slipped under his blanket, tucking herself along the length of him. He wasn’t sleeping either.

“I understand,” she said, laying her cheek against his bare chest and listening to the thump-thump of his heartbeat. “I don’t like it, but I get it. Just tell me you’ll never do it again. You’ll never give this up.”

“I couldn’t,” he whispered. “Not now.”

Then she fell asleep in his arms as he stroked her hair.

In the morning, feeling inspired to chase away ghosts, Buffy let him make it up to her completely on top of the kitchen table. Angel remarked on the quality craftsmanship when it remained in one piece, though they had to replace a couple of cereal bowls.

iii. i look at your lips...i know how soft they can be...

Angel mumbled something in his sleep then, distracting her from her memories of tabletop delight. Any other night, she knew he’d be glad for her to kiss him awake, no matter the time, no matter how little sleep they’d gotten. But she’d seen the pain he was in, the angry bruise blooming on the side of his leg.

His face was creased a little even in sleep, and she wished he hadn’t been too stubborn to take some Tylenol or something. Now that she was used to a more relaxed, less broody version of Angel’s face, she found herself almost too eager to step in and try to keep it that way. She couldn’t help it. Bad moods and apocalypses were both inevitable, but she wanted them to have as many good days as possible.

Even if it meant considering things she never thought she’d do.

Like the time Angel and Connor had gotten into an argument about something silly and instead of just letting Angel pout, she lit a few candles and dimmed the lights and put on just the right music.

When the first strains of the song hit Angel’s ears, he looked up, surprised. In all his glowering, he hadn’t even noticed her efforts.

“What, uh...What made you pick this?” he asked innocently.

“Oh, c’mon,” she said. “You had like three kinds of music back in the mansion. Classical, more classical and Barry Manilow. You think I didn’t notice?”

From the look on his face, it was clear he thought she hadn't. She grinned and pulled him to his feet to make him dance with her. Before long, he was whisper-singing the words very badly into her hair. And you kissed me and stopped me from shaking…

They laughed and kissed and the song wasn’t even over before they were dancing their way to the bedroom. She remembered the softness of Angel’s lips against her ear, whispering, “I need you,” as he…

She’d never be a Manilow fan, but now she appreciation.

iv. and your hands...that I held in mine...

She had rolled over and was mentally rearranging the living room furniture to try to distract herself when she felt Angel stir behind her. His hand closed over her hip and a little thrill of anticipation went through her. Unfortunately, he wasn’t fully awake, just sleepily seeking her out and pulling her against him. And a little while ago that would have been the very thing to help her rest, but now it was an incredibly sweet form of torture. How could she sleep with his arms around her, with his hands on her body?

Just thinking of those big, elegant hands of his made her mind flash back to yesterday afternoon.

She had been watching him get hands-on with the leaky faucet in their bathroom. He was wearing what she thought of as his “DIY Angel” look — a white t-shirt and his lone pair of jeans. Neither of them was particularly handy, but Buffy had found she was much more likely to break than fix, so it fell to Angel to try.

She was sitting on the side of the tub, claiming to be supervising, but actually enjoying the view. Jeans did nice things for his particular assets, though she still couldn’t believe he owned them. He hadn’t shaved yet, so he had slight bit of stubble on his strong jaw. She liked that. It made him look older — not that she was self-conscious about looking a little older than him or anything. But these days he seemed so much happier, so much lighter, that she sometimes worried he was aging in reverse.

“If you can’t figure it out, I’ll call the plumber. Though last time he totally missed his window and I wasted the whole day waiting for him. Like, saying 9 to noon is already taking up a huge chunk of the day. But not to show up until 3? And then taking forever to actually fix the thing?...Maybe he’s a demon plumber. It’s a plot to get me off the streets...Except demons are not so much with the business hours. So he’s probably just punctuality challenged.”

Angel paused his work to look back at her, smiling. “This is nice.”

“Home repairs are nice? First you turn human, then you turn into Bob Vila?”

“God, no. Give me a sword over a wrench any day. But being here, with you, this is nice.” He started to tighten something or other. “It’s what I wanted. To be here every day, listening to you rant about plumbers.”

“That was hardly a rant. More like a...slightly miffed monologue.” She smiled. “But it is nice.”

As if on cue, she heard the clank of metal on metal and water exploded everywhere. She shrieked and jumped away, but it was too late. They were both soaked before they could get the flow shut off.

“What did you do?” she yelped, but she was laughing.

“I have no idea,” he answered, reaching out to smooth away the wet strands of hair stuck to her face. “I guess we’re going to have to call the plumber.”

“You’ll do anything to keep me ranting,” she said, not able to help herself from noticing how that white t-shirt was clinging to his body.

“Anything,” he echoed, and she reached for him. The plumber could wait. First she needed to get him out of those wet clothes.

iv. you will be there in my heart...

“Buffy?” Angel’s whisper was hot on her ear, snapping her out of her reverie. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong,” she said, shifting uncomfortably. “Go back to sleep.”

He ran his hand from her shoulder to her hand and squeezed. “Are you sure that’s what you want?” he asked huskily.

She swallowed. Her whole body was almost painfully attuned to his slightest movement. It was not an exaggeration to say she was aching for him. “But you’re hurt,” she said weakly.

“So make me feel better,” he said, moving his hands in a way that made any further protest die on her lips.

She turned so she could kiss his warm mouth and laid her hand over his heart.

Thump-thump. Thump-thump.

She lost herself in the sound, in the feeling, in the pure bliss of it all.

The sun was coming up now but they had nothing to fear.